Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Chief's Palace's a horse!
During our time in Tamale, Kassim our Tamale Connection, facilitated a visit to Chanshegu, the village where he was born. UBCO has ties to the village through Muriel Kranabetter, an Associate Professor at UBCO, who is undertaking research to understand the community's infant and child mortality rates. Because of her work, she has been named King of the village! We are supporting the development of a health clinic within the village, and this year, we are using a portion of the funds we raised from the Global Gala to bring running water to the facility.  KalTire also graciously donated funds for this project.

Beautiful Faces
The Watering Hole
As soon as we pulled into the village we were swarmed with excited children. They clung onto us tightly for a majority of the time we were there. We walked to their water source, a man-made reservoir that gets filled during the rainy season and is used throughout the year. This muddy, dirty stagnant water is their main source of potable water. Various organizations have attempted to provide clean water; however, none have been effective or sustainable.  In nursing, we learn about community development, and the first step is always to ask the community,"'what do you need?"  We wonder if this simple question was asked before the various water projects began.
Interior of the Clinic

Many Hands
After the watering hole, we walked out to the clinic and back. Realistically, it probably was not far but having one child attached to each of your fingers in the hot sun makes for a long walk! We were impressed with the clinic as it is close to being finished. The community members, including Kassim, have put in hard work to get the clinic to its immaculate shape. The next big step is turning the facility over to Ghana Health Services who will assume responsibility for its operations.

Outside the Clinic

As nurses, we must assure that we practice in a culturally safe manner; therefore, it was essential that we received the Chief's blessing upon our arrival. This meeting occurred in the Chief's Palace (yes, it's actually called a palace), and it was unlike anything that we expected. Inside the mud hut, we found ourselves looking up at the Chief in his lazy boy chair throne from the cow skinned mats we sat upon. To the left of him was the his horse. Yes, a real horse. Kassim translated the words spoken from the chief as he warmly welcomed us into the community. 

The Chief's Palace
After formalities were settled, we distributed donation items to the orphaned children, who are raised by the community. They each received two items of their choosing from art supplies, stickers, and Canadian paraphernalia. We also gave each of them a hygiene kit and dental kit and that were put together by a Boy Scout troop (thanks Norma Hillsman and boys!) 
Canadian Swag and Dental Kits
The distribution went smoothly; however Dawn accidentally created a mosh pit as over a hundred children battled for three balloons that she tossed in the air. Not her greatest moment when she had to pop the balloons in front of them because of the chaos she created. She is not sure if that moment was more traumatizing for her or them. She is also unsure if they understood her lesson about caring for one another and being kind after the battle royale; however, throughout the day we saw many demonstrations of them caring for each other. Young girls not much older than 4, would have their younger siblings tied onto their backs, carrying them in the hot sun during our long treks through the village. When one child strayed behind our large pack, another child would bring them back to us so that they could hold our hand. Our favorite observation was when a young boy was given a little bottle of bubbles and was soon found teaching another child how to use them.

It's days like this when our hearts are filled with gratitude for what we have at home and overflowing with joy from the kindness that exists here at Chanshegu.

~ Dawn Hillman

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Under the Mango Trees - A Place of Compassion

Sign in the OPD Department
This week we had the incredible opportunity to work at the Shekhina Clinic in Tamale. The clinic is run by Dr. Abdulai, who unfortunately we did not get to meet as he was away this week.  However, we were greeted by amazing, volunteer staff who truly seem to love their work. A nurse named Charity showed us around and I have to say this is one of the most beautiful placements we could imagine. Amidst the huge mango trees we found an out patient department, medication dispensary, operating room, and homes for patients to stay in. While we were there the clinic had 25 people living in their facilities. The clinic services people who suffer from various medical conditions and mental illnesses. Not only that, but it serves as a safe haven for people who have had surgery, are unable to care for themselves, or have been rejected by their communities.

Patients waiting for the gates to open

In April Dr. Abdulai's clinic will be celebrating its 25th anniversary. Shekhina provides all of its services for free and is only able to run based on generous donations of organizations and individuals. Because of this, some staff told us, the clinic is not always able to operate. Some unique strategies have been used to adjust to resource availability. When it comes to housing Dr. Abdulai partners with chiefs around Ghana. Each chief is asked to build a home at the Shekhina clinic. If for any reason a person from that village then needs medical services, they have a designated hut to stay in at the clinic.
People from all around Tamale line up outside the clinic every morning. On average the clinic accepts 30 patients a day, plus review cases and emergencies. Since all services are provided at no cost the patients and residents assist in cleaning the clinic and maintaining the grounds. They then return the next day to be seen at the OPD.
Out Delivering Hot Lunches
Hot Lunch Program
The more we learned about the clinic, the more we fell in love. We were able to participate in health screening, pharmacy, patient teaching, and much more. The staff shared a beautiful spread of oranges, bananas, ground nuts, and Lipton yellow label tea with us. We were readily embraced with a perfect experience of everything that nursing and health care stand for: humility, compassion, caring, and love. After sharing our morning tea with the clinic's staff we each had an afternoon participating in the food program. Sitting on the back of an open truck bed we drove around Tamale delivering hot lunches to "poor, desolate and mentally challenged" people in the community. Lunches of jollof rice, fruit, and vegetables, from the clinic's garden are taken to approximately 70 individuals daily.

The generosity and hospitality of the Ghanaian people continue to amaze and inspire us. We are grateful for the opportunity to apply our clinical knowledge, but we are equally (if not more) grateful for everything we are learning while being here. Everyday we meet  people from vulnerable populations who continue to find joy, faith, and gratitude wherever they can.

The Beautiful Staff

~ By Victoria Cluett

From Classroom to Monsoon!

March 22, 2016

Community Health Nurses' Training College
Today we had the opportunity to teach the importance of Relational Practice to fellow students. We began at the Community Health Nurses' Training College and then later in the afternoon we presented to the University of Developmental Studies Midwife students.. It was an amazing experience where we got to share what we have learned with other students and teach a subject we view as important in Canada. We had a short PowerPoint presentation that we taught in an outdoor auditorium and finished the presentations with questions. This was an awesome experience that blended cultures and curriculum to forward the nursing profession in regards to Global Health. We were able to share that the foundation of nursing is relational practice. Nursing is never done in isolation and it is important to be able to build strong
relationships  with patients, colleagues, families and friends. We also had the opportunity to be toured around The University for Developmental Studies. It was interesting to see the similarities and differences between a university in a low resource country compared to our own.

UDS Midwifery Students
After a long day of teaching we came back to the guest house to find the power out, which is pretty common. Normally a power outage isn't a big problem, but in 40 degree weather, with nothing to cool us down but a fan (run by power) we were melting into a pool of our own sweat. After laying in the heat praying for some relief, our prayers were answered by a thunderstorm! So we excitedly embraced it, and danced in the monsoon. It was amazing how our moods changed so fast. It was an awesome way to cool down and live in the moment! 
Caught in the Monsoon

By: Alyssa Sand, Kelsey McDonald, Melanie Hameluck, Mairi Horth, Madi Phemister and Paige Bunbur

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Tamale Teaching Hospital

Tamale Teaching Hospital

Our first week in practice was at the Tamale Teaching Hospital (TTH). TTH is a hub for both Ghanaian and international healthcare professionals and students willing to collaborate and learn from one another. We were divided into groups and placed in one of the following places: the OR, Emergency,  Labour & Delivery, the NICU, and pediatrics. We were dispersed throughout the hospital yet we found similarities on each ward. Although the resources were sparse, in comparison to Canada, we were impressed by the staff's ability to improvise and adapt. We admired the level of involvement that families and friends had in patient care.

A&E Crew
Triage Sheet
We (Nicole, Kelsey, and Alyssa) were placed in emergency, also known as A&E (accidents and emergency).  It consisted of a triage area and  observation area (main department). The sheer volume of students in the department: med students, nursing students, community nursing students, and a variety of others, made for some interesting conversation.  Kelsey was put on the spot when asked to explain triage to a group of Ghanaian nursing students. From here we learned how to use their specific triage system. Cardiovascular disease and motor vehicle accidents were prominent, much like at home. Snake and scorpion bites however were something completely new to us.  After spending a couple of days in emergency, we moved to pediatrics to help on what seemed to be one of the busiest wards in the hospital. 
 few of us had the pleasure of sharing a page in the health stories of 
our younger generation. Placed on the pediatric ward, we were excited to
 for the opportunity to build relationships with families and help 
little ones regain their health. We knew we would gain so much 
from this placement, but we had no idea what we were in store for. 
Our placement opened our eyes to the inside view of Global Health. 

One of the first things we noticed was that every child had at least one
 family member at the bedside. Without looking carefully and truly 
understanding their health care system, we would have thought of this as
 beautiful because we are seeing the children's support system. But in 
all truth, these children need their families with them. Families are 
responsible for providing personal care, feeding, washing, mobilizing 
and buying medications for the patients. These families have no choice 
but to drop everything in order to be there for their child.  They must leave their work, their village, their fields, get someone else to look
 after their other children, and sometimes even borrow money from others in 
order for their child to be in the hospital. We are so privileged in Canada to have the time 
and resources to care for our patients even when they do not have a 
support system with them. It was difficult to imagine the 
possibility of many children not being able to get medical attention 
because their families can't afford to get to the clinic or hospital.On
 a positive note, we saw so much strength in these parents. All week, 
they were by their little one's side, taking care of them, and promptly 
filling any prescription handed to them. They would sit there all day in
 the stifling heat of the ward just to make sure their loved one is never 
 On pediatrics, we 
had to make do with minimal equipment. There were 4 vitals machines for a
 40 patients ward, and most were already attached to critically
 ill children. We became inspired as we saw nurses push through these 
gaps, and perform the best practice they could under such circumstances. 
 We had the opportunity to collaborate with the 
health care team by critically thinking through our client's health 
issues.  We became 
teachers. We had the pleasure of sharing the space with third year UDS students. Each shift, all of us would grab a new group of students and 
demonstrate to them how to do a thorough head to toe assessment, how to 
chart it, and what to do if your findings are out of the ordinary. 
When there were opportunities to do skills, or critically think about how 
we can help a patient, we would make sure to grab a student for a 
learning opportunity. What we found with teaching, is that we also learned from them.  Once we started to build relationships with the 
students, they would teach us their ways and vice versa. It became the 
perfect opportunity to truly leave our own mark in Tamale. We decided 
that if we can teach even just a few of these nursing students, how to 
do a thorough assessment and build relationship with patients, then they
 can start teaching each other.  
We hope that our school can further this
 partnership and build on what we have started by partnering with 
students again next year.
~ Mel Hameluk

Labour and Delivery
 This week we (Kath, Myrte, Paige and Mairi) got to spend four days working in labor and delivery. The staff welcomed us with open arms and made our experience awesome. Despite cultural differences, we appreciated the staff's willingness to talk about differing practices, and their openness to working alongside students.
The L&D Team
The labour and delivery ward here is much busier than in Canada. It seemed as though as soon as one baby was born, another was on its way.  For example, during a six hour shift, we saw 6 vaginal deliveries and 3 c-sections while another 4-8 women were completing their first stage of labour in the triage room... And this was considered slow, as birth rates increase with the upcoming rainy season. At times, it seemed as though there weren't enough hands to catch all the babies, but the staff were always there when they needed to be. 
Something that really stood out to us was the resilience of the patients. The strength and fight that these women and babes have are incredible in such a low resource environment. Mothers do not receive any pain medications throughout their labouring experience, and barely make any noise throughout the process (which from our experiences in Canada is rarely seen).
We are very thankful to the staff and patients at Tamale Teaching Hospital, for giving us the best crash course in labour and delivery we could have asked for. 


There are countless cultural differences between here and Canada, as would be expected, and some are challenging to adjust to. One of the most positive pieces we can take away from the NICU, other than the adorable babies, is the Ghanaian practices of Breast Feeding. As many of our readers know, breast feeding in public is often discouraged, or women are made to feel uncomfortable if feeding their babies in public.  Due to this outlook, my generation now faces the difficulty of breastfeeding our babies in public without comments and distasteful looks from onlookers.  Here in Ghana, the feelings around breastfeeding are the polar opposite. No one bats an eyelash when a woman removes her breast to feed her babe. She could be on a public street corner in the middle of a busy market, yet it is as if she is at home. By having such open practices surrounding breast feeding it allows mothers to preform the most natural of motherly tasks without fear of judgement.  While many Canadians have begun to change their views, we are still far from being as accepting as the Ghanaian people. 
~ Madi Phemister

We all enjoyed our experiences on the different wards. We learned a lot and hope we left behind new knowledge.

The Ghana Girls 2016

Sunday, March 20, 2016

So You Think You Can Dance?

 March 19, 2016

Today was one of those days where you can't quite explain through words just how amazing this world is. A few words to describe the rush of feelings: joy, bliss, spontaneity, laughter, appreciation, and love.

Tamale Cultural Troupe
We had the privilege to watch a performance of cultural dances by The Tamale Cultural Troupe, a number of whom come from the Chanshegu village. The performance was at the Tamale Cultural Centre and organized by one of our local connections and dear friend, Kassim.
Go Jeanette!

While the stage was simple, a concrete pad, the dancers and musicians enveloped our attention. Their energy and enthusiasm was contagious. Many of us found ourselves dancing in our seats, with grins plastered on our faces. It was plain to see how meaningful dance and music is to the Ghanaian culture by the crowd that gathered when the music started.

The dancers further welcomed us into their culture when they individually invited us up on stage to learn a move or two, and finished their performance by gathering us all again for a group dance. While us nurses think we can bust a move, it is nothing compared to the talent of these Ghanaian people.

Great-Great-Grandmother of Kassim
On our way to Kassim's house
What further enhanced the day was having the honour of being introduced to five generations of Kassim's family including; his great grandmother, grandmother, mother, and his baby niece. We feel so privileged to be welcomed into such an intimate piece of their culture.

If today was a preview of what the next three weeks hold for us, we may have to be forced onto the plane home.

- Paige Bunbury, Alyssa Sand, Kelsey McDonald and Madi Phemister