My work for my last GPP(Global Poverty and Practice) class has been nothing less than inspiring. I’m paying more attention to each line I read and finding little nuggets of wisdom everywhere I look. Here is some food for thought from Raul Rogat Loeb’s “Soul of a Citizen”….
“If eyes are windows to the soul, and faces reflections of character, looking in the mirror lets us step back from the flux of our lives and hold ourselves accountable.”
How do you hold yourself accountable for your character and actions?
The title of Paul Farmer’s 2011 commencement OP-ED instantly caught my eye as I am reflecting on my experience in Ghana this summer. Because my time in Ghana (and my passion for learning more about global health) is more than just a vacation/tourist adventure/hobby, but a meaningful experience that will hopefully lead into a career in international development..
I am currently finishing my last Berkeley course that consists of critically reviewing my experience in the Global Poverty and Practice minor, especially after gaining fieldwork experience in Ghana. In this last course I am examining my thoughts and assumptions concerning international development and poverty alleviation, but also, thinking of the future and what my role can be in working to change the disparities between the Global North and the Global South.
Farmer discusses how global health research and programs need to be more than “just a hobby” but a collaborative effort to improve knowledge and health care in the Global South. “More than Just a Hobby”
This past weekend I traveled to the Volta Region in Ghana. The Volta Region is right on the eastern border of Ghana that is next to Togo. 10 of us ProWorld interns went on the trip. We started off on Friday afternoon and traveled to Accra for the evening. Then Saturday morning we left for the 4 hour journey to Volta in a trotro. It was the bumpiest ride I have ever had in a trotro – it didn’t help that I was in the very last row of the van too. [BTW a trotro is a large passenger van that has 3-5 rows of seats depending on the type of van. In America we would fit 2 people on a row and a third person on the fold down seat; her4 people are usually squished in the row – its always a way to make new friends.] Most of the roads we traveled were paved, but we would encounter huge potholes. And we went got within an hour of our destination, we were basically off-roading on dirt roads. Then we made it to the park where the waterfalls are located.
We should have asked more about the hike we were about to tackle, but we quickly learned it would be very rigorous we our guide, Mathias, handed us walking sticks at the fork up to the upper falls and we only saw an uphill path across the side of a mountain. It took us about an hour and a half climbing up 800 meters through the jungle to the upper falls. It wasn’t just a hike, I was climbing over trees, roots, rocks and through muddy downhill portions too. But it was amazing. Many hikers had traveled the path we climbed, but it was not well cleared, so I would use my walking stick to move branches and leaves. It felt so good to see us getting closer to the waterfall. And when we got there, we jumped into the water and tried to stand under the falls. But let me tell you, the water came pelting down on us. It was challenging trying to sit on the rocks directly under the falls. That climb was one of the coolest experiences of this trip, and probably of my life. It was so beautiful, taking in all the green trees covering the area as I hiked up and down the mountain was just as breathtaking as making it all the way to the clearing with the upper falls. I was amazed at how the area has been preserved and not developed at all. I think it was so special and beautiful, since the area seems to still be untouched by man. So happy I got the chance to go up to the upper falls and I decided I would have to come back and do it again (definitely while I am young and energetic)!!
Once I get better internet connection, I will post pictures.
So right before I jumped on my plane to Ghana, I found out that my project was going to change. Well when I arrived here, I picked a new project with a new NGO. I have been working with Nii Boye from Rural Women Health and Development Initiative (RuWDHI). We thought that we would jump right into a project, Tell-a-Friend, to educate women from rural villages about different health topics. As its turned out, we have created the project from scratch. I work with two other ProWorld interns on Tell-a-Friend, Emily D. and Emily G.
We went to the Health Clinic in Frami, the village we work in, to observe the nurses and see how maternal and pediatric health is monitored. Then we researched for our five health topics : hygiene, sanitation, first aid, nutrition, and sexual health. These five topics were the most relevant to the needs of the community in Frami. So for Tell-a-Friend, our goal is to educated 10 women leaders in the Frami community about our five topics, so that they can go and “tell a friend” about what they learned to educate their community on these health topics.
My weekends have been jam packed so far! All the ProWorld interns and volunteers go on excursions together which is so nice to catch up after a week of work.
Last weekend we went to Kakum National Park to go on the canopy walk. It was beautiful! I didn’t know how I would feel about the canopy walk, but I wish I could have gone again. We were so high in the trees, it was beautiful looking around the jungle and seeing everything from that perspective. We also went to a monkey sanctuary and go to see some ridiculously cute rescued monkeys. Sunday we went to a historic spot from the slave trade where prisoners being taken to slave castles were given their last bath and meal along the journey to the coast. Following that we toured Cape Coast Castle, which was one of the major slave castles in West Africa. It was very moving to be there and see how brutal of an experience it would have been to be taken to the castle. It was an emotional experience, but I’m glad I was able to see it and take a few pictures to remember it.
Today we helped a school in building its library. We all were helping shovel dirt to flatten the foundation of the building, or lending a hand in the process to make cement bricks. Following that we went to a beach resort and got to grab lunch and relax. I’m excited for tomorrow – we learn African drumming and dancing! More updates soon!
The tradition in Ghana when a child is born is to name it according to which day of the week the baby is born on. The baby is called that name for 8 days before he or she is given their proper name. But some people in Ghana prefer to be called by that name. I googled my birthday and I am a Friday born, which is Efua. So when I introduce myself in Fante – I often say my name is Efuwa, because Kelsey is obviously not a Ghanaian name. If you meet someone that is born on the same say of the week you are, they are your brother or sister. Ghanaians often call their really close friends or cousins their brothers or sisters also. Walking down our street yesterday, my roommate also in ProWorld and I talked with our neighbors and they asked for our names. Every time we have walked by since, they call out our names – Efua and Ekua.
Today I went to a rural school with four Ghanaian nurses to listen to their presentation to school children about malaria. The children went nuts when they saw three of us foreigners (Obrunis) walking up with the nurses. They started yelling Obruni and when we went into the talk. They would all smile and wave at us. Then the other girls on my project and myself introduced ourselves in Fante. Of course the kids loved it! They giggled at our accents. Then I took a few pictures of the other girls with the kids for my project and they all squished close to the other girls to get in the photo.
Its only been 5 days but I’m learning so much here. I am determined to pick up some Fante – the language spoken in the Cape Coast area. From the first day we learned what we will be called here – Obruni (which means foreigner or white person). Everyday I hear Obronyi from all around me. Its really funny because Ghanaians are so friendly that they just want to get my attention to say hi. Little kids say it all the time. They even have a song they learn in school that goes –
Obruni. How are you? I’m fine. Thank you. And you?
They laugh anytime I respond in Fante. So this afternoon I will be working with my homestay brother (everyone your age you call your brother or sister) on my Fante.
I made it!
Currently sitting at an internet cafe in the Accra Airport in Ghana, I am about to begin my stay in Ghana and internship in Cape Coast. I am so lucky that everything has gone smoothly so far -flights were easy, sat next to interesting people, met up with Ashley in my program, and now get to kill time online for an hour before getting picked up to go to Cape Coast! I was most worried about my jam-packed travel backpack (packed with enough sunscreen and bugspray for three people but I will definitely need it!) and stuffed backpack with the most complete first aid kit you will find(thanks Dad!). But so far I can’t complain. The weather here is not too bad – yes its humid but the said its in the 80’s. I’ll see once I venture out of the airport area how hot it really will be.
I was told to anticipate changes and be flexible when working with an NGO overseas and I have already had my first alteration to my internship before taking off from LAX. Right as I was getting the final call to turn off cell phones by the flight attendant – I received an email from ProWorld that the organization I was matched with to do sexual health education and HIV/AIDS prevention education was not prepared to take interns at this time. I have three new options to choose from and they all sound interesting – but I am bummed that my work this past semester in preparing for my practice experience (for my Global Poverty and Practice minor at UC Berkeley) will not be put to use since I will no longer be working with Voluntary Help Organization.
Before my internet runs out let me tell you about my wonderful airplain neighbor that gave me the extra boost of excitement I needed to begin my stay in Ghana. His name was Kwasi and he is from the area outside Accra but moved to Atlanta in 1999. He was really talkative after his double wisky with OJ at dinner, but I didn’t mind. He thought I had family in Ghana or had visited before and was surprised this was my first trip to Africa. He commented on my knowledge and confidence about my plans (A+ for researching ahead of time!). Then he told me how I was going to love Ghana and Cape Coast – he had gone to college in Cape Coast. He was so excited for me and wished we would be on the same flight back to the US so that he could hear about my trip. Kwasi was so friendly and welcoming, that I couldn’t help but look forward to landing in Accra! When we got off the plane he gave me a hug and wished me well. So glad I had a cool person sitting next to me on that 11 hour flight!
On Friday, April 1st through Saturday, April 2nd, thousands of UC Berkeley students shook their groove thangs at the annual Dance Marathon. As co-chair this year, I not only had an up-close and personal relationship with the planning process for DM, but I was able to meet a few people who work for the foundation DM benefits – the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. I visited family in Washington, DC during spring break and had time to stop by the Foundation’s DC office. The atmosphere of the office – filled with pictures of African children and landscapes from all over the world – reflected the focus of all the people who work there. They all have a passion for fighting pediatric AIDS and working to institute changes in global health. Talking with several people from the Elizabeth Glaser team gave me an even bigger motivational boost to make this year’s Dance Marathon a huge success. And let me tell you, it most definitely was!
Dance Marathon 2011 - Oh the Places We'll Go!
This year we raised over $53,000 for the Foundation! Dancers enjoyed great music, food, entertainment (even aerial circus performers!), and guest speakers talking about the Foundation’s work around the world. Check out the DailyCal’s Article about DM this year. And to all the Berkeley DM Dancers out there – thank you for all your hard work and dedication to fighting pediatric AIDS. This year we exceeded our fundraising goal! DM shows the power of a youth movement to make global change – and it doesn’t mean you have to have a ton of money, it is all about spreading awareness and telling your network of family and friends that it only takes $15 to give a women the necessary treatment she needs to prevent transmission of HIV to her baby – yep only $15 (thats might be your Starbucks allowance for the work week).
We raised $53,478 this year! Way to go UC Berkeley DM!
One of the most inspirational global health champions fighting for health equity is Dr. Paul Farmer. He is an inspirational activist and actor in the field of development. Farmer is a co-founder of the non-governmental organization (NGO), Partner’s in Health (PIH). Partner’s in Health builds hospitals in twelve countries, including Haiti, Peru, and Rwanda, to provide free health care for people in resource-limited settings and strengthen existing public health infrastructures in those settings. After taking a course at UC Berkeley about HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa and gaining an informed perspective about NGO’s roles in public health, I support organizations that promote a community health worker model that empowers local people to build a public health infrastructure in their community that best suits their community’s needs. Continue reading