Perspectives on Public Health in Sandema, Ghana

Perspectives on Public Health in Sandema, Ghana

It’s hard to believe we are just past the half way point of this adventure. We have all decided we are going to extend our time in Ghana indefinitely (just kidding mom and dad!) But seriously, in just a mere three weeks we have explored and learned more than we ever anticipated.

After a relaxing weekend on the coast, we headed north to the bustling city of Kumasi. We were spoiled on our first night with a pizza dinner! Needless to say, we were ecstatic especially since we had been anticipating our usual banku (fermented maize) and dried fish stew! The next morning we attended an educational Q & A session with two nurses from the Kumasi Teaching Hospital and a medical student named Mark. We discussed the main challenges that Ghana’s health system is working on such as sanitation, water, pollution, malaria, hepatitis and HIV/AIDS.

Beyond the health education we received from this meeting, we were all inspired by Mark. He is an inspiring young man who is a part of the Horizons Children’s Centre family, our long time partners. Mark is one of the most motivated and intelligent people I have ever met. While attending medical school he has managed to find the time to start Candle Light, an organization focusing on enhancing the educational opportunities for young children in the Builsa District. I don’t know if the man ever sleeps! It was truly a blessing to be in his presence.

After this presentation and a previous meeting with the National AIDS Control Program (NACP), we felt prepared to meet with the Kaleo Area Women Development Association (KAWDA). KAWDA is an NGO founded by a Ghanaian couple providing resources to empower women who are facing challenges such as HIV. KAWDA provides food, counselling, microloans, and financial support for medical treatment for more than 70 women. As a group, we traveled to villages tucked in between lush greenery and dirt roads to conduct home visits with women who are living with HIV. The first woman we visited ran halfway down the street to greet each of us with a warm hug and a huge smile. She was absolutely glowing with positivity. It was evident how much she appreciated the support from KAWDA just by the way she embraced our visit. She opened our eyes to the stigma of being HIV positive in a small community and how she copes with various social issues.
But we were soon off to Sandema! We all fell in love with the town in a matter of minutes. This small but welcoming town has one main road that is lined with overlapping trees. We spent our first day exploring the place we would all call home for the next 10 days. It was awesome to meet and have dinner with the West Africa Discovery group and the boys of Horizons Children’s Centre.

We started our volunteer placements in the Navrongo Hospital, Sandema District Hospital, G-Roots, and Ghana Medical Help. It was the first time in weeks that our family split apart to explore the health landscape of northern Ghana. Many of us spent time shadowing nurses, physician’s assistants, and doctors in these hospitals. It is incredible to see how these practitioners provide health care in such different conditions that we are used to in the Western world.

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We gained insight into the challenges of providing public health care to rural environments compared to the urban areas. Some of our group traveled to the farming areas with the organization G-roots to learn how agriculture directly relates to health. Others have visited rural hospitals to assess how the lack of medical supplies has affected health care. The gravity of these experiences have humbled each of us and enabled us to understand the Ghanaian culture in an optimistic point of view.

Our time in Sandema is also special because we have had to opportunity to get to know the incredible boys from Horizons Children’s Centre (HCC). HCC has created a family of brothers who were previously in vulnerable situations. We were invited to have dinner with the boys this past week and personally, it was one of the best nights I’ve had in Ghana. After we enjoyed our stew and rice and the boys enjoyed their banku, the show began. The boys sang us songs, drummed for us and we all danced. The laughter was contagious. It was an evening that I will never forget. I was inspired by the boys’ positivity, politeness and intelligence.

Our new found family at the Horizons Children's Centre

Our new found family at the Horizons Children’s Centre

We have just a few days in Sandema before our Independent Travel Time begins. It will be bittersweet to leave a place that was so easy to call home, but we are excited to explore even more.

Much love to all,
Ashleigh