Report by Gwendolyn Kennis (Feb-Mar 2008)

February-March 2008

My travel report

My name is Gwendolyn and I am a student nurse. I was in Ghana for five weeks doing my practical training. I worked for four weeks in the Tamale Teaching Hospital, Northern Region..

The previous year we could subscribe as a candidate to do a training period abroad in our last year of education. When I heard this, I was very curious about what our school had to offer. I prefered the continent of Africa, and more precisely Senegal. But unfortunately this training period was not possible and as a result I went to Ghana. I didn’t know a lot of the country yet, because I didn`t have the opportunity to search some information before my departure, therefore at my arrival everything was a surprise. But from the first step on the ghanaian ground I felt at home. I really enjoyed the country, climate and the population.

People of the organisation of REVSODEP have looked well after us. When we arrived Tuesday morning (03.30A.M.), Abu and Radzak were standing at the airport to pick us up with a cab and they drove us to our hotel. The next day Abu went with us to the beach of Accra and showed us a little part of the town. On Wednesday he accompanied us in the bus to Tamale, where we were to stay in a guest family.

Our guest family was really the family you couldn`t even dream of. We lived together with four students (two nurses and two midwives) in the new house with our dad and big brother. With this brother I had some nice chats. They where always there for us: when you saw a spider on the wall or a broken lamp, they fixed everything. And then there was our guest mum, a super-kind woman. When we were sick, she was there. Every day she cooked a really nice meal. And she even varied Ghanaian with Western dishes. So our stomachs wouldn’t get too upset. When we didn’t like something she respected this and didn’t prepare it anymore. She also did our laundry. Yes, she groomed us really good. Even on our last day she gave us some food for our travel. During our meals on the floor, we listened to a lot of her stories. I learned a lot about the culture and the Ghanaian way of life.

Tamale is a nice city. You can compare it with the town where I live in Belgium (Lier). There is a main route where the market, the hospital, church, shops… are and around it there is the education ridge, the stadium … . The cultural market is a real must. The people are kind and helpful. They are used to see white people because there are a lot of volunteers working and staying in Tamale. You are frequently greeted in the local language; dagbani. It really is a city where I could live.

Our training period continued in the Tamale Teaching Hospital. We were well entertained by Salifi Musah Badim, the coordinator of the hospital. He gave us a tour around the hospital. We also discussed on which wards we would do our practical training. I would work at the Main Theatre, Paediatric Ward, ENT Unit and Emergency Ward. My first experiences on the main theatre were fine, I was well entertained by the team and I gained a lot of experience. Also the anaesthetist and surgeon of the hospital were always ready to answer my questions or to give an explanation. We did the main tour around the ward with the doctors On the Paediatric Ward and ENT Unit a lot. So I gained a lot of knowledge of among other things the different kinds of malaria. Furthermore I had the opportunity to be at the Labour Ward for a while. Here I saw some interesting things and labours.

The hospital is in a bad condition, it needs to be totally renewed. The intensive care unit has been renewed a few years ago but the other wards are still neglected. They had just started to paint the Maternity Ward when we were there. The ward on the top of the hospital was closed because these parts are too ruinous.

There was a meeting in the office of REVSODEP each Friday after our training period with all the volunteers. It was a fine to hear how everybody was getting on and if there were any issues or problems. The members or REVSODEP organisation were always ready to help us if we had problems of any kind. We could discuss about anything with them. They are really concerned about their volunteers.

I also had the opportunity to travel a bit around Ghana. We saw a lot of things in six days, but we didn’t do it in the Ghanaian way. Instead of taking a tro tro to get to our place of destination, we took the STC bus. This way we were sure that we would be in time in all the places we liked to visit. I really recommend the Kintampo waterfalls, the cultural market at Kumasi, Mole national park, Tongo Hills near Bolgatanga and the Cape Coast Castle. Everybody was so friendly during our travelling week. When we lost our way, there was always somebody to guide us. To show us the way, like when we were heading towards the market in Kumasi. When you travel around Ghana, you will always find the friendship where this country is famous for.

Finally I must tell everybody that when you want to go to Ghana, five weeks are too short. I also wanted to stay longer!

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