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Medicine in Ghana by Melissa Tan

Alex and I at our house

At my school in Canada we are given the opportunity to go abroad or stay at home to do a work placement. This is done during our grade eleven year of high school. We were given information about co-op placements, traveling to our sister schools around the world, or volunteering with Projects Abroad. I knew I wanted to do a medical placement, but deciding where was the next step. After reading about the different places you could go with Projects Abroad and finding out where I could go at home I chose to go away with Projects Abroad. I decided to go to Ghana for six weeks from the middle of May to the end of June 2007. I was placed in the Akuapem Hills, which is about an hour and a half north of Accra.

Host mother cooking jolof riceTom and Dan doing laundryThe Hills win the monthly quiz

I lived in a village called Akropong in the Hills. My host family and especially my host mother were amazing. My host mother, Dina, was always there for us. She helped us do our laundry, cooked us local and western food, and was very easy to talk to. I also lived with four volunteers. One of them was a girl I came up with from school named Alexandra and the other three had already been there for three or four months. Living with Alexandra was so much fun. We definitely became closer during this trip and experienced so many things together. One time we were coming home from Outreach and had a goat underneath our seats! All I felt was something grazing my legs and we look down and we see a goat! It was so funny. Tom, Daan, and Laetitia were the other volunteers that we lived with. They were very welcoming and all of us got along great. In such a short period of time all of us grew very close to each other and they really became my family.

Teteh Quarshie Memorial Hospital in Mampong is where I was working. During this placement I learnt many things about the medical field and gained experience in various departments. The departments that I chose to work in were the lab, maternity, surgical, the pharmacy, and physiotherapy. All of the different areas were amazing. It really gave me a feel of each department. The nurses and doctors were very welcoming. They taught me a lot about the common diseases in Ghana (such as malaria and sickle cell) and what they do to treat them. Working in that hospital was a great opportunity. The medical placement also includes a program called Outreach, which is held every Thursday. The medical volunteers get together and travel to schools, daycares, and orphanages in our area to treat sores. I loved Outreach because you were going into the community and teaching them about proper care for sores. The children were always so happy to see you and so thankful to have their sores cared for.

Me and child at Trinity orphanage

The Projects Abroad staff was very easy to get in touch with and was always there for me if I needed them. It was great because we touched base with our regional director weekly during quiz night, so if we could not get a hold of them we would be seeing them soon. The induction that Gabby took us on was also very good because they showed us where important things like the bank and post office were. They also took us to eat local food (Joloff rice and chicken), experience local transportation (tro-tros and line taxis), and made the transition to the Ghanaian ways a lot easier.

Me working in the labMedical outreach

Going to Ghana was an experience of a lifetime. I am constantly thinking and reflecting back on my experience and how much it has changed me. I am so happy that I decided to volunteer in Ghana. Coming from the luxurious Oakville, Ontario to the simple Ghanaian lifestyle was definitely a shock to me, but since I came in with an open mind I welcomed anything that came my way. Having the chance to live that kind of lifestyle and help out in a hospital has really made me see how fortunate I am. Going to Ghana has definitely changed me as a person and the way I see life.


Melissa Tan

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