Amanda Helt - Public Health in Ghana
My love for travelling and nursing developed while I was completing my Bachelor of Science nursing degree. Within days of officially graduating, I was on my way to Ghana for six weeks to participate in the Public Health Project there. The decision to go turned out to be one of the milestones in my life; my experience in Ghana proved to be one of the most sensational and rewarding!
My Host Family
I lived with a host family comprised of a loving elderly couple, their grandchild, and the kind and thoughtful house keeper. With open arms my host family welcomed me not only into their home, but also into their lives. Each member of the family continuously went out of their way to ensure that I was always comfortable, safe, and happy.
They cooked a variety of Ghanaian and western style dishes for my housemates and me, and were always eager to hear our opinions on the different foods they had prepared. Before and after meals, the family welcomed us to sit and chat openly with them, allowing and answering any questions we had regarding Ghanaian culture.
They considered us a part of the family, so much so that they even offered to take us to their local church with them for a service! Living with a host family absolutely provides an excellent understanding of the local culture as it fully immerses you into the life of a Ghanaian! It was wonderful to have such a comfortable home base, especially to come home to after a hard day of work!
Public Health Project
Every day we would meet and travel together by the local transportation called ‘tro-tros’ to underserviced communities to provide basic healthcare. Our daily routine included screening the children for malaria and treating the children’s wounds and ringworm infections. Once we had provided care to the children, we would counsel the parents and teachers on common signs of infection and the importance of preventing and monitoring the children for the signs and symptoms indicating infection. We would also test adults’ vital signs, capillary blood glucose levels, and hepatitis B status. When we were finished screening and treating the adults, we would provide one-on-one health counselling.
This project provided excellent insight into the importance of community health as we were able to view, firsthand, several health issues and the impact of these issues not only on an individual level, but also on a community level as well. We were able to observe how many of the people living in these rural communities were unable to obtain an education and an income, and were therefore living in unbefitting physical environments, where many lacked even the most basic necessities.
Regardless of the challenges, Projects Abroad staff members were always there for support and encouragement of the volunteers and were excellent in assisting myself and my team members on how to approach difficult subjects with a culturally suitable tactic.
Each and every day we provided care, I felt like I was making a difference in the lives of Ghanaians. To see the animated smile on the face of a child after receiving treatment, or to hear the gracious “Medaase”, meaning thank-you from an elderly woman you have just spent several minutes with providing health teaching, is invaluable and so extremely satisfying to know that your time and efforts were meaningful.
While the public health project filled most of my time in Ghana, working Monday to Friday, it was nice to have the weekends off to travel and to see and learn more about the county! I was fortunate to have an amazing group of volunteers in Ghana with me, which made my travels that much more incredible! I was able to thoroughly explore three of Ghana’s major cities including Kumasi, Accra, and Cape Coast, all of which now hold a special space in my heart!
One of my most memorable weekend trips was to Cape Coast where we explored Elmina Castle and learned the history of the slave trade, visited Kakum National Park where we walked through the rainforest across a canopy suspended approximately 40m from the ground, and spent a few fun filled nights at Oasis beach resort mingling with the locals.
The weekend travels really promote a well-rounded trip with a good balance of work and play! The friendships and the memories made on this trip will last a life time! It was an incredible adventure that will never be forgotten!