I spent two amazing weeks in Ghana, volunteering with IVHQ Turquoise Program at the Senya-Beraku Health Clinic.
Evans (who is your POC for the turquoise program) met me at the airport, on time and exactly where my instructions told me he would be. I had an obnoxiously large and heavy suitcase that I had filled with medical supplies for my work at the clinic. Evans did not hesitate to help me with it and lugged it down the street until we found a taxi. When we got to the volunteer house in Madina, he showed me around and introduced me to the staff. After I was settled, Evans helped to get my phone working with multiple package options with prices for pre-paid SIM cards. I was stressed because I had no local currency to pay him for the SIM card at that moment, he assured me we would find a reliable ATM in the morning and got my phone working that night anyway. Half way through my stay in Ghana, my phone ran low on data and Evans was able to help me again.
Getting to my placement in Senya was chaotic and long but Evans was so helpful and professional, explained everything to me along the way and answered all of my questions. Everyone stares at you, and tries to get your attention because you are clearly a foreigner, but I never felt unsafe with Evans, as he doesn’t let them harass you.
Once we reached the volunteer house in Senya, Evans introduced me to my local point of contact, Francis. We went over any unanswered questions and/or concerns before Evans left. Later I met Stephen and Seth, who were also my local people to contact. Evans continued to check in via text or phone call to make sure everything was going well and was so fast to respond if I ever needed him for something. Francis or Stephen stopped at the house almost every morning to check that everything was going well also.
When I started at the clinic, I was quickly thrown into the mix. I am a registered nurse so I was able to help with whatever they needed, though another girl with me was still in nursing school and also had no limitations. The staff was amazingly friendly and all very willing to teach. On my first day, I rode in the back of an ambulance to help transport a patient to the closest hospital about an hour away. I took vital signs/established initial patient rapport into the clinic, performed dressing changes, administered medications via IV and injection and helped with whatever else they needed.
I saw many people struggle to pay for care or the treatment that they needed. I saw people come in with malaria, in constant misery. I also noticed that many people who did not have health insurance would wait at least three days or more before they came into the clinic. Unfortunately, this always lead to a much bigger problem once they were finally seen.
I wanted to do more for the community that I was temporarily living in. Evans had told me on the first day that some volunteers have organized free malaria outreach projects in the past and that if I wanted to, he could help me get it started. So I started a fundraiser online to raise money for a free malaria outreach, provide health insurance to people who could not afford it and get some basic medical supplies for the clinic. With the help of Seth, the Chief of the clinic, Leticia (a local nurse) and many others, I was able to organize a free clinic in Senya to test and treat 400 people for malaria.
Trying to move money for such a large project was a little tricky but Evans came with me and we went to bank after bank until we finally were able to pull out the money we needed. After, Evans took me to the Accra market where I could find medical supplies for the clinic. I honestly could not have done any of it without him because I was crunched for time and had no idea where to go or how to do it.
The day of the outreach, I had so much help and everything went so smooth. Seth, Francis, Stephen and Evans all worked very hard to help me from start to finish. Leticia and other local nurses were there working all day as well.
I never felt unsafe or alone while I was in Ghana; someone from IVHQ was always there if I needed them. Meals were always on time and any issues I had were quickly resolved through Evans, Seth, Francis or Stephen. I started to feel ill after the first week and everyone was so attentive. Francis stopped at the house to check on me, Evans called and text me and kept tabs on me every day until I was feeling better. Everyone genuinely wants you to have a great experience so if there is any problem, please let someone know.
Senya is a small village, so finding things to do after ‘work’ was a little difficult. However, there was a bar close to our house, we walked around the village for street snacks and there are two great beaches close by that we went to often as well. Getting around was easy too, either by Tro Tro or Taxi, if we wanted to go to another town. One weekend all of the volunteers met up at Kokrobite beach, which was really fun, and I suggest you do, if you can all plan it. Evans also is the weekend master planner when it comes to anything Cape Coast and can set everything up for you if you wish to go.
I made so many great friends and wonderful memories during my short stay in Ghana. I had an overwhelming amount of support while I was there and if I ever needed something or wasn’t sure who to ask, I would call Evans and he would help me figure out who I needed to talk to or what needed to be done. Everyone was so great, but Evans went above and beyond every single day and is extremely willing to help you with anything. It was so hard to leave, and actually, I am already planning my return
Packing Tip: I never wore my running shoes; they just took up space in my bag. I wore flip flops and TOMS style shoes my entire stay. The heat is tolerable; the humidity is what gets to you. STAY HYDRATED. I brought Pedialyte ® (ORS) drink mix packets to add to my water and they are GOLD; especially if you are not feeling well. I also brought my own personal pharmacy and had almost any medication you could think of, and I am so grateful that I did. Pack half the amount of clothes and twice the amount of baby wipes that you think you will need. Head lamp/flashlight was essential. Small backpack for traveling, big enough to hold your water and money and baby wipes was extremely handy. Bring a charged battery pack to charge your phone, because the power never fails to go out when your phone is about to die.