Chandler Hinson - Alternative Spring Break, Public Health in Ghana
I am currently an undergraduate student at Georgetown University, majoring in International Health. I had previously travelled to other countries, providing medical services. When I learned about an opportunity to travel to Ghana to provide medical services in the community, I immediately signed up because it was another opportunity to do what I love most.
I signed up for this project because of the variety of activities that I would be doing while in Ghana: education in schools, addressing wounds in orphanages and schools, and planning and conducting community outreach sessions where we provided basic primary care to the locals. I learned a lot while in Ghana; and the best part of the trip was the ability to use what I learned in my science and international health classes and apply it in real life situations.
Volunteering in Ghana
After 24 hours of traveling, I was ready to meet my host family and my fellow volunteers. After retrieving my bags, I walked out of the airport and could not miss the volunteer coordinator with his big Project Abroad sign and a smiling face.
After I met the other volunteers, the volunteer coordinator took us to a local hostel where we spent the night. The hostel was very clean and I was so excited I was able to use a shower. While in the hostel, I was in a room with a local soccer team – I was the only non-Ghanaian. At 9pm everyone except for me bowed on the ground and began to pray towards Mecca. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do, so I quietly watched as they prayed to Allah. After their prayers, they returned to their bed and started laughing at me – one of them asked, “So I assume you are Christian”. After that, they began to tell me all about their lives and they all had wonderful stories – it was incredibly interesting to hear their stories.
The next day, after a delicious breakfast provided by the Projects Abroad staff, I headed out with the other volunteers to Cape Coast, the area where I worked during my time in Ghana. Another Projects Abroad staff member personally drove us from Accra to Cape Coast and dropped us off at the Projects Abroad office.
I felt very prepared about the culture and my work before leaving the office after our first meeting. After planning for the next day’s work, another Projects Abroad staff member drove us to our host family and showed us around Cape Coast. It was very comforting getting to know the city and being shown around by a staff member. After touring the city, we were taken back to meet our host family. Our host mother was there waiting for us with open arms. She was so loving and caring. Her four sons were also there waiting to meet us. They made me feel like I was a part of their family. I continue to communicate with them over Facebook and keep up with what is going on in Cape Coast.
My Public Health placement
While in Ghana, I provided service in three ways: education in schools, addressing wounds in orphanages and schools, and planning and conducting community outreach sessions where we provided basic primary care to the locals.
Educating children was probably the most challenging out of the three activities. The children were always energetic and playful – it was sometimes a challenge to keep them under control, but it was something I learned to do. Before I taught a new class, I always introduced myself and told them were I was from; and after I told them I studied in Washington DC, they wanted me to persuade Obama to visit Ghana. The curriculum I taught was about oral hygiene.
After teaching the students about oral hygiene, the other volunteers and I examined the children and applied medication to any major bruises or scratches. We made sure to clean out the cut with alcohol; and after that, we wrapped bruises to make sure dust and dirt could not get into the wound.
My favorite part of the trip was the community outreach programs that the other volunteers and I planned. We provided basic primary care to the communities we served: blood pressure, BMI, malaria testing, blood typing and blood sugar level. We recorded the person’s information on a piece a paper so that he or she had their information in the case of an emergency. In addition to recording their information, we also informed the patients on what their numbers meant. For example, if someone had high blood pressure, we informed that person he or she had high blood pressure and they needed to lower it by eating healthier and being more active.
I was really touched by the people we met – they were always so thankful for our work and continually showed their appreciation. I remember one lady came up to me and thanked me for my work and informed me (at the age of 54) she had never had her blood pressure taken before. Those moments I will remember forever.
I constantly reminisce about all the wonderful times I had in Ghana and all of the opportunities to learn. Even though I was nervous exiting the plane in Ghana, if I had the opportunity again, I would hop back on a plane and head back to my African home.
Read more about Alternative Spring Break Public Health in Ghana.