When I first got of the plane in Accra, Ghana, I could not have anticipated the profound effect this trip would have on me. The first experience that embraced me in Accra, ( besides the overwhelming heat which I wasn’t used to coming from Canada) was the warm welcome from Nyami, the driver that picked me up from the airport. He took those first few minutes to introduce me to the program, and what would then become a recurring theme throughout the trip, that famous Ghanaian hospitality. After finding out a bit about me and my aspirations, he quickly gave me a name day and introduced me to the jewels of interpersonal interactions in Ghana such as the tricky to get but fun to do snapping handshake. Despite the jarring differences I witnessed between Ghana and Canada, I quickly felt at home in Ghana because of my kind host family that I would be very sad to leave in 2 months.
My placement was at the Ghana Police Hospital where I was put on rotations through the various wards in the hospital, from the outpatient department or OPD ward (emergency ward), surgery, female ward, paediatrics, ob/gyn and the rest. I originally planned to stay only a month in Ghana, but after two weeks in the hospital, I quickly extended my stay by a month. Not only did I get to do some technical things I would never get to do in Canada (such as giving injections, assisting with IV lines, and following doctors on ward rounds), but I felt as if I was real member of the health care team by the level of respect given to me as if I was true colleague. The degree of professionalism as well as team work displayed by the employees of the police hospital truly made my short time there an enriching one. I got to see things I have never seen before such as c-sections, hysterectomies, hernia repairs, and amputations to name a few. I got to also read up and see patients who had diseases I had never come across and perhaps never come across again such as typhoid fever, malaria, elephantiasis, colon cancer, diabetic sores, gangrene, and much more. If you want to get in on the action, it all depends on the enthusiasm and dedication you show! You really do influence how your placement will go!
Those on medical placements also had a chance to participate in weekly medical outreaches to orphanages in the Greater Accra region. Here you got to realize the true impact of your volunteerism. Cleaning the scrapes and cuts of these children who would have a smile on their faces despite everything they had to endure taught me so much about what true perseverance and resilience is. It is not about what life hands you but how you handle it that develops and shows your character and what marks the difference between one who is happy and one who is defeated by life.
It wasn’t all work in Ghana! If there is one thing people in Accra know, its how to have to good time. With the various events to do after work from the weekly quiz nights at the Projects Abroad office in Pig Farm ( one of the numerous personality-filled neighbourhoods in Accra), to the ethnic restaurants, bars and clubs, there was always something to do! If shopping is your thing, the arts market, makola market and Oxford street were prime places to bargain and get deals. Weekends were filled with trips through the beautiful locales of the many regions of Ghana.
My two months in Ghana hold some of my most profound memories of my life thus far. This trip in Ghana fully immersed me in the culture and really showed me what it meant to be a Ghanian. The food was excellent, the people were fantastic, the work was rewarding and the time there was unforgettable. Ghana is a place full of untold beauty in not only the sights but the people. What you will take back home that will be the most important won’t be the souvenirs and the pictures but the experiences and the feeling that Ghana gives you. Ghana one love indeed!