Meet Alex, a student studying to be a nurse at the University of East Anglia who volunteered with our project in Ghana for two weeks. Alex and her friend Lora volunteered through the medical programme and worked at the clinic in Senya-Beraku, where Alex worked in the maternity ward and Lora worked with mental health. Alex had done some travelling before, but told us that her experience in Ghana was unlike anything she’d ever done before. This trip was particularly special for Alex, because this is the type of work she wants to continue doing once she finishes her degree. Keep on reading to hear more about her trip!
Alex started by telling us about a typical day of volunteering:
We’d wake up at about seven, and they come with breakfast anywhere between six and half seven, so you sort of have to be up. The first day we got to the clinic for quarter to eight, but they weren’t really doing anything because they don’t really pick up the pace until half past eight, because they do a big worship thing all together. And then decided where we wanted to go with the clinic lead. Lauren took a real interest in the mental health side, whereas I’m a lot more clinical with what I enjoy, so I spent a lot of time with midwifery and I really liked that there.
I got to see a lot and get involved in a lot of varied stuff. We’d do that and then we’d head back home at around twelve for lunch. By the time we finished lunch, we’d go back up to the clinic. They’d be winding down, they seem to close up about two, and then everyone’s gone. As school finished, then we’d go up to the children’s home for the afternoon. That was really good, we really liked doing that spending time with the kids up there. And I think it broke up the day a bit so we weren’t always doing the same thing.
Since Alex and Lora went to Ghana for the medical programme, we were interested in hearing more about their work in the clinic:
I spent a lot of time in the maternity ward. We spent two days weighing the babies and making notes like that, and then an entire day doing the registration of them and registering them online. Lots of vaccinating the babies and the mums when they come in, and checking up on bumps and things. We did a day in vitals at the wound care, and seeing how they handle things. And then we went to labs, and that was really interesting, seeing how they check for malaria and tetanus and things like that. We did loads, they really do take you on and throw you into the deep end. Like with the deliveries, we watched one and then I watched another, and then for the next one, they were like, “alright, you do it and we’ll guide you”. They’re all so lovely at the clinic, they do all want to help you. And they want you to stay for as long as you can, because I think they like the extra pair of hands there.
There’s not many places in the clinic, so we tried everything. We were comfortable enough to go and sort of do our own thing. She was ok with going off with mental health and I was ok with going off with midwife, and we didn’t feel like we needed to be attached at the hip. And then we’d see each other in the evening and catch up.
Alex and Lora are both studying medicine in school, so we wanted to hear a bit about how this experience related to Alex’s career plans and her studies:
When I’m qualified, this is what I want to do. I want to go out and carry on this sort of thing. So for me, it was ideal going and making sure it was what I wanted to still do, because I thought “well if I go out and hate it, then there’s no point in me finishing my degree”. But luckily I really enjoyed it.
We’re in the middle of our degree right now, and you’re at the point where you’re run down and don’t want to do anymore. We went to Ghana and I think it’s given me a lot of motivation to finish. For me, when I do apply for permanent jobs doing this sort of thing, I’ll have experience, which will be really helpful for me.
We were also keen to hear about Alex’s experience at the children’s home and in the local village:
Basically just hung out with the children and played, they just loved the attention. We took a load of paper and crayons with us, so I spent an afternoon getting them to do a load of drawing.
We’re planning a charity auction back up here at the University of East Anglia, and do a bit of fundraising to send the money back, so that took up quite a lot. And then just helping them do their homework, colouring, whatever they needed us to do up there. The house moms do a lot, and the older girls also do a lot, so they basically just wanted us to be there with the little ones to keep them entertained so they didn’t get into trouble or run off or whatever.
We’re fundraising for a toilet. They’ve dug the toilet out, but they still need to have an actual toilet fit for a building outside the school. Now, they just go out into the surroundings. They’ve got a little boy there with cerebral palsy, and he goes everywhere on his hands and knees and can’t stand up. So, doing things like going to the loo are very difficult, especially if he doesn’t have a toilet. And he’s 8, but as he gets older it’s not going to be as ideal for him.
How great that they’re continuing to work with the organisation! We were also so happy to hear that Alex would recommend volunteering in Ghana to a friend:
It exceeded our expectations, I think. Especially for Lora, she was really really nervous about going, and I was nervous too. We didn’t really know what it was going to be like. I was worried we would feel quite nervous about being on our own in the house with someone we didn’t know, but we felt safe. And the clinic really got you involved and you were quite independent. I thought it would be a lot of shadowing, but it was a lot of independence. We really loved it. We really enjoyed the independence. It’s quite nice when they give you things to do. We felt like we had actually given a hand and been helpful.
There’s an evening at our university that’s sort of our elective evening, and they asked me if I wanted to speak and recommend going with you guys as compared to the other ones. So we’ll be pushing some people your way for sure. When we got there, we met other people from other organisations and realised how lucky we had been to find you guys. People were paying huge amounts of money and not getting nowhere near what we were getting.
It was wonderful to hear about how much Alex enjoyed her time in Ghana and how helpful it was to her future career. In fact, she told use that she was planning on going back to Ghana with Lora after they finish they degrees, but hope to stay for a longer time!