Student Experiences in Ghana


Foods and Nutrition students share their personal experiences in Ghana. From the plane ride to hospitals and engaging into the community, you'll hear first-hand details of their Ghana adventures.

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Surprising Myself

July 14th, 2017

Before today, I had always felt squeamish at the thought of viewing surgery. Just watching the human body being cut open and seeing the surgeon maneuver fat and other body parts around just looked so unnatural to me. I thought I would never be able to sit through one. Today, I was genuinely surprised. I witnessed two hernia repairs on two men. I watched as the nurses administered the local anesthesia by inserting it through their spine. I watched as they prepped the area that wss going to be cut open for surgery. And I watched as the surgeon oh so casually cut open the spot on the abdomen where the hernia was located and began his work. As the surgeon was working, he had house officers (those who were fresh out of medical school) assisting him. He would quiz them on the internal parts of the body he was manipulating. It was incredible to me how he and the house officers were able to quickly identify what they were working with. Everything was covered in blood, and everything just looked the same to me. It was also amazing to me how fast he worked. He burned through the layers of fat until he got to the specific area he wanted to work on. He moved the different muscles around. He cut through layers of muscle, and he stitched up areas to help fix the problem. This hernia repair was not groundbreaking surgery. In fact, I am sure it only took about twenty minutes to repair and had the surgeon not been quizzing the house officers it would have taken even less time. However, with this being my first surgery, it was a pretty awesome experience. I am not all that knowledgeable about the anatomy of the human body, but the thought of applying what you have learned is just so amazing. To be able to learn about the different parts and functions of the human body in a diagram and then watch people use that knowledge to help fix a problem and make a person's quality of life better is a very gratifying feeling. I wish I had been able to stay long enough to witness the other types of surgeries thay they had planned for the day. Now that I know that seeing a person's insides does not make me feel weak, I am so eager to view more. Florence Urum

“It was nuts!”

July 14th, 2017

Hey y’all!

This is my last week in Ghana, and I’m thinking back to the first week as if it was a million years ago. It sure feels like it was. I’ve had a lifetime full of experiences in the last four weeks. Even in the last several days! The title of this blog post is both the perfect and the only way to describe this week. It. Was. Nuts. I don’t even know where to begin describing my time at the Greater Accra Regional Hospital.

Our first full day shadowing, I was in the operating room. Before that day, I had never stepped foot in one, only having seen surgery on TV thanks to Grey’s Anatomy. P.S. It’s so much better in real life. Anna and I walked in during the middle of an umbilical hernia repair on a 5-year-old girl. Throughout the rest of the day, we got to watch (up close and personal): an inguinal hernia in addition the surgeon deciding to also pull the patient’s testes down into the scrotum; an excision of a huge mouth polyp in a 7-month-old; the tying of a leaking peritoneal tube; an intestinal hernia repair in a grown man; and the removal of a literal 6-inch-long umbilical hernia that looked like an elephant trunk hanging from a toddler’s belly button. Yep. Six surgeries in one day. That was only Tuesday.

The next day, I was in the labor and delivery ward and stayed with a patient from 5 cm dilation to when she decided to take it upon herself and start pushing at only 8 cm dilation instead of waiting until 10 cm. That sent the poor midwife into quite the frenzy. I saw a live birth, heard the baby girl’s first cry, witnessed her first snotty little sneeze, saw her mother hold her child for the first time. I cried when I saw a husband see his son for the first time.

Thursday, I saw another four surgeries: A breast lump biopsy, an open examination of the knee tendons/ligaments from a man 5 days post motorcycle accident, the removal of a peritoneal sac that had filled with fluid in a woman’s inguinal area, AND the freaking amputation of an index finger.

Friday… Oh. My. Gosh. Friday. The day that tops all the other days. I scrubbed into surgery. A C-section. It was the whole shebang—changing into boots and a plastic apron, scrubbing my hands, not touching anything unsterile, getting tied into another outer gown, putting on two layers of gloves. Our surgeon, Dr. Dadzie was so incredibly patient with Anna and I as we were learning. He included us in the surgery way more than I ever dreamed. I not only held the clamps, but I also assisted in ripping the muscle (WAY harder than it sounds…Almost knocked me over) to get to the uterus. I not only cut the sutures, but I also held this woman’s uterus in my hands while the surgeon was suturing. I saw him pull the baby fresh out of the oven and handed him to Anna. I CANNOT explain to y’all how amazing that was. I wish I could relive that hour over and over again. It was fascinating and surreal and I am still on a high from it.

How could I see all of that and not have anything to say about it?

Takeaway #1: The human body is T O U G H. My first thought in surgery was how amazed I was that surgeons had to use so much force and the body completely withstands it. A girl’s small intestines were coming out of her stomach during a hernia repair, and the surgeon just pushed them back in and sewed her up and she’ll be just fine. A woman literally pushed a human being out of her body on pure willpower and both of them are perfectly healthy. I held a uterus in my hands before Dr. Dadzie just put it back in the abdomen. How is that even possible?

Takeaway #2: TV glamorizes birth way too much. Natural births AND C-sections. Even the most dramatic portrayals with crying, sweating women going into labor—that’s NOTHING. I’ll spare the details, but geez y’all, don’t rely on the movies if you want to know what really goes on. It’s nuts.

Takeaway #3: My mind is blown. Absolutely 100%, over the top, filled with awe and thanks. I can’t even say that this week has exceeded my expectations, because how could my expectations even come close to watching 10 surgeries, a live birth, and assisting in a C-section? Are you kidding? Am I dreaming?

The past 4 weeks… This has been the trip of a lifetime. No doubt about it. This is a time in my life that I’m going to look back on and wish I could relive every moment. I’m already looking back on what I’ve experienced and I can’t believe that this is my life. My real life. In no way can I put all of my thoughts into words. There’s no shot. But I am so beyond thankful: To my “black dad” and professor, Dr. Anderson, for setting up this trip. Yes, to UGA (but still, go jackets always). To my new friends that lifted me up and lived through every single moment with me—I will forever be thankful to you 11 girls and the friendships we’ve made. And of course, thank you Ghana. I will never forget you. Medaase.

With love,

Kerri Reid

Meda Ase Ghana

July 14th, 2017

About four weeks ago I arrived at the Atlanta airport with two bags stuffed to the brim with clothes, supplies, and more snacks than should have ever been allowed. I was ready to start an adventure I hoped was going to shape me both as a person and as a student.  As I said in my previous blogs, there have been so many times during this month I saw something or had an experience with someone that helped me mature and opened my eyes to a new way of looking at the world. However, I have not truly shared how this experience has shaped me as a student. I came on this trip knowing I am interested in the medical field, enjoy helping others, and want a career in a fast-paced environment. However, I hoped our time administering the community health clinics and shadowing in Princess Marie Louise Children’s Hospital and the Greater Accra Regional Hospital would give me better insight to a more specific department that caught my attention.

The clinics throughout our second week showed me that I enjoy that task of setting up and running a clinic from the start of inpatient processing through the final counseling phase. I loved having to work as a group to find the most efficient and effective way to get patients through the line.  The shadowing at PML Children’s Hospital also gave me an amazing opportunity to shadow a public health doctor establishing a health education program in local schools, dietitians working with malnourished children, and in a newly established physical therapy department that works with about twenty-five children every day. Additionally, our time in this hospital gave me insight in the differences in healthcare between a developing country and the United States. One of the most prominent lessons I learned this week is health care should never involve excuses. The health professionals in this hospital are always innovating new ways to make the most of what they do have. Although there were times the newest technology or advanced equipment would make their jobs easier, they never stop working to offer the best care possible for their patients.

Finally, we are spending our last week shadowing in the new Ridge Hospital in Accra, which opened its doors to patients a little over two month ago. Within this state of the art facility, we have the opportunity to watch emergency, general, and pediatric surgeries, observe labor and delivery, and work with patients in the NICU and pediatric departments. These are opportunities that an undergraduate in the United States would never dream to be possible, but the doctors at Ridge were more than excited to involve us as much as possible. This became extremely prevalent to me on Wednesday. When we got to the hospital, Kerri, Chelsea, Jenna, and I headed to the labor and delivery ward with hopes we were going to learn more about pregnancy and the labor process as a whole. However, we left the hospital with a lot more than simply gaining new knowledge.

When we got to the ward, there was one patient, Philipine, in active labor. Ernestina, the midwife on duty explained to us that when she arrived to the hospital about three hours before she was five centimeters dilated and started the active labor phase. By the time we entered the room, she had progressed significantly, was now eight centimeters dilated, and was experiencing intense contractions. We spent the entire day in the room with Philipine, Ernestina, and a few nurses watching the labor progress and seeing first hand the process the body goes through. Although it was hard to watch the amount of pain she was in, it was amazing to be bedside with Philipine from the start to the end.

After about four hours, a doctor came to assess Philipine because the progression stopped after she was eight centimeters dilated. With the intense contractions she was experiencing and the minimal change in dilation, her cervix was beginning to harden and they debated moving her to the theater for a C-section.   However, just minutes after the doctor left the room, Philipine had the most intense contraction we had seen all day. Seconds later, Chelsea, who happen to be watching at the right time, notified Ernestina that the baby’s head was beginning to come out. Even though she was not fully dilated and the staff was not prepped for birth, Philipine was determined to start pushing. Ernestina and nurses sprung into action, and without the slightest look of panic, they had Philipine holding her baby in minutes. Coming into this day, I never imagined that I would have the ability to stand directly over the shoulder of a midwife, watch a baby being brought into this world, and then aid the nurses tending to the baby after. It was truly one of the most beautiful things I have ever experienced and I am still in awe at the fact this all took place during a day “in the classroom.”

These last four weeks have given me hands-on experiences that I believe are what truly shape you as a student. These experiences and the ability to talk with doctors, nurses, and administrators, who are so willing to help, have taught me more in a month than I could learn in years behind a desk. I feel as though I have transformed to a student who will also be the first to ask questions, will do anything to get my hands dirty in the work I am passionate about, and will never stop pushing myself to continue to learn. For this transformation and the life changing experiences I have found this month, I just want to say thank you, or better yet Meda ase, to the Ghana Service Learning Study Abroad Trip.

See you in a few days America!

            Anna Murphy

It’s the Climb

July 14th, 2017

        Our group was given last weekend off for an independent travel opportunity. We chose to go to the Volta Region to hike Mountain Afadjato and Tagbo Falls. This was around a five-hour drive from Mampong, but it was well worth it in the end. We arrived in a small town where a tourist center for the hiking was located. We paid a fee for the hike and tour guide (with some negotiating help from our driver Samuel) and started our journey. We were eager and excited about the day’s adventure.

        Almost instantaneously, as we began to make our way towards the hiking path, rain came fast and hard. Of course, a rain jacket was one of the things I forgot to pack to bring to Ghana during their rainy season. Although it was not ideal, the weather did not ruin our spirits. After a brief walk we made it to where the real hike began. The path was steep, almost straight up at certain points. It was a bit more strenuous than a lot of us were expecting. About 30 minutes into the hike, Jenna and I started slowing down. The steep incline, mixed with the higher altitude, began to make us feel dizzy and weak. To avoid passing out, we decided it was best if we rest and let the group continue on. It took us a few minutes longer, but we finally made it to the top. The view was incredible. I think the effort it took to get there made the end result that much more satisfying.

        This experience was very comparable to things in the week to come. Everyday while we have been working in the hospitals here, I have witnessed situations that kept reminding me of our hike. I have seen different are cases, patients, and surgeries that don’t go as the doctors have expected. Sometimes the right tools are not available, machines are broken, or there is a lack in staff. Like climbing the mountain, the plan can change and become more complicated or harder than it was originally imagined. Instead of giving up or turning away patients, the health care professionals make do with what they have and save lives regardless of the circumstances.

        My strongest example of this observation trend is when I have scrubbed into different surgical theaters. As only an undergraduate student, this has been an amazing opportunity. I have watched a surgeon cut open a body and not see what they thought they would. I have also witnessed surgeons and nurses perform procedures that would be far easier and simpler to complete if they had better machines, updated technologies, and other supplies. I have seen women give birth in not the most comfortable surroundings without epidurals because drugs like that are not as accessible or affordable. I have been amazed by the great patience I have seen from the health care workers and patients both.

        Something I have come to learn and accept on this trip is that the majority of time things don’t go how you planned they would. These unknown obstacles that come up in life are scary to face, but they are unavoidable. It is best to expect for plans to change and embrace this fact. Most importantly, I have learned not to panic when these situations arise. People are always stronger, and most of the time smarter, than they think. The workers and patients can make it through the struggle of pain, stress, or pressure and reach the top of the mountain, whatever that end goal may be. 

--Emily

The Case of John Doe

July 14th, 2017

Ridge hospital is also known as the Greater Accra Regional Hospital. They just had renovations done in May, so when we pulled up to the front, we pulled up to a state-of-the-art hospital. One of the doctors told us this hospital was comparable to any other hospital in the world. We just did a tour on the first day. I was very impressed with the architecture and amenities of this building. I expected the building to be similar to the children’s hospital where parts of the hospital were run down, but Ridge was far from it. Everything about Ridge said modern and futuristic.

On my first day of shadowing and observations, I was stationed at the NICU. This is where I met baby John Doe. The NICU ward has two high dependent room for pre-term babies, one room for full-term babies, and one contagious room for babies sent to Ridge from another hospital. The NICU also has a milk prep/lactation room and a baby wash room. It was good to see that the hospital has a lactation room because that indicates they promote breastfeeding. From all the nurses I’ve talked to, they all encourage mothers to produce milk and breastfeed. For most of the day, I stood behind doctors performing CNS exams on the babies and midwives feeding the babies. The peak of my day was entering the room where John Doe stayed. He was in the general room for full-term babies. When I entered the room, I saw around seven soundly sleeping babies and one baby screaming at the top of his lungs. That baby was John Doe. I thought that was a peculiar name for a baby since 1) Ghanaian babies are not named immediately after birth and 2) I only hear that name for missing people and found people who have not been identified. I asked the nurses what happened to the baby and they said the baby was abandoned in a public bathroom and someone brought him to Ridge. I was so heartbroken. It made me wonder how often that happens here since having children of your own is of such importance. Anyways, the nurses in the NICU saw that he had a soiled diaper and changed it, but he was still crying after. One of the nurses picked him up, but saw how interested I was in the welfare of the baby, so she passed him to me. It was one of the greatest moments ever. I felt like a mom, nurse, friend, relative, and doctor all in one. It was one of the most peaceful things I have done in my life. I held him to help him stop crying and then he fell asleep in my arms. Holding that baby for 40 minutes and interacting with the midwifes, made me rethink my career interest. The idea of being a midwife is becoming more appealing to me, but I would still like to be an OBGYN or neonatologist. The only thing that I am certain of is that I am interested in pregnancies and babies. The midwives in Ghana work right alongside the doctors and they do most of the natural deliveries which is why midwifery became a big interest of mine. The doctors in Ghana usually will do the C-sections. In America, the midwives are more for private and home deliveries outside of the hospital. In that case, I would rather be an OBGYN or neonatologist.

I had two more amazing days. On the first day, I witnessed a live vaginal birth! I was right next to the midwife delivering the baby. I learned so much about the process of labor and what happens as the baby moves down the vaginal canal. I learned about how they measure how many centimeters dilated a woman is as well as how to deliver the placenta after. The woman who we were observing was named Philipine. This was not her first pregnancy, so the midwives told me labor would go quicker. Even though it was not her first child, her contractions were so intense. She was yelling and thrashing and wailing. I was scared for her and the nurses. We stayed with her for hours until she delivered her baby girl. She actually had her when she was 8 cm dilated because she kept pushing even when the nurses told her not to. The baby was beautiful and I held her in my arms (See blog picture). Holding her made me tear up from happiness because I was there to witness life being brought into this world. The task of the doctors was finished and it was up to the mom from that point on to create a life for the child.

On the second day, I was an assistant surgeon in a C-section in the Obstetrics Theatre. I would never be able to do that in America as a third-year undergraduate student. The surgeons actually allowed me to help deliver the baby and help tie the sutures after delivery. One of the head surgeons, Dr. Davis, passed me the baby as it was taken out of the uterus! I cannot believe it. I held the baby just a second too long because the midwife yelled at me to put it down into the rolling cot. Then after the baby was taken out, the surgeon showed me how to tie the ends of the sutures. I have not even applied to medical school and I am assisting in surgeries! I will never forget that. I also witnessed two other C-sections. I am very grateful to the medical staff for teaching me as they performed each delivery as well as allowing me to participate. I learned about the levels of suture for C-sections. The surgeon also allowed me to touch the uterus and told me the names of the different parts. I was very excited.

This was a wonderful way to end my stay in Ghana. Every day, I was exposed to what each of my careers of interest would be doing. I saw what an OBGYN, midwife, pediatrician, and neonatologist would be doing daily. I am excited to start my classes in the fall and to go back to America to find my health-related experiential learning opportunities.

Chelsea Murphy 

In a Matter of Seconds

July 14th, 2017

In a matter of seconds, many things on this earth can happen. Within the span of this 4-week learning experience in Ghana, I have surely seen this prove to be completely true. Especially in the past week throughout shadowing in The Greater Accra Ridge Regional Hospital, I have had the opportunity to witness babies born both naturally through vaginal birth and surgically through Caesarian section (C-section) in a matter of seconds. This had brought wonder to my mind and allowed me to question the overall miracle known as "life".

IUFD Baby

Yesterday, I had the rare opportunity to scrub in on a C-section surgery that was being performed in order to remove a recently deceased fetus. The mother had discovered at 2am that morning that her 38-week-old baby had died in the womb, an intrauterine fetal death (IUFD), due to an unknown cause. Although she was an older pregnant woman at 42 years old, the doctors did not believe that this was the sole reason why the baby had died within the uterus. I thought more about how the mother must feel in this moment as they open her uterus to remove a motionless, lifeless new child. How is it that between 1:59am and 2am that this 8 and a half month old fetus was able to transition from life to death? Why is it that this unborn fetus did not get the chance to experience life out in the earthly world? I will never comprehend how situations like this change in a matter of seconds.

Babies Born

Soon after I stepped out of the OR where this saddened mother was being rolled out into recovery, right next door there was a miracle happening. Although the doctors in the obstetrics department see this everyday, the delivery of a baby must still be special to them as there are brand new lives being brought into the world sometimes within minutes of another life being taken. This was the mother's first child who turned out to be the most beautiful little Ghanaian baby girl I had ever laid my eyes on. From her little fingernails to her perfectly placed wrinkles all over her body to her sparkling dark eyes, I could not believe the detailed miracle that was crafted before me. The baby girl received this unmatchable gift of life all within seconds of being conceived up until the moment she was removed from the womb. I just could not get over the fact that she was being prepared specifically for this world as a daughter of this special, blessed woman. In a matter of seconds, this new mother received a treasured gift and a new love of her life.

Overall value of life & this experience

The few rare births that I have witnessed while at Ridge make it easier to appreciate life as it is. Although I may see today as just another day, in a matter of seconds it could either be the last time a heart beats in a baby that has not yet entered the world or the first celebratory day of a precious human's new life. I know now more about just how valuable life is and how I should never take my health and happiness for granted, no matter where I am in the world.

Signing out & sadly saying goodbye to Ghana,

Rachel Cleypool

BEST DAY OF MY LIFE

July 14th, 2017

            If you can’t tell by the title, I had the most incredible experience on Wednesday at the Greater Accra Regional Hospital at Ridge and quite honestly I’m still pinching myself making sure it wasn’t a dream.  My rotation was in the obstetrics surgical theatre to watch cesarean sections be performed, which is an incredible opportunity in and of itself.  I was able to watch a C-section from start to finish for a variety of circumstances, either scheduled due to failure to progress naturally or previous C-sections with prior pregnancies, and even an emergency case due to the mother having pre-eclampsia, which puts the baby at risk so immediate delivery is necessary.  I would watch and listen as the surgeon described each layer that he was going through at that point in time and ask questions to have a deeper grasp of what the process entails.  It was such an amazing opportunity to see a glimpse of new life coming into the world and learning things that I never knew along the way, such as seeing the placenta with my own eyes and realizing it is much bigger and more intricate than I’ve ever learned in a classroom or imagined in my mind.  This is how the first two cesarean sections went: watching the process of anesthetic be given, incisions being made, the baby being delivered, cleaning up, and then suturing everything back up.  In between surgeries the theatre would have to be cleaned and the next patient would have to be prepped so I would wait in the main theatre area where the mothers are kept post-op and chat with the nurses and doctors in the meantime.  What happened next is where things get even better.

            During my time chatting in the main area waiting for the next surgery to observe I met Dr. Kubi, one of the obstetric surgeons that was rotating doing the Cesarean sections for the day.  We briefly talked about what my plans at the hospital were for the week and how I would be in the operating room during the day.  He asked if our group was just observing or if we were getting involved and I told him that if he was willing to let me get involved then I would be more than happy to.  Next thing I know it’s half an hour later and in walks Dr. Kubi, introducing us to the surgeon and surgical assistant currently working, telling us to pay attention to this surgery because it will be me that’s assisting on the next one.  Right on cue just as the C-section is almost complete, he walks in and asks if I’m ready to go and of course I say “yes!”.  I follow him to the wash station where I get all suited up with surgical boots and apron and learn how to properly scrub in.  This is when it hits me that this is really happening.  I followed Dr. Kubi and the surgical assistant into the theatre where they gown and glove me and next thing I know I’m right across the table from the surgeon with my hands on the patient, ready to assist in a cesarean section surgery.  I had gauze in hand ready to clear the field while he made incisions through the multiple layers and held back the metal clamps until he got down to the uterus where the magic happens.  A small incision and a few seconds later there was a perfect baby girl breathing her very first breaths.  I never knew that the uterus is completely taken out of the stomach cavity after delivery to clean it out and suture it up before being put back in.  Not only did I get to witness this firsthand, I got to hold the uterus while the surgeon sutured the patient back up…I mean WOW.  I told Dr. Kubi that this was the best day of my life and he replied in classic Ghanaian fashion, “Are you sure?”.  Oh, I’m 100% sure…never in a million years did I think that I would get this experience but I’m so thankful that I did.  His reply, “Well good, I’m glad you learned something”. 

            I learned something and then some, not only today but throughout my entire experience in Ghana over the last month.  I’ve been able to witness inventiveness with the most limited of resources and a determination to save patients no matter what it takes.  I’ve also learned a lot about myself and my own passions and strengths that have encouraged me to continue pursuing my dreams for a future career in a field that I love and I’m reassured that I’m heading in the right direction.  I’ve learned that there’s truly nothing like experiential learning and doing something yourself will always make you have a greater understanding and appreciation for it than just learning about it in passing.  I’ve learned that willpower, hard work, and adaptability go a long way in life and you’ll never regret putting in your best effort.  I’ve learned that there’s so much out there to see and experience and that what we are accustomed to isn’t all that’s out there.  I’ve learned to never give up on your dreams and appreciate the support that helps you get where you’re aiming.  So on that note – thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who has helped me get to Ghana to have the experience of a lifetime.  You are so appreciated and I can’t tell you enough how much your support means to me.  I can’t wait to see y’all so soon and continue sharing other amazing stories like this one.

Xoxo,

Olivia

Seeing Jesus in Everything

July 14th, 2017

Picture of the baby I watched be delivered through a cesarean section.

I am overjoyed with the experience that I have had in Ghana. I was quite nervous about traveling to a place I had never been, far away from the people I love. I knew that the Lord had called me here but a few days before I left, I kept asking Him, are you sure? I can now say that I am confident that the Lord was sitting in Heaven laughing at my silliness of being anxious about coming. My experience here has been more than I could have ever imagined. It has been challenging at times but so rewarding. I have never met people quite like the Ghanaians. They are so unique in their character and in their way of life. Before I left, many people tried to prepare me for traveling to a ‘third-world country.’ I didn’t think that religion was going to be a focus in this country. Boy was I wrong. I’m glad that I was wrong. There are churches everywhere. They are within walking distance from every house so everyone has access to one. On the back of the tro-tros (buses), there are inspirational quotes like: saved by grace, Emmanuel, God with us. There are signs on the streets with biblical encouragement. I have met people where the first thing out of their mouth is, God be with you. So basically, the Lord is a big deal here.

The aspect that makes religion here so unique is the boldness that everyone possesses. People don’t shy away from their faith or take the Lord out of conversation. My first two weeks here, we participated in community clinics. Most of the clinics were held in churches. Sometimes when we would arrive at 8 am, there would be service going on. The churches here are charismatic meaning that they are very passionate about their faith and show it in ways like praying out loud, dancing, speaking in tongues, etc. I was standing outside the window watching and listening to the pastor sing over his congregation. At one point, the entire body of the church started praying out loud and I felt a chill go through my body. I closed my eyes and felt like I was in heaven, surrounded by angels for a moment. I looked around and saw people praying so passionately, weeping and crying out to their Savior. I was so moved by their genuine faith. I could see the love of God in each person and how it embodied them from head to toe. Their faith shines through their personalities. Each Ghanaian I have met has been so kind, patient with my Twi (local language), welcoming, and overall just happy to see me.

At the children’s hospital, I got to spend a day with one of the dietetic interns. I was telling her how stressful the dietetic internship program is in the states. I told her that there’s less than a 50% chance that I’ll get matched to a dietetic program. I explained to her how competitive our program is and how I’m honestly scared that I won’t get matched. I asked her if it’s like that in Ghana; if she ever worries about getting a job after finishing her internship. Her response was, “Are you Christian, because it’s up to the Lord if I get a job or not!” She laughed and explained how the Lord will provide a way for her regardless of if she is an RD or not. I was taken aback at how bold she was. How easily I would have shied away from telling someone that. She didn’t seem worried or stressed because she is confident that our God is going to take care of her in His way and timing. I so easily want to know what the plan is so I can feel secure in it. But there’s something about not being secure in that. I would rather be secure in my Heavenly Father who spoke life over all of creation. Who knows every minute detail about me. Who is all around me at at all time regardless of if I see Him or feel Him. I want to only be secure in my Father. I believe that the American society has become sensitive to religion. We have to be cautious about what we say about our beliefs to others in fear of upsetting someone. This moment taught me to not be scared of that. To speak what you believe and to be bold in your faith. It was also the Lord reminding me that there is no need for me to stress; that I am completely secure in Him. I hope to be bold in my faith.

This week I have been at Ridge Hospital. When I was growing up, my parents always told me that the purest form of God that we experience is watching a child being born. In my anatomy class in high school, I had to watch the miracle of life movie and watch a baby be born. I could not watch the child come out of her mother because I was so grossed out by it. At Ridge, there is a wing devoted to mothers in labor. On a normal day, around 20 babies are born at Ridge. I had the amazing opportunity of spending a couple of days in the ward and experience the miracle of child birth. I was very nervous and I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about watching a baby being born. Everything happened so fast. I walked into a room where a mother was 8 centimeters dilated. She had been in labor for 6 hours. All of sudden one of the students noticed that there was something coming out. Although the mother was only dilated 8 centimeters, she pushed during her contractions since she was in so much pain. The midwife and nurses had to rush to get ready and prep everything. The babies head was just chilling outside of the womb for about a minute or two. Then the midwife grabbed the shoulders and pulled the precious baby out. The mom automatically started thanking Jesus for the life He had made inside of her. She started singing and praising Him. It moved me so much that I began to cry. God is so evident in the creation of a baby. It blows my mind that a baby is created within the mother’s womb; all of the intricate details that the baby has. Everything about it screams the Lord. The mother was overcome with thanksgiving and couldn’t help but sing praises to her Heavenly Father.

Being in Ghana has taught me so much about my faith. I desire to be bold and to be confident in who the Lord has made me to be. I want my passion for the Lord to shine through me at all times. I want to be who the Lord created me to be and not let anyone stop me from being that. Even as this trip is coming to an end, the Lord is continually showing me things that I have learned through this trip. Even though I have heard this a thousand times, it’s essential to love God with everything you are. From that comes the abundant joy that many Ghanaians possess. I am better for knowing the people of Ghana. 

With love from Africa, 

Chan

Do you “C” what I see?

July 13th, 2017

This week at the Greater Accra Regional Hospital was supposed to be a deal breaker for me. I could decide once and for all, should I pursue medical school? Well, the answer was not as straightforward as I was anticipating and probably will never be, but now I am willing to take that leap thanks to my experiences in Ghana. I am so grateful for the opportunities we’ve had so far, like shadowing physicians and watching (and even assisting with) surgeries. I have never experienced anything like this and honestly didn’t know what to expect in the O.R. On my first day, I scrubbed into the Obstetrics Theater to view some C-sections. I was amazed at the entire process; birth is as messy as it is beautiful. Although something about the uterus being outside the body really got to me and I questioned my ability to handle simple procedures like this. I have been prone to fainting in the past so I left the theater before the surgery was complete to prevent a scene.

My discomfort during the surgery made me question not only my intentions to attend medical school, but also my capability! I enjoyed our work in the community and at the Children’s Hospital, but was that enjoyment enough to warrant a long-term commitment and investment? Could I stomach surgeries even more shocking than this, which I would surely be exposed to as a medical student? I had the opportunity to reflect on these questions a couple of days later in the Trauma Theater. I witnessed three surgeries in a row and thankfully, I was able to handle all of them. I believe my fears were holding me back more than anything. In fact, I had to be strong in that O.R., if not for myself than for the patients. One of the patients, a female my age, was fully aware while her hernia was being removed. She was obviously anxious about the procedure, and though she could not feel pain at the site, she could see, hear, and smell everything around her. Our group was able to speak with her individually and comfort her throughout the process, which in turn myself feel more comfortable. The procedure was quick and painless, and she was so thankful for our presence. That moment reaffirmed my hopes and suppressed my fears. It proved that medical profession isn’t just about personal achievement — it’s about improving the well-being of others, which is what I aim to do in my profession.

I have had the experience of a lifetime here in Ghana. I gained eleven true friends, a topnotch nutrition-expert-personal-mentor, and skills that make me a better applicant and a better person. I continually pushed myself outside of my comfort zone, which allowed me to learn and explore on an entirely new level. While I appreciate all the places we’ve been and the things we’ve been able to do, more than anything I am thankful for the people who supported me and got me here in the first place. My summer in Ghana has been personally impactful and incredibly meaningful. This nation and its people will always have a special place in my heart. 

-Liana Mosley-

My Very First Surgery: WOW

July 11th, 2017

Hi family and friends!

Signing on here for my last blog post and wow how bittersweet it is because this trip is so much more than I could have ever asked for in a study abroad, but I also miss you all so very much!

I've taken the time to write most of my blog posts on the adventures we've had outside of our medical work, but these past few weeks in the hospitals have been way too cool not to share with all of you! From seeing lab technicians interpreting blood tests, ER doctors calming worried parents when their child is having a hard time breathing, to even radiologists examining chest and spine x-rays, last week was nothing short of exciting. I worked in radiology the most while I was there, and it amazed me how well they worked around not having films to print the x-rays. There were so many emergency cases that they would sometimes just have the doctor come down to radiology and read the x-ray off the screen himself. The technician also designed his own protective lead covering for the sex organs of babies. The work they do there is truly incredible and they do it in much harsher conditions than we are used to, like without AC or much space at all. The rest of this week I'll be working in the larger hospital that has just been rebuilt and renamed Greater Accra Regional Hospital. This hospital, to my surprise is very similar to ones in the US and the employees are all so passionate about their jobs. Later in the week I’ll be shadowing in general surgery, labor and delivery, and the NICU, but I am most excited to share with you what I got to observe today!

I have shadowed in many hospitals in the US before, but never have I come close to experiencing what I did today. I was stationed in the obstetrics surgery unit today and got to observe two caesarean sections, one was an emergency as the baby was in distress and in the second, the baby was breached. These were my first surgeries I’ve ever had the chance to scrub in on and I was in awe every second I was in there. The staff were extremely nice and allowed me to have a great view of every step the doctor took and also answered any and every question I had. They even went above and beyond to explain aspects of the surgery that I wouldn’t have thought to ask. That’s what makes learning by observation so much better. Special thanks particularly to Helen for holding me the first few minutes to be certain I wasn’t going to pass out on her. The anesthesiologist was extremely skilled and showed me precisely where to insert the spinal anesthetic to avoid hitting the spinal cord. The team then made an incision in the mother’s lower abdomen and began the process of the C-section. Every professional in the room had a specific job and everything moved more than smoothly. The baby that was breached was pulled out feet first and it was no question, the most beautiful moment I’ve ever experienced. I was so intrigued by how fast the midwife got the baby cleaned, weighed, measured, and warmed as I watched the doctors stitch back up the mother’s uterus. This process was so different from what I expected and I’m so blessed to have had this opportunity here, because I’m years away from being able to have this same opportunity in the US. This day has made me really fall in love with obstetrics and also with surgery. I am so thankful for an experiential-learning summer abroad that exposes me to such intriguing medical experiences like the ones today. I can’t wait to see how these shadowing experiences will affect my future career. I’ve learned so many invaluable aspects while here, especially just being able to jump into new experiences and go with it. Communicating with medical professionals, strangers, or people who speak a much different language from you have all seemed like such a minute part of this trip, but in reality these are going to be key qualities in my profession. I’d never learn how to deal with these situations if I didn’t push myself to experience these circumstances early on. Medase, Ghana. Hope to be back more than soon. Xo

Jenna 

Up in the Treetops

July 7th, 2017

        If you know how much I love the outdoors and exploring new places, then you’ll understand why I feel like I need to catch you up on the adventures that I’ve been experiencing in between health screenings and hospital work.  I apologize in advance for not being able to do these places justice with a description or even a picture, but I promise to do my best.

        Besides some initial exploring of Mampong, the town that serves as our home base throughout the duration of our trip, our first destination was up north to another region in Ghana to Mole National Park for a safari tour.  Even though I had seen many of the animals that we saw on the tour before, there is just something about seeing the animals in the wild that is jaw-dropping…I’m still in awe after being fifteen feet away from elephants walking through the African savanna…wow.

         Our next adventure led us to Cape Coast to tour the Elmina and Cape Coast Castles, both of which were incredibly beautiful despite their historical pasts as slave castles.  It was so interesting to tour them and hear the history that went along with each and every detail.  As the name suggests, Cape Coast is on the coast of Africa so we were right on the water’s edge, able to see the beautiful rolling waves and extending coastline.  My favorite part of the day was our visit to Kakum National Park where we went on a canopy walk through the tree tops, which was the perfect combination of slight thrill and calming scenery.  It was such a cool experience seeing nature from a whole new perspective and being at the same level with the tree tops – I highly recommend to anyone and everyone.

         I guess the coast gave us a tingling for some salty air and water between our toes because our next adventure led us to where other than the beach!  July 1st is Ghana’s Republic Day, but since that fell on a weekend the holiday was moved to the following Monday so that it could be properly celebrated, which I wouldn’t mind if we took up in the U.S. as well.  Having an off-day the day before the Fourth of July ended up being the perfect way to celebrate our own country’s independence while being on a completely different continent, while still tying in Ghana’s own history and sharing such close dates of independence.  We ended up making an entire day of it and spent a good portion of the day at Bojo Beach, enjoying the sunshine and relaxation.

         Tomorrow rounds up the outdoorsy leg of the trip with a weekend in the Volta Region to hike the tallest mountain in Ghana and explore a beautiful waterfall, along with a stop at the monkey sanctuary in the area as well.  I can’t wait to experience another region of this country and witness all of the beauty that it has to offer.

         It’s hard to believe that we only have a week left on this incredible journey.  So many great experiences stuffed into one short month that seems to be flying by way too fast.  I’m looking forward to spending the last week here in the regional hospital, so stay tuned for a recap on all of the healthcare experience that I’ve had the incredible opportunity to take part in during this trip.  See you in a little over a week, America!

Xoxo,

Olivia

Kwashiorkor

July 7th, 2017

This week we volunteered at the children’s hospital in Accra. The name of the hospital was called Princess Marie Louise hospital or PMLH for short. This is the only children’s hospital in Ghana, so it is well known. The hospital was named after the granddaughter of Queen Victoria of Great Britain. One of the most amazing things about the hospital was that Dr. Cecily Williams did research there which aided in her discovery of protein deficiency in children. The name of this condition is called kwashiorkor.

The hospital looks like any other building in Ghana except that there are several connected buildings inside of a compound. After looking at the building several times, I noticed that the building somewhat resembles a big house. There is a large sign with the hospital name and services provided in the front of the compound that can be clearly seen from the main road. We entered through one of the side entrances. The first section I saw was mortuary. Walking by that disturbed me because this is where the children who died were sent. There was no one working around there, so luckily we did not have to go in. The next stop was the outpatient department. This was one of the most crowded areas I have seen. One of the ladies who was giving us a tour of the hospital, Nurse Victoria or Auntie Vic, told us that patients cannot schedule appointments ahead of time. This means that some of the families will be there all day waiting to see the doctor.

For my first day of observations, I shadowed the nurses and doctors in Ward 2. This ward is for admitted patients. The Ward had two big rooms and one small room. The rooms were on a very narrow hallway that was hard to walk through. Most of the patients were divided between the two big rooms. That was the first difference I noticed between Ghanaian hospitals and American hospitals. Usually in the American hospitals, there are either two patients to a room divided by a curtain or each patient has their own room. I think that was established because of privacy laws. In Ghana, all the children patients share the room. There are two possible reasons for this: the privacy laws in Ghana are more relaxed or because the patients are children, they do not request to have privacy and the parent do not find it necessary. From what I observed, the mothers did not mind being in the room all together and there were at least 10 people in the room. After the introduction of staff members of the ward, I was put to work. They assigned me to take vital signs of patients and to record them in the patient folders and the ward register. The vitals were temperature, pulse rate, respiratory rate, and SPO2. I was nervous because I could not understand Twi fluently and I was scared they would not understand me. I was also concerned that I would not do the vital signs accurately. After working with several patients, doing the vitals became easier.

My last two days at the children’s hospital were as equally eventful. I was stationed at the nutrition rehab center. Mothers can go there to cook enriched and fortified foods for their children for free. Usually these are outpatients who will cook breakfast and lunch and feed the children there. Then the mother will cook dinner to take home. On Fridays, the center will have a CMAM clinic. CMAM stands for Community-Based Management for Acute Malnutrition where parents will come in with their malnourished children and receive plumpy nut meals from UNICEF. The center was composed of an open room with a kitchen, a playroom, and two offices. In the open room, there were several cribs available for mothers to put their children down. One of my favorite things about the center was the attitude of the nurses towards the mothers and their patients. These mothers come in every day to cook for their children, so they get to know the staff. It feels like a family setting. Once again, the nurses allowed me to take vitals (weight, MUAC – mid upper arm circumference, temperature, etc) and record the data in patient folders. I would carry children while the mothers cooked and even distributed the plumpy nut meals based on age. I learned that malnutrition is a very big issue in Ghana. The mother or grandmother would come in and look very healthy (or sometimes be overweight), but the children would be moderately to severely malnourished. This occurs because sometimes the mother does not give the child nutritious foods or the mother would not know what to feed the child. On the second day at the rehab center, this young girl was the textbook definition of kwashiorkor. She had thin, light hair with a large distended belly. Her skin was cracked and peeling. She came in with her grandma who you could tell loved her very much. The girl was quiet, but she smiled often. We gave her many plumpy nut meals and sent her on her way. I was grateful to witness the slow, but steady improvement of some of these children. Most of these patients come every Friday to get those meals and you can see the progress being tracked in their files.

Next week, we will be going to Ridge hospital which is the regional hospital. We will be witnessing a lot of surgeries and well as deliveries. 

Chelsea Murphy

New Continent, New Knowledge

July 7th, 2017

Well, to say I have surprised by Africa would be an understatement. I have not only been shocked at times but I can also say that I have acquired more information about my surroundings and myself than I ever thought possible. This expansion of knowledge throughout this past week is a part of this experience that I hold some of the most valuable.

For Tuesday through Friday of this week, I have had the blessing of shadowing at the Princess Marie Louise Children’s Hospital in Accra, Ghana. Tuesday was more of a day taken by Auntie Vic, the Head Matron of Nurses, to tour our group around the hospital and give us an introduction into each of the specialization departments. This was great because the following days, I was then able to select areas of the hospital where I was personally interested in observing. I immediately thought of how much I’ve loved past surgeries I’ve viewed while in the U.S. and wondered if that was possible at this hospital.

It turned out that Wednesday was the only day that this location performed any surgical procedures so I jumped at the opportunity to float around in the Post-Operation Recovery Unit. Although not within the surgeries themselves, this was unique since I had never followed patients into their experience post surgery. I got to gain knowledge on the exact amounts of SpO2 (“specific oxygen”) given to the child based on their size and age, as the 3-year-old little boy had less than the 10 year old boy. It was sad because I had to watch this 10-year-old boy complain of groin pain since he has just gotten a Stage II Fowler Stephens in that area. This was right after I watched the nurse use a syringe to extract a bit of blood that he had clotted in his veins noticed by the improper flow of IV fluid. She then adjusted the VTBI (“volume to be infused”) of his IV consisting of dextrose, sodium chloride, and water. Although she did not use the automatic IV draining machine but rather the gravity method of allowing gravity to push the fluid down and through the IV, the doctor suggested this automatic machine as being the best method since it allows for no air to be left in the bag. He said that this allows for all of the fluid to be drained out and used on the patient, as it should be. I was so intrigued by the professionals that are so well informed on the various methods used for these precious recuperating children.

On Thursday, I got to observe a department that my field of study of Nutritional Sciences is within but not exactly what I am working towards as a career: Dietetics. I was disappointed to find out that the dietician was not coming in for the day, but instead I got to follow around a dietetics intern while asking her questions. She had a plethora of knowledge to share with me on malnutrition and the combatting measures that this hospital takes toward this severe issue in children. When a child first enters this ward, they generally look for dehydration, saggy skin, edema, jaundice, paleness, etc. There are two types of formula that they use here to supplement babies for what nutrients they are missing out on, which include F75 and F100. There is also the “ReSoMal”, which stands for “rehydration solution for malnourishment” and is important is helping those babies who cannot keep the food they are being fed down in their stomach and vomit. Each have different formulas specific to the degree of SAM (“severe acute malnutrition”) present in the child. It amazed me however when I saw two different extremes today in the ward, one malnourished underweight 2 year old girl and another 1 year and 2 months old boy who was extremely obese. The dietetics intern told us that obesity in babies like this little guy comes from over feeding breast milk and a simple lack of knowledge on the mother’s part. I was awe-stricken by how blatantly evident this baby’s unhealthy weight was yet the absence of any realization by the mother. Overall, I took away just how much preparatory education mothers here in Ghana are lacking and how badly they need to be taught the specifics of what their baby needs at each age group.

This is one of the most humbling and brain-stirring experiences I have had the chance to embrace. Although it may not be what I traditionally learn about in the classroom, that is the best part about it since it is truly an “experiential learning” journey across the world.

XO Coming back to you smarter and satisfied beyond what I expected,

Rachel Cleypool

Akwaaba

July 7th, 2017

Akwaaba

Ghana is a country that is known for being welcoming to foreigners. In fact quite often as I walk by strangers on the street I will literally hear the phrase "you are welcome", or Akwaaba in the local language of Twi. As a foreigner you will also find strangers will frequently ask you if you would like some of their food they are eating. The nurse I was working with today in the Retro (HIV) clinic discovered my favorite Ghanian food was red red (a sort of bean/fish stew served with plantains). She was thrilled and told the assistant nurses to take me to get some red red that would be made around 1 o clock. I assumed she was referring to hospital kitchen where food is made daily. Around 1 an assistant nurse came and got me and told me to follow her. As we made our way outside of the gates of the hospital I started to become weary about our final destination. She told me it would only be a couple of cedis and I feared she was taking me to a chop bar, where foreigners are warned not to eat at. A chop bar is a sort of fast and cheap food that frequently  is cooked in poor conditions without many regulations being followed. She took me to a shack in the alley way where there was a line of people waiting to be served red red out of a big metal pot. I knew I was warned many times by our professor not to eat things made on the street but I feared it would be rude after all the fuss made over my meal (and it was hot so I figured it would probably be okay). I opted for two cedis worth of red red and one cedi worth of plantains. The nurse I was with was going to order for me and she asked me if I wanted a styrofoam container to put my red red in that cost another 60 peswas (cents). I said yes but when it was our turn in line it turned out they had run out of styrofoam containers but we could wait for more or I could be served my red red in a giant leaf. I obviously opted for the giant leaf because how cool is that. As we walked away the lady making the food came after us and handed me a plastic spoon and asked me my name and told me I was welcome in Ghana. The nurse I was with told me the spoon is not free and she gave it to me as an extremely nice gesture. Here is this woman selling food out of her shack giving me something for free. When I unwrapped my leaf I made a comment about the large quantity of red red for only two cedis. The counselor and the nurse informed me she gave me a lot extra because she knew the nurse was ordering it for me. Again I was overcome by the extreme gesture of kindness. They told me foreigners do not usually eat at local places like that and the lady was overcome by my willingness to eat with the local people at their familiar places. The doctors and nurses were thrilled I was eating it out of a leaf as well. I was called daring and down to earth and definitely earned more than a few brownie points with the staff. The doctor then said to me foreigners here are very welcomed and the attitude toward them is very friendly in Ghana. He then looked up at me and said it is not like that in the United States right? I asked what he meant and he said is there not a negative attitude toward foreigners in the United States? I thought about this for a moment and said yeah, I guess there is. I understand the basis of this attitude is the tax paying citizens of the United States not wanting to pay taxes for foreigners staying in the country illegally. The problem with this is the attitude reflects on those citizens from foreign countries who are in the country legally or are simply visiting. The United States could definitely take a note or two from Ghana on the treatment of foreigners.

Ashley Adams 

A New Definition of Hard Work

July 7th, 2017

Hey again everyone! Week three is officially underway and we have started our work in the hospitals. The community screenings we conducted last week provided us all with a truly amazing hands on experience, but I am really excited to start looking into different specialties and aspects of medicine and healthcare here in Ghana. This week we will be shadowing at Princess Marie Louise Children’s Hospital located in Accra. Within the hospital we have the opportunity to shadow different departments such as surgery, physical therapy, malnutrition, emergency care, x-ray, and pharmacy, to name a few. I am going to spend my week focusing on the malnutrition unit and nutritional rehabilitation center, physical therapy clinic, and the emergency room. This week is going to provide me and then rest of the group with experiences and opportunities we could have never dreamed of and I am incredibly excited to get the adventure underway. On top of the information and knowledge I am going to learn through this clinical work, these last few weeks have also taught me many other incredibly valuable lessons. One of the biggest lessons I have taken away from this week is the value of hard work.

            My parents have always ensured that my siblings and I know the importance of a strong work ethic. I am incredibly thankful I grew up being taught that nothing is given to you and if you want something bad enough it is going to take hard work and determination. This mentality pushed me to work hard in high school to get into a good college and continues to push me to work hard in college to prepare for a successful future. However, these past few weeks in Ghana have completely altered my definition of hard work.

            Before this month, I thought waking up at 7:30 to get to my 8am class was hard work. I thought taking fifteen credit hours, having a job, finding volunteer opportunities, and maintaining good relationships with those around me was hard work. I thought the pressures of deciding on my future and working on my resume to guarantee success was hard work. All the things that made me tired in a day or made a week seem long, felt to me like hard work. However, observing the people here in Ghana made me realize my “hard days work” is nothing.

For the last three mornings we have left for the hospital at six in the morning, and every town we drive through looks like they have been up for hours. Some women already have their stands set up on the side of the road and are preparing the goods they are going to sell that day, while others are carrying massive buckets of water or food on their heads that they are bringing back for their family. The men and woman in the towns and markets do not stop this hard work until the sun goes down, and even then they spend overtime cleaning up and preparing for the next day. No one walks around with a scowl on his or her face and I have yet to hear one person complain about these long laborious days. On top of the people selling goods in the markets, those with their “mobile shop” in a bucket on top of their head have astounded me. These people spend all day walking up and down the lines of traffic, carrying massive and heavy bins on top of their heads, and still manage to run after every car that passes. They value every cedi they earn and do not stop working until they have enough to support themselves or their family. The people I have seen and met here have taught me to be thankful for everything I have and to never stop pushing myself, even when things do get harder than I could ever imagine. These past few weeks have taught me so much about myself and the world around me, and I could not be more excited to continue to step out of my comfort zone, take in the experiences, and apply everything I am learning to my life back in the States.

            -Anna Murphy

Hardship

July 7th, 2017

Shadowing the physical therapists has definitely been the highlight of my week. I had never been in such a setting where I was able to not only watch the exercises that the therapists performed on their patients, but also get the opportunity to perform those exact same exercises. It was very hands-on, and it is an experience that I will carry with me forever.  Many of the kids who came to see us had cerebral palsy, where their muscles are very weak and they are unable to crawl, walk, sit or even just support themselves. Because of this, many kids are delayed; there were kids who just did not know how to walk or even sit up by themselves. During my time there, all you heard were kids just screaming at the top of their lungs as the physical therapists performed the exercises on them. They did exercises that would encourage them to raise their heads, turn their bodies, sit up, and much more. For the kids who did not know how to walk because the joints in their ankles were fused together were given braces. The physical therapists advised the kids to wear them to help put pressure on it. Also, some of kids’ feet were set incorrectly, so the brace was also there to fix that.

The kids only come once of week because the therapists are just so backed up with patients. The parents of these children are supposed to be performing these exercises every day while they are at home. Many of them do not do this however.  They do not do it because they either have work or they have trouble getting their child to cooperate or because they just do not want to do it. This slows the progress down for a lot of the kids. One physical therapist even told me that some abandon the help that they receive at the hospital and seek out spirituals instead. They believe their child’s ailment is due to bewitching and would prefer to spend their money at the spiritualists. This also delays the child’s progress since they are not practicing the exercises they learned. They eventually just forget it.  This in turn causes the parents to be very frustrated.

One of the physical therapists described to me why cerebral palsy was so common, and she explained to me how many pregnant women carry their babies longer than they need to. The baby often undergoes fetal distress and can experience birth asphyxiation where not enough oxygen reaches the brain. When a C-section becomes necessary, many of them refuse it because of the belief that surgery is evil or because of the tragic stories they may have heard about women who have had C-sections. This can worsen the babies’ condition. Some pregnant women do not even receive any care or won’t visit the hospital until it’s almost time to have the baby. Some do not have the time or money to visit the doctor. Some just do not care to keep up with their health while pregnant.

Hearing these stories and witnessing these kids doing their exercises has definitely given me a new perspective on the way many Ghanaians have to live. No one is really unaware of the tough life Africans have to endure, but seeing it first hand is definitely an experience.  I am grateful for this hands-on experience because it definitely helps me to think about the path I want to take in my life, if healthcare is something I really want to get into to. Seeing the way people live here definitely cultivates a desire to help somehow. I do not say all this to sound like I am pitying Ghanaians or to sound condescending because I know the people here are resilient and are only doing the best that they can do. However, I am seeing how much the people struggle here when it comes to healthcare, and as I continue to immerse myself in these different fields, I only become more and more certain that a career in healthcare is the type of career I want. 

Florence Urum 

The Best Day

July 7th, 2017

On Thursday of my third week in Ghana, I experienced my favorite day of the trip. I had met a midwife by the name of Josephine Oteng during the nutrition screenings and after developing a relationship with her I asked her if I could shadow her at work in the future. That day finally came on Thursday, and I couldn't have been more excited. We started by having a tour of the hospital, Tetteh Quarshie Memorial Hospital, and each of its specific departments. We began at the maternity ward where 7 mothers had just hours before had their babies. Since surgeries like cesarean sections are all scheduled for Wednesdays at this hospital, many of the mothers with high-risk pregnancies went under anasthesia and minutes later had their newborns in their arms. Emily accompanied me to the hospital, and being the only two shadowers in the entire hospital that day allowed us much flexibility throughout the day. After talking with the mothers about their labor in the maternity ward, we progressed on to the children's ward. Though it was sad to see so many children in such critical condition, we had a nice time with them laughing about how different our skin looked. Following the time in this ward, we were welcomed by song and praise by the mothers-to-be in the antenatal department. Each day here begins with jubilant song when the mothers pray for the health and safety of their unborn children. Emily and I stayed here and each paired off with a head midwife to observe the monthly follow up appointments. We palpitated the patients' bellies for the positioning of the fetuses to assess their growth. Afterwards we were able to listen to the babies' heartbeats with a fetal scope which was amazing. We met the Physician's Assistant, Jerry, and the gynecologist, Dr. Emanuel Peku, who were both incredible and as welcoming as could be. Dr. Peku even gave me and Emily permission to shadow his surgeries the following Wednesday. Talking to all the midwives there confirmed my excitement for continuing my education with nursing, and each taught me something special about Ghana, their culture, or their profession. I am forever grateful for Josephine for letting me come to her work. It opened my eyes to all the incredible possibilities of working in healthcare and obtaining my masters in nursing. 

Signed,

Annie Ladisic

Patience in the Frustration

July 7th, 2017

Chandler standing outside the dietitian ward at PML. Notice that they spell dietitian different.

This week I have had the honor and the privilege of being in Princess Marie Louise Children's Hospital in Accra, Ghana. The hospital is located in the heart of Accra: the market. One must drive down the busy streets of the market to get to the hospital. The hospital is open air meaning that some of the building is open to the outside and the rest does not have air conditioning. There is air conditioning in the operating rooms and pharmacy for safety protocols. When you walk into the hospital, the first thing you see is the mortician ward. There's a coffin outside of it. Needless to say, it's depressing to see that as you walk into the hospital. You then walk into an open area that has multiple rooms along the side. When patients come, they receive their patient records and wait to be seen for vitals. The nurses and doctors have a triage system where the most severe patient is seen first.

There are always about 200 woman waiting with their children. They sit everywhere among the hospital waiting for their child to be seen. The hospital has many different wards including a cholera bay, retrovirus clinic, x-ray, lab, emergency, ICU, PT, malnutrition ward, and nutrition rehabilitation center. The emergency area is crammed pack. It is a very small space with about 10 nurses and doctors and about 30 patients. There aren't enough beds so many parents sit in chairs and have their children sit in their lap while they receive IV fluids. The smell hit me as soon as I stepped into the ER. I didn't know if I was going to be able to work at this hospital. There's no air flow and it just smells of sickness. Thankfully, I was able to calm myself down by taking deep breaths and relaxing.

When I think of the ICU, I think of a very sterile, cold, clean, contained environment. It's the complete opposite here. There are two babies/children at each bed, there’s no air flow, the room is full of sleeping parents, and children receiving oxygen, IV's, and blood crammed into one average size American bedroom. I was shocked by the sanitation of the hospital. The hospital's sanitation protocol is nothing like the hospitals in the U.S. There's no sewage system. This means that surrounding the border of the hospital are concrete slabs with slits in it. Underneath is a moat exposed to the air with all the urine and feces. There's no fresh air. It always smells of urine and poop. There’s also not a lot of trash cans conveniently located around, so it is common to see trash and waste on the ground.

One thing that I have thoroughly enjoyed at this hospital is their emphasis on malnutrition and nutrition rehabilitation. Malnourishment is common in many of the patients that are brought to the hospital. Most children that are diagnosed with malnutrition are at the hospital for different reasons like malaria or pneumonia. I cannot wrap my mind around the fact that some parents have no idea that their baby is malnourished. I just wonder if they ever think that maybe their baby is too skinny or if they even worry about those things. The dietetic interns at the hospital told me that most children/babies are malnourished because their parents just don’t know how to properly feed them. The child/baby will stay in the malnutrition ward receiving different milk formulas until their weight rises to the correct range for their age. Once they are discharged from the malnutrition ward, their next step is the nutrition rehabilitation center. They receive nutrition counseling about what foods to add to their child’s diet. The amazing thing about this place is that the mothers come in everyday and cook breakfast and lunch for their child free of charge. The hospital funds all the food that is needed for the recipes. It creates a welcoming and supporting environment where the moms can come and cook healthy foods for their children so they can be healthy and continue to gain weight. The community amongst the woman is astounding. They get along so well and share a common goal of providing a healthier life for their family.

The last thing I want to share is an experience I had recently in the emergency ward. I was going on rounds with some of the dietetic interns and our first stop was the emergency ward. There was a patient that had been admitted the day before for malnutrition and malaria. I actually saw this patient the day before running around with her mom. The mom seemed very young. When we walked into the ward, she and her daughter were both asleep. The intern tried waking her up but she would not respond. The woman next to her gave her a big push and she woke up. I’m not sure what exactly happened because they were speaking a different language. All I know is that we did not weigh her baby and ended up walking away shortly after. I later asked what happened and I was told that the mother is not being cooperative. She believes that her daughter is not malnourished and does not need any sort of treatment. I could visibly see that her baby girl was SAM, meaning severe acute malnutrition. I asked the intern if she ever gets frustrated when situations like this arise and she simply said no, I don’t ever worry myself. She understood that the patient will come to her when she is ready to be counseled. She doesn’t push it because she wants the patient to choose it for herself and her family.

I was so inspired by that. I am sometimes let my passion for helping people turn into frustration when they are not receptive to what I am saying. I just care so deeply and I want to help in everyway possible. I see this little girl in front of me who is skin and bones and I just want to shake the mom and say, “Why are you refusing treatment for your baby girl? She needs this to survive!” But I have realized that I need to take my own personal agenda out of the picture. This moment was about the mom and the baby and about their needs and frustrations. When the mom is ready, she will seek counsel to help her daughter. In the meantime, I can just encourage her and love her where she is at. I will carry that moment into my profession. I will always remember the importance of patience and understanding.

With love from Africa, 

Chandler

“My reward will be in heaven.”

July 6th, 2017

This week, I was grateful to shadow nurses and doctors of different specialties at the Princess Marie Louise Hospital in Accra. While all my experiences told a story of medicine, one in particular portrayed a story of humanity. I spent Wednesday with Aunty Serwah, the head nurse of the “Retro Clinic.” Besides being an intelligent, professional nurse, she was also one of the kindest and most passionate individuals I have met on this trip. She was everyone’s unofficial “Aunty,” and she never met a stranger. She took me in and taught me all about “Retro,” or HIV, prevalence here in Ghana. Additionally, she showed me how to test for HIV and I even got to practice on a few patients and myself. We chatted often while waiting for patients to trickle in, giving her ample time to answer my ample questions. Most she answered with ease, however, there was one that stopped her in her tracks: “Are you scared of contracting HIV?” After pondering for a moment, she replied, “Yes, but I chose this job. I have to do this work, and if I die from it, my reward will be in heaven.”

Her strength and willingness to serve others was incredible. While she tested and cared for patients daily, she said most of her work actually stems from debunking the HIV stigma. In Ghana, many people believe that HIV infection comes only with promiscuity, they don’t know about other forms of transmission, such as that between mother and child. The clinicians had to rename the HIV clinic the “Retro” (a.k.a. retrovirus) clinic just so that people nearby wouldn’t judge the patients. The backlash to an HIV diagnosis is so severe here even husbands and wives won’t disclose their status to one another, further perpetuating the problem. I must admit, I also found myself acting differently around the patients that came to the clinic. I was quiet and extremely cautious around them until their test came back negative. I can certainly see how those suffering from HIV would feel ostracized, even from those aiming to help. Thankfully, there are some public health initiatives in place with the ultimate mission of breaking the stigma and testing a larger portion of the population. Aunty Serwah emphasized the importance of implementing HIV lessons into school health classes as well, though she mentioned this will take longer to roll out. I pray that the community here, and even in the U.S., learns to respect one another regardless of HIV status, so that individuals can get tested without inhibition. I also pray for the Aunty Serwah’s of the world, and hope that one day I can emulate her as well.

-Liana Mosley-

Our Time in TQMH

July 6th, 2017

To me, this week has flown by faster than any other week we’ve had in Ghana so far. Ghana’s Republic Day is on July 1st, but since that fell on a Saturday this year, they moved the celebration day to Monday so people could have a break. Even most of the hospital departments were shut down for the celebration. This worked out great for our group because this whole trip we had wanted to have a beach day, but hadn’t yet found the time.

The rest of the week was dedicated to working in Princess Marie Louise Children’s Hospital in Accra. In one of the health screenings last week in Mampong, we met a woman named Josephine. Josephine is a local midwife who came to help us run our clinic. She works at Tetteh Quarshie Memorial Hospital, which is only a 10-minute taxi ride from where we are staying in Mampong. We all loved working with and learning from her that day. Annie is in the process of applying to midwifery programs back in the United States, so she asked Josephine is she could come shadow her this week one day. When I heard about these plans, I was also very interested and joined Annie.

So instead of going to the children’s hospital today, Annie and I separated from the group to go visit Josephine at Tetteh Quarshie Memorial Hospital. The hospital was not what I was expecting at all. After seeing PML children’s hospital in Accra yesterday, I thought this hospital would be a similar, if not a less developed, facility. Instead, it was very well organized, had large departments (on four different floors and multiple different buildings), air conditioning, and seemed well staffed. First when we arrived, Josephine gave us a tour of the hospital. We saw the diabetic clinic, eye clinic, pharmacy, female and male wards, the public health education and antenatal center, family planning, surgical theaters, maternity ward, labor and delivery room, post-neonatal room, pediatrics, retro (HIV) clinic, emergency, and the gynecologic consulting room where Josephine herself mostly works.

We stayed and observed Josephine working with patients for the first part of the day. Then, we went to the antenatal consulting rooms and observed check-ups for pregnant women. It was so interesting to watch how they treat women, and especially how they handle the different disease threats women are prone to here. Every woman was given malaria prevention medicine, and many were tested for malaria if they showed any symptoms. Vitamins and other supplements were also given to every patient. I was able to palpitate stomachs to feel for the baby’s body parts and measure the length of the mother’s fundus to the pubic symphysis. I also got to listen to the fetal heartbeat through a fetal scope. After spending time in that department, Annie and I went to the post-neonatal ward. Here, we met the new mothers and their babies, and we shadowed the nurses on duty. We learned so much spending time there, and we got the chance to get to know one patient very well. She got our contact information and hopes to stay in touch. We met many nurses, doctors, and physician assistants throughout the day today. One OB/GYN doctor we met told Annie and I that we could come back next Wednesday and scrub in with him for his surgeries that day. We both had a great experience today, and look forward to another visit to Tetteh Quarshie Memorial Hospital. 

--Emily

Adventure Starts Here

July 5th, 2017

I've always believed that the more adventurous you are, the better your life will be. Even more so, the closer you'll be to getting the maximum amount out of life. This trip has given me absolute reassurance in that thought. I used to love my life being routine and comfortable, but I've seen what wonderful things can happen by moving past that simple idea of life. Just pushing myself to travel to Ghana for a month was adventure enough, but a serious goal I've had is to continue to push myself out of that routine lifestyle while I'm here.

Last week, we worked in communities all around Ghana providing health screenings to the local people there. I learned so many things that could never be taught in a classroom but are key aspects of me succeeding as a professional. Our next two weeks here will consist of working in hospitals shadowing and also getting hands-on experience. I can't wait to see what the last half of this trip has to offer, because the first half has been much more astonishing than I could have ever imagined. Even though this trip has a large medical focus, we have also been able to learn so much more about ourselves and each other through adventuring around this country and immersing ourselves into the culture. I'm not a person who has ever been the biggest fan of swinging bridges, but this past weekend I got to experience walking across 7 of them, 120 feet off the ground. Every minute of it was exhilarating and wonderful. We then got to tour two different slave castles, which taught us so much history and has really helped in my understanding of Ghana's foundation.

The rest of the weekend included seeing a local play and spending a day at Bojo Beach. Since we were missing the Fourth of July in the US, this was such a fun celebration we were grateful to have. This made missing fireworks back at home seem like no big deal. The play was so different from what we are used to in the US, but it still made us laugh and was very interesting to see what kind of entertainment the people here enjoy. The beach day was nothing short of perfect. From meeting people from all over the world, to playing soccer with the kids, to watching the locals catch crabs and fish, I was in awe by how much fun we could have on a beach much different from the ones in the US. I love this trip because every new adventure is looked at in such a positive way. Everyone has fun with it. I'm so happy to be surrounded with girls who are so engaged with life and strive for the most adventure on this study abroad.

I want this trip to always be my reminder to get up from the couch when I'm back in Athens, and go out and train for that new half marathon or plan a random skydiving trip. As Will Smith has said, "life begins on the other side of your maximum fear".

Jenna

A Whole New Appreciation

June 30th, 2017

         I’ll start off by saying that before I came on this trip, I expected to come home with a renewed or possibly even newfound appreciation for many of the little things in life that I often take for granted on a daily basis without even realizing it.  That being said, I didn’t realize the extent of how deeply this would impact me or even the range of the conveniences I have grown up believing are the norm that have ultimately become a mundane part of everyday life.

         The first thing I realized that I use without even thinking about is clean tap water.  From the first day that we arrived, we have been brushing our teeth with the water from our bottles that we fill with the purified drinking water that comes in little bags.  After a few initial times of almost putting my toothbrush under the faucet due to routine habit, I quickly realized that having clean drinking water coming from the water pipes is a big deal.  Growing up in a developed country, I often neglect to think about where my water comes from and if it is safe to drink or not.  Thankfully in Ghana and many other developing countries there have been initiatives taken that help make clean drinking water easily accessible to everyone, no matter what your economic status, in order to eradicate illnesses caused by unsanitary drinking water. 

         While we’re on the topic of water, how many of you enjoy taking a nice warm shower when you’re trying to get cleaned up?  I know I do and I’ll be the first to admit it, but I’ve learned that having a hot shower is a luxury and we are spoiled to have a showerhead and warm water in the first place.  Here in Ghana, cold bucket showers are the norm.  No more hanging around in the shower taking your sweet time because it’s so relaxing.  You get in and get out as quickly as possible…but I tell you what, that first warm shower that I take when I get home is going to be that much sweeter because I now value this comfort that we get to enjoy so much more.

         I don’t know about y’all, but doing laundry is just one of those tasks that I love doing and is even peaceful in a way.  After doing my laundry the Ghanaian way for the first time this week, I have a whole new appreciation for this set of appliances better known as the washing machine and dryer.  On top of that, I am even more thankful for the hands that wash our whole group’s worth of clothes every weekend – the oh so wonderful (Saint) Margaret.  After spending almost an hour and a half sitting in the sun washing my clothes in a metal basin, spinning them around like a human washing machine, rinsing and wringing them out, and then hanging them to dry on the clothesline, I can only imagine how much time and hard work went into doing a dozen loads of laundry for us.  Not only does she do our laundry, but she also cooks amazing meals for us and cleans up after unintentionally messy selves…she is truly the best.  I can’t say enough how thankful I am for all of the behind-the-scenes effort that goes into making us feel right at home.

         Last but not least, coming from a very cold-natured person who thought she would never be saying this – I have never been more appreciative for the invention of air conditioning after living in Africa.  The summer here is their rainy season which means it is the “coolest” part of the year, which means the Georgia heat has nothing on the weather here.  You learn to accept and become okay with the fact that you’ll always be in a constant warm and sticky state, especially during the humid rainy season of the summer.

         I say all of this to try and put my realizations into words to make sense of it all, not at all to highlight the drawbacks of living in a developing country.  In reality, Ghana is even more beautiful and developed than I imagined and I can honestly say that I came into this trip expecting the worse but being very pleasantly surprised.  You could say that the “lightbulb moment” has definitely occurred during the two and a half weeks that I have already spent here.   Many of the preconceptions that I had about Ghana and Africa in general have been debunked and a multitude of personal experiences have shaped my understanding, which have contributed to my expanding appreciation for what I have been blessed with and how incredible of an opportunity this really is.  I hope that I will always be able to look back on this eye-opening experience for years and years to come, to stand as a reminder for myself to never become too comfortable so much that I fail to properly appreciate everything that I have been granted.   So here’s to unfamiliar experiences that ultimately lead to lots of personal growth and revitalized awareness that make us who we are.

Xoxo,

Olivia

Appreciate the Sunshine

June 30th, 2017

I find myself always wishing for it to snow. This is not because I love snow more than sunshine. This is because I live smack in the middle of Georgia where it is hot year round and only catch a glimpse of a snow flake every other year. In a place where it is hot 355 days of the year it can be hard not to take the beautiful sunny days for granted. The same is true with access to healthcare and health knowledge in the United States. Just like the hot weather healthcare is easily accessible to the majority of the population year round. Access to health knowledge is at the fingertips of anyone with a smart phone or computer (or access to one a.k.a. pretty much everyone). This is not the case in Ghana. Our clinics have been swarmed with people a lot of whom have never been to the doctor. This is their one access point to any sort of medical care for the entire year. Due to this, the information and test results we have given the patients has been received very seriously. Everyone wants to know if their blood pressure being high is harmful and how it is harmful and what they can do about it. Numbers such as blood pressure I do not feel are given as much weight in the United States. People are given medications for hypertension in the United States but there is no real change in mindset and diet or food intake. People are aware of the problem but choose to somewhat ignore it or do the bare minimum to keep their bodies functioning. I have had the discussion with a couple group members that if we conducted the same sort of preventative health screening in the United States that we do not believe nearly as many people would come. People are not only coming to the screenings but waiting in line at five am to get a spot. Concern and genuine interest to know how to make themselves better has really touched me. Healthcare is cherished and appreciated. The sunshine is never taken for granted in Ghana.

Ashley Adams, Health Promotion University of Georgia 

Anna Takes a Tumble

June 29th, 2017

Hey everyone! It’s crazy to think I’m already in my second week here in Ghana. It feels like just yesterday I was getting on a plane in Atlanta with no idea of what to expect. However, now with almost two weeks under my belt, I’ve already settled into my own little routine. Me, Emily, Olivia, and Jenna have made our little room our new home, groundnut soup is now one of my favorite foods, all twelve of us have mastered the art of the perfect finger prick, and I have found that a new adventure awaits me every day.

The adventure I want to take you guys on with me happened on Tuesday after we were done with our community work in Tutu. We finished with the last few patients around 12:30, so we still had a whole day to spend exploring. Once I got back to the house and finished with my first hand washed laundry and line drying experience, Ashley and I decided to go on a run. We wanted to do some physical activity and explore the rest of our little town of Mampong. In order to see what was hiding on the other side of the mountain, we decided to go the opposite way of the town, on a road we had not yet ventured down.

This run made me realize two things. The first is that running straight up a mountain in the middle of the day in Africa is not an easy task. Especially, when you’ve consumed your fair share of fried plantains and jollof rice these past two weeks. The second is that this country provides so many hidden, beautiful moments. After we finally made it to the end of the trail, we were met with the most breathtaking view. From this random lookout point we stumbled upon, we were able to see for what seemed to be hundred of miles. We were looking out over the most luscious mountains and green space I have ever seen in my life. It looked like a postcard that was too perfect to be something I was truly looking out on. On a random Tuesday, after I thought my day was over, I randomly found a picture perfect view of Africa that gave me a new perspective on the world as a whole, and that is one of the reasons this trip never ceases to amaze me.

But, after taking in this view for a few minutes, clumsy Anna had to stir things up a bit. Before I knew it, the rocky trail that seemed so stable at the time slipped out from under me and to say I took a little tumble is an understatement. Ashley and I initially died of laughter, but then I stood up to see it might be time for us to head back. The back of my leg was completely scraped up and the stinging definitely started to set in. Luckily, once we got back Mrs. Margret was there to save the day once again. She got out her handy first-aid kit and after a very painful few minutes of cleaning out the cuts, I was good to go. Even though it ended in a less than peaceful way, the adventures of that day are something I will cherish forever.

An afternoon that started with a simple run to get some exercise, ended with me having one of the beautiful hidden moments. A moment that seemed to stop time and give me a second of complete peace. A moment that made me realize the things that constantly occupy my worries and fears are so minute in the grand scheme of life. A moment that gave me a new appreciation of how beautiful this world is and how much I still have left to explore. Granted, this seemingly perfect and peaceful couple of minutes was brought to an abrupt end, the scars my little tumble will most likely leave, will always remind me of this moment and of the life changing adventure every day here provides.  

Anna Murphy

Work Week

June 29th, 2017

Hello!! For my second blog post, I want to share about the time we have spent working in the clinics this week. Each day, we have traveled to different communities including Kumasi, Suhum, Tutu, Mampong, Amanokrom, and Awutu. In each community, our group set up a clinic for health and nutritional screenings. We have been able to assess people’s basic health factors. There are stations where we measure weight/height/BMI, blood pressure, blood testing for glucose and hemoglobin levels, and then the final station of counseling and discussing the results with Dr. Anderson.

I have first-hand witnessed the struggles the people of Ghana are experiencing from the failures of the healthcare system. So many of the people in the communities are shocked when we tell them they can attend our clinic without insurance. Hospitals here will turn away a patient, regardless of if it is a medical emergency, if a patient does not have health insurance. For this reason, many people don’t have access to the basic care they need. It’s amazing how far some people traveled to reach our services.

Maybe it sounds like the work we are doing is simple, but for people with limited healthcare access it can be a life saving screening. We are helping spread education about health and healthy lifestyles. Health is above all things the most important and crucial part of life.

I am learning so much from our work in the clinics, from our nightly books discussions, and I'm gaining great experience. Everyone deserves the same treatment and chance to live a healthy, long life, and I am so glad to be a part of working towards that goal.

--Emily 

Milestones

June 29th, 2017

I had just gotten back from staying in a villa in Santorini, Greece with my family, and I had 2 days to pack and prepare for a month-long stay in Ghana. To be honest, I didn't really want to go. In my mind, I didn't have enough time to get my things in order, and the thought of being away from my friends before they all begin their careers in other states didn't appeal to me. I wanted to be able to be in constant contact with my close-knit group as they experienced their first days in a new city. I wanted to be able to have dinner with my little sister after she had her first day of her first real internship. For some reason, being a part of my friends' and family's important moments trumped making important memories of my own. After mindlessly checking off things from last year's packing list, the day came quicker than I had liked. I loaded up my clothes and supplies into two overweight suitcases and made my way to the airport with my parents. The first time seeing this country was exciting and new, but I had a feeling of reservation clouding my mind. This reservation didn't subside until being in Ghana for a couple days when I finally was able to appreciate this experience for what it is- once in a lifetime. Never before and never again will I be able to walk the streets of Mampong at night shopping for Fan Ice and fabric with Anna and Ashley. Never will I get the chance to work alongside 12 remarkable strangers aiding in improving the health of 5 Ghanian towns. Never will I have that shining moment of confirmation that my plans to pursue Midwifery and Nurse Practitioner school are not in vain. Never will I eat red-red or banku in a home filled with such love, or grilled corn off the streets of Kumasi. Never again will I experience such a sight as the one of women carrying fish heads and flip flops on their heads through the narrow streets of the jam-packed market. Never again will I see a wild elephant for the first time, and never again will I see baboons steal mangos out of Rachels hands. Never again will I be so inspired by a teacher to make my own community a better place, just as he does every day. I will never get another chance to learn so much about the world or myself as I already have here in Ghana. Though I do not have the constant opportunity to talk to those back home who are hitting important milestones in their life, I no longer care at all. In my opinion, I am hitting much more profound milestones in my life over here. I have learned who I want to become, how to live in a place not always comfortable to me, and that I should never prejudge a place or group of people before I arrive. I do not share any of the same sentiments as the Annie who boarded the plane to Ghana, and for that, I know Ghana has already changed me for the better.

Sincerely,

Annie Ladisic

Serving

June 29th, 2017

I cannot believe that I have been in Ghana for two weeks. Time really does fly. This past week we have conducted health screenings in various churches in Kumasi, Suhum, Tutu, and Mampong. I think my favorite destination was in Suhum, where we had the opportunity to see so many of the local children. They interacted with us by playing games and teaching us their little chants. They even came inside the church and tried to get to know many of us. There was one particular girl, the girl in the picture, who glued herself to my side. She was very beautiful with a very good signing voice. The church would have music playing in the background and she would quietly sing it as she stood next to me. The song was in Twi, and she tried to teach me a few words. She said I did not speak it well; I just laughed. 

These screenings have been the first real, hands-on medical work that I have done in my life. I am able to do finger-pricking, check blood pressure, height and weight. They all sound like standard and simple things, but the experience of interacting with and working in a real community was priceless. I loved putting my Twi to practice. I loved being able to help provide information on each individual's health. Some people found out new things about themselves by coming to us. Some realized that they were healthy and fine while others found out that they had diabetes or high blood pressure and were going to have to take preventive measures to manage thier conditions so they did not get worse. Just witnessing all these scenarios and being the one who is able to provide them with the valuable information provides you with such a warm feeling. With just one week of work, my desire to serve different communities has only increased. I want to become a doctor, specifically a pediatrician, and being able to work with everyone is so very rewarding. In our last two weeks, we will be able to work in the children's hospital and the main hospital. I am very excited to work in these areas and see what the enviroment is like and what kind of medical treatment Ghanaians receive here. I am excited about everything that I have learned so far on this trip and about everything I have yet to learn.  

Florence Urum

“Ete Sen”

June 29th, 2017

At the end of the last blog, I briefly mentioned that we had started our community work. Doing community work just means holding free health screenings in different communities every day. I also call these days, clinic days. Something to note is that we always do our clinics in a church. Religion is very big here in Ghana, so it makes sense that town events would be held in churches. Holding the clinics does not offend anyone in our group as it isn’t like our professor or the church are imposing their views on us. Sometimes the pastor of the church will pray for us which I think is very thoughtful. I asked Dr. Anderson how he is able to hold these screenings in the churches and how he gets the supplies. He told me that he has connections and our program fee pays for the supplies. I feel happy knowing that our money actually pay for supplies to aid these communities.

Our second clinic day was in Suhum. The first day went very well, so I knew this day would go just as well. My first station of the day was height/weight/BMI. I always like greeting people in English and in Twi, and sometimes I ask how they are doing in Twi. I realized very quickly that while some people could speak English very well, others could only say a few phrases. At the height/weight/BMI station, asking for one’s age occasionally posed a problem, so I learned how to say it in Twi: Wadi nfi ahie [waydi-infi-ah-hin]. Once I knew I was saying it correctly, I asked it for almost everybody. It worked out perfectly. The only downside was that sometimes the person would answer back in Twi and I did not get that far in my lessons. I would have someone else translate the number. The next station I did was blood pressure. That went well. There is an ongoing debate about which location records the most accurate blood pressure reading – arm or wrist. The next station was bloodwork. I think that station is my favorite. I developed a system on how to maximize the amount of blood squeezed without pricking twice or hurting the patient. We had a ton of children come in that day. It was a holiday, so parents took advantage of the time off to make sure their child is healthy.  

By the third clinic day in Tutu, I felt like I had been doing medical screenings for a long time. I know that sounds crazy, but we have a routine for rotating around the stations and we can do each medical test with ease. Our team works very well together. We are communicating and creating some lasting bonds. Aside from bloodwork, I really enjoy being a floater. Floaters are greeters, aids, errand people, and entertainers. They do everything. I like that floaters multitask and go where they are needed. One thing I noticed at the blood station is that people always want to know what blood group they are (as in A, B, AB, O). I wish we had the test to show that. I think for future trips, Dr. Anderson could incorporate that into the screenings. I think that will be very useful information for the patients. At the consultation station, one lady had a blood glucose level of 379! That is insane. Normal blood glucose levels are less than 126. It turns out that she developed gestational diabetes. Dr. Anderson informed her that if not managed, it can lead to Type 2 diabetes. I enjoy learning about various health information from the professor during and in between patient consultation.

Our most recent day was clinic day #4. That was in Mampong, our home base and prof’s hometown. The screening took place at the Methodist Church Ghana – Ascension Society. This is actually the professor’s church. We expected a huge turnout, but we saw less than 100 people. I was shocked. I was very curious as to why we had so few people when prof knew a lot of people in this town and he made an announcement in church. Maybe because it was during a work day, so people could not leave work. The other possible explanation could be because the church was not in a central location. We had one blind man come in. We had floaters guide him through the stations. At the time I was doing bloodwork, so when we came to my station, I explained to him what we were doing and grabbed his hand so he could follow along. That was a really good experience for me because I gained some exposure on how to take care of patients with disabilities. The most profound event of the day was when a woman who was 100 years old came in for the screening. She was in great shape – she walked slow and walked with a cane – and she was happy and energetic. I love when I see people live to be so old. I would have loved to hear her story that spans a century. I helped her throughout each station. My mind kept wondering what her life has been like and how much change she has seen. She did not speak a lot of English, but our interaction was friendly and familiar. Because of my Nigerian background, we call older women: auntie, mama, mummy, or grandma; it felt like I was helping my grandma. I noticed in Ghana people in the community will assist elderly people in daily activities even if they are not related which is what they do in Nigeria too. I just smiled at her the whole time. Overall, day 4 was slow, but is successful because we provide the best care possible and always with a positive attitude.

Tourist Tidbit:
There have been a couple of adventures outside of health screenings. The biggest one was visiting a market in Kumasi. What a day. I feel like the words I will use to describe it, just will not do the visit justice. I knew how crowded markets in Ghana can get because they are crowded in Nigeria and in other parts of the world. The market progressively shifted from open streets, to backway slums, to a market town made of tin. The marketplace is a community within a community, a world within a world. The atmosphere in the market is different than any other place. So many sites, sounds, people, smells, and items are all being taken in by your eyes and ears. The journey to the depths of the market started out as a quest for traditional fabric. Our leader, Marina asked around for the places with the cheapest prices. We moved from being on the main roads to backway alleys. The alleys gave way to the slums. This was a very poor part of Kumasi that was surprisingly still apart of the market. The smell of livestock and feces completely took over my nostrils. It felt like I ran nose-first into a stinky wall. The ground was muddy and there were people everywhere. There were also several big crates/cages full of chickens. Amid all this, there were tons of food and cosmetic stands with people yelling out what they were selling. How could they sell in this stench and chaos? The smell became so bad that I held my nose as we sped through there. The scene then changed into a town within the market. There were little shops made of tin material that looked like over-sized metal cabinets. The tops of them stretched so far up that there was only a tiny sliver of sky light peeking through. At every point in this market there were people that kept trying to grab me and call me to them. I would politely say no thank you and keep going, but it became somewhat overwhelming. We went so deep into the market that we forgot the way out. Luckily, Dr. Anderson and Marina helped us out. It was quite the experience. 

I look forward to next week. We will be wrapping up our clinic days and moving on to hospital observations. There are several hospital areas I am interested in such as pediatrics, women's health, labor & delivery (midwifery), and neonatology. Luckily for me, most of these areas overlap, so I will have a chance to see all aspects of maternal and child health. 

Chelsea Murphy

What are you actually doing in Ghana anyway?

June 29th, 2017

Back again for another update! 

The first week we were here, we did a lot of in-country orientation, tourism (going to Mole National Park for a safari, going on a tour of the Ashante king's palace), and just getting used to Ghana. We spent a lot of time on a bus driving to different places, literally driving through 5 of the country's 10 regions in one day. 

Of course at some point, we have to actually start doing what we came to do. This first portion of the trip, we are doing free health clinics in 6 different communities around Ghana. We started in Kumasi last Friday, and continued in Suhum, Tutu, and Mampong for the beginning of this week. Let me tell you, that first day in Kumasi was c r a z y. There were probably close to 50 people waiting there when we arrived at 7:30 am. By the end of the day, we had seen over 250 patients. The day went by incredibly fast just because we were so busy! I'm exaggerating but it honestly feels like I might've learned more in those 6 hours than in some of my courses at Tech...

When a patient comes into the church (all of our screenings have taken place in a church in each of the villages, mostly because that's the easiest way to spread news), we start by measuring their height, weight, and BMI. Then, we take their blood pressure. At the third station, we prick their fingers to get blood samples to test for blood glucose and hemoglobin levels. Blood glucose is important for screening for diabetes, and the hemoglobin measure screens for low iron levels or anemia. Then, the patients see our professor, Dr. Anderson, for nutrition counseling. If the patients has preexisting hypertension or diabetes, or if their screenings showed high blood pressure or unhealthy blood glucose levels, we'll get another blood sample to test their cholesterol. This test measures total cholesterol, LDL (bad cholesterol), HDL (good cholesterol), and tri-glycerides. Dr. Anderson then talks the patient through what each of their numbers mean, and how to change their diet or lifestyle to reach healthy numbers. Oftentimes, this is the first time these people have learned that they are anemic, malnourished, hypertensive, or obese (and yes, we've seen every range of that spectrum here).

After 4 days of doing this, and two more to go, it would be really easy to get bored, doing the same thing in every village. But it turns out that every place is a little bit different. Friday, we were running around like chickens with our heads cut off (sore subject, considering we literally saw chickens being beheaded in the Kumasi market........). We were getting the hang of everything for the first time, pricking people's fingers, and learning the best ways to calm someone down *who doesn't speak your language* while you're about to poke them with a needle. Monday, local schools were closed for Eid al-Fitr, so we spent at least an hour playing games and dancing with the kids. We were giving away a ton of stickers for the brave little ones who were staying strong while we literally made them bleed. Tuesday, we got into the best rhythm yet and saw 150 people. We learned that having someone DJ from a Bluetooth speaker was the move. We were surrounded by kids on recess shouting "abroni!" ("foreigner") at us. Wednesday, I met a 100 year old woman who was energetic and brave and cheerful (she's the one in the cover photo). I took 8 people's cholesterol levels in 40 minutes (that's a lot). I saw the highest blood pressure AND blood glucose I've ever seen on two humans. 

I also had an overpowering feeling that I'm in the right place doing the right thing. I was just sitting there recording the data and realized that I was doing something that felt overwhelmingly right. By NO means am I saving the world or anything, but I feel like I know what I'm doing, I'm getting in a groove, hitting milestones I never imagined I'd get to this early in my life. I get to help people who may have never gotten their blood pressure taken or who may have no idea what foods to eat or that exercise is essential. I can't get over how cool it is that I get to do this much hands on patient care as an undergraduate student. Moral of the story, I'm absolutely loving what I'm doing here. 

Until next time,

Kerri Reid 
 

“The Lord Is Here”

June 28th, 2017

The Lord is here. He is here in Ghana, Africa just as He is back in Athens, Georgia and all across the United States. Now that I have had yet another week here in Ghana to explore and experience, I have seen Him more and more as I continue to open my heart to all this expedition is offering up to me.

            The people and the place are so blessed and anointed by God it has not ceased to amaze me. Just being in His presence sets each day apart and makes it so uniquely beautiful, no matter the not-so-beautiful blood pricking and going to the bathroom in a hole used as the restroom. I pride myself on carrying my own faith journey with me wherever I go in an effort to inspire others. This deep appreciation for something greater than life on earth has allowed me to appreciate voyages, such as this one to Ghana, to a degree I never could before.           

            On Monday, my group of 12 students along with our professor got to perform screenings at a church in a small town called Suhum. This place was so neat! When our van pulled up, the people of the church were in the midst of an extremely powerful prayer and worship session. A fellow new friend of mine and I who both possess a similar pride in our relationship with God, noticed immediately how passionate this time was. There is a thing called “falling out” which is a mighty way some people believe the Lord communicates with people on this earth. For a moment, you feel the pressure of God with you, beside you, and all around you. I was elated while witnessing this in the church, this special place where we were about to examine the people of this community. Each person was confronting the Holy Spirit and it was awe-inspiring to watch right before our eyes.

            Another instance I experienced was in the Methodist on Wednesday morning. The pastor of this church is special friend of Dr. Anderson’s, as this is the church that he attends regularly when he visits Ghana throughout the year. I had just walked into the building about 10 minutes prior to beginning the day of screenings here in Mampong. Before we were to commence, the pastor wanted us to pray together with him in blessing our team, our medical skills, the Ghanaian people we were to encounter, and the Lord’s presence throughout the day. Joining him, about 10 fellow members of the church (including Dr. Anderson) sung out a refrain reciting “praise the Lord…” over and over again because they confidently believed in this worship. The real part that wrecked me was when the pastor prayed for “God to encounter His sons and daughters here today, not only through physical healing but also spiritual”. This was special for me since I have a unique passion for people to have collisions with our Creator in the most unexpected ways, which end up altering the path of their life. I am blessed beyond measure to have this opportunity to be a part of what a guy greater than I could ever imagine does in people’s lives.

This day ended so delightfully as I met a man named Dennis who is now my new friend I plan on continuing communication with when returning to the U.S. He is a 70-year-old man who has 3 children, only 1 here in Ghana with him. He carried such pure joy to the extent that the second I made eye contact with him, I was intrigued by his optimistic and upbeat personality. He had so much to say to me, as he was incredible at speaking English! He showed me unconditional love, mimicking a main ideal of God in His unconditional love for all of us: His sons and daughters across the globe.  My conversation time getting to know Dennis as he waited in line to speak with Dr. Anderson was a blessing in disguise, one that I was graciously presented by the Lord. He knew I needed an encouraging conversation with this man I barely knew, brightening up my day and my overall outlook on life and what goodness is yet to come.

Forever in love with Ghana & it’s people,

Rachel Cleypool

A Smile Goes a Long Way

June 28th, 2017

Picture taken by the one and only Rachel Cleypool in Mole, Ghana.

We have started the screening portion of our trip. If you know me at all, you know that blood and pricking fingers freaks me out. I was the kid that was scared to death going to the doctor in fear of getting a shot. One time my mom took me to the doctor and when I asked her if I had to get any shots she kept saying ‘this is just a visit; you probably won’t have to get any.’ I walked away from the doctor that day with 5 shots in my arms!! Needless to say, I absolutely hate needles. The fact that I was going to have to prick people’s fingers, especially babies, freaked me out. I was not looking forward to this portion of the trip.

After the third clinic, I feel like a pro ‘finger pricker.’ I can prick anyone’s finger! I have my system down. Once the patient sits down in front of me, I wipe their finger with an alcohol pad and I massage their finger to get the blood flowing. I then flash my bright smile and tell them that it’s just going to be a little poke and then it’ll be over. Once I finish pricking, I collect their blood in the micro cuvettes and test their blood glucose and hemoglobin levels. I always smile at them once I finish pricking and tell them that they did a great job and that the hard part is over! Almost every single patient I prick smiles with me and will laugh as I try to ease their nerves.

While the primary language in Ghana is English, I have found it difficult to have conversation with most Ghanaians. I learned very quickly that they don’t understand my English because of my ‘southern’ accent. They understand simple phrases like “good morning” or “how are you”, but once you try to have a conversation with someone, it goes down hill. I’ve become very expressive with my words to help Ghanaians understand what I am saying. I’ll try and make my sentences simple and use key words that I think they will understand. Something that I have learned while trying to learn how to communicate with Ghanaians is that everyone understands a smile. Anytime I smile at someone in Ghana, their faces light up and they always start smiling.

Everywhere we go in Ghana, there are children. There are children walking along the street, in the market with their mom or dad, playing outside their home, playing in the street, at our clinics, etc. Since I am a white American girl, I stick out immensely. I may be the very first white person that some of these children see. I have run into some that are afraid of white people which I completely understand. But on the other hand, some of the children love us white girls! During our clinics, they will come from school and sit outside and just stare at us. One of our clinics was right by the school and when they let out for recess, there were about 200 children outside the church where we were holding our clinic. I was in charge of keeping them outside the church. Many of them gathered at my feet and just looked up and stared at me waiting for my every move. I saw a girl at the back of the crowd who was by herself and looking at me. I gave her a small wave and a bright smile and she immediately waved back and smiled real big. Once I waved to her, all of the children wanted me to wave and smile at them. I spent a good five minutes just waving and smiling at all the children and I loved every minute of it. Although they might not understand my English, they understand my smile. They understand that I am happy to see them and that I want to be there with them. I feel fortunate to encounter the people here everyday.

A smile truly goes a long way. If you walk the streets in Ghana, you will notice that not many people smile. In one of our book discussions, we learned that Ghanaian’s are hesitant at making the first move. They don’t want to smile at someone and then be rejected and not acknowledged. After learning that, I can’t help but smile at every single person I pass here. I may look very goofy and out of place smiling all the time, but I want the people of Ghana to know that I see them and that I am glad to be in their presence. There’s just something about someone smiling at you. It makes you feel noticed and wanted and I want everyone to feel that way. In my last blog I talked a lot about joy. I just can’t help but bring it up again. I myself have found so much joy in simply smiling. I hope reading this has made you smile! smile

From Africa with love,

Chandler

From Screenings to Soccer

June 28th, 2017

I set out for this trip on a mission. I’ve taken all the pre-med requirements, completed the MCAT, and even applied to medical schools at this point. The question, however, always remained in the back of my brain: am I truly fit for this profession? After performing nutrition screenings this past week I can say I am at least closer to an answer. We have visited several different towns throughout Ghana, providing free clinics and nutrition counseling to populations with limited access to medical care. The girls and I not only learned how to take vitals and prick fingers (yikes!), but we were also able to see the transition from results to patient communication firsthand by working under Dr. Anderson.

While I knew the work we were doing was good for the community, I did not realize how vital it would be. Some of these patients did not know they were likely candidates for certain conditions, such as diabetes or hypertension, prior to the screening. Though we could provide them with select resources, it was still their job to find a medical professional to help them determine and manage their conditions. This brings me closer to my answer, would I be able to fulfill that role? What initially drew me to the profession was the ability to serve my peers, and I figured what better way to serve than to promote individual health and wellbeing. But could I be the bearer of bad news? Could I make tough decisions and potentially fail along the way? A family member recently reminded me that my worth is not just based on my wins, but my losses too. Both success and failure come when I challenge myself to dream bigger and do better; there is no one without the other, but both are learning experiences that allow me to improve along the way. I joined this program to challenge myself, and hopefully I can continue to do so throughout my journey applying to medical school.

I am thankful that these screenings were positive experiences for both the community and myself. My favorite moment of the program thus far actually happened during a slow day in Suhum. Monday, June 26 was a national holiday in Ghana and all the schoolchildren were on break. Many decided to stop by the clinics and see what the foreigners were up to, disrupting our provision of services to those who needed it. At the time, I was greeting at the door but I knew we had to find a way to get these kids outside the clinic area. It turned out soccer (or football) was the way to go! I had a blast playing a game of girls vs. boys with more than 30 young children. When they got tired of running, they wanted to teach us some of their songs and dance moves as well. They then asked if we had any songs to share, so naturally we taught them how to “Call the Dawgs!” It was a fantastic moment I will never forget. I am hopeful that the remainder of our trip will be filled with even more enlightening and memorable moments.

-Liana Mosley-

Here’s to New Adventures

June 28th, 2017

Yes, the cover photo of this blog may be a clothes line. Hmm. What’s so important about a clothes line that merits a blog post? But, let me tell ya that this picture encompasses everything that this trip is all about for me: trying new things, as simple as they may be, and doing it with people as great as the girls on this trip.

Though I haven’t been home sick, I have definitely missed certain parts of my home-life back in Marietta and Athens, but I’ve learned that diving into new activities and adventures may very well create a new feeling of home you didn’t even know would exist while abroad. A few days ago, we went exploring at the Accra mall and decided to see the movie “Everything, everything” while we were there. This romance movie had a surprising twist toward the end and it reminded me of how much I love to watch psychological thrillers back home with my best friend Steph, as much as everyone makes fun of us. We also got to experience riding in our first Tro-tro (small bus transportation) and shopping in a Ghanaian mall. You may just walk into a look-a-like H&M store, get matching XXL pajama shorts (shout out Rach and Em) and then get asked if you’re sure that’s the right size, walking away laughing. We also spent the morning learning the best ways to hand-wash stinky scrubs, ring them out, then hang them with clothes pins to dry. We all thought about how crazy hard the people work here and also how beautiful and vibrant a picture of a clothes line can really turn out to be wink It’s nice to have these new feelings of comfort, but being in a totally different setting experiencing them. Like when your roommate (hey, Em) tells you that you not only started sleep talking last night, but also creepily laughing as well. Shout out to all my roomies in Athens who are probably happy they get the summer away from my strange sleeping habits.

So, as my second week in Ghana comes to an end, I’m thankful for an adventurous and genuine group of girls that can make new experiences here feel like home. This trip is all about pushing yourself out of that state of security and safety. Once that happens, there are so many positive outcomes that come flooding in. 

Jen 

The Ride

June 23rd, 2017

I had heard stories of the 13 hour bus ride from Mompomg to Mole, and therefore I had prepared for the worst. I packed ample snacks, downloaded 500 new songs to my phone, and saved 9 books to my kindle. To my surprise, time flew as it tends to do on road trips with good friends. Driving up to Mole might have been my favorite part of the tourism aspect of this trip so far, which is ironic since I had the worst attitude about it in the beginning. I loved looking out the windows and seeing how not only the scenery, but also the people, changed from village to village. Religions faded from Christianity to Muslim, people's clothing changed from the traditional kente cloth and smocks to more westernized t-shirts and dresses, and homes changed from mansions to mud huts and back again. Just as Georgia is not homogenous in its demographics or architecture, neither is Ghana. Just as Atlanta does not contain people of just one socioeconomic status or religious background, Accra is the same. I wish that everyone could experience this bus ride. It provided what should be an obvious lesson in that Ghana is neither solely safaris nor desert, neither wholly poor nor rich. We come to see the poverty stricken images of malnourished African kids on our tv screens as the complete representation of a whole continent. This is about as true as saying Texas is filled with New Yorkers and looks like Maine. My place of serenity back home normally comes from driving around with friends listening to music. I got to enjoy this calm place here on a run-down bus in Africa, the last place I pictured having any experience remotely similar to back home. I now know that Ghana is more similar to America than I ever thought before. It is filled with people of all backgrounds whose main goal is to provide safety and a better future for their children. Just as I thought I could never love a 13 hour carride going over a hundred speed bumps, I never thought I could love Africa and learn so much in a week. Lucky for me both of those prejudgements were proven beautifully untrue. 

Annie Ladisic

It’s the Little Things

June 23rd, 2017

-ALast Thursday night, me and eleven “strangers” boarded an airplane headed for Ghana ready to take on the trip of a lifetime. I had spent months preparing for everything I could possibly think these next four weeks were going to throw at me. I got the necessary shots, bought my scrubs, loaded up on Cliff Bars and Oreos, and felt ready for whatever was going to come my way. After a month of waiting, I was ready to finally be in Africa and ready for this adventure to truly start.

Going into this trip I knew I was going to see and experience things completely different from what I am used to. However, I did not expect to see things that were going to completely change me as a person within a week of being here. The other day, when we had a little down time, a few girls and I decided to go on a walk around our homestay area of Mampong. We had already driven through this town numerous times on our way down the mountain to Accra, but we wanted a chance to see it on our own. As we walked along everyone waved, smiled, and brought us in for conversation. In this little community it feels as though everyone knows everyone and it was really comforting to feel accepted as well. At the tail end of our walk when we were getting back to Mrs. Margret’s house, there were about ten little kids playing out in front of the gate.

When we walked up they all rushed to come meet us and were almost mesmerized by the fact we were there. As we started playing and talking with them, I quickly realized a few things. The first was that these little kids find joy in the simplest things. The metal ring they got from the inside of a tire occupied them for hours. One kid would roll it down the hill and one kid would roll it back up. They would go back and forth the entire afternoon having the most fun in the entire world. Back in my neighborhood, I cannot remember the last time I saw a group of kids playing outside. They are all glued to their favorite TV show or the newest game that came out and spend hours sitting inside shutting the rest of the world out. I, unfortunately, have fallen victim to this too. I find myself completely absorbed in my phone and social media without even taking a moment to enjoy the simple things in life.

            The other thing that really caught me by surprise was these kid’s reactions when they did see our phones.  These little machines we were holding fascinated them, not for the different games or music they held, but simply for the camera. All they wanted to do is see what they looked like in a picture. With Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook, we all seem to document every moment of everyday. It seems as though a picture holds little to no value to us because the ease at which we can take and share them. For some of these little kids, they have never had the chance to strike a pose for a picture or see what they look like from the other side of a camera. Watching their eyes light up when we would give them the chance to do just that changed me in a way I never imagined would happen so fast.

These little kids reminded me that you do not need much to make a moment or a memory special. You don’t need the newest phone or camera, the best toy on the market, or a TV with thousands of channels, you simply need a good attitude, a joyful heart, an appreciation of the small moments, and maybe a metal ring in order to live the happiest of lives.

-Anna Murphy

It’s the little things

June 23rd, 2017

Akwaaba, 

    aka "welcome" to my blog that will be the mouthpiece of my month-long journey through Africa. As many of you know, I've just completed my first week of a service learning trip here in Ghana. This past week has consisted of initial adjustments to the culture, various community activities and excursions, our first community clinic, and many other adventures in hopes to immerse ourselves into the culture and really experience what this country has to offer. 

         Even though we've been able to witness some incredible experiences thus far that will stick with me for a lifetime such as going on a safari and attending Ghanaian church, it's something so simple that really hit me and has given me so much joy and perspective since being here - Bright Lilies Nursing school. Bright Lilies is the combined school and daycare that we had the opportunity to visit on our first full day here. We pulled up on the bus to see all of the kids outside, ranging in age from 1-8, with their instructors dancing to the simple beat of a drum. After the break to get some energy out, we headed inside and the kids went to their respective age-group classrooms. Our group split up among the rooms and I was with quite possibly the cutest 4-year-olds ever seen. After divvying out the stickers I had brought with me, we got to business practicing our numbers, colors, shapes, and animals, mostly with wooden puzzles and books in the classroom. Once we had done enough studying for the time being, the little ones sang some of their favorite songs for me and showed the dance moves to go along with them before we went outside for some playtime. I brought a couple bottles of bubbles with me and we had a time and a half blowing bubbles and popping them along with some hula hoop competitions, sliding, and foot-powered car rides (one of my personal favorites when I was little). 

         The part of this experience that shaped me the most was the pure joy that was so evident on each of their faces to have some sweet companionship and simple games to play that we often take for granted. I was impressed with how well-behaved four-year-olds could be. Their tender whispers of "Auntie, can I try?" while playing with bubbles and the huge grin that would light up their faces in awe of how many would come about from each blow. I felt a tug on my shirt at one point and knelt down when one of the little ones asked me while pointing up at the sky "is that God up there?" Bright Lilies is a Christian school and it was so sweet to see the definition of a childlike spirit in its purest form, where kids are learning at a young age who Jesus is and what He has done for them. 

        When it was time for us to head on our way to our next destination, I knelt down to give the little nuggets one last hug before leaving and they all came at one time so the goodbye hug turned dog-pile really fast and I wouldn't have it any other way. This was such a cool experience because all we knew before arriving was that we would be stopping by a daycare with no idea of what we would be doing or what to expect. We were given the warmest of welcomes to Ghana and I couldn't ask for a better start to our first day in a new place. I'm thankful for instantly feeling like family and gaining a new set of buddies and an appreciation for how simple and joyful life really can be when you put what's most important first.

         And of course, I know what you've all been waiting for - this post wouldn't be complete without a picture to help bring my experience to life for you, so please enjoy and thanks for tuning in to my incredible ride through Ghana!

    xoxo, Olivia

“Arriving in the Sisterland”

June 23rd, 2017

When you tell someone, you are going to Ghana, they usually ask: “where in Ghana” and “what are you doing there?” I get the chance to say I am going to multiple places and for tourism and medical volunteering. This Ghana study abroad trip’s focus is providing medical screenings in different communities. I arrived in Accra Ghana on the 16th of June. As soon as I stepped off the plane and onto the runway of the airport in Accra, I had this familiar feeling. I felt like this was somewhere I had been here before. Many years ago, I visited Nigeria twice to spend time with my family, so coming to Ghana was like coming home.

Ghana is a site of wonder and beauty. The whole atmosphere is different. My favorite thing to do in Ghana is to sit and watch the towns people go about their business. I get to take in the scenery when we travel and I think back to my family and friends. The streets themselves tell a story. They show the intricate lives of Ghanaians. This week we took a trip from Accra (our home base) to Mole. It was a 13-hour drive, but I took in the landscape of Ghana. I love seeing the schoolchildren walking to and from school in their uniforms. It reminds me of the stories my mother told me that involved her walking to school. What I like about Ghana is that children feel safe enough to walk in the streets by themselves and that there are so many people in the street. Every kind of transportation by road is being used and they all seem to co-exist. There are not many road rules from what I could tell, so everyone just moves about when they can. Also on this drive, we moved from Southern Ghana into Northern Ghana. There were so many alternating towns, villages, and cities. I knew beforehand that Ghana was not just mud huts in villages, but it was refreshing to see a good variety. One of my absolute favorite things are the goats. I know that sounds odd, but besides elephants, goats are my favorite animals. They are so care-free and happy that it is hard to be mad at them for too long. Goats are everywhere in Ghana. They roam the streets, they roam the fields, and they sit in front of people’s houses. I always wonder how the owners of these goats manage them when they roam so freely, but there seems to be a system in place.

So far, we have been doing mostly touristy stuff. On the first full day in Ghana, however, we went to visit a daycare. My initial thought was that our professor seriously wanted to hit the ground running. The daycare was called Bright Lilies and was in Haatso. I love babies so I was very excited to get to play with them. The thing is, as much as I love babies, I am very shy coming up to them and finding ways to warming up. I was very surprised when the teachers of the daycare told us to lead the class in songs, lessons, and games. We ended up running out of games so we moved to songs and then lessons through flashcards. The whole time I was there, I was thinking that I would have to find ways to make kids happy at the doctor’s office as a pediatrician and ways to keep my own children entertained as a parent. It was one of those experiences that reminded me that being able to improvise with children and adults alike is a very important skill in life. It was also an experience that forced me out of my comfort zone. I also learned that when in doubt, always have bubbles and stickers. Little kids will go crazy. One of the most rewarding moments was when it was time to go and a big group of the kids came to hug me. Sometimes, you do not need words to communicate. Those hugs made my day and has stuck with me since.

One of the biggest tourist activities we have done since arriving in Ghana was visit the Mole National Park and the town of Mognori. This day was eye-opening and filled with activities. Starting off the day was the 7 am safari. This is probably what most people think you will do at some point when you visit any country in Africa. The National Park was not fenced and these were wild animals who came and went as they pleased. Before I boarded the jeep (we had to climb a ladder to sit on benches nailed into the roof), I feared that one of these creatures will ram the jeep and take us for breakfast. We saw antelopes, Guinea fowl, birds, warthogs, baboons, and elephants. The elephants were right in front of us. It was great to see my favorite animal up close. It was amazing! I loved looking at the elephants, but I loved seeing the mysterious and majestic antelopes. I also loved the forestry. All that luscious green was so breathtaking. The next leg of our journey was to do the canoe safari. I am not too scared of water, but I am not the best swimmer. The flyer at the information center said there would be life jackets, but when we went, it was just the canoes. Part of me wanted to turn away and run, but most of the group was ready to get on. I did not think it was a safe idea, but I had to go anyways. I hope in future adventures; the group can make decisions when it comes to one’s concerns. My canoe had just too many people in it, so it was very wobbly. The entire time I was in it, I was just thinking of how to survive if this canoe capsized. It was terrifying. While I was internally screaming out of fear, I could not help but notice the beautiful scenery around me; it was hard not to notice. I was going back and forth between terror and awe. The tranquility of the water around me and the surround jungles reminded me of a dream I had as a child about the Amazon rainforest. My poor nerves. The next leg of the journey was to a village where we learned how shea butter is made. The village was called Mognori which means the village that sits at the bank of the river. As soon as we entered the village, dozens of children flocked us and grabbed our hands. That whole experience was good, but in the back of my mind something felt off. I loved the children, but they made me sad as well because I think they have been conditioned to come up to tourist and love on them hoping for gifts and money. It just felt wrong. We then headed deeper into the village to learn traditional dances.

Today, June 23rd, we had our first day of community work. For this, we do health screenings in various communities. The community today is Kumasi. Doing health screenings on the Kumasi people was a lifechanging experience. This is one of my first real exposure to practicing medicine. I will expand more later, but some of the things I did today were: take height/weight/BMI, take blood pressure, record data, and do bloodwork. I was so excited and the experience reaffirmed that this is what I want to do with my future. I think going out into communities implementing public health programs for a period of time after I graduate, will be very beneficial. 

My teacher pointed out something that I seldom noticed before. When we visit Africa, we take pictures of the bad things whereas when we visit America, we only take pictures of the best things. I want that to change. I want to enlighten people on some of the best parts of Ghana and West Africa in general. Our professor told us we are the ambassadors of change. We can change people’s negative perception of countries in Africa. I want this blog to be about my journey in Ghana and the medical experience I gain. I am excited for the next three weeks to come. I called Ghana, “sisterland,” because it is not my homeland,Nigeria,but it is so similar to Nigeria that I see Ghana as my sister. 

Chelsea Murphy

The People

June 23rd, 2017

Hello to all my family and friends if you’re reading this!! I’ve already had so many amazing experiences this first week, but I want to dedicate this blog to how my overall initial experience has been with the people here in Ghana. Establishing my new temporary home in a place that is so far, so different, and so unfamiliar was intimidating. It was out of my comfort zone. I think living in a culture unlike anything you’ve ever experienced is enough to bring anyone out of their comfort zone. I was worried how the people would receive our presence in their communites. Beside the fact that I do not physically appear to belong, I don’t belong to any of the cultural or traditional aspects they practice. Regardless of these things, the people I have encountered have welcomed me to Ghana with open arms. I have already learned so much from the exposure to this new culture and from the people. I first began to realize how interested Ghanaians were about us when they invited us to guest star on a radio show for the city, which was such an honor! The children have been especially interested and excited about seeing and playing with us (with the exceptions of the ones that Ashley makes cry). 

Many people tend to avoid leaving their comfort zone. It is easy to want to avoid when you like the way your life already is, or when you just don't know any differently. Although this is understandable, I have come to realize that to truly grow as a person it is something that needs to be done. Change in scenery, conversations, and people who surround you invokes changes on perspectives of life. It broadens your horizons, and you learn things about a place, a culture, or people that textbooks and classrooms could never portray. 

I have been so blessed with this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I cannot wait for what the remainder of the trip has in store!! 

--Emily

A Few Highlights From My First Week

June 23rd, 2017

I have had so many noteworthy and incredible experiences already in my short time in the country of Ghana. We arrived last Thursday and drove to our home base, our Professors home where his sister lives with her children, in the mountains of Mampong. Among my first observations of the country was how beautiful the landscape is and simply put that the country is in its nature very very green. The sights of all the lights in the huge city of Accra was breathtaking as we made our way up a mountain neighboring the city. None of the buildings are very tall so you could see the entire city for almost as long as you could see unlike any place I have ever been to. On our drive home from the airport one of my first observations of the country was several really big and very nice homes that I did not expect to find in the mountains of Ghana Africa. The house we are staying in is also very nice and caught me slightly off guard as we arrived. Dr. Kojo's sister is called Mrs. Margaret and she cooks for us every morning and night and makes an incredible ground nut soup. One of the more rewarding moments was spending the morning at a daycare where I got the opportunity to teach a class of 5-6 year old kids about the different forms of transportation around the world. I also got the chance to speak on a radio station in Ghana called Atinka FM that is broadcast around the world. Dr. Kojo (or Koj as I started calling him) was invited to speak about the community health screenings we are going to do by his friend who also happens to be the host of the radio show that airs 2-4. We arrived at the station an hour or so early and got a tour of the station and got to see how the tv show the radio station created is produced. We got to watch a show airing live before the show Dr. Kojo was invited to speak on. The interviewer all of a sudden got someone to call a couple of us and our professor over to be interviewed on his show as well. This guy was had some crazy name and was much younger than the radio host our professor was friends with. I volunteered to talk with Dr. Kojo because I recognized the moment as what would probably my one and only opportunity to talk a radio show. He asked me my name in twi (the local language spoken by the majority of the country alongside English) and on live radio I instinctively said, "En Engles?" This immediately evolved laughs from the other girls listening and the radio host himself (which to be fair I am not sure if he knew I just responded to him in Spanish or if he was laughing because he had no clue what the heck I was saying). He then went on to ask how I was enjoying Ghana and what Americans perceptions of Africans were and more things along that line of questioning. I also got to wish my dad a happy Father's Day "All the way in Carrollton Georgia" on the next show that was hosted by Dr. Kojos friend. Another highlight of my trip thus far has hands down been the safari. The animals are not fenced in and frequently move around to the surrounding communities (which has caused somewhat of a rift between the farmers and the elephants and baboons who frequently eat their vegetables). When we arrived at the hotel beside the safari for example there were a family of warthogs lying in the doorway of one of our rooms in an effort to escape the rain. Another comical and common problem for the hotels around the safari is baboons knocking on doors pretending to be human to steal tourists food. The cherry on top of the whole experience was definitely the elephants. I have always loved elephants and those who know me well will not be surprised I actually started tearing up when we saw the first elephant of the safari. Seeing something so big and majestic looking in person was a surreal moment for me. The markets of Kumasi and Mampong are also incredible beyond words and to sum up are  an overload to all of the senses. We had our first community screening today which was not only great experience in the healthcare field but also so rewarding to give these people health screenings (most of whom have never gone to the doctor and probably never will).  All of these moments in themselves are monumental and have taken place in my first week in this very new place.

Ashley Adams, Senior Health Promotion Major at UGA

JOY In the Small Things

June 23rd, 2017

Picture of Ghanaians children at Bright Lilies Day Care in Accra, Ghana.

I would have never imagined that I would be so thankful for a simple thing like ice. I’m not sure what exactly I expected before I arrived in Ghana. I had never thought about not having electricity or a fan or ice; needless to say reality hit me hard. I knew that I was going to have to take bucket showers, so I had mentally prepared myself before hand. I had come to terms that I was going to be so called ‘roughing it’ while I was here, but it has been nothing like I expected.

Don’t get me wrong, Ghana is incredible and I am beyond thankful that I am here. I needed this kind of culture shock in my life. I’ve never traveled outside of the U.S. except for a couple of cruises. My whole life, I’ve had the luxury of having a nice home with a full stocked pantry, air conditioning, and a shower head. I’ve never been pushed out of my comfort zone like this and it has been much needed. I’ve taken so many things for granted without realizing the true importance of them. I’ve become compliance with the everyday luxuries of America. Everyone says that Ghana is a third-world country. You don’t truly understand the full meaning of that word until you experience it first hand and live it.

One of the first things I noticed about Ghanaians are that they are openhearted to everyone they come into contact with. In the morning as we walk through the village, we say hello and good morning to almost every person we pass. It is a rarity to walk anywhere and not say a single word to the Ghanaians in passing. In the U.S., if you walk down the street in the morning, almost everyone is on their phone or in their own zone and will barely mumble a good morning. Ghanaians find joy in the simple things like a good morning and a smile from the people they encounter.

I went to a day care center on my first morning and the kids that were there were incredible. They were outside playing with hula-hoops, cars, balls, etc. One of the girls on the trip brought stickers and bubbles and the moment the kids saw them, they were beyond excited. It would have been equivalent to a child in the U.S. receiving an IPad or phone. They all wanted multiple stickers and walked around to each other asking what stickers they got and showing them off. We had three containers of bubbles and they played with them for over an hour. They never got tired of them and never stopped giggling when trying to pop the bubbles. Who knew that a simple thing like bubbles and stickers could bring a child so much joy?

I visited a village in the northern region of Ghana this week near Mole. As soon as the children heard our bus approaching their village, they were all outside eagerly awaiting our arrival. When I stepped off the bus, a little girl grabbed my hand and held on for the majority of the time. Whenever we got disconnected, she would always find me. As I looked around the village, the children were playing with tires and sticks and a homemade hacky sack formed from leaves. These children didn’t have a care in the world while playing with these toys. They had bright smiles on their faces with spurts of giggles and joy. The village has learned how to take the supplies they are provided with and the environment around them and create an encouraging community. The women of the village danced for us. The men played the drums while the women danced around the circle. The word that kept coming to mind was joyfulness while watching this village come together and have blissful fun with the simple act of dancing.

Needless to say, people in Ghana don’t have the luxurious lifestyle that we American’s have. Some don’t even have electricity or running water. I didn’t really realize how truly essential electricity is in America. American’s would not be able to function without electricity. Ghanaians have found joy in the small things like bubbles, dancing, having significant conversations, having party’s, and so on. I feel like there are many Americans who struggle to find joy but yet have so many belongings. Ghanaians have very little but yet overflow with joy and happiness. Just in my week and a half here, I have learned so much from this amazing country.  

Something to Learn From These Kiddos

June 23rd, 2017

Hi family and friends! I miss you all so very much and I am so happy you are checking in with my journey. I love you and can’t wait to share an immense amount of stories when I am home!

As I’m sitting on our 12-hour bus drive to Mole, all I can do is reflect on the considerable amount this country has already given me in just five days. Pushing myself out of that constant state of normalcy to come and dive into a new, distinct culture is one I probably wouldn’t have made a few years ago. But, I am so glad that I made it today because I know it will be a life-changing one. The girls on this trip and the people of Ghana have made this trip so worth-while already, but even more so are the kids I’ve had the chance to interact with.

Our very first day here we went to the Bright Lilies School in Haatso and met the sweetest little kiddos. Their smiles and excitement were contagious. They were so eager to learn and took every moment we were there to appreciation. As much as I have been around young kids, I’ve never seen ones so amused and ecstatic about bubble blowing, picking out stickers, or playing duck-duck-goose for the first time. Note to self: duck-duck-goose probably isn’t the best game to try to teach two-year-olds. The diminution in my obsession with becoming a teacher in 5th grade was probably for the best wink A few days later we went to the Methodist church close by our home and this precious boy named Fifi came running over to sit on our laps. These children are so trusting and loving. It’s incredible.

After a few of us girls were heading back from our stroll around the town yesterday, we met some kids that were having utmost fun rolling a metal wheel up and down a hill. I got to talk to some of the older kids as well and they were telling me how much they really enjoyed school. It amazes me how hard-working and appreciative these kids are at such a young age. Taking the simplest things in life and making them into something wonderful is an incredible message I’ve already taken in from the far younger, but much wiser kiddos of Ghana. 

Jen 

Wildlife

June 23rd, 2017

It is unbelievable how a week has already passed while here in Ghana. In just one week, I have experienced so much of this country, and I can only hope that these experiences will help broaden my worldview and help me grow as a human being. A few days ago, our group traveled up north to Mole National Park where we got to go on a safari and observe animals in their natural habitat. We saw elephants, and they were my favorite. The tour guides allowed us step out of the vehicle and get within 50 meters to observe and take pictures of the elephants. They were so beautiful. I will not lie. I was a little afraid of getting close to them. It is one thing to look at animals up close when they are behind a cage or in other controlled environments. It is a whole different thing to get close to animals in their natural habitat. Nonetheless, the experience was incredible. I got to witness majestic creatures doing what was natural to them. I had never been on a safari before and was truly mesmerized by these elephants. 

Just watching the elephants interacting with each other and their habitat with such ease and simplicity reminded me of the life I want for myself--a life that is not consume with things that do not matter. Here, Ghanaians seemed to have mastered this. Electricity is not as stable as it is back in the States. Drinkable water is not readily available to everyone. New clothing, fancy trinkets, and other materialistic things are not on the minds of the people here. Yet, Ghanaians have shown themselves to be a very open, friendly, and inviting people. They are so eager to know more about us, where we are from, and what we are doing in Ghana. They speak so fondly about their country and their people and willingly share all they know with us. They work hard; by seven a.m. the city is just bustling with people running their small businesses. Yet I can see that they are generally very happy, and they enjoy life. I have also learned from the group of girls I am here in Ghana with. Being without our phones and laptops has given us the chance to truly interact with each other. Swapping stories, laughing at each others' jokes, and creating memories will be the mark of this trip. Being in an enviroment where the people are so open has really caused me to evaluate how to interact with people. Back in the States its okay to walk by someone and not say anything, but here in Ghana someone will always say something to you. Being around Ghanaians has definitely made me want to adopt their warm and welcoming demeanor. I want to be less consumed with things that will not matter in the long run and just enjoy the moment and life. I am very grateful for the perspective I have gained from spending only one week in Ghana so far. I cannot wait to learn much, much more from the people here.  

Florence Urum 

She’s Going Places

June 22nd, 2017

Hey everyone!

So, I’m sitting in Ghana right now—which is a sentence I never really thought that I would say. It’s been quite an experience getting here, and has been one heck of a ride since we’ve been here. Going into this trip, I really didn’t know what to expect. I was mostly envisioning bright sun, poor infrastructure, endless sweat, lots of rice, and dirt everywhere. I wasn’t exactly wrong about most of that, but Ghana is so much more than what I had portrayed it to be in my mind.

The entire time we’ve been in the country (about a week now) has been spent doing new things. From pricking fingers to trying native foods to bathing with only buckets to getting attacked by a baboon, I’ve experienced more novelty in the last 7 days than in the last 7 months. That’s the part of this trip that’s sticking out to me more than anything else. All my peers (11 other college girls) are so open to experiencing the world. I couldn’t even count the number of times we’ve said, “why not?” or, “might as well!” We’re in freaking Africa!

Sure, trying new things may not always be what we expect. It may not be glamorous. A wild baboon may come running full speed from behind you, snatch your bag of fruit, and run off, taking both your snacks and your dignity with it. You might get some serious food poisoning from spicy foods. You might think your canoe is going to capsize into dirty water full of crocodiles. AND: you could learn that you actually LOVE mangoes after a lifetime of avoiding fresh fruit like the plague. You’ll definitely see some of the most beautiful views in the world, whether it’s an African sunset or the face of a child filled with love or the ocean from 30,000 feet in the sky. Maybe you’ll go on an adventure with 11 strangers and realize you’re going to come out with some bomb new friends. Or, my personal favorite, you could come within 50 feet of the worlds’ most massive land creatures that you’ve been obsessed with for the longest time. Y’all, I met like 12 WILD ELEPHANTS. Creatures that eat for 18 hours a day and are so untouchable and majestic that NO other animal on the continent dares prey on them. How amazing is that? I’ve truly never seen a sight so majestic in my life.

How often in your life do you slow down enough to be able to look around and realize something monumental about yourself? In the last week, I’ve had so much time (usually at least 3 hours daily on a bus) for thinking, introspection, and learning about who I really am. If you know me, you know that I am generally a stressed-out person. I have a test? Anxiety. Sprained my ankle? Anxiety. Gonna be too busy to eat dinner? Anxiety. You name it, I’m stressed about it. Especially the last couple of months, I’ve been piling so many things on my plate about my future, my relationships, and my schoolwork that I’ve been living life only looking forward to the next thing. I haven’t been taking each moment for what it is. All I have been doing is rushing to finish one stressful thing so I can get onto the next stressful thing as quickly as possible.

Recently, I’ve gotten so caught up in other aspects of my life that I forgot to focus on learning and strengthening who I am. Now, I am realizing the person that I can be. Strong. Independent. Determined. Passionate. I see potential everywhere I look: things I can see or do or learn about. I’ve been able to take deep breaths and realize that I really am going places. I’m going to do freaking incredible things with my life. I still have so much to learn, and that excites me.

Until next time,

Kerri Reid

“Appreciation in Creation”

June 22nd, 2017

Ghana, Africa: a place where pleasure can be found in all the simplicity that the people and the natural landscape have to offer. This developing country where I have been blessed beyond measure to be for just over a week now is slowly opening my heart. More specifically, it is opening my heart to all that I had no idea I would ever establish a deep love for. The saying “you’re going to miss me when I’m gone” or “absence makes the heart grow fonder”…man are those proving to be so true.

            I really wanted to make it a point to share how important APPRECIATION itself is. Appreciation, which comes in many forms, is a noun I have truly cultured myself in so much this past week. It is "the recognition and enjoyment of the good qualities of someone or something; a full understanding of a situation". What is really unique is that I have both learned an overwhelming amount about this already but still have so much more to learn in the remaining 3 weeks here and beyond. As Americans and just fortunate humans in general, we may believe we already appreciate a countless amount of things; things, that is just the thing. Not always, but we often appreciate the materialistic feasible stuffs rather than those things that are evermore valuable; those things that we often misinterpret include air conditioning, a well built home, and car that runs. However, there is so much more behind these items than we will not grasp unless we are able to experience the other side of them.

            So far, I have sweated a tremendous amount, definitely not the amount of liquid I thought my body could ever produce in one day. Here, I have been yes, nauseous, but also fairly comfortable even now in the warmer temperatures as I have begun to adjust. It’s funny to me since I am most always the most hot-natured person to ever live. But I have begun to APPRECIATE that this is just simply how the environment is created here. I understand that certain plants such as yams begin their growth during these months around May-June, some of the hottest months. Also, if not for the heat of the sun, cloth would never dry by simply hanging outside in the extremely humid conditions. Although the presence of air conditioning has not been a constant here, it has been such a blessing to sit back and value the benefits that are present in its absence; in the presence of the heat. When you take your attention off of all that is “not your normal” or “not what you prefer”, it is easier to see the purpose in that discrepancy.

            Mud…what a simple gift to humanity. I know that may sound silly or strange to anyone who has never witnessed what all that mud is capable of fabricating. We often think of it as “the stuff that is on your jeep after you go driving around in the woods” or “the annoying stain your mom cannot seem to remove out of your sports uniform”. I know I have had it gushing in between my toes and sandals after stepping the wrong direction while here in Ghana. However, it accomplishes one of the most important tasks here: home construction. Each intricately constructed home looks as though so much time and love was put into it. Each geographic designs marked into the outside signify a different meaning, which I had the chance of reading about in my book on the traditions of Africa. An arrow pointed upward could mean the household is wishing for fertility for the female while an arrow pointed downward means the family has suffered a loss and is asking for mourning. The mud that makes up the outer skin and bones of a home simultaneously functions as a cooling system, keeping the indoors cooler than the outdoors almost like a free AC unit provided by nature. How neat is it that mud can have so many different substantial impacts? It may not consist of drywall or stucco or brick like my home in Georgia, but man does it do its job and so much more.

            I never tend to realize how essential it is when you have a car; it must run in order to be worth anything to anyone who is not simply a car collector. Hearing the engine roar is a gift we take for granted. Moreover, the horsepower stemming from this gasoline-powered engine is even more pronounced as you either crawl or race down the road. It determines how quickly you arrive at your destination. Sadly, we believe a car determines whether you get anywhere at all, period. Here in Ghana, the various forms of transportation I have seen amaze me. Yes, they do also use a variety of bicycles and cars and trucks and buses like us. But the most often used…feet. They maximize this raw resource that the Lord provided them with. This transportation is always dependable (as long as you are not injured) and horsepower can be adjusted according to the amount of fuel/energy you put into your body. You may wear it out but its gears don’t wear out and eventually time out; rather, they build up strength and become more durable. Not only do these Ghanaians walk places but also they often haul an absurd amount of weight on top of their head. It’s like carpooling, but your passenger being your items to sell. How unique that these people are able to take advantage of and exploit such a reliable, beneficial resource?

            So I really just wanted anyone reading this blog to take a moment in time to ponder…have you truly and utterly established APPRECIATION IN CREATION? These unique aspects of creation have been granted to you free of cost provided by Mother Nature. Their value is greater than many material things we own because of their countless resulting benefits. Have you thought about what these things are in your life and how you are able to maximize them in your everyday life just as the Ghanaians do? 

With overflowing love & appreciation from Ghana,

Rachel Cleypool

“Akwaaba,” You are Welcome

June 22nd, 2017

“Akwaaba” was the first thing I heard coming off the plane and it has characterized this journey ever since. Everywhere we go there is a community to welcome us. Whether it’s a choir of children chanting “Obroni” on the streets or church congregation members praying for our successful visit, the openness and friendliness of Ghanaians has continually surprised me. When I first landed and was waiting for the group to pick me up, I befriended a Gambian named Ricky. Ricky told me about all his African travels and explained how I had made the right decision to choose to visit Ghana. He clarified, “Ghana is like the kindergarten of Africa. The people are kind, the culture is easy to learn, and it is an experience best shared with others. It is not the same story for other countries.” This made me realize that Ghana is a special place even to other Africans, and I believe it comes down to this feeling of “Akwaaba.” This community has been as warm as the weather, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I am excited to continue immersing myself in this culture, especially through community nutrition screenings, where we will individually interact with Ghanaians and perform basic medical examinations. Until next time, Akyire yi!

-Liana Mosley-

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