"Almost Home Sweet Home" - January 14, 2010
We arrived last night at Samartine hotel in Accra. Our hosts Sam and Martine are excited to have us return to their hotel. I am gladdened by their friendliness and feel very comfortable here. I did some laundry last night and ask her if I can hang my pants to dry on her line. She is very accommodating.
Today we had hoped to be done with most of our work but we are told that one more BP clinic is needed in the village that we first visited 2 weeks ago. It is near Ada and the name of the village is Adanor Kopeh. It is a very poor village. We were supposed to leave by 9 am but the bus does not arrive until 11 am and we have an hour drive (it actually turns out to be a 2 hour drives due to traffic). On the way we pick up Comfort who is a social worker from Accra who is from this village and has promised her people that we will return. I have no more BP meds and can only offer them some vitamins or Motrin or Tylenol. I really hate to do a clinic and not have any meds. The UML students are tired of working and we have been at this for 12 straight days now. When we arrive (late) at the village the people have left to go and work at their farms. Many of us need to relieve ourselves and are directed to a concrete box with a hole in one corner. We squat and relieve ourselves and dream about our clean USA toilets with toilet paper and privacy.
A loud bell is rung to announce our presence and the people start to trickle in. It quickly becomes an unmanageable situation. People are asking for any meds we can give them and are in a frenzy to get the remaining bars of soap, shampoo and conditioner that we have brought with us. This community is very poor and we again discuss the difference between greed and desperation. It is hard to distinguish at times. We realize that although we had promised to stay for an hour or so the situation was deteriorating and I needed to get the students out of there. We board the bus with such disappointment in the circumstances that lead to this disastrous day. A woman rushes to the bus. She heard the banging of the bell and wanted to come and see me. She received Tylenol and ranitidine (Zantac) 2 weeks ago and her stomach pain has gone away. She wants some more. I dig around in the box and give her some supplies. We board the bus and the kids are happily waving to us and the adults as asking when we can return. I am a bit ashamed of this shoddy nursing care and I know the students are feeling the same way but we had to stop the situation from becoming a bad situation.
As we drive toward Accra I begin to apologize to Comfort for the situation. She is not upset but rather wants to educate us about some of the psychology of the people of Ghana. She tells us that the people believe that we have magical powers due to the whiteness of our skins and the Ghanaian people will do anything to have contact with us. If all we do is assure them that they are healthy and need no meds then they will sleep soundly with the assurance that the white woman as told them good news. I find this interesting and also embarrassing. She tells us that there is a saying here that if a Ghanaian person is walking to church and they meet a white person on their way then they do not have to go to church because they have just passed God. This story is also embarrassing to me and I don’t know how to respond. There is much education needed here on this problem but it may take a long time to dispel. On the way home we stop at the Kasseh Health Center in Ada. This is the clinic where we visited on our first day and found the conditions in the maternity unit to be severely lacking. I have decided to take a portion of my church money to help them purchase some mattresses for the maternity unit. It is difficult to get a good quote but I hope that AFRICED can help me with this process. The nurses are appreciative of the large box of supplies that we leave with them. They are especially interested in the stethoscopes as they are rare item here. We have run out of BP cuffs and have none to offer to them. I had purchased 30 stethoscopes and 20 BP cuffs to bring with us and they were rapidly distributed during our visit. I wish I had brought more because giving these tools to the nurses will allow them to better take care of their patients. I am trying to think of items that have more long lasting value when contributed to the people of Ghana. They need so much but we (UML NSWB) need to more thoughtful about any future donations so we can maximize our efforts.
We journey back to Accra with the promise that all our hard work is over. I am sensing some negative feelings amongst the students. They are all feeling tired, missing home and frustrated by some of the circumstances of the day and also frustration with some of the changes in their envisioned experience. I make it a point to have a de-briefing discussion tonight that the students can verbalize their frustration or other emotions. I think we all recognize that the burn out factor is high and we need a break from the stress and continuous barrage of need. I am glad that we have a chance to talk but I still sense some dissatisfaction with some of our activities. There is such a wide variability in personalities of this group. I think it has been an incredible learning experience for these students. Some of the students are more flexible and are willing to go with the flow and others question certain aspects of the trip. I guess that this is just human nature and I need to give them time to vent. The physical and emotional challenges on a trip like this are monumental and I think we have all arrived at this point pretty much a changed woman. Personally I am not finding this trip as hard as last year and that has a lot to do with some of the changes I have implemented this year but also I had a more accurate sense of what “normal” is here in Ghana. You cannot experience everything that we have done without expecting some internal change within yourself. I have tried very hard to document this trip so that I can look back on my words and try to make some sense of it all. I hope you have enjoyed reading this blog. The next few days will be a time of relaxation, reflection and evaluation. I am anxious to return home to my loved ones but also feel part of my heart is here in Ghana.