Last Week Here in Ghana

This last week has been really good. We went on a 9 hour car drive on Monday and let me tell you that was awful. I’ve never had such a sore butt and back by the end of a car ride in my entire life. The sad thing was that it was only 100 miles away but because the roads were so bad and it was raining it took 9 hours. But the week went along smooth just the same. We worked for around 6 hours a day except the last day. The last day we wanted to get out of there early so we busted it out in one hour. That was incredible.

One of the interesting things I saw this week were a Bruce Bowen jersey. At first I thought it was a Lamarcus Aldridge jersey but it was instead Bruce Bowen. That was definitely one of the last things that I expected to see while here. Also, I saw a woman who had a dress made for her here and the clothe was literally just Bart Simpson over and over again. It was incredible. I asked her if she watched the show and she had no idea what I was saying. I still got a good laugh out of it.

Well my time here is over. It feels similar to the close of the mission. I’ve had a wonderful time here. I truly think that if anyone wants to do humanitarian work in Africa, they should work with Unite for Sight. Their style of work was incredible and they were effective in their approach. I didn’t have any problems whatsoever. It was great coming here again. But I miss my wife so I’m coming home now!


2 more weeks to go

Despite posting this with only a week left, I have had this written for awhile. We have had a lot of cool experiences this week and it was great. We were able to go back to some places that we went the first week that I was here. Despite the amount of people we saw, I still was able to recognize some of the people that I saw the first week. It was cool to see these people again and see the expression on their faces as they recognized me. That is one thing that is nice about having a name that is common in Ghana: everyone can say it correctly. Listening to patients try to say Natalie or Dallin is entertaining. Francis is a common name here and so I use that instead of Cameron.

While having a break on Saturday, we were able to watch the UEFA Champions League Final of Tottenham and Liverpool. Honestly, most frustrating game to watch ever. I wanted Tottenham to win for no other reason than one of the guys here is an Everton fan and he hates Liverpool. So, to support him, I rooted for Tottenham. Didn’t work out correctly but whatever. I miss soccer that’s for sure.

Can’t wait to get back to the USA but sad to leave Ghana. Anyways, see you guys soon!

Children I’ve Met

Just wanted to make a fun post about some children that I’ve met while being here. Plus they make the photos that much better.

This little girl was so funny. We had no idea where she came from but she came and sat by me. I shook her hand and she would laugh and laugh and it was the most adorable laugh I’ve ever heard. Then she kept speaking Twi to me and when I said I didn’t understand she would laugh even more. When the other volunteers came to talk to her, she would bite them and only would hangout with me. I gave her some pineapple too which probably helped. Super cute and funny girl.

This kid was so funny. When we first pulled up in the van, this kid and I made eye contact and he winked at me. I knew he was a baller from that point forward. After seeing the doctor, he came over to the station where I was working and we talked soccer for some time. I just laugh every time I think of him winking right when I saw him. So funny.

This kid and his brother were with their mom getting their eyes checked. I felt bad for the mom because she was trying to wrangle three kids and keep them occupied while getting their eyes checked. This kid came and was hanging out with us while his mom was doing her eye exam and that. In the middle of talking to us, the kid turns around while still talking, drops his pants and starts peeing just right where he stood. I couldn’t stop laughing. It was awesome.

This kid was so shy I felt bad. His mom and I were having a good conversation. I tried asking this kid questions, but he wasn’t having it. Just wanted to be by himself. I begged for this picture with him. Awesome kid though.

Already told you about these kids. Also notice the random old woman in the back. Gotta love it!

What a Week

This week was incredible but sooooooooooo long! From Monday to Saturday, we were busy, busy, and more busy. One day we even say 400 people. By the end of that day, I was so dead that I went to our room and crashed until the next morning. I forgot how fast the sun gets you here. The work we do really isn’t that hard, but with the heat and the sun it drains you extremely fast.

I’ve had many incredible experiences while working with Unite for Sight. They have one of the best run organizations that I have ever seen. Their model is incredible. I am grateful that I chose to work for them. I can’t say enough good things about them.

One cool thing that happened this week was we were able to visit the ocean. While there, we decided to go swimming. It was funny because when we went out where other Ghanaians were swimming, we heard a whistle from the lifeguard and he was waving for us to come in. So we went in and he said that we couldn’t swim today. We then looked out and saw all the Ghanaians still swimming and asked why he didn’t call them in. He didn’t say anything but walked away. Just funny how it worked out. Had a good laugh as a group about it.

Can’t believe it has been a month here. Time has flown. Can’t wait to be back but I’ll miss Ghana. It’s an awesome place.

One of our busier days
This whole church was full

You are the Gift

One of our assignments while here is to discussthe talk given by Sharon Eubank entitled Turning Enemies into Friends and then write our thoughts on it. These are my thoughts on it.

One of the things that she mentions is how giving material goods is a worthy endeavor and should be applauded, but people should also focus on the time they spend with others. She says that we should be there when having interactions with people. Sharon also mentions that the hygiene kits, the wells, the schools, and whatever else volunteers provide across the world is great, but the true gift is the person volunteering. This part struck me the most. As I’ve been handing out medications and prescriptions, the thing that has been the most rewarding is the short interactions I have had with people. There isn’t much to say to patients when I don’t know the Twi language very well and I am pretty sure very few people understand my English. But the short time that I spend with people has been incredible.

Another thing Sharon mentions is how everyone that interacts with someone can be a humanitarian organization. If we look at strangers around us as brothers and sisters, instead of enemies or even just colleagues then our time spent with them can help create positivity in their life. This also changes the narrative that to change the world, we must go somewhere far and foreign. Sometimes to change the world means to change the world within our small radius. While volunteering in Ghana, our group tries to have positive experiences with each individual we see both while volunteering and on our off days. Doing this has provided countless opportunities to brighten the day of others. These interactions have become some of the best parts of my day.

Sharon also mentions how a perspective shift from giving stuff away to filling the need for human interaction then we can be made an instrument in God’s hands. This is something the doctors here at these clinics do incredibly. There are many times where patients have not had the opportunity to share their problems and be taken seriously. The doctors at these clinics do a great job of allowing the patient to fully share what they are feeling, ask follow up questions to further understand the problem, and show sympathy to the patient. These interactions can change the way in which the patient feels about the situation that they are going through and these doctors do a great job of interacting with the patients in this manner.

One final thing that has stuck out to me is one of the last statements she makes which is “there is a work for you to do.” I have noticed that here. My impact on these people’s lives is small. I just hand out prescriptions and find their visual acuity. Not much. But I am part of a well oiled machine that does do so much good for many people in Ghana and across the world. The work I’ve done here is so satisfying and I wouldn’t want to go on any other internship. It’s been difficult at times, but rewarding as well. The work my colleagues and I have accomplished is truly remarkable and I hope to continue to do work like this well on into the end of my life.

Differences in Ghana

For today’s post, I’m going to mention some differences that I have seen between Ghana when I was here the first time and compare it to Ghana now.

One of the biggest differences that I’ve seen is the amount of development that has been done. There was only one or two Kentucky Fried Chicken’s when I got here the first time. Now they are everywhere, and it has become our staple meal. We eat there maybe once a day. It’s fairly cheap too so that always helps me justify eating there. There are also so many more malls and nice places it’s incredible. For example, there wasn’t a mall in Achimota when I was living there, but now there is one and it might be one of the nicest places to spend time in Ghana. The development that has happened over the past 6 years is incredible and I can’t believe how much growth there has been. Also, the Ensign College of Public Health looks incredible. It was a small school with only one building when I was here the first time, but now it has a ton of incredibly nice buildings and looks like an awesome place to go to school.

Another thing that I have noticed that has changed a lot is the health of the individuals. When I was first here, there was no such thing as Coke Zero or Sprite Zero. Now there is and the weight of people has definitely decreased. Even now, I have considered only drinking Coke Zero. This small change has had a huge impact on the health of the people, and it has definitely shown.

One final thing I have noticed that changed is the growth of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints here. There are places that I pass by when driving to outreaches in the middle of nowhere that have the church. It is incredible to see and very humbling. This whole trip has been incredible and helped me remember some of the best times of my life here.

Ensign College of Public Health

The Time the Tro Tro Got Stuck

Today one of the coolest things happened in my entire life. While we were on the outreach today, the weather turned for the worst and it began to rain. The thing about rain in Ghana is that when it rains, it RAINS. Like an unbelievable amount of rain was coming and it was raining even when we left. The Telecentre in Accra we didn’t stay at because we were too far out so we decided to stay at one closer so that we could get our work done earlier. When we got to a fork in the road, our driver decided to take a shortcut to the hotel. The road was completely dirt and covered in trenches. We decided to trudge through it and we got stuck on an incline. After several tries to get out of the rut, the four volunteers, myself included, were asked to start pushing the car to try and get it moving. We pushed and pushed and pushed but didn’t get it very far.

Around this time, school was getting out at a nearby middle school. There were now hundreds of kids walking down the road that we were stuck on. As they saw us pushing, the doctor started to recruit some of the older kids to help us get the van out of the ditch. Eventually, half of the school was helping push this van up the hill. There wasn’t enough room for the volunteers to push so these kids seriously pushed this van all the way up the hill. Then they pushed another car that had gotten stuck completely down the hill as well. It was truly incredible. I’ve never seen that many kids help out in my entire life. There were probably 400 kids on the road that day and each one of them wanted to help and get us out of that situation.

I noticed two miracles that day. The first—that nobody got hurt. There were so many times where I was scared that some kid was going to get run over or that some kid was going to get crushed. That didn’t happen and I’m so thankful that it didn’t. The second miracle—that those kids came out when they did. Without their help, we would still be stuck on some dirt road hill in the middle of nowhere. Truly incredible and honestly the highlight of my trip so far.

How the Tro Tro got stuck
Some of our Helpers

A Day in the Life of a Global Health Intern in Ghana

For today’s blogpost, I will be sending you through a day of what I go through each day. This hopefully will give you a better understanding of the work here that I do.

When we first wake up, the Telecentre (our hotel) provides us with breakfast. This is normally bread, Milo (hot chocolate), juice box, eggs, ginger porridge (about as bad as it sounds), and oats. These all aren’t there every day but a combination of these are there about every day. After breakfast, we pack for the day and get ready to get picked up.

Once we get picked up, the drive can be the longest part. Sometimes, the drive is 30-40 minutes. Other times, the drive is 3-4 hours. These drives are along bumpy roads and can take a lot of energy out of you. Most of the time, the volunteers are sleeping so that’s one benefit of the car rides. These vans are also pretty packed at times which can be uncomfortable if the ride is bumpy and long. The best part though is that the vans have air conditioning. Sometimes it’s the little things in life.

Some typical roads we drive on daily

Once we arrive at the building we are going to work in (normally a church or a community center), we begin to unpack the prescriptions, visual acuity test materials, and other supplies that we will need. Once those are set up, a member of the clinic will give instructions to those whose eyes will be checked that day. After a brief instruction period, the volunteers are asked to introduce themselves. This can be entertaining as they will go wild when volunteers speak Twi (the local dialect).

Organizing prescriptions
Typically what we arrive to. Just more people.

After the introduction, there are three stations that we can work at. The first is the visual acuity station. At this station, we deliver visual acuity stations to patients. The U.S. system of 20/20 is substituted for the metric system which is a measurement of 6 meters. For instance, instead of 20/40 the individuals’ vision on the metric system would be 6/18 or something like that. This is different but easy to adjust to.

Another station we work at is the data entry station. At this station, the patient visits us just after seeing the doctor. There is a little paper they give us with all their information from their eyesight for each eye to the problem the doctor thinks they have. On the computer, we enter all the information for the records to keep. This station is only a part of St. Thomas eye clinic though. Crystal Eye clinic will keep the paper as their records and not record it in a computer.

The last station (and my personal favorite) is the prescription dispensing station. At this station, the patient will bring us their papers with the prescription that the doctor needs them to receive. We then prepare the prescription and provide details on how each prescription needs to be used. For example, there is an eye drop prescription that is called Dytex. Most of the time with Dytex, the patient needs to take 2-3 times a day in both eyes. When giving the patient the Dytex, we will explain to them how to take the eye drop, how often to take it, and which eyes. Translators are used at times if necessary but most of the time, individuals are able to understand the instructions that we give them.

After work, we usually come back to Telecentre and find somewhere to eat. Normally we eat something like rice and tomato stew, fufu and groundnut soup, or sometimes just straight up crackers and Coca-Cola. It really just depends on when we get home, how tired we are, and how hungry we are. The clinic will feed us during the day for lunch and God bless them for doing so.

After eating dinner, we will either play cards, some epic games, or do our daily logs and other homework. Then sleep. Lather, rinse, and repeat the next day. That’s my typical day.

667 words

Lunch after observing cataract surgeries

The Return Part 2

Week keeps going by. Time is starting to fly now with me starting to figure out everything. I’ve memorized most of the prices at this point. That’s been fun. Linda and Gavin (my roommate) continue to be the two that I work with the closest. I’ve had a truly enjoyable time. For May 9th, same old same old really. However, we helped over 200 people which is not something to joke about. I can’t believe how many people we help on a daily basis. It seriously amazes me. That day we went to a small village about three hours away from where we are staying. The drive and heat take it out of you. Along with getting in at 10:30. But honestly, I can do anything for six weeks so let’s go.

May 10th there was a switch up and that threw me off my grove a little. We are getting new groups this week and so they wanted to make sure I know how to adminster eye exams. The first couple were a little rough. However, after picking the testing up, the work got fun again. We finished much earlier with six volunteers working at the eye testing station instead of just four. Then the man in charge of that day took us to his house and fed us. That’s one thing that I have definitely missed is how kind people are here. It’s incredible. There are so many times when handing out medication that people will help someone pay for their medication if they are short. I am so impressed and humbled by it. It truly amazes me how having basically a whole country go to church can change the perspective of the people. People are so Christlike here and it is amazing.

For Saturday, we had a day off and decided to go to the beach. It was funny because they let us swim only in one spot but if we tried to go to other parts to swim they would threaten to kick us off the beach. That was unfortunate but it worked out and was still way fun. We played football and rugby as a group and that was super enjoyable. It was nice to have a day off and relax. My roommate also brought some games to play and he’s trying to teach me. But I’m not a gamer like he is and so I get killed every time. Still and enjoyable time with the group though.

Sunday, we were split into three groups and two of them took off in the morning. Now, it’s just my roommate, another guy in our group who served a mission in Ghana, and I in the hotel. The one good thing about that is that the wifi is now much faster. So thank you for those that left so that I could post this without taking four hours. Life is still good here in Ghana. Haven’t been sick at all and stilll having a lot of fun. Miss my wife like crazy. Missed my mom on mother’s day but what can you do. Have a happy mother’s day everyone.

Playing cards with the group.

Our driver Bismark. Absolutely stellar guy.

Where we did the eye exams. Eye sheet behind me.

The Return Part 1

Returning back to Ghana did not feel real to me. When I got off the airplane and took my first steps in Ghana once again, it felt like a dream. I didn’t feel right. Before when I had come, I was a missionary, but now I felt awkward, out of place, and even a little of “what am I doing this for?” However, once I got into the tro-tro (15-passenger van) to go to our hotel, I knew that I had made a correct decision. I began to recognize areas that I had been in 6 years earlier (still can’t believe it has been 6 years), places where I had eaten previously, and began to feel at home again. I realized soon that Ghana was different from when I had come the first time, but it still felt like my home away from home. The smells were still the same, the food was still the same, and the people were still some of the most wonderful people I had met in my life. Some of these things didn’t change. Others did. Eventually though, I realized that no matter what I did, Ghana would always be a second home to me. To have the opportunity to help individuals with various eye issues have their vision restored and improved is wonderful. I am truly grateful for this opportunity and for Unite for Sight for setting all this up. They have been an incredible source to work with and I can’t wait to get started on the rest of the internship.

The first day was incredible. It was a full ten-hour day and we worked from 9-7 basically nonstop. From giving various perscriptions to individuals and handing out glasses to people who needed them, I’ve never felt this tired for a long time. I forgot how hard it is to work while you are always hot and sweating. And if you know anything about me, you know how much I sweat. I don’t think that I stopped sweating from the time I got out of the shower until the time when I got to my air conditioned room. Today I worked with two local Ghanaians named Linda and Tina (when I told her that was my mother-in-law’s name she wouldn’t stop laughing). They both work with the Crystal Eye Clinic and Unite for Sight. At first, they were patient with me and once I got it down they let my friend (Gavin) and I do most of the work. I enjoyed that part. Felt rewarding to work hard all day. They fed us food that I hadn’t had since my first trip to Ghana and that was surreal. Never had a closer out of body experience than when I tasted jollof rice and chicken again. Wow. Some things you don’t ever forget and that might be one of them.

Second day was similar to the first. Gavin and I worked with Linda and continued to give out prescriptions and glasses. The only difference was the area we were in this time was poor. And when I say poor, I mean extremely poor. The individuals lived in awful circumstances and my heart went out to each and every one of them. That’s one thing that I have learned most from this trip so far; you may not be able to change everything about their life, but you can make at least one thing better for them. That’s one of my focuses this trip. I know that if I had the means I would help each and every one of them with every problem they have. But I don’t have those means nor do I think that it would be beneficial for them in the long term. However, I can make one part of their life better and that’s what I am here to do. I am here to help provide means for them to improve their eye health in whatever way that I can. It doesn’t seem like much, but it motivates me to work hard each day. People talk about the reason that they get up in the morning and that has become my motivation to get up in the morning.

Past few days have been exhausting. I never knew that handing out medications to individuals would be so draining. I don’t know if it’s the heat that plays such a part in the energy drainage or what but I’m exhausted after every trip. It is so rewarding though. My mind continues to be blown by the amount of people that we are able to help in just a few hours. First day it was 300, then 120, and today it’s 250. I have played such a small part in this life changing miracle but it’s still a part. I have enjoyed plenty (besides the long car rides) and continue to feel joy as I serve these people. I can’t express my gratitude for the situation in which I live in. I am reminded of that daily and it has been engrained in my mind forever.

Linda and Tina. The nurses we worked with in Teshie.

If you know anything about me, you aren’t surprised by this picture.