Published: May 1st 2010May 1st 2010
I'm sorry about the 3 week hiatus (such an American, and apparently Ghanaian term!) since my last blog! I'm not really sure where to begin with the update but, as most of you know, Becka is now safely back in England and so she will no doubt fill you in on anything I miss.
Becka and I arrive in the King's Village about 3 weeks ago. For those of you that don't already know, the King's Village is a Christian project founded in the year 2000 by 58i, a Christian charity based at the Christian Centre Church in Nottingham. The King’s Village project includes a primary school, currently with 280 students, a nutritional centre, a water sanitation project and a medical centre/hospital. The King’s Village itself is about 45 minutes north of Tamale, a large-ish town in the Northern Region of Ghana.
Last time we updated our blog we were in Elmina, just west of Cape Coast and had visited the rope bridge in Kakum National Park. Wow that seems a long time ago! After leaving Elmina we took a 6 hour-long bus journey to Kumasi, the capital of the Ashanti kingdom (or Central Region) where we stayed with Pastor John Mahama, a contact through the King’s Village. We spent 2 night’s in Kumasi eating a lot of food, very generously served up by Pastor Mahama and his family, and visiting his church projects. The first project we visited was a school for street girls or those abandoned by their parents, where they learn practical skills that will enable them to make a living, mostly through selling cloth or food at the Kumasi market. The second project was a sort of pre-school for children under 5 years old. It was amazing to see the projects at work and play with the kids. I’ll try to post some photos once I get to the internet café (sadly I only have intermittent USB dongle-powered internet her which is slower than dial-up!). We then left Kumasi on the 8th of April and took the STC bus (basically an air-conditioned beauty) north to Tamale. The bus journey was due to take 6 hours but actually ended up taking 8 as the roads were so dicey! After being picked up from Tamale bus terminal and hitting the dirt roads we eventually arrived at the King’s Village.
During our first week at the King’s Village we had the obligatory introduction and tour of the 40-acre site and were in awe both at the current success of the project and the plans they have for the future. I spent most of my time in the hospital whilst Becka spent her first week at the nutrition centre. My first week actually started on the Sunday (we arrived on a Thursday night) when I was called by one of the 3 doctors and ask to join him in theatre to assist with 4 surgical cases (2 caesarean sections and 2 hernia repairs) - a good start! Becka went to church and had her first experience of a 4-hour African church service!
During the rest of our first week Becka and I struggled to get used to the crazy 40-degree heat (which wasn’t helped by our mostly broken A/C - though we’re lucky to have one at all) and the limited local cuisine but really enjoyed working in the hospital and weighing babies! Before coming to Ghana we had a vague idea of what to expect but, as always, until you’re faced with severely malnourished babies, children suffering with malaria and local ideas of witchcraft and tribal traditions you don’t really understand what’s going on. It’s been quite shocking seeing emaciated babies and dying children but great to feel part of a team trying to help them.
After our first week of hard work we decided that we deserved a holiday (really it was because Becka was leaving the following week!) and so went on safari in Mole (pronounced Mole-ay) National Park over the weekend. We turned up on the Friday morning at 5am to get the ~4 hour bus from Tamale to discover that it wasn’t running because the roads were ‘too bad’ (they really are!). At the station we met Edem, a Ghanaian from Accra, who was also headed for the national park and so we agreed that we would take one of the King’s Village vehicles and leave the following day (Saturday) and give her a lift. We left the following morning, again at 5am and took the crazy, crazy road to Larabanga. About half way though our journey the bull-bars on the front of the pickup truck fell off, as the road was sooooo bumpy! It was 5 hours of bad-vibrations! The journey was worth it though as we had a great weekend on safari (one of which was a walking safari) and some great banter with Edem, our new Ghanaian friend.
During our second (and last for Becka) week in the village Becka spent her mornings weighing and measuring the school children and teaching English, drama and dental hygiene (i.e. how to brush teeth!) in the school whilst I continued to work in the medical centre. On the Monday we both joined Norma (a guy, in fact a very funny guy), the nutrition centre manager, as he visited the local villages and followed-up some youngn’s he’d treated over the past few months. It was our first experience of true local life and was like stepping back in time. Almost every round-house building was made from clay bricks and thatched roofs (basically ‘mud huts’) and arranged in compounds where entire generations of families live together. The local people keep cattle, goats and lambs not for food or to sell at market but instead for prestige. I was told yesterday that a single cow would sell for about £250, which would really transform the locals’ lives, but instead they choose prestige. It’s quite sad really as often the adults will neglect their children, feed them inadequate diets and have them miss school so they can farm, just in order to maintain their position in society. We saw many severely malnourished children, encouraged the parents to bring them to the nutrition centre (often excuses were made) and gave them what food we could.
I spent the rest of the week in and out of surgery, on the ward rounds and in the out-patient clinic and, for some reason I’m still yet to understand, getting my left arm cut to shreds by a ceiling fan (ok, maybe a slight over exaggeration!)! On Wednesday (21st April) night I was walking under a low fan in our house putting a t-shirt on (foolish I know) and caught my left forearm in the ceiling fan! It resulted in a couple of minor-ish cuts which both needed stitches! I didn’t really mind except that it meant I couldn’t scrub in to theatre, and so couldn’t operate!
The next few days were Becka’s last in Ghana and she set off on the first leg of her journey home on the Saturday morning. It was really sad to see her go and things have been very different over the last week without her.
During the past week I have continued to work in the hospital and also started teaching science at the school. It’s great to be able to mix things up and help out with different projects - I’m just trying to keep myself as busy as possible. Things have been a little slower this week as the rains are starting and it seems that most Ghanaians either stay home or prepare their farms when it rains! For instance, not one patient turned up for their operation this Thursday, as it seems that they prioritize farming over their health! One good thing that comes with the rain, however, is a more manageable temperature! I’ve been able to walk between my house and the medical centre without sweating quite so many buckets!
Anyways, I think this blog is long enough! I will try and update it more often in future with more bitesize type blogs! And if I’m lucky enough to get to the internet café in Tamale I will try and upload some photos. Love to all!