Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Two weeks in Kaleo

Our group (Amy D., Amy W., Jennifer, Darlene, and Brittney) went to Kaleo located in the upper North-West region of Ghana. It was here that we were able to experience village life in Ghana to the fullest. Upon arrival, we met Titus the clinic driver, and sister Edith the main nurse and midwife. She let us help within the Kaleo health center clinic, whose main focus is on safe labour and delivery, and antenatal care. We quickly learned what an amazing person sister Edith truly is. When asked how many babies she has delivered in her career, she couldn't answer. She eventually estimated about one a day for the past 25 years. This is in part becuase she works at all hours of the day and night. She is one of the driving forces in a village who has become a shining example of how to decrease infant and maternal mortality rates with basic health care access and awareness. We also met brother John Boscoe, the mastermind behind the Kaleo clinic, and the main organizer of many health care programs within this region.

We were fortunate enought to witness and help sister Edith deliver two babies. They were amazing experiences, ones which we will not soon forget. We also gave school health talks to the local elementaries and high schools. Each school laughed at the sound of our Canadian accents! We were careful to speak in slow pronunciated dialogue so that our points could be clearly made. However, each school had a teacher who was brilliant at translating our points when necessary. The children came up with great questions, and many came up to us afterwards for further enquiries.

Up North a bit from Kaleo is a bigger city center called Jirapa. We worked in the hospital there in the pediatric, and maternity wards. We witnessed many interesting things here, but it was the friendliness of the people that caught our attention. Some of us were able to give many babies their first bath on the maternity ward. We taught the students on the ward how to do it; the staff in turn, taught us how to bundle the babies in the blankets giving them a hood on top. On the pediatric ward we were able to hand out stickers and brighten up some of the kids' days. However, some of the children were scared of us strange foreigners and cried instead.

The wonderful part of Kaleo was the sense of community and togetherness. The kids stopped by our compound regularily to play a game of soccer. It was a big event because we would pick up more wandering children as we walked to the field to play. They would lumber onto our backs, hold our hands, and outrun us around the field when it came to playing soccer. They were absolutely adorable, and truly humbling to meet.

The nurses at the clinic were all lovely and including of all of us. One night a few of the women made fufu and groundnut soup for us! Fufu is a yam that is pounded until the consistency of a dough. Groundnut soup is a peanut soup with a bit of spice, and usually made with chicken. The food was amazing, and the company of the whole clinic made this night a memorable one.

The very last day was spent in the company of women from around the Kaleo region in the "mother to mother celebration." It was a celebration of motherhood and the support they provide for each other in keeping their children healthy. This is the opportunity for mothers to promote the health of their families and the knowledge they can share among each other. Skits were included in the gathering as well as many dances, which we joined! The women from the clinic were there, and we all danced together in celebration of the last two weeks. It was a lovely day and a lovely way to say goodbye to the community at large.

I think we all miss Kaleo, but we are now in Tamale and looking forward to the experiences ahead.

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