Cathryn Siegrist - Alternative Spring Break, Public Health in Ghana
I am an undergraduate student at the University of New Mexico, and I have always had a great desire to travel the world and care for others. However, being a full time student makes it difficult to find time to travel, so when I learned that Projects Abroad offered an Alternative Spring Break in Ghana doing a Public Health project I has beyond excited for the opportunity!
This was my first time going out of the country and traveling on my own, so it was an incredible experience for me! I learned so much about the culture of Ghana, about medical care, and about myself in the short time I was there.
There were three different components to our Public Health project which included dressing wounds in a leprosy camp, general medical check-ups for children at orphanages, and teaching health education at a local school. All of these were great experiences and gave me insight into different aspects of public health.
Visiting a leprosy camp
My time at the leprosy camp was really humbling and gave me an opportunity to actually perform medical care on the people there. We visited the leprosy camp three times throughout the week. When we got there, we had to prepare the gauze, disinfectant, and antibiotics that we used to dress their wounds.
Each person in the group had a chance to help someone and treat any open wounds the people had. It amazes me the amount of humility the people living in this camp must have. I can’t imagine how it must be to sit and have a foreign stranger come and medically work with you. It takes so much trust for them to allow us to help them, and I am truly honored to have been given this experience.
Working in orphanages
We went to a few different orphanages to do general health check-ups on the kids there. We would examine them from head to toe to make sure they were healthy.
One of my favorite experiences in Ghana was the time we spent at a school for kids that were 2-6 years old. All of the kids were absolutely adorable, and I fell in love with them! Here, we were actually able to spend some time with kids and play with them.
When we first arrived, they all sang songs for us that they had learned with their teacher. When we were doing the checks on them, they kept coming around to be checked again because they thought it was so fun. As they said goodbye to us, they came running out with us. They all started waving bye to us as our taxi drove away. These kids definitely stole my heart!
Health education at schools
On one of the afternoons, we went to one of the schools and talked to them about Hepatitis B. Our group split up to talk about different aspects of it including transmission, the signs and symptoms, and general information.
We talked and wrote things on the blackboard then the Projects Abroad staff member that was with us repeated it to them in their local language. When we were done teaching, we asked them questions and gave out candy when they got the answer right. The students were thrilled about this!
The culture in Ghana is so amazing - everyone is so lively and friendly. I am so privileged that I was able to take part in this amazing opportunity!
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