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Getting ready to leave Hohoe (already?!?)

So tonight is our last night in Hohoe! Just when we start feeling at home, we’re packing up to leave. Tomorrow morning, Patrick willl be taking us back to Accra where we will spend Thursday night and get ready to fly back to the US late Friday night.

These last few days in Hohoe have been great. As for some of the things we’ve done with Care Net: On Sunday, we went to yet another football game in Fodome Amle. The tro-tro ride there was quite horrific, with tons of potholes (real ones) and uneven dirt roads. I even got pretty nauseous. We made it there alright, but the first thing that struck us was the sound of excitement and shreaking from the kids. As our tro-tro pulled up to the football field, the kids swarmed over to us and were screaming and waving their hands. We walked out one by one and they grabbed us to shake our hands and jump up and down. This was by far the most enthusiastic welcome we have received from the kids (not that the other kids weren’t excited to see visitors). The football game was again boys vs. girls, and it was great seeing the whole community gathered to watch the children play and talk about important issues surrounding HIV/AIDS.

On Monday, we stayed in Hohoe and the Care Net office to prepare for our program on Tuesday. Tuesday was set for a day of “edutainment” in Likpe Abrani, where we visited the previous week. We planned to teach the kids about different types of hygiene (oral, handwashing, and female) and also made up some fun games to help the kids learn. On Tuesday, we went to Likpe Abrani (along with Angela, the nurse visiting Care Net from Canada) and about 60+ kids gathered for the program. Besides these 60+ kids, there were about 50 adults watching on the side and participating in the day’s programs. The kids performed some song, drumming, and dancing to start and end the time of edutainment. I and Antonette taught hand hygiene, Bridgette and Marta oral hygiene, Angela female hygiene, and Michael teenage male hygiene (or much rather, abstinence and different ways to show love). We had some difficulty communicating with the kids, but the community patrons and some Care Net staff helped us translate. Overall, the day was quite successful and the kids seemed to have fun.

Today, we went to Afiadenyigbo (near Ho, about 1.5 hours away from Hohoe by car) to visit the maternal and child health clinic that we helped fundraise for last year. The money we fundraised for last year was originally intended for an ultrasound machine, but Patrick informed us that the OB/GYN who will be working there requested that a fetal monitor be purchased first since the need was more pressing. So we helped purchase a fetal monitor, one of the only ones in the whole Volta region! The clinic itself though, is unfortunately shut down currently by the Ghana Health Service because of a lack of consistent water supplies. We nonetheless went to visit the clinic and see the community (we met with the midwife who worked there and Afiadenyigbo’s paramount chief). Patrick explained to us that the community has been very involved in the making of the clinic and has had great need for it. Each day, about 30-50 patients would come in for services. Patrick explained to us that he has put in a request with the Ghana water department to have a better water supply put in for the clinic by the end of this year. So hopefully, the clinic will re-open soon and return to bettering the health of the community there.

As for some fun things we’ve been doing (of course besides all the fun we’ve been having with Care Net business): on Saturday, we went to the Wli waterfall, the highest in West Africa. One of the Care Net interns, Destiny, brought us that day after the morning radio broadcast (this week’s was great, there were 2 more kids and the kids all spoke clearly and assertively, giving out a much clearer message to the listeners). The hike was pretty easy and the sight was beautiful. Michael went in the water and swam up to the waterfall. Us girls just wet our feet, but it was still really refreshing. Then on Tuesday, we went to the Todome caves and climbed Afadjato mountain (I think the highest in West Africa?). The hike was rigorous, going mostly uphill. Marta and I, following one of the Care Net staff who thought she was following the rest of the group up front, actually almost ended up in Togo because we missed a sign and kept on walking East! Thank God for a kind hunting man and his family, who re-directed us back on the right path. 🙂 The sight up top was stunning and it felt so great just to experience the outdoors of Africa.

So for now, I think this will be our last blog, at least while in Ghana! This has been an eye-opening experience and has definitely opened many doors for our partnership with Care Net. Everyone here in Ghana, from Bridgette’s family to the Care Net staff, have been so welcoming and generous to us. We’re really going to miss the “you are welcome” ‘s, the “yevos!”, the spicy food, and the random goats and sheep by the road, the people carrying things on their heads so expertly, Obama gardens (where we ate/drank almonst every night), the good-looking men (haha), the tro-tros and potholes (yeah right), and the hip-life and high-life music.

Thanks for the awesome time Ghana! We love you and promise to stay connected with you through Care Net!

Stay tuned for our return-to-the-US blogs and more pictures!

-Kristie and the GROW team

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Overcoming Cultural Barriers

Greetings Readers!

It is my duty and pleasure tonight to update all of you on what we’ve been up to these past few days.

It’s been over a week now here in Hohoe and perhaps one of the biggest cultural differences we’ve had to adjust to was the sense of time. It’s difficult to set a schedule and follow it through here.  There are so many variables that we don’t normally worry about and rarely affect our daily plans in the U.S. but do here. Public transportation, for example, is common here since  most people don’t own cars, but when it comes to trying to catch a “tro-tro” (kind of like a bus) there is no set schedule. Essentially you have to wait a while not knowing how much longer it will be till the next one happens to be going your way (and isn’t already full of people).  Electricity and internet is another issue. The electricity has gone out on us a few times already and disrupts the internet connection, which is hard to come by as it is.  Though after awhile you get the hang of these difficulties and kind of adopt the laid back, go with the flow attitude like the locals here. It’s a nice change from what we’re normally used to.

On Wednesday we woke early to be a the Care Net office  around 8-8:30ish.  We were excited to have our first discussion with Patrick regarding our experiences at the towns we had visited so far.  However, we ended up waiting for hours at the office without much to do. Patrick had been called in for a meeting with some UK medical students who were looking at some NGO’s around Ghana to possibly partner with. We forgot for a second just how busy Patrick can be, being pulled this way and that way to have meetings with different people or needing to drive out of town for business reasons, but this was just another opportunity to learn how to go with the flow here.

We eventually got to have our discussion with him later that afternoon. As you’ve probably read from Kristi’s last entry, we had tons of good things to say about the communities and children we met. However, we did have a few concerns, which Patrick was eager to hear out.  All of us knew how well versed the children are in speaking about their rights to things like education, participation and health care, as well as their rights to defend themselves against physical and sexual abuse and child labor when asked about them. But are they prepared to actually exercise these rights when faced with situations that compromise these rights? Can they stand up against their perpetrators? We weren’t quite convinced yet that they could. Patrick knew exactly what we were talking about and admitted that this was one of the biggest challenges ROC is faced with. The very goal of ROC, to uplift children and educate them on their rights and to to use them, goes against a cultural norm here in Ghana. When a child  is assertive he is considered arrogant by their parents and other adults of the community. Unlike in the U.S., children here are often not seen as having rights, especially young girls. They grow up keeping their concerns and fears to themselves, not realizing that it shouldn’t be this way. The very people you would think a child could go to for the most support are the same people that chastise him for trying to exercise his rights.  The challenge then is to break this norm and create a different mentality in the coming generations. A mentality that teaches children to respectfully voice their rights and opinions and teaches parents and other adults that it is not wrong when a child does this and to listen. Easier said then done, right? But someone had to start and we’re all glad to help and support this change. Patrick mentioned that in the 10 communities around Hohoe where the ROC program exists there are at least two children who have improved immensely in their ability to speak up for themselves and are serving as leaders for the rest of the ROC children in their communities so that they too can follow suit.  This is a big improvement from when the program was just starting and many of the children were not aware of the importance of their rights or the power of their voice. In the next years the plan is for all children to be able to find their voice and for a balance to exist between adults and children in which there is mutual respect.

On a lighter note, we have met and made friends with with a few new “yevos” visiting the community.  Angela, a nurse from Canada arrived in Hohoe this past Tuesday night and will be staying for the next 4 months to serve as a much needed nurse. She has a warm and cheery spirit that I know the locals here  will fall in love with. We also got a chance to meet those medical students from the UK, Lucy, Ben and Matt. They came to Ghana representing their organization “SKIP” in search for an NGO to partner with. Care Ne Ghana was one of the organizations they interviewed. They’re a great group of people and though we met for only a few days we shared a good number of laughs together. We wish them the best in their selection (I’ll keep my fingers crossed for Care Net)!  And finally there is Anita.  No, not another “yevo,” but a true Ghanaian with a knack for cooking. I guess you could say she’s the “chef” of the house. She had been on vacation when we first arrived but has come back in time to spoil us with here cooking.

And just to briefly mention, we were able to do some shopping around the area.  We went to a few fabric stores around town to make some clothing.  The fabrics were difficult to choose from because the prints and colors were all so beautiful.  Needless to say we spent a good amount of time before finally choosing a few of them.  We went to one of the seamstresses close by and put in an order for some dresses, skirts, and tops.  We get them back this coming Wednesday Can’t wait!

That’s all for now, but stay tuned for pictures!

yours truly,

“Antoinette Aku”

PICTURES!!!

We weren’t able to post pictures directly onto this blog, so we’ve instead created a Picasa album.

Here’s the link!
http://picasaweb.google.com/107154807650570278174/USCGROWTrip828810?feat=directlink

-GlobeMed at USC GROW Team

Visiting the Right of the Child (ROC) Communities

This past Sunday 8/8, Patrick took us to visit one of the Right of the Child (ROC) communities, called Kpeve. Right of the Child is one of the programs that Care Net is running to promote and empower children to stand up for their rights. During the school year, the ROC club meets twice a week, with patrons (teachers) in the community helping the kids to learn about their rights and to increase their self-esteem. The rights that they learn about include the right to education, privacy, health, and participation (participating in decisions about their future).

Kpeve, which is about a one-hour drive away from Hohoe, is where Christian and Irene (two of the kids who participated in the radio show) live. That day, ROC hosted a football (soccer) game with the kids, boys vs. girls! The moment we stepped out of the car, kids flocked around us with smiles and welcomes. We pulled out our cameras and that made them even more excited. They were so cute! There was this one little boy wearing jumpers and chewing a sugar cane, and everytime I looked at him, he would just cheese with a smile as wide as the horizon. Before the start of the soccer game, Rita (16 yrs old), who was the team captain for the girls and a member of the ROC club, spoke to the community over a megaphone about HIV/AIDS. she said how HIV/AIDS is a disease and not a curse and also talked about the ways of transmission and prevention. She spoke with such inspiring confidence and we could just see how the little kids looked up to her and listened closely to what she was saying. The soccer game ended, and the boys won 3-0, but the girls gave a strong effort!

On Monday, we visited another community with Seraphine and Destiny. We took the trotro (a van in which everyone is stuffed in like sardines) for the first time, and thank God it wasn’t too hot! We got to Likpe Abrani and the kids pulled out benches and chairs for our gathering. We introduced ourselves and got to know the kids, and started out just asking them basic questions about the ROC program and their community. They told us that they really liked and learned a lot through ROC, but they also voiced to us their desire to have a library and more books to read. They also needed a computer lab for them to get more familiar with technology. We then asked them to share some of their songs and ances with us, and Michael and I even learned some dance moves (of course with lots of embarassing moments)! They then asked us if we had any songs to share with them. We hesitated and couldn’t really think of anything. So we did the USC football chant somewhat awkwardly, and then decided to sing the Star Spangled Banner. Being the patriotic citizens that we are, of course we didn’t know all the words or the tune. We didn’t do it justice, but the kids still appreciated it . We were then asked to give a final message to the kids (and the kids to give us theirs) as goes with Ghanaian tradition. We told them how great they were and thanked them for sharing their thoughts , songs, and dreams with us. All these kids lived in what seemed to us like a really destitute area, but they were all happy and had aspirations for their future (some wanted to be nurses, doctors, and journalists). They deserve the best and can accomplish whatever goals they set their mind to.

Today, we visited Ve Wudome and met the kids at their school. We did a similar thing as we did with the kids in Likpe Abrani. TThey told us about how much they learned from and liked the ROC program. They also expressed their gratitude for our visit, saying that us coming drew more kids to check out ROC. They then took us around their town to see the chief’s house, a local stream, and the largest tree in the Hohoe area.

So far, having visited 3 ROC communities (out of the 10 total), we realize that the ROC program may be the next project that GlobeMed at USC supports Care Net with. Patrick has expressed to us that ROC is underfunded, and we’ve also had several community members come up to us and tell us how they would like to see it expand. We will discuss this more with Patrick, but we are thinking that we can help fund or donate books for libraries, fundraise for soccer balls and other sports equipment (shoes — so many kids play barefoot!), and computers.

We’ll try to update again soon, so keep tabs on us!

-Kristie

Radio broadcast with kids from A Safe Place

Today (August 7th), we were granted an amazing opportunity to meet some very inspiring young people who are participating in the Safe Place program. Safe Place is a club for young people to learn further about their rights and be more educated on prevalent issues, such as domestic/sexual violence, child neglect, and safe sexual practices.   Currently the Safe Place program resides in ten destitute communities (though they hope to expand) around the Volta Region where children are not fully aware of their rights or the power of their voice. Our partner organization, Care Net Ghana, plays a critical part in the program by offering educational courses to the participating youth surrounding the above areas.  While at the Care Net offices, we met Cynthia, Victor, Christian, and Irene who are all from varying participating communities.  This lucky group was given the very exciting opportunity to voice their experiences and insight about the program on a local radio station that reaches the whole Volta Region (Lorlornyo 93.3 FM).  The kids were given 30 minutes to speak about the importance of the Safe Place program, the issues dealt with, and the program’s role in their communities.  At the end of the program, they called out to any young person who wishes to join Safe Place or visit nearby safe homes when they feel they have no where else to turn or have an sensitive issue they need further assistance with.

-Marta

Patrick Akumah (Care Net Ghana Executive Director), a man with a passion for development

A few nights ago GlobeMed met face to face with the pioneer of its grassroots organization, Patrick Ahumah. Patrick met us in Accra this past Thursday to take us to Hohoe, where we would be staying for the remainder of our visit.  He showed up at the Monarch Hotel in a black highlander, unaware of the sheer amount of luggage we had. It took some effort, but after tying 3 of our 9 full-sized suitcases to the roof of the car, strategically stacking the rest in the trunk, and squeezing 4 grown people in the back seat and one in the front, we finally set off on the 4 hour drive to Hohoe.

The car ride was silent for the most part with most off us nodding off as the rode grew dark, only to be awakened by the speed bumps and potholes along the way. But let’s not forget the moments of laughter at Kristie’s expense (I’m sure someone will eventually fill you all in on that). We past through a number of towns that were still lively despite the late hour and the lack of street lights that those from the States would normally depend on. And finally at around 10:30 pm we arrived at Patrick’s home, which we too would call home for the next two weeks. With our backs stiff and our butts numb, Patrick showed us our rooms and suggested we get some sleep. Tomorrow, CareNet Ghana and GlobeMed will affirm its relationship.

The next morning Patrick took us to the CareNet headquarters, which was surprisingly a mere 5 minute walk from where we were staying.  There we met two of CareNet’s staff, Destiny, a student of the University of Ghana, and Seraphine. Patrick showed us to his office where we sat in front of his desk like school kids being sent to the principles office. The vibe, however, became light and welcoming. Patrick was eager to welcome us and constantly thanked us for being here. He gave us each a chance to voice our reasons for being here as part of GlobeMed and how we perceive this relationship between GlobeMed and CareNet now and for the future.

In the end, however, I think I speak for all of us when I say that we were most inspired by Patrick himself and his dedication to his duties for CareNet. We spent just less than an hour in his office talking, though I doubt I will be able to capture his inspiring words in this one blog entry for you all.  I’m sure the others will take sometime to divulge what they felt during this meeting, but I’d like to comment on one bit of history he shared with us.  We learned what a busy man Patrick was; always running about here and there to make it to meetings and to meet proposal deadlines for projects for CareNet.  He said there are times where he spends nights in the office instead of going home to his wife and 2 year old son in order to get more work done in time. Kristie then asked curiously, “What motivates you to keep going?”  This was a question he confessed he gets asked many times.  He explained that as a young man working at a local clinic patients constantly went to him for their medical problems. For one reason or another, the people gravitated towards him rather than the older health professionals or the women working there. And despite trying to explain that he was in fact not a doctor, many would not listen or could not understand. Eventually, instead of the patients telling him of their problems they began to show him.  On the occasions where he saw for himself the poverty/illness/injustice/death the list goes on, he could not turn away, he could no longer believe that he could not help them in some way. And so began his commitment to serve the people in Hohoe on a larger basis.  Patrick explained that he has come this far and is still going strong because of the great passion for development his has cultivated in himself. He hopes that one day he will be able to see an improved Hohoe, one that no longer experiences child abuse, rape, little or no education for children, or a blind-eye toward HIV/AIDS prevention. From the beginning he knew this would not be easy.  He explained that CareNet is not perfect and accepts any and all suggestions and corrections that he does not see. He is well aware of the challenges he will continue to face, challenges that he confesses he prefers not to discuss but rather work through for they only make him stronger.  It was in this meeting I realized the monster of a challenge Patrick has assumed as his career and I was inspired by his very existence.

-Antonette