Shenney L. – Medicine in Ghana High School Special
My experience in Ghana was incredible, and it’s definitely one to look back on and appreciate. Upon arriving at the airport in Accra, I was worried about traveling to a developing country as a high school student, but I am excited to say that it was more than worth the experience.
I was met at the airport by Nyame, a Projects Abroad staff member, who greeted me kindly and was very welcoming. In the first few minutes of stepping outside of the airport in Accra, Nyame helped me discover my Ghanaian name, Obaayaa, which corresponds to the day that I was born on.
Later, I was driven to a bus station, which seemed to also be a street market. There was a bunch of people selling stuff on the rowdy streets and there was also a bunch of stares in my direction. I later found out that the people in Ghana do not see many different skin colors in their country and they probably found my skin color interesting.
My time at the bus station was definitely an authentic first look at how the Ghanaian people live every day. My Medicine placement was in Cape Coast, Ghana, which was a three-hour drive from Accra, so I was in for quite a long ride.
My host family
I did not know what to expect when I arrived at my host family's house. We drove there over lots of bumps and rocky trails (which weren't exactly roads) and I was greeted very kindly by my host mother, sister, and brothers. The house was not as bad as I had imagined, but there is no air conditioning in Ghana, so there were ceiling fans in all the rooms. My host mother had around five rooms and each could fit four to five people.
She hosted 10 people from my placement and other people from a different program. My friend and I were one of the first ones to arrive in Ghana, since the program did not actually start until a couple of days later. However, later that night, two other people came in from London and were my roommates for the next two weeks.
My Medicine placement
The week was filled with many eye-opening experiences that were amazing. As one of our activities, we visited a leprosy camp to help bandage wounds for the lepers. The lepers were not contagious, but the disease had left them with many wounds that will take years to heal. Having the opportunity to meet and help the people at the leprosy camps was truly a humbling experience.
We also had medical classes in the Projects Abroad office in Cape Coast. These classes included lessons on diabetes, typhoid, and cholera. With the information we gathered, we were sent to different schools to teach the children, who were around nine to 15 years old, about health and hygiene. The excitement of the students is something I will never forget. All the kids were so excited to see us and they were eager to learn more about us. The smiles and simple communication between the kids and myself was nothing like I have ever experienced.
Our schedule mostly consisted of community outreaches and the outreaches in the villages were probably the ones I enjoyed most. Although I could not communicate well with most of the local people, the few basic Fante phrases I was taught by the supervisors allowed me to help them.
The community outreaches consisted of taking BMI, blood pressure, and vitals, and conducting blood tests, which we soon became experts in because of how many patients there were. During the community outreaches, we met many different people and learnt more about their culture and lifestyle.
We were also taken to the Cape Coast Teaching Hospital to observe the doctors and help the nurses. There are many different wards to choose from, but personally, I was interested in the pediatric ward. My heart went out to all the young patients in the ward because many of them were physically weak, but still very friendly and they seemed like they really appreciated my company. During my stay at the teaching hospital, I read books to the little children and I helped them sit up in their beds when they were unable to do so themselves.
With the older children, I was able to have conversations and find out how they came to be in the medical state they were in. Helping out with the toddlers and babies was also a neat experience, but heart breaking at the same time. I was given the job of helping take and chart vital signs as the nurses in the hospital did. Looking through the many medical conditions of the patients and observing doctors doing hands-on work, I learnt much about medical conditions I had never heard of. I can definitely say that there are many children in the hospital who I will never forget.
My final thoughts:
Finally, I can honestly say that in addition to all the people I met in the outreaches, hospitals, and schools, the people that I worked with in Ghana truly helped make the experience even more memorable. I have made friends all around the world, who I would never have met if I did not go on this trip. We shared many memories at night after work together.
The Projects Abroad staff were also a huge part of the trip, guiding us throughout the entire experience. Not only were the staff helpful, but they were also approachable, easy to talk to, and definitely people I will always remember and miss. The nights with our host family definitely felt more or less just like home. Our host brothers treated us like part of the family and we spent time watching movies, playing games, and just talking to one another for hours after our days at work.
My two weeks in Ghana was the most unforgettable two weeks I have experienced and my trip was definitely too short. My volunteering work was truly a humbling and eye-opening experience that I will definitely miss. I feel that there is so much to Ghana that I need to explore and many more places to help. These two weeks gave me only a glimpse of this wonderful country. There is no doubt that once I have the opportunity to go again, I will definitely return to Ghana to volunteer.
This is a personal account of one volunteer’s experience on the project and is a snapshot in time. Your experience may be different, as our projects are constantly adapting to local needs and building on accomplishments. Seasonal weather changes can also have a big impact. Find out more about what you can expect from this project, or speak to one of our friendly Program Advisors.