Monday, April 15, 2013

An Update from Bolgatanga

As it has been a whole week since our group of ten divided into three groups, we (Megan and Tori) felt it was time to give an update on what has been happening with us. Currently we are sitting in our guesthouse after having just finished a mango (amazingly fresh one!) and are munching on ground nuts, a nut very similar to the peanut. Anyways, back to our update: After a three hour bus ride north from Tamale, we arrived in Bolgatanga (often referred to as Bolga) which is located in the Upper East Region of Ghana close to the Burkina Faso border. In true Ghanaian style there was no shortage of people to help us, and our many bags (we still have an extra one full of medical supplies) off the bus or to help us find a taxi. Once the taxi driver had clarified via phone with our contact Florence, a local nursing instructor, where our guesthouse was, we were on our way.
Megan riding her bike into town
The next day we met up with another contact, Josbert (Joesbert is Vida’s nephew. Vida is a Ghanaian nurse who did her masters and now her PhD at UBCO and is one of the founders of the Project GROW charity- for more information visit -  Josbert was an invaluable guide that day as we traveled to meet first, the regional director of Health Services of the entire Upper East region, and then the district director for the region that the clinic we would go to is in.  The director welcomed us into his office, and after finding out where we were staying offered us to stay at free Guest House in the doctors bungalows. We were driven out to our new house to make sure it was ‘acceptable’ which we assured the director it would be. John, the caretaker, and his daughter, Doris, who live in a room beside the Guest House, greeted us warmly. The house it self was luxury compared to what we were staying at, three bedrooms, a kitchen living room and two toilets! The only draw back is that it is a distance outside of town so to rectify that situation; on Monday afternoon we bought bikes! Josbert accompanied me when buying the bikes and assured me that I can donate them to the bike project that is associated with Project GROW after we are gone. Both very excited about our new found opportunity to cook our own food in our kitchen, we went shopping! Like the rest of Ghana, most of the food is bought at the local markets and so Megan and I bought some vegetables and fruits that we recognized (and some that we didn’t).The Regional Director invited us over to his house for dinner the following night as he was having some visiting nurses and doctors from Accra over. It was a lovely dinner and very interesting to hear about the health promotion projects going on around Ghana.

On Tuesday and Thursday we went to a health clinic in a neighboring village called Nangodi.  There we were able to witness the workings of a rural clinic. Because it is not the wet season the clinic was not very busy, with around 10-15 patients a day. Even so we got to participate in many of the health promotion and interventions that the clinic does. I was able to go on an outreach trip to a smaller village to weigh babies and immunize them. Unfortunately, the nurse I was with forgot the scale so we just verified that the babies that came to the out reach had up to date immunizations (which they all did, so that was great to see!). Not so great to see was that a lot of the babies growth charts are not on the normal curve and there was little the outreach health workers could do except recommend that the mothers feed their children more… We also got so see the maternal check up day. Every Thursday pregnant women come to the clinic to get their b/p, fetal heart rate and weight checked. They are also all given free multi vitamins, folic acid and iron, which was great to see. Another part of the clinic we got to see was the out patient department, where walk in patients with any sort of health concern can come.  It was interesting to see the different approach to health in rural settings vs the urban we were used to in Tamale.
Nangodi Health Clinic
The rest of our week we spent at home and at internet cafes preparing for our presentations that we have next week. We are presenting sex education material at four jr high and elementary schools in the beginning of the week and then doing a presentation on the nurse patient relationship at the local nurses collage (where Florence teaches) on Wednesday. It was a bit of a shock to the system to be reading journal articles again in preparation for our presentation at the nurses collage!
Both a little worried...but it didn't bite!
Today (Sunday) we made it out to Paga – a village about a 45min drive away on the border with Burkina Faso.   It is famous for its crocodile pond. To enter the pond you buy your entrance and a chicken (a live one!) and then your tour guide calls the crocodiles by shaking the chicken up and down to make it squawk (we feel like this type of operation would not be allowed in Canada…) Sure enough crocodiles slowly emerge from the lake to come see the chicken. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately, we can’t decide) the crocodiles weren’t that hungry so they didn’t eat our chicken and we were able to go and touch them without being worried about being eaten (ok we were still a bit worried, as we saw, they can move fast!). We then visited and leaned how an old slave camp functioned, which, as always, is a humbling and haunting experience.  There are no words to describe how you feel standing beside mass burial sites or beside a punishment rock that countless people had taken their last breath on. It makes us even more thankful that we don’t live in an age where slavery is acceptable.
We are both a bit apprehensive about our presentation this week but excited to try our hand at being teachers.  
Until next time!
- Tori and Megan

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