20140226-213315.jpg

At the Embassy

We’re sitting in the Delta lounge at Accra airport beginning to process all that we have seen during our 16 days in Ghana and thinking about the transition back to life in South Carolina.

The highlight of our last day here was a visit with Gene Cretz, the United States Ambassador to Ghana. He was kind enough to give us an audience when local Rotarians contacted the Embassy on our behalf.

We spent about 45 minutes talking with Mr. Cretz about Rotary work in Ghana, telling him some of the specific needs we had observed during our trip around the country.

In turn, he told us about some of the projects the US is involved here.

Some of his points:
1. He expects significant funding in the next months from the Millennium Challenge Corporation to improve the power grid in Ghana.
2. There are numerous opportunities for business development in Ghana.
3. This is basically a peaceful country where people want to work with you.
4. The US has given considerable funds for education, hospitals and economic development in Ghana. The Ambassador will meet with the Business Council next week in New York to discuss bringing new business to Ghana. In the medical area, Mr. Cretz specifically mentioned malaria education.
5. Funds have been used to teach farmers to get the best yield on their crops, and how to get the best price.
6. The American dollar will never be wasted here.

Ambassador Cretz also connected with us when he spoke highly of SC Senator Lindsay Graham.

After our meeting, we had some final moments to speak with the district governor and other Rotarians here. Now, we await the trip home, and finding ways to help this country of which we now feel a part.

20140226-104829.jpg

Better friendships? You bet

We were a circle of strangers who talked and laughed, ate and drank, as if we had known each other for a lifetime. It was the perfect way to end a special Rotary day.

imageIn the morning Anne and I gathered with about 100 Rotarians and medical professionals to dedicate a new cold storage facility where polio and other vaccines can be safely kept to serve the Greater Accra Region. Having this storage unit to serve the 4 million people living around Accra means that space can be freed up in the only other such facility to serve the rest of Ghana.

On the second floor of the building housing the cold storage are classrooms and meeting rooms. The building was a cooperative effort of Rotary and the Ghana Health Service. Rotary funded the cold storage (at a cost of which $123,000) and the health service funded the classrooms so that it can offer education classes for nurses and others.

Anne and Sam in the new cold storage unit.
Anne and Sam in the new cold storage unit.

Both Anne and Past Rotary Director and past Foundation trustee Sam Okudzeto of Accra had been on the Foundation’s board of trustees when the money for the cold storage unit was approved in 2012.

imageDoctors and Rotarians were a part of the ceremony to commission the facility. Anne was the primary speaker, and reminded the gathering that The Rotary Foundation contributed $7 million to Ghana to help in the eradication of polio.

PlaqueIt made me feel especially proud as a Rotarian from Zone 33 and South Carolina to see a beautiful plaque at the entrance to the facility with Anne’s name on it.

At lunch time we were the honored guests at a joint meeting of 20 Rotary clubs in the Greater Accra area. About 200 Rotarians were present, including a delegation of 15 from Nigeria who had come just for the event.

Anne again was the primary speaker. She talked about all we had seen during our time in Ghana and encouraged the clubs present to work together on projects and global grants to make an even greater impact on the people of Ghana.

DressI was seated at the head table and was presented with a wood carving representing Ghana. Being at the front of the room made it possible for me to show off the beautiful dress that Anne’s aide Teresa had had made for me just for this day. Teresa had brought two samples of cloth for me to choose from on Sunday night. By Monday night, she had delivered the dress! I borrowed some shoes that matched and had the perfect African outfit.

All of the Rotarians, of course, wanted to speak to Anne, shake her hand, and have their photos taken with her. Having the Vice President of Rotary International visit them and tour their country as Anne had is something they say they will remember for a long time.

TV interview
TV interview

As our Rotary public image coordinator in Zone 33, I was happy at the media coverage we received at both events today. We had radio, TV, and print media present. We have gotten coverage of some kind at almost every place we have been. This brings more awareness to the people of Ghana as to how much Rotary is doing here.

In the evening, we got what I think might have been our best look at what a Rotary club should be. Teresa asked us to join us at her house for supper with a few of her fellow club members. Cara, an accountant, picked us up at our hotel at 6:30. Driving through rush hour traffic, we arrived more than an hour later at Teresa’s. But this gave us a chance to ask Cara lots of questions about Ghana, from the tax system to the school system. He was able to help us understand more about this country.

At Teresa's house
At Teresa’s house

At Teresa’s house, there were nine of us in all, and it didn’t take but a moment to realize that the Ghanaians were not just fellow club members but friends. And they welcomed Anne and me into their circle as if we had known each other for years.

We learned about their RATs competition (Rotary Aptitude Test), where they quiz each other on Rotary facts. We learned about the groups they have formed in the club to organize activities (one group might work on a budget for a project, for example, and another might work on the logistics).

We learned that Daniel, an engineer, is the brother of the owner of the Eusbett Hotel, where we had stayed two nights in Sunyani, and is a member of the Rotary Club of Sunyani East with which we had met.

We learned from club president Oboshie, a banker, that the club has met its project goals for this year, and her main goal for the rest of the Rotary year is to get club members to contribute more to the Rotary Foundation.

We learned from Abena, also a banker, that she had spent a few months in Atlanta, and what she remembers most are the trees.

It was a casual, easy-going evening with friends that underlined the power of Rotary to bring understanding through sitting around a table, laughing and talking about life.

The whole of Tuesday brought to my mind a part of our Four-Way Test. Will it build goodwill and better friendships? When you take time to listen, to see, to experience–even if briefly–the life of another, the answer will always be yes.

20140224-221537.jpg

A stable, peaceful country

We are now two at the Afia Hotel in Accra. Anne and I are here until late Wednesday night, as she fulfills some more duties in her role as Rotary International Vice President.

Past Rotary International Director and past Foundation trustee Sam Okudzeto, a lawyer in Accra, took us into his care today to show us two important parts of his country’s economy.

imageWe went first to the University of Ghana, where about 35,000 students study each year. The school sits atop the highest point in Accra, thus offering the best view of the city.

In one area of the campus, we stopped to look at a series of small statues of the past chancellors of the school, begun in 1948. The first three chancellors were from Great Britain and all since have been Ghanaians.

This provided a time for Sam to give us a short review of the end of the British colonial period that came in 1957, and Sam’s personal story from that time.

Sam Okudzeto
Sam Okudzeto

Sam was a student at the University of London, having arrived there as a British subject with a British passport. As soon as Ghana gained its freedom, Sam said he went to the new Ghana embassy in London, turned in his British passport and became a citizen of Ghana.

After our visit to the school, we rode for about two hours to Akosombo to get a look at a huge dam and hydroelectric complex along the Volta River. This is one of two power generating stations operated by the Volta River Authority and has since 1961 been the main generator and supplier of electricity in Ghana.

imageThe area along the river is beautiful and has resulted in several hotels being built nearby. We saw two. We ate lunch at the Royal Senchi, a large conference hotel. For a while we were the only diners and thought the big buffet spread was more than the three of us could eat. But finally a group of about 20 young athletic men came in and in no time at all the food on the buffet had dwindled.

Being curious as to who these men were, we hailed one to our table and learned that they were attending a nearby football academy. Before we started talking Gamecock football, the young Scot clarified that what he really meant was a soccer academy. (We had already faced a communication challenge when I asked him “What are y’all doing here?”)

After lunch, we went to the Volta Hotel where there is a magnificent view of the river, the dam, and the lake.

Seeing the university, the power generating dam, and the two nice hotels and spending time with Sam demonstrated to us that there is more to Ghana than what we saw in the hard places. This is a stable, peaceful country that wants to help itself. It wants good roads, good schools, good hospitals, clean water, toilets.

It can happen–with leaders like Sam Okudzeto and 1.2 million Rotarians to back him up.

20140223-200311.jpg

The hard places

We celebrate Rotary’s 109th anniversary today as our joint journey to the hard places of Ghana comes to an end.

For the past two days, we have had a little more down time to begin processing all that we have seen and learned about here.

Saturday was spent at Cape Coast, the morning free. At breakfast we were surprised to meet a college student from Columbia, South Carolina. Sarah is majoring in public health at Agnes Scott College in Atlanta and is on a year’s exchange program in Ghana.

Two of her uncles live near Anne in Columbia and her mother is a member of the Rotary Club of Winnsboro in Sue’s district. Small world? Anne emailed Sarah’s mother, a Presyterian minister, to tell her about meeting her daughter and got a response right back.

Sarah and Walter enjoyed a lengthy conversation about their mutual interest in helping develop Ghana’s health system. So who knows what might come from this chance encounter at a breakfast buffet on a beach in Ghana.

In the afternoon, we toured St. George’s Castle in Elmina, a structure built by the Portuguese 500 years ago that later played a primary role in the African slave trade. Thousands of Africans were held in dungeons that had once been warehouses awaiting ships that would carry them to bondage in Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas.

ChurchThis Sunday morning we got up early because we wanted to visit a Ghanaian church. We had learned there was a Catholic service beginning at 7 am that would be over by 9. Our large bus arrived at the church just a few minutes before 7 to find an assistant priest and three or four other people. But in no time at all the senior priest arrived and the church filled with more than 100 at this very early service.

A choir processed in with all the traditional Catholic regalia, rituals, and incense. Unlike my church in Greenville where a piano and organ are the primary instruments, this church had two kinds of drums to accompany the singing. It also surprised us to see a sound system in use. The priest spoke in at least three languages, the local tribal language, English, and Latin.

As part of the service, the priest asked all those who were born in February to come forward for a special blessing. I had celebrated my birthday the day we arrived in Ghana, so I was among the handful of people standing before the priest for the blessing that included a splash of water at each of us. I don’t know what he said or what the water meant but it made me feel good, and blessed.

Leaving the church, we discovered we were the only ones who had driven there. Everyone else was walking home. No wonder the driveway was in such bad shape. It is never used!

After church it was back to the hotel for breakfast and packing the bus for the drive to Accra and the Afia Hotel. We had a late lunch at the Afia and started parting ways. David and Sarah are going to Kenya for a safari; Jenny is driving to Togo to visit the village where she was once a Peace Corps volunteer; Anne and I are staying here for three more nights because on Tuesday Anne will commission a walk-in cold storage facility for polio and other vaccines in this region of Ghana; and the others are at the airport now awaiting the overnight Delta flight to New York.

Thinking about the castle, it was there we encountered street merchants that were quite pushy trying to sell us cheap goods made for tourists. These were the first such vendors we have seen in Ghana but common in many tourist areas. I take this as proof that where we have spent the past two weeks are not the places tourists frequent, not the places where vendors will sell anything to make a cedi (Ghana’s currency).

Where we have been is to the hard places. We have been to the places where we wanted to buy handwoven baskets because the women who weave them use the money they earn to educate their daughters. We have been to the places where we wanted to buy goats for children because having goat’s milk makes a significant difference in a family’s standard of living. We have been to the places where we wanted to buy handmade Shea butter soap to support a center for widows and orphans.

We have been to the places where people are hungry, drink dirty water or none at all, have to go into the bush to use the bathroom, where school children try to learn in classrooms with nothing.

For 109 years, Rotarians have taken similar journeys on similar roads to do good in the world by not being afraid to go to the hard places.

Hand

Take my hand

A pool, a school, a tree walk, and a night drive offered us very different experiences on a day that had us leaving a hotel in Sunyani at 6 am and arriving at one in Cape Coast at 7:30 pm.

We are approaching the end of the trip for a majority of the team, who fly home Sunday night. Friday’s long day was scheduled to get us closer to Accra and to a place where we can spend Saturday relaxing and repacking.

We pulled out of the Sunyani hotel before daybreak heading to Kumasi, one of the country’s larger and more developed cities, and the Golden Tulip Hotel. We had two objectives: drop off team member Herb McClaugherty and eat a buffet breakfast.

Herb has done business in Ghana for a few years and wanted to meet with a supplier of wood for his veneer business. He was staying the night in Kumasi, flying home Saturday night.

At breakfast, we were seated outside by quite a large pool with a nice breeze. This environment provided us such a contrast to the villages and hotels we had been in, and gave us a glimpse of yet another part of Ghana.

We said our goodbyes to Herb after eating breakfast, and headed to the Seibels-Barker College, a primary, junior and senior high school in Amanfrom-Kumasi. This school was begun by our team leader’s uncle (Bill Barker) and it was the first place that Walter worked in Ghana.

imageBy Ghanaian standards, the school is flourishing. We had a tour of the school by Vivien, the principal, and we presented her with the ram we had been given at a village earlier.

Older students were engaged in taking exams while the younger ones showed us how to march properly to drums being played by other students.

The open air lunch room attached to the kitchen.
The open air lunch room attached to the kitchen.

This school has an open air lunch room attached to the kitchen, something Walter made happen. Part of the second floor in one of buildings is still unfinished.

The students greeted us enthusiastically and the middle grade and younger ones, in particular, wanted to hold our hands and walk beside us. One girl took my hand and asked if I would be her friend.

imageTears came to Walter’s eyes as he stood on a second floor balcony and looked out at what the school has become. Now, he wants to make every school in Ghana like this one.

Back on our bus, we were headed toward our fun activity of the week, a visit to the Kakum National Park and walk above tree level through the rainforest.

The plan was to eat a late lunch near the park. Sometimes the plan doesn’t work. Right after the school visit, some of us got a short nap as Nelson drove us south. But once we turned onto the road that would eventually get us to the park, there was no sleeping and any hope for lunch blew away with the dust.

This was by far the longest stretch of bad road we had encountered. It is what we had expected along the Damongo Road from a few days earlier. Bumpy is not a strong enough word for it. Most of the road was dirt but with sporadic, inexplicable paved pot-hole filled portions. We drove on it for about three hours. Those sitting in the back of our bus got buried by our luggage that was shifting around.

We encountered villages and saw children walking home from schools that looked to be in the same shape as most other village schools. We waved at all of them and were rewarded with big smiles and waves back.

We came upon one little girl who looked to be about 6, walking alone in her school uniform. We brought our bus to a stop, and Walter leaned out the window to hand her a loaf of bread. We wondered what she would tell her mother about how she acquired the bread on a barren road on her way home from school.

Arriving at the park, some of us faced a new fear. The path up to the canopy walk was rough with uneven stones along a slope that was less than gentle. When one of our group wanted to turn back, another reached out and said “Take my hand and walk with me. I’ll help you.”

Canopy walkThe walk through the trees was on a single plank of wood suspended with rope 150 feet above the ground. The plank was enclosed so there was really no danger of falling, but that did not take away the fear as we walked shakily through the trees.

Suspended in the trees, we walked one by one, putting our trust in the engineers who had built the canopy walk with the hope that the single boards we were walking on would not break under our feet. Some of us, including me, could not enjoy the journey through the trees for the fear in our minds. We looked anxiously ahead to the next break station where we could pause for a few moments and look out at the beauty of the rainforest below.

We survived, sweaty and tired, and headed to our hotel, an hour away. We saw the sunset just a few minutes after leaving the park. This became the first night that we were driving after dark and we now understood why Walter had planned early starts most days to keep us off the roads at night. It proved to be quite difficult and even stressful to find the hotel with no lighted signs.

On this Friday, we held the hands of school children. We worked our way through the maze of ropes and planks, encouraged by each other, reaching out a hand to pull the one behind onto the next break station. We drove through darkness to reach the safety of the hotel where staff was waiting and said “Let us help you.”

As the primary portion of our trip comes to an end, the events of this day can sum up what it is we want to say to Ghana, “Give me your hand. I’ll help you.”

20140221-114340.jpg

Guinea worm eradicated in Ghana; RIVP Matthews featured in newspaper

by PDG Sue Poss
Rotary Public Image Coordinator, Zone 33

The Daily Graphic, a newspaper circulating throughout Ghana, featured an article about Guinea worm eradication and the celebration in which a team of 18 U.S. Rotarians participated in Tamale in northern Ghana on Feb. 15.

RIVP Anne Matthews of Columbia, South Carolina USA, is quoted extensively in the article, which includes a photo of her with several tribal leaders, local Rotarians and medical personnel.

The Rotary team is led by Walter Hughes of Virginia USA, who has coordinated much of the Rotary work in Ghana over the past 10 years. Walter’s efforts to bring clean water and better sanitation to villages was a significant reason Guinea worm was eradicated. He is in the newspaper photo too, though he was not identified by name.

The World Health Organization is in process of certifying Ghana a Guinea worm free country, since no case has been reported here since 2010.

20140220-221750.jpg

Cooperating clubs get things done

A hospital cannot function without a blood bank and a vocational school cannot teach students a trade if they don’t have wires and switches for the students to work with.

The two projects we visited this afternoon were different from any we have seen. We were at Sunyani Memorial Hospital, where we saw only one refrigerator, which I would describe as office size. The need obviously is for more refrigeration to store donated blood.

The Rotaract Club of Catholic University introduced us to a need at a vocational school that trains physically challenged persons to manufacture footwear. The Rotaractors, the first we have met here, were enthusiastic about their efforts to work with the students at the school. The Rotaract Club wants to buy teaching materials that will give students hands-on experience so that they can earn a living for themselves.

We were so encouraged by the energy of the Rotaract Club and their leadership in seeking funding for this project.

Our encounter with young adults did not end with Rotaract. Tonight we were guests at the Sunyani East Rotary Club, and it looked to us that most of the members were under 40. One Rotarian couple had brought their two children to the meeting.

Like all the other clubs we have visited, this meeting was well organized. Club officers sat at the front and we all had agendas. The meeting room was crowded with 30 local Rotarians, a few guests, and the 18 of us. The club inducted a new member, Laud Mike Tagoe. He looked young too.

Special to us was the Paul Harris Fellow presentation we made to Michael. Michael has driven our “trail truck” since we arrived. It is he who goes out in search of ice for our cooler everyday and makes sure we have plenty of water. It is Michael who goes in search of soccer balls and pumps when we decide we need to give some to a school. It is also Michael who takes care of our animals. We have been given goats and guinea fowl by villagers as gifts of thanks, and we accept them graciously. Michael loads them in his truck, and delivers them to the next village. When we had children at Sagadugu ask us for goats, we wanted to buy some for them. It was Michael who purchased the goats and made sure they were delivered. So we were proud to honor him as a Paul Harris Fellow.

The club also talked to us about the projects they would like to do. One unusual one is to provide educational resources at a local female prison. They need desks, a white board and basic teaching materials, such as workbooks, textbooks, pens and calculators. Rotarians are willing to volunteer their time as teachers. The estimated cost of the first phase of the project is $1500 and local Rotarians have raised $500.

This was another day of seeing and hearing about needs of all kinds, but it was also an inspirational day to see two Rotary clubs and a Rotaract club not competing with each other but cooperating to better their community. We want to do all we can to help.

The HOW of change

For the past 10 days we have been going from town to town, project to project to see what it is that our Rotary Foundation dollars are funding. We have seen amazing results and amazing needs. We keep asking “How do we help? What do we do now.”

Today we took the entire morning to sit down with Rotarians in the two Sunyani clubs to talk about all the issues involved in taking a project from concept to reality.

Walter Hughes, who has worked on projects in Ghana for more than 10 years, led the discussion and helped all of us, Ghanaians and Americans, better understand the best practices involved in developing projects among international partners.

Too often we find that Rotarians at home, including most of us on this trip, have only a vague inkling of how to design, fund, and implement a project.
All of our discussion centered on Ghana but some of the advice is applicable to projects everywhere.

Here are some points:
1. Know who the champion is. For Ghana, it is Walter. He has worked with 20 districts and 120 clubs on projects for Ghana in the past 10 years. He has developed contacts and models that work. Any club anywhere in the world wanting to help this country should begin by contacting Walter.

2. The Ghanians know better than us what they need. We think a priority should be to buy books for classrooms. They think schools need water, bathrooms and electricity.

3. Focus on projects where communities and villages are trying to help themselves, and are not just looking for a handout. “We are not about charity,” Walter said. An example is the school we visited yesterday where the PTA raised enough money to about halfway finish bathroom facilities. “That is a school I want to help,” he said.

4. Every potential project needing funding should have a single page summary. In Ghana, clubs work with Walter to write the summary. When a club elsewhere is looking for a project to fund, Walter can provide them with summaries that best meet their objective and guide them toward making an informed decision. For example, if a club is interested in drilling boreholes, he’ll have summaries on water projects. A club interested in establishing a blood bank can receive summaries about those kind of projects.

5. Teamwork, collaboration, and productivity are critical to successful projects. The Rotary Foundation has strict application and accountability standards, as it should. Walter has developed templates for use in Ghana that help meet these requirements. For example, an accountant could input the project budget. An engineer could describe the procedure. When all questions have been answered, another person could enter it all into the online application that the Foundation requires.

6. All clubs and districts with money invested in a project should get regular reports provided by the host club.

7. Host clubs should keep a spreadsheet of all the projects they want to fund and all of the clubs/districts who are potential partners, and keep in touch with them.

8. Take full advantage of the Foundation’s global and district matching grants. A few thousand dollars from a club can be multiplied four times over using the proper procedures.

Was this a morning that tugged at our heart strings like all of our other mornings? No. We saw no hungry children and no one begged for our help.

But this morning was as important as any, for we all got a clearer idea of the logistics involved in affecting change by making the best use of Rotary resources.

This was a morning well spent in learning the HOW of engaging Rotary to change lives.

image

Crossing the road

A six-year old girl was killed not long ago at Borahen Korkor Primary and Junior High School in Sunyani, Ghana. Her death came not by violence; it came because she had to go to the bathroom. Like so many schools in Ghana, there are no toilet facilities at her school, and the girl had to cross the road to reach the nearest one.

We keep hearing this over and over. Children wanting to learn but hampered by the lack of the most basic necessities of water and sanitation, not to mention bare classrooms with few supplies. We heard it at five different stops today.

We left Techiman before 7:30 this morning for the drive to Sunyani. Our first stop was at Tonasuano where Rotary grants have helped drill two boreholes. We had to drive about five miles down a bumpy, narrow dirt road to reach the village, which I rank among the worse I have seen, at least it was the worse today. The village lost its primary means of support a few years ago when a bush fire destroyed its cocoa fields. With no way to support themselves, more than a third of the villagers have left. Still there are a few dozen children there. There’s a primary school for the young ones (there’s a partial building, no desks, no chairs, no supplies, not even a roof). Older children have to walk the long dirt road to the next village to continue their education.

We met with the village chief and were addressed by a representative of the local assemblyman who thanked us for the boreholes but begged us to help them get a better school. The villagers wanted to prepare us a meal but as we were pressed for time, they presented us with their best ram to say thank you.

This village will be featured in a presentation on Rotary work in Ghana at the Rotary International Convention in Sydney.

Foregoing lunch for snacks in our bags, we spent the afternoon visiting four schools in the heart of Sunyani. At the first school, where the girl was killed, the PTA is trying to raise enough money to finish a 28-seat toilet facility, its share of the partnership that brought two Rotary boreholes to the school. The shell of the toilet facility is there, but like so many building projects in Ghana, work has stopped until more money can be raised.

At another school where Rotary clubs around Vancouver, Canada, have been working, we were shown the water set-up that includes a borehole, a pump, a water tower, and a faucet. The last piece they are working on are the toilet facilities.

Two other schools had arranged ceremonies to commission the projects that had brought water to their schools.

At the first, the chairs were all set up awaiting us but because it was already past time for school children to go home, they decided to dispense with a formal ceremony. Instead, they asked Anne to cut the ribbon, revealing the new faucet. Several students took drinks of water from the brand new faucet, all using the same cup.

When we came to the last school, students, teachers and parents were sitting in a beautifully prepared setting waiting to hold a commissioning of their new water facility. The headmistress and students spoke to us about the school and their remaining needs (such as a fence to keep squatters out and to protect their new water source). We had another ribbon cutting.

It was exciting to celebrate this milestone with each of these schools–having clean water available through a faucet in a convenient location. And it made us feel good that Rotary had made it happen.

The one other stop for us before we attended the meeting of the Sunyani Central Rotary Club tonight was at the central market. No, we weren’t shopping but were inspecting a full Rotary water and sanitation project. Using global grants, we installed toilets and wash stations for the thousands who come here every Wednesday (major market day) to buy and sale. They can wash their hands, shower, wash their produce to make it more attractive, and use the bathrooms.

At five of our six stops today, people were thanking us for giving them water. But they also used the words beg and implore as they need more help to get toilets and to educate their children.

In a village in the north we learned that no toilets or latrines means a trip into the bush where you might encounter a snake. In a city further south, no toilets or latrines might mean a six-year-old is struck by a car on her way to the bathroom.

No wonder people here are begging us to help them.

20140218-225934.jpg

She made a difference

Today we saw a nursing school that has toilets but no water. We saw primary and secondary school students with classrooms and desks but no water or electricity. We saw clinics and hospitals that were overcrowded with not enough supplies. We saw boreholes that do not bring water to villages because the pumps no longer work.

imageThe worse thing we saw were several cases of buruli ulcer, a tropical skin disease that should not be this far north (we’re about in the middle of Ghana near the border with Ivory Coast). This is another disease caused by bad water.  It can be treated with a long series of antibiotics and if caught early enough leaves little damage. The problem is that  people don’t seek medical help early because they don’t recognize what it is.

The Techiman Rotary Club is paying, with no grant money,  for local medical people and villagers to be taught how to identify and treat the disease.  The basic fact remains that if the water were clean,this flesh  eating disease  would not exist.

Students at the primary and secondary schools were excited to see us, though I’m not sure they knew who we were or why we were there. These classrooms were slightly better equipped than those we saw in the north. Students in geometry class were working with protractors and rulers but had no water, toilets, or electricity.

The nursing school sits atop a hill, accessed up a treacherous dirt road. The government has installed two nice toilets to serve the 300 students but there is no water!

We saw boreholes rendered useless because the American know-how that works so well in the US doesn’t carry over to Ghana and the pumps fail. Neither of the two non-functioning boreholes we saw were Rotary projects originally but the question we now ask is can they be fixed or do we need to start over?

A similar question pops into my mind frequently here. How can we we fix this? How can we give nurses flushable toilets and not supplies to do their jobs when they graduate? How can we buy new equipment for hospitals when they are so overcrowded they have no place for it? How can we teach children to read and give them no books?

The Rotary club here in Techiman has identified projects that need the help of Rotary Foundation grants. But where to start? We don’t know all the challenges but we know some. We don’t have all the answers. But we have some. We can’t solve every issue but we can solve some. We can’t wait until we figure it all out to get started. We want to engage Rotary to change lives now.
Today, a girl of about 12 sitting at her desk asked me my name. As I spelled it, she wrote S-U-E in her notebook. What greater wish could I have than that she opens her notebook years from now and says “She made a difference in my life.”

U.S. Rotarians seeing lives transformed

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 35 other followers