“Another village, another clinic, another presentation” - January 13, 2010
Today is our first full day in Peki. Last night we slept in a dormitory setting of a local school. The accommodations were sparse but there was running water. We had a nice spider visiting us in the shower but there was a cool breeze in the air and we did not seem to notice the lack of AC. As we are getting ready to board the bus I see a man run by quickly with a large bat and he is screaming. I had no idea what he was doing but as I rounded the corner I could see him poised over the quivering body of an animal in his last throes of death. The head was cut off but the nervous system was still twitching and blood was coming out of the hole where his head used to be attached. He is a grass catcher which appears to me to be a cross between a large rabbit and a hedgehog. They are very difficult to catch and supposedly quite a delicacy. Last year we say many bush fires and we were told that the men set fires to flush out the animals from their hiding spots. This animal is worth lots of money to them and our leader Kwadwo tells us that if he could he would gladly purchase this animal carcass and take it with us to Accra for his wife to prepare. It is a weird experience but reminds me of how easy I have it when I go to Market Basket to buy my prepared chicken and beef. Here in Ghana the women execute and prepare their own chickens. I think I would become a vegetarian.
We drive a short distance to the main village of Peki to have another meeting with the Chief. He is a very intelligent man who had a prosperous business career prior to becoming a chief. His goal now is to lead his village into an era of prosperity and modernization. He has established ties with some American Universities to develop some projects for his village. He is trying to get internet access to this village in addition to improved medical services and library and educational services. His son, Mawuli is in his final semester at the University of Ghana and he is one of the principals of AFRICED. I have had many conversations with him and I know him to be a very smart and dedicated man who aspires to improve the welfare of the people of his village but also the larger community of Ghana. I believe he will accomplish great things in his life along with the hard work and dedication of Kwadwo.
The UML students break into 2 groups to repeat their community health project. Maura supervises the Dental Health project. Instead of the expected 50 children there are 120 children and the program is carried out but there is an element of crowd control that was not seen with the previous demonstration. I am observing the HIV education program and the UML students excel again with this presentation. We are fortunate to be presenting in their classroom so we do not have the expenses of renting chairs and canopies that we had before.
A crowd of adults start to gather and I am told that we must start the BP clinic. I delegate the supervision of the HIV testing to Maura and it is handled very professionally and efficiently with not one positive result found which makes us happy. The BP clinic is not so smooth and we are inundated with people. They are requesting any medication that we can give them even if they do not require any medication. I give out vitamins and Tylenol again. We see the same high readings that we have seen at previous clinics and many people admit to being put on meds by a physician in the past but do not continue with the meds. Compliance with therapy is a big issue here. A local farmer brings us a basket of bananas as a token of appreciation and the nurses at the clinic also arrange for some bananas for us. We have enough bananas to feed half the village. We are in need of interpreters and the Chief himself sits with us and offers translation services. He is a great and humble man. A young mother brings her child to me for examination. His head is very large (about the size of my head which is big!) but they body of the child is the size of a 2 week old baby. The neck cannot support the head. I am told that the child is 3 years old and she has not taken him to a specialist. I do not know that the problem is but quite possibly a case of hydrocephalus which has obviously gone untreated and I doubt that there is any effective treatment at this time which will restore that child to normalcy. She is hopeful that I can do something and I feel helpless that I cannot offer any advice other than to have her try to get an opinion in Accra. It breaks my heart to know that had some measurement of head circumference been done at his pediatric evaluations then this problem might have been caught at an early stage.
We have to close the clinic. I am totally out of BP meds. I have purchased over 2000 BP pills to bring with me and I have gone thru them all and it is only a drop in the bucket. We make a donation of supplies to the nurse’s clinic and pose for pictures. Everything here is a photo opportunity.
We then hike up a small hill to the site of proposed orphanage. Currently there is a day program in Peki which helps to support orphans and other children that have been rescued from child slavery. There is a practice in this country that poor families will “lease” their children to fishermen. They are taken at a young age and exploited because of their small hands and ability to help detangle the nets. They have no health care or proper food and housing but are slaves to these fishermen. Groups like AFRICED work to purchase back these children and acquire legal custody of the children. There is some hope to return some of them to their families if there is assurance that the child will not be re-sold but usually that cannot happen. These children are placed in community in foster homes but much of their expenses need to be paid. This is where non-profits like AFRICED come in. They are working to build a safe orphanage for these children and hopefully find adoptive homes for them. We visit the unfinished orphanage and realize that they need much more to complete this building. We have brought toys, clothes and vitamins for the children at the Peki orphanage and I intend to donate some of the money from my church to this orphanage and may consider sponsoring a child. Again my efforts are small in relation to their need but maybe some of my friends who are reading this will want to become involved.
We leave this village with some sadness. In less than 24 hours we feel so connected to this community. It is prettier than Kpando due to its location at the base of a large hill. There are cool breezes and green grass. The people do not know us but welcomed us as their daughters. We have our African names and our Queen Mother who will return with us to the US. We sincerely hope to keep the UML- Peki relationship going.
We now begin our long journey out of the Volta region and back to Accra. It is hard to believe that we have been here for 17 days. Our trip is almost over.