Tuesday, April 29, 2014

All Good Things Must Come to an End...

We can hardly believe that our Ghana adventure is soon coming to a close! Our group reunited in Tamale on April 18 after returning from our rural experiences.  On the weekend we attended Megan and Sinbad's traditional wedding, complete with elaborate dresses and amazing cultural dancing. Congratulations you two!! On the 21st we completed our final nursing seminar by sharing what we've learned through our time in Ghana. That afternoon we also wrapped up out degrees with our very last Performance Appraisal Forms. Yay! We are officially real nurses!

Today we arrived in Accra after a glorious vacation on the beach. We spent 5 days swimming, basking in the sun, surfing, and enjoying time with each other. Tomorrow we will all head our  separate directions, either home or to continue travelling. It has been an indescribable adventure, full of beauty, heartache, laughter, tears, and countless new experiences. Although we are eager to get back to our beloved Canada (which we appreciate more than ever now) a piece of our hearts will always be in Ghana. Thank you Muriel for guiding us along this life-changing journey. And thanks family and friends for your much appreciated support and love, you got us through this crazy and memorable adventure.

Lots of love,

~ 2014 Ghana girls

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Bolga Girl's Signing-off :)

Our first weekend in Bolgatanga was participating with Project GROW. Project GROW stands for Ghana Rural Opportunities for Women. It was during this day where we got to see the medical clinic where the Ghana Health Authority will one day employ nurses and doctors to serve the community. We were welcomed with traditional drumming, dancing and long speeches. Each year some select women at Project GROW are presented with donated female donkeys and goats. The goal for Project GROW is that these women will be able to sustain their livelihoods by passing the offsprings to other women in the village. Each goat and donkey was presented by the chief who was dressed in traditional attire and fanned throughout the day.

Megan Henderson is the RN who was one of the students who came to Ghana last year. She was so impressed with Project GROW that throughout the last year she had continued in fundraising and supporting the cause. Since Megan had been so involved in fundraising she was one of the honoured guests at Project GROW. Some of the women in the village even presented her with traditional house hold gifts as a present for her wedding that is coming up on Easter weekend. It was an amazing time for Megan and the group to witness such kindness.

After completing our first week in labour and delivery as well as the community clinic in he Bolgatanaga Regional Hospital our group was asked to hold lectures at the nursing college. We were very excited to have this opportunity to teach the important practices that were missing in the hospital.  In preparation for our second week, the Bolga girls prepared various lectures. Kym taught on the importance of Nursing Code of Ethics, Neonatal Recusitation and Med/Surg Case Studies. Bonnie had the groups captivated by teaching Adult CPR and Med/Surg case studies. Sam taught the importance of Documentation, Nursing Legalities, and Med/Surg Case Studies. Beth taught Neonatal Recusitation, and demonstrated Adult and Neonatal Recusitation. Beth also taught Documentation with Sam. In order to help the students capture the most important aspects of our lectures Michelle wrote notes on the board. Michelle would also support the discussion we had during each lecture by being actively involved in each seminar.

It was an absolute privilege to be asked to hold seminars for the second and third year nursing students. Our group enjoyed this part of our trip the most because we felt that the nursing students were willing and eager to learn from our lectures and change health care in Ghana. Students were respectful by being attentive, asking intelligent questions, and listening quietly. It is obvious that the students were well prepared for class and that the material we presented had been already taught previously. This was an important aspect of our time since a lot of our lectures were based on discussions and questioning. We stressed the importance of critical thinking and problem solving throughout our lectures and the students seemed to really enjoy this form of lecture style.

On our last day of this clinical experience our group was taken to the nursing head administrative office where we were introduced to the head nursing manager. Since our group had spent some time in the maternity unit and community clinic we saw there some obvious supplies that were needed. Using the money raised from the Global Gala, our group marched out to the medical supply store and bought an electronic fetal heart rate monitor, multiple blood pressure apparatuses, paediatric blood pressure cuffs, thermometers, one adult scale and maternity procedure scissors. When we presented our donations to the head nursing manager he was completely taken-a-back to see that all of our donations where filling the obvious needs on these units. He insisted that we present our gifts to the head administrator of the hospital and so we did that as well. Words can't describe how much gratitude these administrators expressed with their smiles. The head hospital administrator wanted to extend his overwhelming gratitude and appreciation to our family and friends who supported us through fundraising and encouraging words.

During our stay in Bolga, we stayed at the Ghana Health Service Physician Bungalow where we were equipped with all the essentials. We even had an air conditioner unit set at a bone chilling 28 degrees. Our house was filled with a working fridge, stove, HOT shower  and a three beautiful bedrooms. We were even protected by a man named John who would ensure our safety and keep watch over the house and ourselves. John, our "house officer" was equipped with a sling shot and traditional bow and arrow... Yes, the arrows were poisonous. On our departing day, John presented us with 5 bouquets of flowers picked from the tree outside of our beautiful home. It was an emotional good bye as the 5 girls piled into a small taxi with our luggage filled to the roof. We departed Bolga on the metro bus headed towards Tamale where we were looking forward to connecting back with our family in Tamale.

We are very excited to be finished our clinical experience for the nursing degree we've all worked so hard for! Our group would also like to extend our appreciation and gratitude to our families and friends who gave us the hugs that we needed during the past 4 years. We know that it probably wasn't easy on you guys either. That being said, it's time that we all celebrate accomplishments and have a little bit of fun... Bring on the sunny beaches! See you soon!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Adventures in Enchi

It has been anther beautiful week here in tropical Enchi. Our days consist of Nana breakfasts, clinic work, long walks to town with friends and nights at the Madiba with our new international pals. Our hearts are full.

Last week we did well baby clinics in the surrounding towns. We spent our time weighing babies from beams and trees. We found that most of the children were in the healthy weight range which was fantastic.

Last weekend we visited a cocoa farm and spent some time learning about cocoa and palm wine. As usual we were not sure what we were getting into... we ended up hiking up a mountain side in dresses and flip flops. Although, it was not what we expected we had an amazing day.  On Sunday we worshipped at the Presbyterian church for Palm Sunday... For four hours!

We have enjoyed our time here and will be heading back to Tamale on the 4 am Metro tomorrow morning (that's right not a trotro... Yay!!). Hope this blog post finds everyone well.

Love and light,

Enchi mamas <3 br="">

Friday, April 11, 2014

“Enchi Mama Holy Mama”

                At 11pm on Saturday we (Christy, Caz, Madso, and Joanna) arrived in Enchi!!
No words could express our delight and relief. At many points along the way we didn’t know if we would ever make it! Our day began at 6am when we left our guesthouse in Tamale – piling us and our many bags in a couple of Taxis. We took a 6 hour bus trip to Kumasi. The intercity buses are air-conditioned with roomy seats thus making that portion the pinnacle of our journey, aside from the customary chaos at the bus station. From there we again took taxis to the Kumasi Tro-Tro station. Two very trusting looking men offered to take us there, we agreed assuming they knew where that was. After an hour long extended tour of Kumasi including driving down the middle of a hectic and odorous market we realized they were completely and utterly lost. After being deserted by our drivers in the middle of said market with a pile-up of vehicles all honking behind us, we concluded we were either part of an elaborate kid-napping scheme, or our drivers were finally asking for much needed direction. Miracle upon miracle we arrived at the Tro-Tro station. At the station we had some delightful interactions with the local vendors, one of whom attempted to sell us men’s boxer shorts (he assured us that though we were women the boxers could still be worn by us, we assured him we were ok without them.) Another local man offered to marry us. We did enjoy buying fanmilk (icecream treats) a dough ball and a large loaf of bread from out of our Tro-Tro window. Finally after both our bags and our group members got packed into the Tro-Tro we took off on our supposed 5-6 hour trip with spirits high and the end of our travel day in sight…. So we thought.  Looking back on this portion of the journey with a couple goodnight sleeps behind us we would like highlight the positives of our Tro-Tro trip. We enjoyed the extra bonding opportunities created by the cramped space in our Tro-Tro and the q30 minute roadside breakdowns. Christy learned how to become a human pretzel. Caz learned how to make 8 hour long small talk with a persistent local Ghanian. Madso learned how to cope with near-death experience feels like. And Joanna learned the power of prayer. PTSD may be in our futures. Christy’s mother – we may need your counselling services upon our return home. If we survive our Tro-Trop trip back to Tamale. (i.e. we ever agree to get back on a Tro-Tro to return home). We also furthered our knowledge about how to (temporarily) fix an overheated Tro-Tro – you pour water into it and have 12 Ghanaian men look at it and occasionally remove parts of the engine. We also learned that remote village children are particularly enamoured about the prospect of meeting and talking with some“brunis” (white ladies). At 8:30pm we attracted a swarm of village kids who were waving, giggling, and pushing each other towards us, seemingly both excited at the prospect of touching our translucent skin. In our tired (delirious?) state we said goodbye and hid behind the Tro-Tro. However white ladies can’t hide in shadows very well and the kids followed us over to the other side. We made the mistake of asking “What is your name?” and received over 80 simultaneous replies. That is an English phrase they clearly know well. Eventually the Tro-Tro started up we said our goodbyes and off we went once again. 
We figured we must have been close to our destination when one of the fellow passengers who spoke English told us “this is where the road gets rough – put on your dust covers.” (The road gets rough now?!) We then proceeded to close our eyes, go to our happy places and pretend we were on the Indiana Jones Disneyland ride….fFor 3 hours. After some bouncing and bumping and synrochnized Hail-Mary’s we reached the end of our journey. Enveloped in dust and grouchy demeanors we arrived in Enchi, only to be told by the Tro-Tro driver “that time was running out and the Taxi services were closed for the night.” Once we figured out what that meant he agreed to drive us to our Guest House in hopes that it would still be open for us. Thankfully it was and we arrived to our wonderful gift basket of snacks and drinks from our Enchi Mama Philomena. Our hearts were warmed and we felt very welcomed!
In the morning refreshed and rested we had a closer look at the beautiful town of Enchi. We are thankful to be staying in 2 very comfortable rooms (including air conditioning and small fridges – we were beyond ourselves!) right beside each other.  We all wore our Sunday best (our new African dresses) to meet our Enchi mama Philomena. She took us on a walk around to see the town. Enchi is much smaller than any places we’ve been before and very green. We already love it. We also walked around the markets and bought some local snacks including avocados (butter pear they call it), pineapples, groundnuts, popcorn, oranges, and more. We enjoyed a picnic-style lunch with Philomena back at the guesthouse. She is wonderful. We already love her very much!
Our first clinical day went well. In the morning we had a tour of the Presbyterian Health Clinic by Philomena. We learned about what services they offer. In the early afternoon we presented our medical supply donations to the staff. They were very pleased by the items, especially the baby weigh scale! The minister who oversees the clinic came for the picture-taking. And as expected he laughed at our attempts to communicate to him in Twi (the local language).. We are thankful for the opportunity to be able to very practically support the clinic here and show our gratefulness  to them for having us.
This afternoon we are sitting in our cozy guest rooms sorting through donated items. Care packages for students in Ghana were donated by kids from Aberdeen Preparatory School after they learned about Global Health. The gifts have travelled far and will be given to kids at one of the local schools here in Enchi sometime this week.
Much love to our families, friends, and fellow students (We miss you already!)

 Enchi out.

Please note this lovely blog post was composed on Monday April 7/14, but we have not had internet access to be able to post it until today. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Kickin' it in Kaleo

Ashma from Kaleo!

We arrived in Kaleo on Saturday and were warmly greeted by Sister Edith, a rainstorm and our first Kaleo baby birth! The first task after arriving at the Immaculate Conception Health Center was to search our living area for a note left by last years girls. Thanks for the tips, ladies! Our time in Kaleo has been wonderful... The people here are so friendly and eager to learn about the Canadian ways. The children love to play and give us gifts, aka dead lizards. Fortunately, most of the things we need are only a short walk away, but for the things we can't find, we can catch a trotro into the nearby city, Wa. A few years ago, Muriel befriended a university student while on the bus from Tamale to Wa. Now, every year Hassan and his friends meet the students as they get into Wa and show them around town. It would have been a nightmare without him! We have to admit, we were really spoiled in Tamale at the Catholic Guest House... Arriving in Kaleo was a bit of a shock (and a whole lot of bugs!!), but we've all adjusted and can truly say we love it here now! We were a bit worried at the beginning that we would starve to death, but thankfully there are enough generous people around to help the poor "mansalas" fill their propane tank. We've figured out the ways of the propane stove and shouldn't light anything on fire... We hope!

Today is day 3 of clinical for us, and this year our schedules are significantly different than the years before us. Every day we travel to a new health clinic in the district... Which means a lot of hellos and goodbyes, but also means a lot of new experiences. Due to the heavy rains, there have only been a handful of patients at each clinic. We have, however, seen a baby being weighed by a scale attached to a tree, newborn assessments, multiple children with malaria and a toe amputation. Today's clinic is supposedly much bigger than the previous two, so we're eagerly waiting to see the exciting things in store!

This weekend we will be hitting the road to a hippo reserve called Wechiau. We're told it's a must see! Wish us luck... Hippos are mean!

In conclusion, Kaleo has never ceased to amaze. Between the children creeping into our complex to play and the random man riding a camel down the highway, there's never a dull moment!

Thank you to all of our friends and families for the continued support.


The Kaleo Gals - Sergeant Larry, Sergeant O, Sergeant Star and Chow (aka Hailley, Gabby, Stef and Emery)

Monday, April 7, 2014

Update from the Bolga girls (April 7,2014)

Hello family, friends and followers.

A big hello from Michelle and Beth in Bolga, we are giving Sam a rest after spending so much effort on that last detailed blog post. Two days ago we left our Tamale family and split up into small groups. In Bolga our new little family consists of Michelle, Sam, Bonnie, Kym and Beth. We cannot forget about the new additions, John who is the caretaker of the guest house we were able to stay at and his little puppy Gods Love, aka "Jerry." We have been exploring our new hometown and meeting many wonderful people along the way. Bolga has given us one of the warmest welcomes yet and we feel very at home here. Today was our first day at the hospital, where we met Florence our contact and many of the hospital and nursing school staff. We will be spending our first week in between the clinic and labor and delivery, and the next week will be teaching in the nursing school. You can expect many more details to come. Although we are missing our friends and family back home and also In Ghana we are looking forward to the experiences and beauty waiting ahead. Until next time,

The Bolga gals