Sidra Ali - Medicine & Healthcare in Ghana
As winter break was approaching, I thought to myself what better way to spend it than volunteering. I could’ve easily volunteered at a local hospital but I wanted to create a bigger impact, I wanted to travel and see the world but at the same time change someone’s life. I began doing my research on places to volunteer and something caught my eye, Projects Abroad Ghana. I have always had a fascination with Africa so I called up my best friend and that is when we both decided, we are going to Ghana.
Fast forward to December, I had two final exams to take and I was off. Coming from New Jersey to Ghana in December, the weather hit me like a rock. I went from being in the tundra to being in heat and it felt awesome. I felt relieved walking out of the airport and seeing a man approach me with a Projects Abroad staff t-shirt, Nyame. Nyame reassured us that we wouldn’t want to leave once we got here and he was right.
The drive to Miss Felicia’s house was three hours from Accra in town called Cape Coast. Arriving to Miss Felicia’s house along with my best friend and another volunteer, we were eager to see our placement and what our host family was like. Downstairs, there were six rooms that could host up to 14 volunteers and upstairs is where we would eat and converse.
As days went by, I became closer to the other volunteers especially a girl from Belgium named Isabelle. It was eleven girls in one household, but we all became close and got along just fine. Miss Felicia was very warm and welcoming and reassured us that if we had any problems they would be fixed within no time. For instance, the outlet in my room wasn’t working and I told her. The next day I came home from work and the electrician was here to fix it.
Orientation day, we headed to the Projects Abroad office where we had medical training and an over view of what we were going to do for the next two weeks. The first day of work began the next day at 8am after breakfast where we traveled to a community outreach to do various tests such as blood pressure, glucose, BMI, body fat and malaria. At 12pm we went home for lunch and after lunch we went somewhere else, depending on what was on schedule for that day. Once a week we went to the hospital, orphanage and leprosy camps on alternating days. Before I knew it, I was adjusted to my daily work schedule and I began to fall in love with Ghana.
I have seen some crazy things at work, and I have never received as many blessings as I did while I was working. The Ghanaian people are truly so grateful for the work you are doing, and no matter how much you do it’ll never be enough for you. For me, checking someone’s blood pressure and glucose were simple tasks I performed at home and I never considered it at impactful until I did community out reaches.
I had people telling me and the other volunteers that they will pray for us for the rest of their lives and that changed my entire perspective on life. During my time at the hospital, I have cared for a baby girl who was buried alive and a boy who had a serious case of narcotizing fasciitis from his shoulder to his wrist. I assisted the fellow doctor and nurses in wound care and we helped undress his wound and apply a new bandage. At that point, I was experienced in wound care because during our trips to the leprosy camps we had to bandage and assist patients who had serious after effects of leprosy.
Adventures in Cape Coast
Aside from work, the adventures I had in Cape Coast are some I will never forget. Spending New Years at a beach resort with good music, fireworks, dancing and people who genuinely want to have a good time was the best experience I have had in my life. A boy told me that there were two things Ghanaian men are good at, football and dancing and he was right. The nightlife in Ghana was nothing compared to the night life back home and the there is nothing like waking up to the sweet sound of ocean waves. Our first weekend we spent at a retreat 45 minutes away called Ko-Sa Beach where we relaxed and played football all day. We also had social events at the Projects Abroad office such as learning how to African drum/dance and even cooking lessons!
Going back to what Nyame said, saying good bye was the hardest part of the whole trip. It wasn’t the no running water, the weather or mosquitos, it was saying goodbye to a place that has all my love. After seeing what I had seen from leprosy camps, the hospital, orphanages and community out reaches within the first week, I knew this was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I will for surely be returning to Ghana within the next few years for a longer period of time.
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