Thursday, March 26, 2015

Our Time in Enchi

We are now settled into Tamale and ready to begin our work here.  I wanted to share a few remarkable pieces from our 10 days in Enchi.  We travelled in relative comfort the 5 hours from Accra to Kumasi and then piled ourselves and all of our luggage into a van to finish the journey.  We we were never really clear on how long it would take.  It was another 6 hours.  We turned off the main highway and travelled up and over a "pass".  It was a red clay "road" that became more of a trail and took us through some very rural and remote areas.  It was pitch black, but we could see with the headlights some very small villages beside the road.  The most remarkable thing we noticed was how clean and pristine everything looked.  Philomena commented that that area is considered "environmentally pure" and is protected by the government.  They are all subsistence farmers and they have a very strong sense of community.  We were only able to travel at about 30 km/hour and so we had a good chance to take in the surroundings.  It was a beautiful sight after the noise and chaos of Accra.

It then felt a bit like the twilight zone as we then popped out onto another main highway and completed the final hour into Enchi.  Our hotel was up another trail, a bit outside of Enchi.  The wonderful staff met us and helped us unload.  The "lights" were out, meaning there was no power.  This was a daily affair we were soon to find out.  We also found out that Enchi was without power until 1997.  Remarkable! 

Enchi is a very small town, with limited resources and we struggled a bit to find food we could eat.  I must admit, it felt a bit like survivor.  We would have plain rice and "sauce" and cut up avocados and tomatoes.  It was very hot and humid and we saw a couple of really great thunderstorms with torrential rain.  It is the middle of the rain forest after all!

The Presbyterian Health Clinic is a wonderful place.  It is a primary health care centre, and it is a shining example of this type of care.  They are staffed with a Physician Assistant (Phillip), who really functions in a similar manner to our Nurse Practitioners at home.  They have a lab that can do basic blood work.  In 2009, UBCO donated a microscope that enables them to do some additional tests for malaria and infectious diseases.  This has enabled them to reach the standards required for the national Quality Assurance program, as they are now a recognized lab.  They have done over 24,000 tests using this microscope this year.  To put this in perspective, these clients would all have had to access healthcare at the hospital.

 This is Michael Safu,  the head of the laboratory and our tour guide of the cocoa farms,  with the UBCO microscope (you can see the inscription on the microscope if you look closely).

They have a maternity ward where midwives deliver babies, provide pre and post natal care, and family planning.  There is a casualty department (treatment) and female and male wards as well as a pediatric ward.  Clients are "detained" if they require IV antibiotics or are too sick to leave.  As they are a primary health care centre, they can only be detained for 24 hours.  If they require additional services, they are sent to the public hospital.  They have a dispensary (pharmacy), records and registration department.  The staff is all very warm and welcoming and were supportive of our time there.  We rotated through each of the departments.  We were able to see first hand the devastating effects of malaria and typhoid.  The majority of the patients were receiving treatment for these two diseases.  

The clinic receives  funding from the Ghanaian Health Services and resources are a constant struggle.  They have not been paid for any of the services they have provided since July.  Philomena says it is due to some government restructuring and the clinic will manage.  "It's in the hands of God".  There is such strong faith in the community.  At the clinic every morning, they pray for the health and healing of the patients and the guidance and support of the staff.  What a wonderful way to start the day!  The level of commitment and service we witnessed are something we rarely see at home.

We were invited to the Presbyterian church service on Sunday as honoured guests and were part of a 3.5 hour service. There was singing, and dancing,  and a lot of talking (very little in English).  We were brought up front to introduce ourselves and speak about our mission.  Thankfully, we had remained for entire service, as this was done near the end. Again, we were struck by the very deep faith of the people here.   They live their spirituality, it's not just something they do on Sunday.

I believe we're all caught up now.  We'll keep you posted as things unfold here in Tamale.


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