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.
The 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.”