King's College London 2012
I travelled with Work the World to Takoradi, Ghana for my elective where I spent 3 weeks working within obstetrics and gynaecology and 1 week working in a rural clinic in the village of Fasin.
I chose to do my elective with Work the World because they took all the hassle out of organising such a trip at a time when I really needed to focus on revision and exams. When I estimated the cost of arranging everything myself (accommodation, food, transport, hospital fees etc), Work the World compared very favourably, and the stress that they saved me was worth the extra few pounds spent! But it wasn’t only for the hassle free life that I chose Work the World. They could provide me with the urban and rural healthcare experience that I was craving, something that would have proved almost impossible to organise by myself.
I chose to travel to Ghana because I had always envisaged spending my elective in Sub Saharan Africa, but wanted somewhere where English was widely spoken as my language skills were severely lacking! Ghana proved to be a wise choice.
The medical staff all communicated in English, and, although the majority of the population in Takoradi speak “Fante” primarily, most had a reasonable grasp of English which allowed me to communicate effectively with both staff and patients.
When I arrived at Kotoka International airport I was met in arrivals by Ezekiel who made me feel instantly welcome. He travelled with me to a guest house in Accra where I spent the night before the 4 hour bus journey to Takoradi the next morning. On arrival at the Work the World house I was given a warm greeting by Al Hassan, the house keeper, and given a guided tour of the place that I would call home over the next few weeks. That evening I was given my first introduction to the wonderful food that was prepared for us every day by the wonderful cook, Ophelia. Food that I am desperately missing now I am home - I am desperate for a bowl of Ophelia’s ground nut soup!
Over the next 24 hours I was taken on an orientation of the town by Ezekiel, where I was able to explore the local market, restaurants and beaches where I would spend my spare time, and Joe, the WTW programme manager, introduced me to the wards and staff at the hospital, all of which made settling in to Ghanaian life very easy!
My time at the hospital was spent in Obstetrics and Gynaecology. I went with the doctors on ward rounds, attended ante-natal and gynaecology clinics, participated in teaching sessions, scrubbed in during theatre and delivered babies alongside the midwives in the labour ward. During my time in the hospital I was given as much responsibility as I asked for. During my first week I was happy observing, getting to know the feel of the hospital and its practices. In subsequent weeks the staff allowed me to consult and examine my own patients at my request.
I never felt alone or unable to ask for help. The doctors, nurses and midwives were always on hand to teach or assist me if I asked.
The hospital was very different to what I was used to in the UK, and not only in appearance. Patients have little, or no, privacy. Doctors often consulted 3 or 4 different women in out-patients at once, women often gave birth naked and in full view of the rest of the ward and cases that I would consider an emergency at home were treated as routine in Ghana. But once I realised my role at the hospital was not to change anything, but to learn from the very willing and skilled staff, I really threw myself into making the most of my time and opportunities and enjoyed every second.
My days at the hospital usually finished around 2pm. After work, my fellow housemates and I would often spend the afternoon relaxing by the beach or in the pool at one of the nearby hotels. I also enjoyed walking around market circle. The market was the place to barter for beautiful African material which I bought and had made into dresses and bags by a seamstress close to the house. Harbour view was a great place to go for original paintings and African carvings or if you just wanted a pleasant, hassle free stroll! On Tuesday evenings there was a Fante class at the house that proved particularly useful in making a first impression with staff and patients at the hospital and every Thursday we had a BBQ where the staff would stay and eat and dance with us, it was always a great night!
During my week in Fasin village, I lived with a host family and worked at the local nurse-run clinic. I absolutely loved my time spent in Fasin! Life in the village really was back to basics.
The village had no electricity so if you wanted to see after 6pm you had to use a torch, there were no flushing toilets or hot showers, just a long drop and a bucket shower!
I had my own mud house with a bamboo roof and a bed with a mosquito net, and every night I would get to sample the local delicacies of Ghana, Fufu, banku, yam, goat and palm nut soup! In the mornings I would work alongside the nurses in the local clinic. I got to consult my own patients (99% of whom were having problems with malaria), and prescribe medications with the nurses. I also got to assist with the village vaccination programme. In the afternoons Ebenezer, the village guide, would take me on a variety of excursions which included meeting the village chief, visiting the nearby beach resort at Busua, and sampling the local palm wine. I also spent my spare time playing with the village children and visiting their school which was a really rewarding experience.
Ghana had so much to offer in terms of travel. During my weekends at the WTW house I travelled to Beyin to visit the Stilt village at Nzulezu, I stayed at the beautiful beach resort of Axim and had a guided tour of the slave forts at Elmina and Cape Coast which was very emotional. After my time with Work the World I spent ten days travelling around Ghana where I got to see elephants while on safari at Mole National Park, fed monkeys at the amazing Boabeng Fiema monkey sanctuary and braved the heights of the canopy walk at Kakum National Park.
I had an incredible time in Ghana, I met some wonderful friends through Work the World, have learnt a lot from my experiences at the hospital and the clinic and have memories that will last a lifetime. My advice if you are thinking of travelling to Ghana with Work the World is do it! Go with an open mind, be open to asking questions and getting stuck in at the hospital and leave a bit of time to travel. The country has so much to offer and so do Work the World.