Published: July 11th 2008July 11th 2008
500 calorie packs of squishy stuff. Not sure what it's made of exactly. Two of these a day for 5 weeks turns a really malnourished child into a healthy "plump" child. Amazing!
I’ve spent this week in the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) office. I was able to speak with several of the Heads of different propongrams (Education, Water & Sanitation, and Health) and get a better feel for what they do. On Monday and Tuesday, I went with the group of Americans and Thomas to see a few of the different programs. Education
: The main coment of this sector is the school feeding program. CRS provides food (from the US and funded by USAID) to over 900 schools in the 3 northern regions of Ghana. We went to one school and got to talk with some of the kids as they were eating lunch. The food they got looked like something in between oatmeal and rice, but it looked a LOT better than the porridge I saw the kids eat in Uganda. The Kindergarten 1 class sang us a song which was really adorable. There is also a program to give girls food to take home if they attend 90% of their classes in a month. This is an incentive for parents to send their daughters to school rather than making them stay home to help get food and water for the
School Feeding Program
These charts help the community members who are illiterate figure out what rations to use for the food. The women were really excited when CRS made these charts because it really helped them understand better.
family. Food is also given to special schools for the blind, deaf, and disabled. Additionally, training is given to teachers to help them give their students a better education. Water & Sanitation
: These projects are fairly new, but they have made many boreholes in communities that have no access to water or have to walk hours a day to get very dirty water. [Sidenote: I think I read somewhere this past year in school that access to clean water would eliminate something like 70% of diseases!] They also have educational sessions on health and hygiene. Agriculture
: We went to an agri-business farm where someone gave a very nice presentation about their work. They have microfinance types of loans and teach the farmers sustainable ways of farming and help them to work together in communities to increase the yield of their crops. Health
: I found it extremely interesting to talk with the Head of Health Programs because of my Nutrition & Health Promotion minor. They have several major programs which focus on mother and child nutrition, malnutrition rehab, HIV/AIDS, and a safety net initiative. I was thrilled to hear about a ready-to-use formula that they distribute called Plumpy'nut.
Shekinah is a Hebrew word that means "dwelling presence of God."
This was the main building, but there are several others for consulting rooms and other tasks.
I wrote about this in a paper this past year so it was exciting to hear about it being put into action and that it really does work miracles. I also got see some of the actual packets and the Head of Health offered to give me one but I decided the kids need it just a bit more than me :) I’m hoping to be able to see some of the health programs in the next two weeks.
We went to the Shekinah clinic (sponsored by CRS with USAID food and other supplies) and spoke with a visiting doctor from Baltimore and some of the staff. Got a tour of their facilities as well. Dr. Abdulai, who started the clinic, was a prominent doctor in the Ghanaian health community but gave it all up to start this clinic which provides all services and medication free to the very poor. He is somewhat shunned in the medical community now because they just don't understand why someone would do this work without pay. The #1 mission of the clinic is to show the patients love and respect. These are some of the poorest people who would be turned away at
Surgery Room at Shekinah
They do amputations and lots of general surgical procedures.
regular hospitals and clinics, so it's a blessing to them just to have their concerns heard and to be treated like human beings. All of the staff at Shekinah is volunteers (some doctors from developed countries come for a few months at a time to volunteer and there are also Ghanaians who have been working there for over 10 years). They have very nice buildings for hospice care, a surgery room, a fully equipped lab (but they don't have anyone trained to run it and all lab techs seem to want money to work there). So if you know someone who is experienced in this area and wants to volunteer for a little bit of time, it'd be a great place.
All in all, I've gotten to know a lot more about CRS and believe it's a wonderful organization that's done a lot to help the poor around the world. If you’d like more info about CRS, check out these websites. I love their guiding principles.
CRS Guiding Principles
On a sad note, USAID's funding will be stopping at the end of September so about half of CRS Ghana's staff just got
Huts for the patients
Communities build these houses for people to stay in when they come to get medical treatment. Since all the medical care is free, the communities are in charge of maintenance and upkeep of the homes.
This is just one circle of many. There were probably over 50 huts like these.
a 3 month's notice and will be laid off. All of the school feeding and other programs which receive funding from USAID will be terminated. This is extremely disheartening because many kids will stop going to school and others in the vulnerable communities (HIV/AIDS, TB, the disabled) will not be receiving food anymore. USAID says that they have reevaluated the countries that need their aid and Ghana is no longer on the list. I still haven't figured out if USAID has decreased the amount they are giving overall or if Ghana has just improved much more than other countries and therefore does not qualify anymore. Regardless, I don't think that the positive development Ghana has achieved signifies that they should stop receiving aid because a lot of the development is not fully sustainable yet. If you're interested, stay posted for more news about ways you can advocate to our government about changing policies.
There are more photos below