Kathleen’s updates from the H.O.P.E. Center

The H.O.P.E. Center is aammaaazzzziiinnnggg, and yes, it does deserve all of those letters. It’s so great to see the H.O.P.E. Center in person — not just in pictures — and just to see where all of our hardwork and money goes! Keep it up everyone! The staff is wonderful — all so nice and welcoming. Sister Mary just laughs at us all of the time. I think she thinks our accents are funny. Margaret is literally amazing and definitely one of the coolest people I’ve ever met. I made the mistake of telling her that I am afraid of spiders so she hasn’t let me live that down at all and mentions it every time she sees me… greatttt… We had a lizard crawling all over our walls and ceiling last night, which was absolutely terrifying. But other than work we watched the Germany versus Ghana football game. This has been such a great experience already and will definitely continue to be for the next 5 weeks!

To Northwestern students:
This past fall, GlobeMed at Northwestern began what will soon be a a chapter tradition: The Global Marketplace. If you are interested in donating to our annual sale, please pick up something during your travels that can be sold at the Marketplace in the fall? It doesn’t matter if you aren’t going somewhere international, anything would be great! Thanks!

Healing at H.O.P.E.

Children walking around the H.O.P.E. Center. Photo by Allyson Westling / GlobeMed at Northwestern.

I am in the company of fascinating, wonderful people. Since I’ve been in Ghana, there has been no shortage of men, women, and children coming to welcome me into the community. One of the neatest people that I’ve had the privilege to spend time with is the H.O.P.E. Center’s head nurse, Margaret. She and I have had many conversations about the Center and its partnership with GlobeMed over the last week. Everything from balancing the Center’s operating budget to designing the next phase of the childhood nutrition program to taking steps toward the design of a future maternity ward- we’ve already begun to lay out a solid plan for next year.

Photo by Allyson Westling / GlobeMed at Northwestern.

It is neat to learn from Margaret. She is a passionate, dedicated nurse who not only runs the H.O.P.E. Center but also her own non-profit designed to empower women throughout the country. Besides her hectic work schedule, she still manages to reach out to those that need her most. For instance, there is a young, HIV-positive mother in town. When her HIV status was accidentally revealed, many in her village forcefully kicked her out of her home and have been hostile to her ever since (the HIV stigma is terrible around here, in case you didn’t catch that). Margaret immediately saw the potential in this young woman (and fell in love with her 5-month old baby girl- see photo) and took her under her wing. She and I have been to visit village chiefs, landlords, artisans, and church leaders so that Margaret can negotiate a future for this girl. Margaret’s persistence is inspiring and her integrity honorable. To be working in the company of such a woman is amazing!

I have also begun to conduct my first interviews for my research! I went into the village of Kdozbi yesterday to talk to six pregnant women and I had four interviews in Ando today. They have gone well so far and I am already getting a lot of good information that we can use to improve and expand the H.O.P.E. Center’s programming. My time here convinces me more and more that this is a place of incredible healing and “H.O.P.E.”

Living the dream…

Greetings from Ho! I have been in Ghana for a few days now, and am loving every minute of it! It has been so neat to meet the community and H.O.P.E. Center staff members, and become more familiar with the surrounding area. Yet, my favorite part so far has been my first visit to the H.O.P.E. Center. Seeing the actual structure has been a dream come true! It is so awesome to be able to visit the place that all of GlobeMed’s hard work and energy goes into supporting. The Center is a remarkable place — it is embraced by the community as a safe place to come for medical treatment, advice, lessons on proper nutrition and support. Our partnership with them is truly a privilege.

I have already begun discussing with the Center’s head nurse, Margaret, about ways in which we can expand our partnership between the Center and GlobeMed. One of our primary goals while the GROW students are here is to increase the childhood nutrition program. This has been a highly successful program, and we are currently looking for ways to improve upon and expand its positive influence. Stay tuned for more updates on this front!

My personal project while I am here will be to assess the nutritional status of pregnant women in the surrounding communities. We are interested in learning more about their current nutritional beliefs, practices, and knowledge. This information will help us create new facets within the current nutrition program that will best meet the nutritional needs of these women. I have begun speaking with my interpreters so that we can develop a plan to be able to interview the women and gain the data in a timely fashion. I am looking forward to working with them in the coming weeks.

All in all, life is great here! I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of the rest of the GROW students, and can’t wait to experience more of the great things that the H.O.P.E. Center has been doing!

Getting ready to GROW in Ghana

This summer, four of us GlobeMed members will be heading to Ghana to spend the summer at the H.O.P.E. Center for this year’s GROW project. We have been busy designing projects that will continue to build upon the Center’s existing programs in a sustainable fashion. Here is what each of us will be doing while we are in Ghana:

“I will be educating young mothers in the village of Kodzobi on how to prepare soybeans and introduce them into their childrens’ diets. In addition, I will be working on the education material to make it more accessible to the villagers and the mothers. As a group, we will also be conducting a general health survey in the surrounding villages to gauge a better understanding of what types of programs and projects we can implement in Ho in future years.”

“I plan on supporting GlobeMed’s main goal of expanding the nutrition project during our six week stay in Ghana. My individual focus will be on direct patient care, comparing what we are used to in the US to the state of medical treatment in Ho. I want to also compare equipment that relates to patient care, such as instruments that monitor patient activity and those that are used for treating infection.”

“I will be establishing a demonstration farm in Kodzobi, one of the villages closest to the H.O.P.E. Center. There, H.O.P.E. Nurses will hold educational sessions for mothers about the child’s nutritional needs and the values of incorporating soybeans into the diet. They will also be taught how to farm the soybeans. Additionally, I will be implementing a survey across several of the villages near Ho, Ghana asking questions related to sexual health practices to learn if people utilize the H.O.P.E. Center as a medical clinic and what they would like to see offered.”

“I will be assessing the nutritional needs of expecting mothers in the surrounding villages. I plan on interviewing approximately 30 women, who are either patrons of the Center or have never sought health care services there before. My interviews will assess the nutritional needs, knowledge, and resources available to these women as well as gain a clearer understanding of the cultural beliefs and practices surrounding pregnancy. This project will provide a link between the existing nutrition program and the advent of maternal health services to be offered at the Center in the near future.”

Developments at the H.O.P.E. Center

As the school year comes to a close, GlobeMed at Northwestern is gearing up to send yet another group of students to visit our partner clinic, the H.O.P.E. Center, in Ho, Ghana. This time, our team will be working specifically on expanding the clinic’s child nutrition program, for which we have received $15,000 in grants and donations to use over the next five years. With such exciting plans for the future, it’s important to take a step back and look at the H.O.P.E. Center’s achievements over the past year.

Since last summer, our two projects, the child nutrition program and adolescent sexual health resource center, have grown both in size and scope. The nutrition program launched its new peer educator component, which trains mothers in the community to plant protein-rich soybean crops and share that knowledge with other mothers in their villages. The peer educators also help nurses monitor child weight, which lessens the burden on the clinic staff. So far, we have peer educators in two villages surrounding the clinic, and hope to expand to eight in the next five years. As for the sexual health program, we have reached out to over 2,000 students in nine secondary schools and trained 100 students to be sex health peer educators at their schools. We’ve also set up condom corners at the local university. The program has been so popular that the H.O.P.E. Center has been asked by several other schools to expand the program to their campuses. Because of the clinic’s remote location, it serves as a discrete facility for STI testing and counseling, and many of the Center’s patients come in for family planning services.

With Ghana’s national health insurance scheme, more people are getting insured and taking advantage of available healthcare resources, and the clinic has consequently seen steady growth in its outpatient department. The H.O.P.E. Center’s diagnostic laboratory has also helped make the clinic more attractive to patients who might otherwise have to visit the district hospital or a private clinic. We’ve made great strides this year in providing quality community healthcare, and look forward to the progress this summer brings. —TIFFANY WONG