Ghana Health Team
There’s a symbiotic relationship between Stouffville and the Northern region of Ghana you may not be aware of. Health care professionals, mostly from Stouffville and Uxbridge, have been providing medical care two weeks a year for the past five years to this impoverished area, and the Ghanaians provide the health team with gifts of food, warmth, gratitude and blessings.
It all started about thirty years ago when a young man from Ghana, now known as Dr. David Mensah, who had nothing more than a few pennies in his pocket, a bible in his hands and a spirit made of steel, got a summer job at the Paisley’s farm in Stouffville to support himself financially while he studied at Tyndale University and later U of T.
During his stay in Canada he fell in love with and married Mr. Paisley’s daughter Brenda. They had three beautiful daughters before returning to live in Northern Ghana to care for the poorest of the poor through an organization he and a group of students in Ghana had started before he left called The Northern Empowerment Association (NEA). It’s a Ghanaian Christian development organization that lives with and works among Ghana’s poor to alleviate poverty and transform communities. The Canadian counterpart to this organization is Ghana Rural Integrated Development (GRID.
After starting several highly successful anti-poverty programs in Ghana, Dr David Mensah, during one of his return visits to Stouffville, explained the tremendous health care needs of his people to Dr. Jennifer Wilson from Uxbridge.
There are only 17 doctors for the 2.5 million people living in this region. In Canada there are 5,075 doctors for the same number of people. Many of their district hospitals are functioning without any doctors at all. There is only one optometrist and no dentist.
Besides the low doctor/patient ratio, the health care problem is compounded by a shortage of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies. In addition, most individuals cannot afford the $7 annual fee for health insurance.
Dr. Jennifer Wilson responded to the call in 2001 by organizing the first team of 24 very courageous health care professionals. Since then the team has grown to 48 people including a surgical team for Operation Hernia based in the UK.
I participated on the team in November 2011 by serving as a Registered Nurse alongside fellow Stouffville residents Dr. Sarah Barclay, Dr. Martin McDowell and Mary Lovatt.
The mandate of the Ghana Health Team is to follow Jesus’ command to visit the sick and to provide medical care until Northern Ghana is able to provide their own people with sustainable health care.
Our mobile Ghana Health team, including the 100 Ghanaian volunteers, provided medical, surgical, dental and eye care to 10,000 people during our exhausting but highly-rewarding two weeks.
Our family physicians and paediatricians prescribed the necessary medications and treatments and our well-stocked pharmacy dispensed the meds while our nurses cleaned wounds, started IV’s and provided health care teaching. The hernia team performed 288 surgical procedures, restoring men and women to their health, their jobs, their lives. Our eye team was able to provide sight to the blind and partially blind by giving them glasses and medications. Our dental team alleviated much pain and agony and may have even saved some lives.
It is amazing how much good was accomplished in just over two weeks. Although the people who came through our clinics were transformed by our assistance, I believe we were transformed by them as well. We were inspired by the children who were happy and well-behaved, delighting in simple things like an empty water bottle they could play with. They rarely begged, always returned my sunglasses to me after playing with them -even though sunglasses are a rare and treasured commodity- and were eager to assist us by carrying our bags and medical supplies. Although the people of Northern Ghana were very poor, they were generous in their gifts of food, dancing and blessings. One tribe even gave each team member a wooden spoon carving. Ghana and the lovely Ghanaian people will always hold a warm place in our hearts.
Please donate to this worthy cause through http://www.grid-nea.org. Every dollar donated to GRID is matched by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), so make your donation dollars work extra hard, support GRID.
by Glenda de Vries