Meet Lora, a student studying to work as a mental health professional. Lora recently spent two weeks in Ghana, working in the medical clinic at Senya-Beraku with her friend, Alex, who’s also studying medicine. During their two week stay, they were able to pack in loads of things, from daily visits to the clinic, to medical trips to rural Ghanaian villages, to quick beach trips. They somehow even managed to squeeze in some time for exam revision. While it was quite a busy trip, Lora said it was an incredibly rewarding experience and would go back in a heartbeat. Keep on reading to find out why!
During their two week stay, Lora was able to settle in to a daily routine:
We would be in the clinic from 8 in the morning everyday. We found that all of the nurses clocked off at about 3 o’clock, so we would always be there for 8 in the morning, and then at half 2, it would go really quiet. We’d often finish at half 2, get lunch and then walk up to the school and get the bus from the school to the children’s home in the afternoon. The fact that after the clinic we’d go up to the children’s centre and get the bus up there with all of the kids, it worked out really well. We would leave there about half five-ish and be back for dinner by about 6.
However, they kept some flexibility in their schedule (which is great for all you students out there):
While we didn’t go to the community centre every day, we went to the clinic every day. Sometimes if we got off from the clinic at half two, we’d go to the beach or just go back and chill and do a bit of revision because we’ve got exams in two weeks time, but we didn’t know that at the time of booking it, so that was lack of preparation on our behalf.
Working in the clinic, Lora got the opportunity to see first-hand how medical care, particularly mental health care, differs between the UK and Ghana:
I thought mental health care in Ghana was good, the nurses were good, they knew a lot. But they’re really underdeveloped in some areas still, like being gay was a mental sickness, which I thought was awful. And they thought if you had a disabled child, it was God punishing you for some reason. It was things like that I didn’t like from a mental health side, but the nurses were good. With schizophrenics and stuff, they were good, they knew their stuff for things like that. I think it was just their religion, that caused some of the other things. It didn’t make me not like my experience it was just like a shock.
The way they practice and the way we practice, it’s really interesting to see. It’s tough, because you have to bite your tongue at some things. They do some things that you want to tell them not to do, but you can’t really say that because you don’t want to offend them, because obviously that’s how they were taught.
While Lora went to Ghana to volunteer at the clinic, she also really enjoyed her time at the children’s home:
Oh the children’s home was great! And the kids are so lovely, they’re just really well-mannered. It sounds odd, but the children actually had a lot compared a lot of to the other children. They had healthcare, they had all got chaperoned to school, they all had backpacks, toothbrushes, everything like that. Like a lot of the kids you would see in the more rural villages didn’t have anything. And it’s mad too, you never think you’d say that the children actually had a lot, but compared to what other kids had, they actually did. This is due to the support of Arms Around the Child and the money donated straight from the volunteer fees.
We actually went out in the community to the rural villages to do the baby weigh-in clinic, to make sure the babies weren’t losing loads of weight, and that’s where you really saw the difference.
She had some great stories about working with the kids in the children’s home;
I was teaching some of the older girls, the ten and eleven year olds, how to sew, and just basic things like that. They loved it, because they knew the normal straight stitch, but I taught them the blanket stitch, the cross stitch, all that. They would practice it for hours.
I was there over Easter, and on Easter Monday all the kids went to the beach to celebrate Easter. We went along to that and it was really good. They got given a special meal, because all they normally get is rye, and their special meal was rice and a boiled egg, and that was seen as a real treat. They had a meal on the beach, and went crazy and played in the waves, and built sandcastles. They also all got a proper shower, because they have showers on Sunflower beach.
As a nurse student, Lora also believes that this experience can help her in her career after she graduates:
I’m in uni now, and we’re not guaranteed a job at the end. So I think if you’re up for the same job as someone that hasn’t done something like this, it puts you a step ahead, definitely. Because there will be a lot of people who haven’t done something like this, and if you have, you have something extra to talk about, something extra to put on your CV.
Overall, Lora had a great experience and felt it really opened her eyes about mental health in Ghana:
It made me think how lucky we are here and how much we take things for granted. But it also made me feel for the people out there, because there are a lot of people that just suffer in silence. For people who suffer from mental health, the treatment isn’t awful, but there’s still such a stigma about it that people are scared to speak out.
Overall, the experience was better than what we were expecting, I think, because we didn’t realise we’d be able to go to the school and the children’s home as well. We just thought we’d be in the clinic everday, so the fact that we got to do all those extra things was really good. Especially because we were really conscious that we were only there for two weeks and I wanted to see everything. You could definitely do longer though and still not see it all.
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