Erin, a second year Midwifery student travelled to Takoradi in Ghana with her mum Caroline, a Registered Nurse.
The moment we arrived in Ghana, mum and I knew we had chosen the right place for a unique cultural experience that was totally different to anything we had experienced back at home.
A member of the Work the Work Ghana team met us at the airport and we knew, straight away, that we were in good hands. He was warm, welcoming and friendly Just like almost every person in Ghana.
After a quick shower and a nap to try and get rid of our jet lag, mum and I tried yam chips for the first time and they were awesome. They were the first of many different foods our taste buds were introduced to on our journey. I can also recommend ‘red red’ and barbecued goat!
We went to bed and had a good night’s sleep (and a few mosquito bites).The following day, we were bound for Takoradi, the city in which we were undertaking our placements.
When we arrived, we saw it; the big blue Work the World house. It was situated down a quiet road and was a lot bigger than we expected! The house and the staff were very welcoming. They showed us around and introduced us to our housemates before cooking us a big welcome lunch, after which we were quite ready to settle into bed.
Our first few days in Ghana included learning some local lingo. We also learnt how to flag down a taxi, ask for our destination and barter the price!
Thursday night BBQ’s were always a blast. They were a great opportunity to bring the house together, relax after a week of placement and enjoy some crazy dancing. Many of the housemates spoke different languages, and at one stage we had five different native tongues going at once! It was fascinating to listen and learn from others about their language and ways of life across the world. It was amazing how quickly we became friends with our housemates from all around the world. We were all in the same unfamiliar situation, so we bonded from day one.
The lack of pain relief was something that really struck a chord, reminding us just how blessed we were to have Australia’s healthcare system.
The time we spent in our placement hospital was entirely different from what we had experienced in the UK. We saw many different cases and episodes of care on the labour ward, assisting as often as we could.
I saw a twin cesarean section at 29 weeks, a baby born in the sac and an ‘old-school’ doctor holding a baby upside down by its legs. It was fascinating to experience all of this, and I would say that if you decide to Ghana, remember that you are not there to change anything, but to learn. There was not a great deal of room for compassion for a mother in childbirth, which was at times confronting. But, this is purely cultural and we were not there to judge.
My mother’s experience nursing in Ghana was challenging at first. The lack of pain relief was something that really struck a chord, reminding us just how blessed we were to have Australia’s healthcare system.
My mother was in her element during the Village Healthcare Experience, helping to diagnosing and prescribe, and would love to go back to spend time with the people in these more remote areas.
One main difference between care in Ghana and Australia, was that little compassion and pain relief are seen, and cases that would be seen as an emergency in Australia were not always an emergency in Ghana. For example, a baby (at 27 weeks) was born in a taxi outside the hospital. The baby was handed to me and I immediately took the baby to the ward to stimulate. A midwife came over with a handheld suction device. Back home, this would have been the kind of situation where paediatric doctors, a number of midwives and at least one intensive care nurse would be involved. This experience was amazing to be a part of.
Our placement hospital was greatly under resourced. If you’re planning a trip to Ghana, we suggest bringing things like cannulas, vacuettes and bluies for use on the wards. Hand gel was also scarce, and the midwives would appreciate fetal doppler or two, as they only had access to pinard stethoscopes.
During weekends, we slept in jungle tree houses, visited villages on stilts in a lake, and drank the odd pina colada or two with our housemates. It was very easy to organise weekend activities. On Sunday afternoons, we took trips in to Market Circle in Takoradi to stock up on yummy treats (although the fridge in the Work the World house had a lot of these already!) We also bought some beautiful Ghanaian fabrics for a local seamstress, who sewed together anything we asked for.
Whether you want a quiet night in, or a big night out there is plenty to do in and around Takoradi.
During our experience in Ghana, there were adrenaline rushes, challenges and many beautiful moments. If you go, you’ll understand that if you’re open minded and don’t try to change the world, you’ll have an amazing time!