5.29.2018 Ashanti Region, Ghana
In Ghana I answer to a different name, a local name given to me by my homestay family during training. I am called Adwoa (meaning I am a female born on Monday) Akyaa (a family name). Now, six weeks into site integration, answering to this name feels natural and like I am a part of my community. I walk down the street and am greeted by everyone I pass, asking me how I am and where I am going. When I go to the school, the kids crowd around me shouting my name and trying to get my attention. The community has welcomed me warmly. My community members bring me fruit and vegetables from their farms, and help me fetch my water on a weekly basis from the borehole. The kids come to my house to say hello and play games. The teachers and clinic staff that I have interacted with patiently answer all of my questions and teach me about their culture. I love being able to answer all of their questions about life in the United States as well.
The house that I live in gives me the perfect amount of privacy and space, and as a bonus it is set against an amazing backdrop. Everyday I wake with the sun, and am up out of bed by 6:30am. I bathe, get dressed, and make myself breakfast, usually oats or avocado toast. From there, each day is a new adventure. Some days I find myself at the school, shopping in my market town, helping at child welfare clinics, or doing chores at home. Tuesdays are market days, which is the busiest day when all of the vendors come to town. Their stalls are tight packed together and line the streets, and I can get all of my food for the week and more: clothes, electronics, household items, fabric, etc. They have mostly everything you could possibly need. Once a week, I try new do laundry which takes about an hour. I wash everything in one bucket, rinse in a second one, and then hang it on the line to dry. I am in the process of starting a garden, and a couple of boys in the community are building me a fence to keep out the goats and chickens. I am looking forward to growing vegetables that I can share with my community in return for everything they do for me. I have lots of free time, and am constantly looking for ways to spend that time productively. Though I do love watching TV shows on my computer and am moving through seasons at an incredible pace, I have also found time to read more (Just finished the book Unbroken, and would definitely recommend!), relax with yoga and coloring books, and experiment with new recipes (Learning to cook is one of the goals I have for myself here). In the evening, it gets dark around 6:00pm and usually I am asleep by 9:00pm. On a normal day, my go to dinner is rice, vegetables, and a hardboiled egg. I am thankful for my rice cooker and fridge, which makes meal prep so much easier.
My first full month in my community was aligned with World Malaria Month, so the first thing I did was conduct a malaria survey assessing knowledge and practices around malaria prevention and treatment, in addition to a general needs assessment. I visited 60 houses with the help of my Peace Corps contact person, Evelyn. She lives close by and has been incredibly helpful by introducing me to people and showing me where to get things in my market town. We spent several days interviewing people, and talking to them about their health concerns and desired health projects. Through this process, I learned so much about my community dynamic. Malaria knowledge is strong, even among the young kids, and most people are well-educated about how to identify and prevent the disease. The actual availability and usage of bed nets is still very low. A bed net distribution is just one of the things that could benefit the community. They have also expressed the need to invest in community infrastructure, including building a clinic to improve access to medical care, mechanizing the boreholes to make them better suited to serve a community of their size, building latrines in people’s homes to promote hygiene and sanitation, and finishing the new school building to address overcrowding issues. I was surprised by the number of chronic diseases in the community, in addition to the expected infectious diseases. The next step is to gather the community together to discuss the results of the survey and identify priorities and the resources and leadership needed for completing these projects.
We finished out the month by hosting a Grassroots Soccer event on malaria and stenciling Malaria symbols at the school in my community. Grassroots Soccer is an adolescent health organization that leverages the power of soccer to educate, inspire, and mobilize at-risk youth in developing countries to overcome their greatest health challenges. I am going to a week long training for the program in July, but this was a sneak peek at how it works and how I can use it in the community. Some other education and health volunteers from nearby came to help, and we played games with the kids and talked about malaria. Even though it was African Union Day and the kids had a holiday from school, we had great turn out. The kids know a lot already, so it was mostly a good way to get to know them and have some fun. I think the favorite game was the one where I was the “mosquito with malaria” and had to tag the kids when they ran by. Once they were tagged, they became a “mosquito” as well and helped tag others. The lesson is how easily malaria can spread in a community when even one person has malaria. The kids also enjoyed another game, which is similar to the parachute game I remember playing in Kindergarten. Basically they use a sheet to toss a ball in the air, and then have to all get underneath before the ball hits the ground. The sheet is the “bed net” that protects them from the ball or “mosquito.” We also spray painted some visual reminders on the walls of another volunteer’s school. Shaped like a mosquito, the symbol says “End Malaria, Fight the Bite.”
I have been enjoying getting to know people and doing these little activities during integration period. This next month I will focus on developing a plan of action and building relationships, that way we can start off strong when integration ends in July. I also hope to solidify a language tutor in the next month, that way I can start to improve my language understanding. I also am adopting a puppy this week, so look out for more about her.