Benjamin Gompertz - Medicine in Ghana
Buying mangos on the side of the road, showering every morning by throwing buckets of cold water over ourselves, and playing football with what seemed like the whole village; my two-week Medicine High School Special in Ghana was not something I’ll soon forget.
Arriving in Ghana
The moment I arrived in Accra, I was struck by the dense hordes of people gathering outside the airport. I met with other volunteers doing the same project as me and after a hot night in a local hostel, we left the crowds of Accra and began the three-hour dive to Cape Coast. Despite breaking down and having to continue in another car with a different driver, we finally arrived in a town very different from the loud bustle of Accra, where we met with our host family.
My host family
My host family couldn’t have been more welcoming of their eight guests. They loved having us around, and were always asking if we needed help. They filled our bucket showers and washed our clothes, even though we offered to do these chores ourselves.
In the evenings, we relaxed by talking and playing cards with our host family until late in the night. On the day we arrived, we began a spontaneous football match with them and they were really good. They are some of the funniest people I’ve ever met and we all had lots of fun.
The family was very big. There were sons, nephews, nieces, and aunts; so many family members that we couldn’t keep track of how everyone was related. Even after a week, we were still meeting new people in the house! There were always visitors coming to the house and they all wanted to meet us. One evening, the family took us to local mass where there was singing and dancing for everyone. We were welcomed into the service by the pastor and everyone was happy to see us there.
From our host family’s home, we were picked up by our driver and Projects Abroad supervisors every morning to be taken to community outreaches, schools, hospital placements, or leprosy camps.
My Medicine placement
For us, the community outreaches made up the most of our volunteering work. We helped with testing for malaria and hepatitis B, as well as checking vitals and testing patients’ blood type. Every new community presented a new challenge. We had to adapt our system if a community didn’t have as many tables or chairs as we wanted. We had to keep looking for ways to make our visits more efficient.
We also worked at a school that looks after orphans. At this school, many were ill and had no family or place to go to outside the school. We came to dress wounds and treat infections. Many of the children had damaged feet because they didn’t have proper shoes and the school has very little resources to help them. Just having us there made them all so happy. When we arrived, they sat us down and performed singing and dancing to thank us for coming. All of the children wanted to know our names and get to know us.
We also went once a week to volunteer in a teaching hospital. We each got to choose a ward to work in for the day. I chose the female medical and male surgical wards. Being high school students, there wasn’t much that we could do for the nurses, but we were taught how to dress and undress wounds, which I got to practice on patients who needed to have leg amputations due to diabetes.
It was interesting to see how the nurses made the most of what they had, because their supplies were limited. All records had to be written because they had no computers. I had lots of fun talking to the nurses I was working with, who enjoyed showing me around their ward and introducing me to patients.
Leaving the host family was probably the most drawn-out and emotional farewell of my life. Having lived with my host family for two weeks, I had become one of the sons of the family. However, saying goodbye to the other volunteers may have been even worse. We had done everything together all day, every day for two weeks and had become like a family. With a hug, we agreed to come back and we left each other. Not long after my goodbyes, I boarded a plane and said my goodbyes to my beautiful second home, Ghana.