July 6, 2011

First Week in Ghana

Rebecca with mental health nurse, Gloria 
Rebecca Distler, GHLI Student Fellow
June 2011

I’ve been in Ghana now for a little over a week and it’s amazing how quickly the time has passed.  Upon arriving, I immediately began work – I’ve just returned from a trip to the Ho district, about three hours outside Accra. I went with one of the workers in the Ghana Health Service to speak with mental health workers about the relatively new mental health training program at Kintampo. We were interested in whether the workers wanted any particular skills or lessons to be emphasized in the training and what kind of services they thought would be most useful to their work. Consensus among all hospital workers was that the number one issue was a lack of personnel. One woman in particular stuck with me: her name was Gloria, and she was the mental health nurse at the Polyclinic. In her one-room office, she not only saw and assessed patients, but also treated them – she even had a bed in there. She told me that if she does not come in for work, the psychiatric unit closes for the day because she is the only mental health nurse there. It’s meeting people like Gloria that remind me why I wanted to pursue public health – the upbeat, hard-working characters who go and go and go because if they don’t, no one will. I have so much to learn from the Glorias of Ghana about personal strength, determination and perseverance, and I hope that I will have a chance to meet many more of them during my time here.

I took my first trotro (the public transportation) the other day, and now I feel as if all of Accra is available for exploring. I’ve made friends with the woman on the corner by my guest house, from who I buy bananas every night. And, another woman, from whom I buy mangoes at lunch, helps me with my Twi, the local language. I’m becoming more confident and at ease with getting around.  I even went to hear live jazz and reggae music on the beach last night with some new friends.   I look forward to seeing what else Accra has to offer, and to traveling throughout Ghana even more.

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