Ghana Blog: A Smile Goes a Long Way

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

June 28th, 2017

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

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