2017: Lieke en Celine

Last January the time had finally come. Lieke Weterings (President) and me (Celine Vilters, vicepresident) were allowed to represent the MUSTANGH board during the annual visit to the West Gonja hospital in Ghana. It would become a week full of unforgettable experiences, culture shocks and meaningful conversations. My personal highlight was meeting all the incredible people we sponsor and hearing what MUSTANGH means to them. Apart from that we also saw Dr. Vitalis on the job for the first time. Dr. Vitalis is a doctor who has been sponsored by MUSTANGH for 6 years and who started working in the hospital in september of last year. If you are curious about our achievements and experiences during this trip, then please read our experience blog below and take a look at the photographs! 

Day 1
After a long (and I mean really long) journey from the Netherlands we finally arrive at the hospital of Accra. Unfortunately we come to the discovery that the flight company we’re supposed to fly to Tamale with is lifted. This means that we’re forced to spend a full day in Accra until we can continue our journey. There’s a lack of useful things for us to do, so we decide to spend the afternoon on LaBadi Beach, which is not really a punishment. Fortunately one of the students Lieke met last year comes to keep us company and also does a great job in keeping all the Ghanaian salesman at a safe distance. After all it turns out to be a pretty nice day.

Day 2
Our second attempt to get to Tamale is more successful and we fly without even experiencing any delay. On the airport Miss Julie was already waiting on us, she’s a paediatric nurse who is also being sponsored by MUSTANGH. After a pleasant conversation we’re picked up by our driver Mr. Abdulai. On the way to Damongo Miss Julie sees us watching through the window in amazement and asks us what the difference is in the landscape compared to the Netherlands. We’re asking ourselves what’s the same, because literally everything is different over here.

When we arrive at the MUSTANGH house we’re welcomed by Maud, one of the GEZP students currently residing in the house. After we’ve rested for a short while Mr. Emmanual Tabi presents himself at the house. He’s an anesthesian in training and is also sponsored by MUSTANGH. He has delayed his return to school (in another part of the country), especially so he could meet us. We’re of course very honoured that he took the time to wait for us. After a nice ‘stroopwafel’  and a good talk, we say goodbye to him, but not before taking some nice pictures.

During the day we also meet Mary, the new housekeeper and cook of the MUSTANGH house. Even though she’s pretty shy, the students like her a lot. Lieke is also very happy to hear that Mary doesn’t cook typical Ghanaian food most of the time (last year Lieke was not completely charmed by the Ghanaian cuisine), and even more so that she can eat with utensils now instead of with her hands, as is the Ghanaian custom.

In the mean time it has gotten pretty late and we go to bed (but not before spending a good time juggling with our mosquito nets), tired but satisfied.

Day 3
Unfortunately our main contact in Ghana, Mr. Remy will be absent until Monday. Therefore we start the day with a conversation with Dr. Vitalis, whom we sponsored his education and who is now working in the hospital. The same day we also have a long conversation with Dr. Nelson, who is the new head of the hospital. Both men talk passionately about their jobs and the hospital and have lots of ideas for new sponsor projects.

We also get to meet Francis, the accountant of the hospital, with whom we discuss the bookkeeping of the hospital.

In the afternoon we also see the chance to see Maud at work in the out patient department. Here we quickly notice the cultural differences, when the translating nurse falls asleep during the consult and one of the patients starts breast feeding in the middle of the conversation. Since Maud is almost finished with the GEZP she’s totally integrated in the hospital and  is happy to give us a tour through the hospital and the different wards. The stroopwafels we brought are highly appreciated by the nurses on the paediatric ward! The tour abruptly comes to an end when a new case arrives at the female ward and Maud directly comes into action, since you’re never truly finished as a doctor in Ghana. With our head full of ideas we return to the MUSTANGH house.

Day 4
Since Mr. Remy still hasn’t returned, we decide to visit the weekend market today with Sham, the son of Kassim, the night guard of the MUSTANGH house. With the YellowYellow we start our adventure, and we enjoy the everyday Ghanaian life we get to see on the market. Soon we attract attention and not much later we have a whole crowd of children following us around.

That afternoon Kassim takes us to his house where we meet the rest of the family. The children are very enthusiastic about the bubble blower we bought and they spend the rest of the afternoon making the other kids jealous with their new toys. In the mean time we try the Ghanaian drink Pitu, which can be described best as warm sour beer, during which we get entertained by the kids from the neighbourhood which start a spontaneous dance competition. Lieke and I are extremely jealous at the sense of rhythm that all these children have and which we unfortunately completely lack.

In the evening Elcke and Than-Mai, the two other GEZP students, return from their trip through Ghana. Full of enthusiasm they tell about all their adventures during their trip and their time in the hospital, and in the evening we also have the chance to evaluate the GEZP with them.

We also have an official talk with Kassim, who still enjoys his job and who has not much to complain about. The only thing he’s disappointed in, is that he hasn’t got a Christmas package this year, and we promise we’ll look into this.

Day 5
Today there’s something special on the programme, a safari to Mole national park. During the whole trip it seems like we’re not going to see elephants, but on the way back the driver gets a call. Our hearts start racing and the driver directly turns around the car. Finally we’re treated with not one but two elephants, and no matter how hard our guide tries Lieke and I are not able to take our eyes of them. After we’ve taken hundreds of photos of every different angle we finally let the guide move us along and we return to Damongo.

Back at the MUSTANGH house, which by now starts to feel like home, we have a conversation with Jane, the previous housekeeper. She has started her own company since she left the house and she’s doing really well, even though she still misses the house now and then. We’re happy to hear that she’s doing so well.

Apart from that we also have a talk with Mary, the new housekeeper. Even though we’ve seen her a lot during the last few days, we want to officially introduce ourselves. Fortunately she likes her job and she would like to continue working for MUSTANGH.

That evening we visit CanteenCanteen together with Sham, which is the highlight of this part of Damongo (by which I mean a courtyard with some plastic chairs and tables). Here I spend the rest of the night teaching Lieke and Sham how to play Yatzee.

Day 6
Today Mr. Remy finally came back from the congress. This means a long conversation with Mr Remy is the main part of our schedule today. Since Mr. Remy is definitely not a shy speaker he can speak for hours about the hospital and the great plans by which he wants to improve it. We listen tentatively and get a lot of ideas for new projects. Today we also get to see the new pick up that MUSTANGH has sponsored and which is even labelled with our very own logo. Apart from that we also magically make it happen that we not only get a contract for Mary made within one day, but even signed before the night falls, which has to be a new Ghanaian record.

In the afternoon we discuss some final financial business with mr. Francis and after that we get to visit the bishop. This is a very important man in this region, since all Ghanaian people are very strictly Christian. After the bishop has blessed our return journey (now we know for sure we’ll arrive home safely), we return to the MUSTANGH house. Here we discover that Maud has made a typical Ghanaian dish for us, named Jollow rice. It’s enjoyed a lot by both me and Lieke and can be best described as a Ghanaian type of risotto. We end the night with a final visit to CanteenCanteen with Mr. Remy.

Dag 7
Today is already our last day in Ghana. We shortly visit the other office of Mr. Remy, which he’s very proud to show us. We also arrange the last contracts and say goodbye to the students and the staff of the hospital. After we start on our long way back home, and after we fly back to Accra we have a lay-over of 10 hours. Of course we decide to do something useful in this spare time and we meet up with Dr. Jonathan and Dr. Anthony, two doctors in training for gynaecologist who are being sponsored by MUSTANGH. They tell us they like their study a lot but they’re also very busy and we’re happy they could make time for us in their schedule. The rest of the night we spend doing card games on a bench in front of the airport.

Day 8
32 uur after our departure from Damongo we finally arrive in Maastricht. We’re tired, sweaty and proud that we didn’t forget our Malaria pills but also full of new plans and ideas for the upcoming year. It was an unforgettable experience and we’re very happy with the results we got and the special people we were able to meet.