MAREN GLOMSROD (HALDEN, NORWAY)
As a part of my studies, I’m obliged to do 4 weeks of medical practice during the summer holiday. After a long summer work I had saved enough money and the idea of having my practice in a foreign country came to mind. I’ve always wanted to do same volunteer work, so these two combined seemed like a great idea. I searched the internet and get in touch with some different organizations. GCS was the one that sounded most organized and excited to have me, so I sent my application and a few weeks later entered Accra Airport.
For my program Basic Health Care I was placed on the Health Care Center in Kpetoe, Volta Region. My practice there has had both positive and negative parts. The warm and welcoming staff, Ms Elizabeth in particular, has made the day’s flyby. At all the wards I was greatly welcomed to watch their work, and when asked questions they answered as good as possible. I’ve learned and seen many things I would never see in Norway, and I highly appreciate they would let me stay there for 3 weeks.
At the health care center, there are actually no doctors, but Ms Elizabeth works as a medical Assistant and consult the patients. From Norway, I’m used to more investigations and tests before an antibiotics etc are prescribed, but here it’s more like ‘let’s prescribe a few medicines that will cover most of diseases brought to the clinic. I now see that they do the best they can with the limited resources at their disposable. Still it’s a big difference in non-material’ practice like doctor-patience-confidentiality, the way of treating/talking to/about patients (like, she’s dum, she’s fat in front of the patient etc) and the effectiveness of work. The effective part I’ve learned is just a part of the Ghanaian culture. Ghana-time-no hurry, no stress.
My best days at the clinic was when I saw a delivery, we had a lot of patients in the OPD and I saw a lot of different cases, and when I got to help out a bit at the lab. I didn’t work as much as I’d expect because most Ghanaians see a ‘white person’ as unique and exceptional; and should not be allowed to help in things considered filth but should be worshipped instead. This is another nature and culture of Ghanaians.
I also helped out at a Polyclinic in Ho with lepers; the enormous happiness changing their dressings, giving them some snacks or went to the market to buy food is something all volunteers should experience not only the ones on this program. I have many good memories from all of my work, and will remember the staff at Kpetoe Health Care Center as long as I live. I for sure learned a lot, both medicine and other things like openness, friendliness and etc. I’m very happy I could contribute by donating a delivery bed, a fetal monitor, a sterilizer and a BP apparatus. I hope the items would be helpful and will be used with care.
My home stay has been a great experience. All the people were so welcoming and friendly, and that definitely lifted my Ghana experience! I’ve learned the fetch-and-pour method, a few words of Ewe, a lot about the culture, tasted some different Ghanaian cuisines and had great time hanging out with the kids. I hope I can go back to visit them some day, and I recommend you to keep placing volunteers there. Mr. Godwin is a buy and hardworking man, and unfortunately he’s been on and off during my big part of stay in Kpetoe, because of that I haven’t seen him much; but we have still been able to put windows and doors at the school, paint them and buy 50 desks. I hope you would continue to work with his Orphanage and school.
As for the negative part: The thing that has been a source of irritation and frustration is the feeling of being a ‘walking wallet’. Daily questions from street people, and children like ‘what will you buy for me’? ‘Give me money’ etc; this I was told by GCS members to expect but it was too much for me and embarrassing especially if I had to turn them down was not easy. This is something you as an incoming volunteer should expect and be flexible in taking your own decision. I also learnt that, it is not rude to turn people down with some questions not friendly to you.
I think GCS did a great job welcoming me to Ghana and giving me all the support needed to complete my volunteer work. You have all been so friendly and helpful, so I never felt ‘alone’. For example, you visit and call me most often. You’re a young organization with lots of dreams and goals, so I hope you will continue with your work. I had a lot of fun with you guys, so hope we will keep in touch and maybe see each other soon☺.
…Please request for my contact and I will be glad to share more with you!