Saturday, March 24, 2012

Today we finished up packing before breakfast while a few enjoyed one last early morning run in Ghana.  It will be interesting not to hear the smiling children pointing and  yelling out “bruni, bruni!” (white person), or the women and men who run alongside imitating the run of the brunis.  Before we left our hosts, Rev. Andoh and his family, at Pure Word Chapel, we joined him in a circle of prayer where he asked for safe travels and thanked us for our time and willingness to help the community.  We sang Amazing Grace.  I think that’s what got the water works flowing for most of us!  The sound was amazingly powerful (despite my lack of singing ability) and very moving as we stood in a circle holding hands.

We finally bid farewell to the community health workers and thanked them for all of their help, enthusiasm and humor.  Once all packed up, we headed off to the Cape Coast to tour Elmina Castle.  Elmina was built in 1482 by the Portuguese and served as a trading post on the Gulf of Guinea but later became one of the largest sources of the Atlantic slave trade. It was unfathomable for most of us to imagine what it would have been like as a captured prisoner: crammed in a dark cell with no room to sit or lie down; stepping in your own feces; not knowing when you’ll have food to eat; forgetting what the sun looks and feels like and hoping death will take you before the soldiers do.

On a lighter note, the view from the castle was amazing!  You could see the local fisherman coming in from sea and the carpenters building the wooden fishing boats on the beach.

After emptying out our pockets at the Elmina gift stores getting drums, clay jewelry, and batik clothing, we headed to the Coconut Grove Beach Resort for lunch where we finally got a chance to start decompressing.  Though most of us agreed that the food was not up to par with Enoch’s and the rest of the kitchen staff’s cooking from the week, we enjoyed the ocean breeze and good conversation.  A few of us even tested out the ocean and tried to compete with the futbol skills of the local Ghanaian boys in a beachside futbol game.

After a sufficient workout of getting our butts kicked in the game, we headed to the airport.  Regardless of the traffic and crazy Ghanaian driving (including some hardcore off-roading in our bus) we made it to the airport in time and sped through customs without too much difficulty.

Now safe and sound back in New England, as we adjust to the time change and attempt to rest our brains, we reflect on what we accomplished over the week:

•    Over 6 days of clinic at three different sites (Pure Word Chapel, Mpintsu, and Kansa)

•     We saw about 300 patients over the course of the week!

•    Setting up clinic in the rurual villiage of Mpintsu was a first for UNE. Though there were definitely challenges that arose working in the new space, we were able to see over 100 patients in two days!

•     Our budget allowed us to enroll almost 40 patients AND their families in health insurance for a year!

•    Thirteen healthcare providers, faculty, and students came back with a new awareness of Ghanaian culture and healthcare that will hopefully lend a hand in understanding the importance of providing the most appropriate care to patients of all backgrounds.  The trip offered many memorable experiences that I am sure we will all be talking about for a very long time (a shout our to Jen for making this wonderful journey possible for all of us!).

Meagan Chandler, RN

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