Ghana Update – Transforming Lives
Well it’s our last couple of days in the King’s Village and as we pack away our things yet again we are reflecting on the last 4 weeks we have spent in our other home – fondly known as Ann and Terry’s house!
We had the pleasure of travelling with Kathy, a retired nurse from Cambridge and together our aim this expedition was very specific; to get quotes and all that was necessary to ensure that when we left the renovations to the redundant clinic in Singa would go ahead.
That might sound a very simple process, but let me tell you it surely isn’t!! For a start we needed quotes from at least 2 contractors which meant we needed to take 2 trips across the Volta to show them the clinic and to get them to understand exactly what we needed them to do.
The clinic was built approximately 14 years ago, and has had no repair work done to it since then. Because of the extreme weather conditions experienced out here it has suffered greatly with large cracks in the structure, a badly leaking roof and most of the timbers rotting.
The other issue is that the original walls were built too low thus causing poor airflow and ventilation. The plan is to completely remove the previous roof saving as much of the wood as possible together with any undamaged roof panels. After which they will build up the walls up by one course of bricks, extending the roof across the whole area to include the open courtyard area.
At present any patient waiting would have to sit in the searing heat in the dry season or the pouring rain in the rainy season. Therefore by covering the whole area it will make it much more patient friendly!
In addition it has no basin or wash facilities either for staff or patient and no latrine. The whole plan will include both of these, a twin latrine being erected at the side of the clinic and a small wash area being built within the clinic walls.
So we embarked on our now well trodden path to the Volta in the car 30 minutes, across the river by canoe 10 exciting minutes, then for ease of time we rode pillion on motorbikes into the villages cutting that journey down from 45 minutes by tractor to just 20 minutes!!!
Bear in mind that all the materials needed, down to the last nail, will need to take that exact journey to the site.
So as you can see it really isn’t straight forward and the challenge of arranging all that is huge, not least getting the villagers on the day the materials arrive to come on mass to the riverside to transport them into the village. There will be a convoy of motorkings, tractors and motorbikes helping with it.
The communities have all come together to offer their help as they are so pleased to have the clinic fully operational and kitted out properly. When we visited, there was a sick lady lying on the floor attached to a drip that was hung over the door handle!! Beds would be a great idea!!!
We took the opportunity on the second trip, having spoken in Singa to the Chief and the village about sanitation on the first trip, to continue on to the other further villages to share also with them about good sanitation. That day we travelled 40 kilometres on the back of a motorbike, very wearing on the rear!!!
Last night we put the final pieces of the jigsaw together leaving it in the hands of the King’s Village team to make sure it happens. It’s made more crucial because if we don’t finish before the end of April when the rains will start it will be many months before the
work will be able to continue, and in fact quite often half complete buildings are destroyed by the storms. Time is of the essence!
You may remember that when we were out in August we left wood for an Ambulance canoe to be built in our absence. Unfortunately the man who donated the money passed away before we could send him a picture of the now finished and beautifully painted canoe. He has left something that will have a lasting impact on so many people. During the 10th anniversary celebrations of the King’s Village the media were very impressed with the canoe and an article all about it was put in the national paper!
It remains now for us to purchase an outboard motor for it to ensure it can cross the flooded Volta and manage the 8-10 knot current.
One night in a large village we sat under a tree with a group of over 100 young men who gather every week. The group is called the Ataaya Base, and they are springing up in every community in this region. Their constitution says that all have equal rights, its nonreligious, it aims to contribute to the development of their villages and it is to encourage and take part in good sanitation and other community based labours. It promotes Peace both in its group and in its village. The influence of these groups is far reaching and we were honoured to be asked firstly to speak to these 100 men and then to host a conference for representatives from many of the local branches.
The attendance was amazing with 90 representatives from approximately 40 villages.
We talked for several hours about health hygiene and sanitation and the way to impact their district. It would be true to say when we travel around we are impressed how already the work of these groups is impacting the cleanliness of some of the villages; it is quite obvious which ones have an active group.
We had such a surprise when doing our rounds of the communities. The first village we ever went to back in 2005, Gbuglang, which is about 60km from the King’s Village, firstly was very clean with hardly any rubber(plastic) bags lying around but also to our amazement they had started to built their own latrines. This may not sound a great deal, but how wrong you would be!
The normal process is that they do the digging and we provide the cement and any wood needed. However due to very little available funds for such work very few have actually been able to complete the latrines, so the time honoured process of going to ‘the bush’ continues .
But in this community they had started to erect latrines using completely their own materials. They had dug the holes, lined them with bricks made form the local mud, placed wood planks across them, and then woven the local grass to make a rush type matting for both the walls and the roof, it was quite amazing! They had committed to erecting 30 of these structures round the village perimeter.
When asked where they had got the idea from, they replied “Mr Moses and Terry and Ann, we were overwhelmed it may have taken 8 years but at last things were changing. Our hope is that by using them as an example other villages will follow! So there you have it “all hard work brings a reward”!!!
In the first week we found ourselves caught up in a visit from the national TV station. They have a program in Ghana called ‘changing lives’ and owing to the TV appearance in November by Ben and Moses sharing about the 10th Anniversary of the King’s Village, they had come up to do a documentary about the work of the project.
We helped host the crew and shared a lot about the nutrition centre together with the plan for the new clinic in Singa. We even took them to the riverside and across the Volta in the newly painted ambulance boat. It was very funny as none of them could swim so they were very keen to put on the 4 life jackets we had managed to bring from the UK!!!!
We are told that some time later this will be shown on UK television on a program called Focus on Africa! Who knows!
The Nutrition Centre looked amazing after its revamp and as usual we spent a fair amount of time up there with some of the frail, undernourished children. We needed to get Lactogen and would you believe it there was NONE in Tamale and very little even in Accra. We had to wait 4 weeks before we could buy a reasonable supply. Is it any wonder that so many of the children are so malnourished?
The motorbike we had bought when the centre first opened had come to the end of its life, so the first thing we had to do was buy another one for the Nutritional Officer, a fairly large expense but one that’s imperative if the monitoring work of the children is to continue. Once the new bike was in action a large number of children were visited, it was just so encouraging to hear so many stories of children that had been expected to die now going to the local schools. Not one of them had
died or reverted back and many of the mothers were still continuing to make the Weanimix, and feeding other children within their compounds. Success is only success if it’s sustainable.
It only remains for us to say a big thank you once again for all the help you give us with the work out here. As I say every time it’s only because of your support that the work is able to continue. In a climate where fewer people are giving to charities and confidence in where it’s spent is at a low we are just so very, very appreciative of all your support. We can truly say every penny you give us gets to the people
Terry and Ann