Written by Kali Burnell and Sarindi Kumari, 2014 West Africa Global Health Program Leaders.
Sweat. Shaky calves. Team building. And an unreal mountain landscape. What do all of these things have in common? Just our 2014 Global Health Early Summer team getting into the groove of all that is Ghana!
A very warm welcome!
After a stuffy six hour tro tro ride, and a ferry across the largest man-made lake, Lake Volta, we finally arrived at the small village of Wli, home to West Africa’s tallest waterfalls. We were greeted by our friend Annie, who welcomed us into her home for the weekend. Wli, only minutes away from the Togo-Ghana border is a natural gem: mountains carpeted in lush tropical forests, animal biodiversity that is boasted by the nation, and a bright blanket of stars that makes it the perfect getaway.
Wli set the perfect stage to getting our program started. We had our program orientation on our first night there, in candlelight and under the stars. The following day, we embarked upon trekking one of Ghana’s natural wonders– the waterfalls. Hiking up the Wli mountains for three hours, we were blown away by the beauty the mountains offered us. It was most certainly a challenge for most but well worth it. We enjoyed a picnic at the falls in between soaking up the scenery and the extremely rewarding swim in the fresh water pools.
The next day, we kicked off our journey back to the hustling bustling city of Accra where we set out to explore some of the most common local foods during our scavenger food hunt. We got to explore and enjoy dishes like fufu, banku, rice balls, and more. The following few days were most certainly educational to say the least, we felt more than privileged to meet with national control programs for HIV and Tuberculosis, go behind the scenes at one of the largest teaching hospitals in all of Africa, and discuss issues of sanitation and poverty stricken areas within Ghana.
Finishing up presentations on personal and dental hygiene at a Cape Coast primary school with HEPENS.
Many sweat rags later, we made our trek to Cape Coast to kick off our first round of placements with Health Protection and Environmental Sanitation (HEPENS), a Ghanaian NGO focused on public health promotion. We were lucky enough to also experience what it is to live in a Ghanaian home, as we were invited to stay with the director of HEPENS in his home. Our first task as HEPENS volunteers was to organize an interactive talk on personal and dental hygiene to primary school students. School outreach proved to be a fun and rewarding experience as we were able to get them excited about health through our presentations, including an infamous body washing song created by HEPENS that is making waves across the city’s primary schools.
Recycling with HEPENS.
The following day, we were able to act on the knowledge we had gained from the presentations on sanitation in Accra, and we headed to the coastline to do a beach cleanup with the HEPENS staff. Though it seemed to be an overwhelming task at first, we were soon joined by some locals who helped us collect plastics from the shore. After two hours of hardwork, we were able to collect 10 large bags of plastics, which were then sent to a local recycling center.
It’s been busy, busy, busy and we’ve still got lots of work to do!
Until the next time…. Keep it real! 2014 West Africa Global Health