Thursday, April 18, 2019


Ghana is a country that can be summed up in a million words or none at all. It’s a country and people that you can only scratch the surface in trying to explain with descriptions and pictures.

Being back here three years after my time as a student, I often found myself comparing the experience to last time. I’m sure the students have heard enough of my comparisons. We have done the same travel days, the same clinical placement, the same safaris in Mole, and beach days on Cape Coast.

It should feel like I’ve done the same trip as last time, but it was vastly different.

Jeanette and I (along with the group catching on and joining in) have come up with our catchphrase “Upgrade!” From things as simple as wifi in the immigration hall at the Accra airport to finding out our clinic at Chenshegu has been staffed and functional since we left last year. There have been plenty of times to exclaim “Upgrade!”

It has been amazing to return to this country and see the progress that can happen in just a few short years. We often explain to the students about how we aren’t here to “do” but to observe and learn. It’s a difficult thing to wrap your head around when nursing school is all skills and to do lists. It can often feel like we are here doing nothing helpful. But the change and community development that is happening here with our program is palpable and obvious. Simply bringing students here to engage and learn in healthcare here makes a difference. And we have all learned... the change usually happens in ourselves and not in our Ghanaian partners.

The students have explained it all throughout our blog posts. The learning is not always in clinical but just by being here and experiencing this wonderful culture and people.  

As much as there has been “upgrades” every step of the way. There is also no need for upgrades in many areas. Being back has reminded me that Ghana, and especially the northern region, has not changed and should not change. All our partners who we continue to work with remain a constant in this program. Our Ghanaian friends and colleagues are amongst the most intelligent, hard working and generous people on the planet. We have all learned so much from them and we wish them never to change.

I think I can speak for us all when I say that that we all are so grateful and honoured to have worked with our friends here. We will miss then so much and carry them with us as we leave.

It has been truly an honour to be back. It’s been an honour and a pleasure to walk alongside these students on the last part of their BSN journey. It has been a pleasure to share my time here with Jeanette as a colleague and a friend. And it has truly been an honour to be back in Ghana. 

I, myself, truly have been upgraded again by this place.

Mara Macauley BSN, RN
UBC Okanagan Alumni
Class of 2016

Tuesday, April 16, 2019


Lions & Tigers & Bears...Oh My!

Just kidding! But there were lots of goats and donkeys!! 

There are many adjectives we could use to describe the ProjectGROW day of celebration (long, hot, busy, loud) but the message we found most important was that of women empowerment.

Women; noun: an adult human female.

Empowerment; noun: the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights.

For those of you who don’t know, ProjectGROW was developed by Dr. Vida Yakong (UBCO alumni BSN, MSN, PhD) based out of Ghana.

GROW. Ghana Rural Opportunities for Women. A project that enables Ghanaian women to prosper because (as said so well by one of the guest speakers):

Dr. Vida 
 “Without woman, man is nothing”

The aim of this day is celebration-celebrate good times c’mon!- and it’s attended by an outstanding amount of women from the community, the Chief (Tindana) + Elders, the local government director, different personnel of Ghanaian health services, Dr. Vida herself and many more. As Canadian guests we received full VIP treatment and were introduced, applauded and thanked to a point we couldn’t even fully comprehend.

Gratefulness; adjective: warmly or deeply appreciate kindness or benefits received, thankful.

We have never been shown such admiration before and in our minds we only contributed in such a small way by means of fundraising back home. However, with the money raised we were able to provide 11 new goats (plus 31 returning goats) and 8 donkeys.  

No... not a petting zoo... a means of currency, nutrition, and labourers for carrying water and harvesting fields.

It was amazing to the extent of which an event like this makes a difference. Kids stayed home from school, women danced and screamed and sang, there was even NATIONAL broadcasting for this very successful project.

Support; verb: bear all of or part of the weight.
“Where are all the men?!” one speaker joked when talking about the need to support the women in order to make power moves for the community and it was true. The goals of the future are to get men more involved, but the support is present and increasing each year. We were in complete awe of everything we witnessed this day. The work put in and the bond built through Project GROW will propel this district forward and, if anything we learned here in Ghana, we hope we can take this example home and integrate it into our daily lives locally.

#Feminism; noun: the advocacy of Women’s rights on the ground of equality of the sexes.

By Victoria Jeffery and Sarah Langlois
4th Year BSN Students
UBC Okanagan

Monday, April 15, 2019

Appropriation or Appreciation??

Sarah, Vicki, Syd, Mara, Sophia

Early on in the trip we heard talk that previous students got their hair braided while in Bolgatanga. Having always wanted our hair braided with extensions we were excited about the opportunity but apprehensive due to the issues surrounding cultural appropriation in our society. 

We were worried about how we would be viewed as white women wearing an African hair style that is an essential aspect of their culture. 

After talking with our Ghanaian hosts it became clear that having our hair braided would be seen as an appreciation of their culture  by community members and that we would be welcomed at the salon. 

Our new friends....
So with this understanding we went to a braid salon down the street from our guest house in Bolgatanga to inquire about getting our hair done later in the week. We were warmly greeted by the staff who remembered Mara from her previous trip to Ghana 3 yeas ago. The staff made us feel so welcomed and eagerly showed us different styles to choose from. 

The staff noticed that both Sydney and I had blonde hair and that none of the extensions they had in stock would be a match for our light hair. To our surprise when we showed up on Sunday they had gone out and specially purchased blonde extensions for our hair. It was quite a long process from prepping the extensions, applying them into our hair and throughout our braids, to burning the tips of the fake hair and dunking our braids in hot water to “activate” and keep them in place. 

Everybody pitching in....

After this we added silver clips and silver string throughout our braids to add a bit more fun. Most of our group got braids ranging from a full head to a few braids on the side. The ladies in the salon loved sharing this large part of their culture with us all day long and even referred to this day as “Canada Day” for them. They appreciated our willingness to immerse ourselves in this experience while we listened and danced to cultural music played through a boombox. Everyone’s hair turned out wonderful and we are truly grateful for the experience. 

Elyse, Christie and Alyshia
Syd and Soph

By Sophia Gray and Sydney Schindel
4th Year BSN Student
UBC Okanagan

Thursday, April 11, 2019

School Health Screening

Before we begin telling our story of this faithful day there are some things we would like to highlight. Even though Bolgatanga is only a three hour drive away from Tamale, it is surreal how vastly different these two regions are. 

Landscape of the Upper East - Sub-Saharan Africa
First of all, the weather that welcomes you in the Upper East is a type of heat that you just cannot seem to escape. It somehow always manages to exceed 40°C with the only relief being the AC and/or the occasional dry breeze that you quickly learn to long for. However, the most notable difference that we have recognized is just how rural some of these communities really are.To put it in context, the closest city is an hour away by vehicle and that’s if you own one.

Syd at her station
During our stay in Bolga, we have been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work alongside a team of wonderful health care providers at three rural clinics: Nangodi, Nyobok, and Sakote. As we began the week at our assigned clinic, it was brought to our attention that we (us students) would be performing a health screening at the local public elementary school just outside of the Nyobok clinic. As the days went by, the anticipation and excitement only grew as we slowly approached April screening day!!!

To say that this day was a roller coaster of emotions would be an INCREDIBLE understatement. It began like any other clinical day...being greeted by pleasant Peter (our bus driver) waiting for us to board ‘Big Red’ for our lovely (and bumpy) commute. Once arriving to Nyobok clinic we immediately began assisting the nurses, Elijah and Vincent, with OPD (outpatient clients....kind of like a walk-in clinic); this consisted of taking vitals and consultations. 

Assessments by Jill & Soph
When it was time, we began our walk to the school under the blistering sun marching in sync with Elijah.  Who knew that we would find ourselves amidst absolute chaos? Comparable to how moths are attracted to light, children began darting towards us as soon as we were within sight.  Not one of us were left without a child’s hand clasped around each one of our fingers with no intentions of releasing their grasp. 

Moments pass before a crowd of curious children forms around us with smiles beaming from ear to ear. Being under a strict time crunch, we quickly began assembling stations as we needed to assess all 180 children and send those that needed further consultation back to the clinic. With the help of one another and the added assistance from teachers whom acted as translators, we successfully saw each and every student within three hours! It was a miracle!!!

Waiting Patiently to be seen....
As we began our dishevelled walk back to the clinic, our thoughts went out to Jeanette, Mara, and Vincent who simply tried to maintain crowd control  but ultimately succumbed to the sea of children. The peaceful clinic of Nyobok was overrun by the highly energetic school children awaiting their consultation with anticipation. 

Through trial and error we began separating the children into groups that had similar diagnoses but this came to no success; have you ever tried to tell a child to sit still? Yeah, it doesn’t work. With  only a number of minor breakdowns here and there, as a unified team we seemed to defy all odds as we accomplished our goal. 

Hot, tired and sweaty....we boarded Big Red for home.  We did it!!!

Sydey Schindel, Jill Filsinger and Sophia Gray
4th year BSN Students
UBC Okanagan 

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Take me to Church....

Take me to church

Christians and Muslims, this is what the majority of people identify as here. Two very different religions that have been able to co-exist through times of hardship.

Revision: thrive through times of hardship.

We went to church. Sarah, having a Catholic background, was able to comprehend most of the dialogue but I myself, having no religious background, struggled to keep up with the context which was only made more difficult when paired with the mesmerizing Ghanaian accents. To say the least, we had very different experiences that day but the major takeaways were not something one would need a translator to explain.

Fact: we wore sweat-stained genie pants to church because that’s what we had.
Fact: locals wore gorgeous dresses and collared shirts that looked like a sea of colour when they swayed to the music.
Fact: we were welcomed whole-heartedly despite our fashion faux pas.

This sense of inclusion and community extends far beyond the church doors. You see it in the streets when people smile and wave. You feel it in the grip of each handshake as you enter new places and people say “you are welcome”. It’s in the way that strangers want to be your best friend and are genuinely willing to help you out in any way needed.

In addition to the sense of true community, there was one other component we noticed, especially while working in the hospital and clinics: hope. It’s no secret living conditions here are unlike anything we’ve ever witnessed and hardship is faced every day, but...

with religion comes hope,
with hope comes strength,
and with strength comes power.

It is this power from religion that allows individuals, families, and communities to persevere for a better future. And it’s beautiful.

By Victoria Jeffery & Sarah Langlois
4th year BSN Students
University of British Columbia Okanagan

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Rest & Relaxation in Mole

Sunset from Mole Motel

Our time in Tamale is now over and we are all feeling in need of a break. Though we all loved the friends and experiences we made in Tamale, we felt excited for the next adventure. We loaded up our weekend bags and headed to Mole National Park. We arrived and immediately saw the breathtaking view of the savanna and numerous elephants in a watering hole. After soaking in the view we went into the pool to cool down. The evening was spent by the pool side, admiring the sunset and preparing for the night safari.

On the night safari we climbed onto the top of the jeeps and were handed "torches" which are very large and powerful flashlights. As we drove through the savanna in search of nocturnal animals we felt a sense of tranquility while we took in the fresh air and looked up at the stars. 

Safari Jeep
With our torches, we were able to see some exotic animals such as local antelopes called Kobs, Bush Bucks and Water Bucks, bush babies and crocodiles. Although we did not see elephants we weren't terribly disappointed as we had another exciting day ahead of us.

The next morning arrived and we made our way back to the safari jeeps. We drove through the same path as the previous night but it all looked very different. After an hour long drive through the savanna, we finally approached the watering hole. We were pleasantly surprised to find multiple elephants making their way into the water. 

Watering Hole

Seeing such majestic animals interact in their natural habitat was such an amazing experience and a highlight of the trip for both of us. 

But they're so cute!!!
Once we returned to the motel we all enjoyed the day by the pool and watched a family of baboons walking about and fighting. We noticed guards around the motel holding slingshots. They explained that they use the slingshots to scare away the baboons as they really like to take human food. The baboons have even learned to knock and open door handles in order to enter rooms and get food. This was a little scary to hear but thankfully no baboons gained entry although they tried.

Alyshia and Ori

We will all never forget our time in mole. Now that we all feel relaxed and a little sunburned, we feel ready for our next adventure in Bolgatanga.

Alyshia Coleman and Oriana Monagas
4th year BSN Students
University of British Columbia Okanagan

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Chanshegu Health Screening

Our last day in the city of Tamale was March 28th, which we spent in the small village of Chanshegu just outside of Tamale. Here, with the help of our friends: Mr. Amin, Kassim, and a team of nurses and midwives volunteering their time, we were able to set up a health screening day at their local clinic. UBCO has been working with the people of Chanshegu for the past ten years trying to set up a self sustaining health clinic within their village. This clinic has been funded almost entirely by our School of Nursing students, faculty and friends.  They have named it the Unity Community Health Centre
Unity Health Centre - Chanshegu
This year we received the amazing news that the clinic is now open Monday - Friday and being run by a team of fantastic local health care volunteers including nurses, nurse practitioners and midwives. The people of the community are now able to receive recurring health care on a daily basis. 

Cultural Dancers
To start our day off we first went to the Chief’s Palace (which is a round mud hut) to be greeted and welcomed by the village Chief. His welcome was warm and the horse in the corner of the Palace seemed friendly enough. We then headed to the clinic to get in touch with some Ghanaian culture by watching and participating in cultural dancing (don’t worry there’s video evidence). The simplicity of it all was pretty cool to see. No microphones or big speakers...just some drums, bells on the dancers feet and a little bit of passion made for an amazing performance that we all enjoyed. 

After the dancers had taught us some new moves and the sun was high up in the sky, we started setting up our health screening and consults. The process included registering each person to name, gender, approximate age and whether or not they had health insurance. We then sent them to our next stations to receive a height/weight and a blood pressure. Depending on their blood pressure and any health related complaints they had, we would decide whether or not to send them in for a consultation with Mr. Amin or another nurse. They would start treatment, medication prescriptions or specialist recommendations. Alongside this, we were also able to provide wound care and dressing changes for a variety of patients. There was also a station set up by midwives for antenatal care, and a station with a community health nurse who was taking care of routine child vaccinations. 
Registration Table

As the clinic is now open 5 days a week, clients are able to receive follow up care for frequent monitoring.   This is a major step in the evolution of the clinic.  Throughout the span of four hours we saw 103 community members of varying ages, gender, and health conditions. Thankfully we had Mr. Admin and his lovely team, Clifford and Kassim to work alongside us to help with translating, care, assessments and documentation for us. We couldn’t have done it without them! 

It was a great day filled with a lot of fun, collaboration, laughter and friendly faces.  I am always surprised to see the level of resilience in each of the individuals who live with so little but will always greet you with a smile. The appreciation for what they have or for what they receive is astonishing and something I’m sure we’ll never forget. 

The evening was capped off with a beautiful dinner for all of our volunteers at our favourite restaurant in Tamale called SWAD.   Dr. Marie Tarrant, the Director of our School of Nursing graciously covered the costs for all of us!   We were all very grateful.  

Thank you to the community of Chanshegu for welcoming us with such warm hearts and allowing us to aide in the small way that we could. Thanks again to Kassim, Mr. Amin and his team for making this all possible. 
Our Team!

Luke Dietz
4th year BSN student 
University of British Columbia Okanagan