Finishing Up in Koforidua, Ghana

Day 5: Thursday June 22, 2017 by Morgan Brazel

The Yedea team has been working hard on interviewing patients at Regional Hospital Koforidua this week. We have made great progress on our project and have talked to so many incredible individuals who have given us very thoughtful insights into the type of Telemedicine program they would like to be implemented. We are traveling to Cape Coast this weekend to meet up with some UVa faculty members and learn more about Ghana’s culture and history.

We have been eating our meals at Linda Dor, a local Ghanaian restaurant. It has been so much fun trying new foods and immersing myself in the culture. I have picked up on some words and phrases in Twi, the most common language spoken throughout Ghana, and have been working on communicating with local people.

After interviewing mothers for the past couple of days, we spent the day today interviewing parents and guardians. Our team split up into three groups of two with each group having a native Twi speaker so that we can easily communicate with the interviewee. The other person in each group is responsible for documenting the responses as the native Twi speaker translates the parents and guardian’s responses into English. This has been my role for the past couple of days, and I have loved getting to hear and record everyone’s opinion on Telemedicine.

In order to explain Telemedicine to the patients, we use a storyboard documenting the story of Kofi, a patient who can’t make it to the hospital because the roads are flooded. In order to get care, Kofi walks to his local clinic where the nurses can use a Telemedicine program to video message doctors and provide Kofi with a complete consultation and prescription medicine. Through interviewing women patients and the parents and guardians of children seeking medical care, it seems to me that most people are very fond of the prospect of having a Telemedicine program in their community. Many people think that it will save them time and money, because they will no longer have to travel long distances to the hospital and wait in long lines upon arriving.

The picture shows Vida and me interviewing a patient.

This past semester I visited two cities in Ghana, Tema and Accra, and noticed that many people spoke English. I was expecting that to be the case in Koforidua, the city in which I am located this summer. However, I have noticed that many people either do not speak English at all or are not comfortable enough with English to use it in a conversation. Although this is not what I was anticipating, communication hasn’t been an issue because three people in our team speak Twi and can easily translate.

Tomorrow we will continue interviewing the parents and guardians of children seeking medical care to gather their opinion on if and how Telemedicine could benefit their kids. In addition, we are going to Cape Coast this weekend to visit castles used in the slave trade and learn more about the culture and history of Ghana.

Day 6: Friday June 23, 2017 by Emmanuel Abebrese

We spent Friday completing our patient interviews and finalizing the schedule for our volunteering program at a nearby school in collaboration with WAGiLabs. We then boarded a van to begin our trip to Cape Coast for the weekend. We were fortunate to have Dean Bassett join us in Accra for our journey.

I sat in a meeting I never thought I would have in Ghana. I sat with 21 children explaining the benefits and details of WAGiLabs to them and answering any questions they had. While the team completed interviews at the hospital, I was called to the Wesley International School to finalize a schedule for introducing their students to WAGiLabs. It was designed by Chic Thompson, a Batten Fellow who teaches at the Darden School of Business, to introduce 8-11-year-old children to Social Entrepreneurship.

I had spoken with the school’s authorities about the possibility of making it an after-school program and they were excited about it. I expected them to select students and tell us when and where we can meet with them to introduce it as our volunteer endeavor. What I did not expect was for them to arrange a meeting with just me and the children so they could personally determine the value of the program for themselves.

The team spent the morning interviewing patients and parents/ guardians of child patients. We completed about 40 interviews this week. We also completed initial arrangements to begin volunteering at a nearby school as a fun activity through the WAGiLabs program. We also spoke with Dean Bassett and realized she was also in Accra and wanted to visit Cape Coast as well. We were fortunate to have her join us on our journey.

Whenever I approached people to seek their informed consent for an interview with us, they initially looked at me with an expression that seemed to be a mix of curiosity and slight apprehension. However, the moment I greeted them, saying either “good morning”, or “good afternoon”, their expression suddenly brightened up with a smile and a look of genuine interest. I made this observation when meeting with administrators as well at the school and the hospital. It seemed that all one needed to start a conversation was to say a greeting, with a slight bow to demonstrate humility and respect.

Day 7: Monday/ 06/24/2017 by Vida Sarpong, A Trip to the Cape Coast Castles

After a hard and productive day at the hospital collecting data on Friday morning, we took a trip to Cape coast in the afternoon around 2pm to see the castles and we arrived at night. The following day, we visited the Slave Castles there and the experience was very educative, informative and insightful. The Landscape scenery I enjoyed on my ride there was exquisite. It was very peaceful and calming looking at the mountains filled with rich vegetation throughout the drive. On the next day upon our arrival, we set out in the morning to go to the castles.

First, we went to the Elmina Castle. The Castle is located very close to the local market. The market was filled with lots of people, which created traffic on the way to the castle. What I realized upon our arrival there was that the locals, living in the area came up to our cars, welcoming and greeting us, and trying very hard to sell their goods. Some of the goods they were selling were personalized bracelets, personalized sea shells, drawings and others. As we got out of the car, the first thing they asked was our names and how to spell it. This is because they make the bracelets while you are in the castle and sell it to you on your way out. The locals there are very persistent and if you don’t focus on going to wherever you are going quickly, they will take all your time in trying to sell their goods.

On our arrival to the castle, I was very surprised to see the differences in the cost of admittance based on whether one was a non-Ghanaian, non-Ghanaian student, or Ghanaian. Non-Ghanaians pay 40 Ghana cedi (GHS), non-Ghanaian students get a 10 Ghana cedi (GHS) discount and pay 30 GHS, while Ghanaians pay 5 GHS. At the Elmina Castle, our tour guide was Ato and he was amazing. The story he told us about the slaves and the castle was very insightful. We saw the governor’s room, which was located at the top floor of the Castle, the male and female dungeon, the door of no return, and many others. He told us the ranking of the rooms depended on how high your position was, and that explains why the governor was located at the highest floor.

We saw the catholic church that was also in the castle. An interesting thing that our tour guide told us was that the Dutch and the Portuguese structures in the castle could be distinguished by the color of bricks on the walls. He said that reddish bricks signified bricks imported from Portugal and the yellowish bricks were imported from Netherlands. After the tour, we were allowed to go around and take photos of things we wanted to take pictures of. On our way to the car, the locals followed us showing us the bracelets they have made and shells they have personalized with our names on them. They also were persistent on selling us other things like paintings, necklaces, etc.

A view of the market close to the Elmina Castle.

After the Elmina Castle, we went to the Cape Coast Castle. Our tour guide there was called Harry. Prior to the tour, we were told to do an independent tour to the museum at the castle. The museum was filled with cannon balls, chains of the slaves, tools, historical figures and amazing stories about the history of Ghana and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. After that, our tour guide took us around the castle. The things we saw in both castles were similar in the sense that the Cape Coast Castle also had male and female dungeon, door of no return, the governor’s room, etc. Interestingly, the door we saw, which was called “The Door of No Return”, had “The Door of Return” also on it on the side facing outside of the castle. Harry said this was because, Ghanaians wanted to welcome their brothers and sisters who were scattered across the world because of the save trade. During the annual Pan African Festival of Arts and Culture, people from all over the world come here to remember the lives that were lost and the people who were displaced. This explains why there are flowers in the dungeons.  At that side of the door, which was outside of the castle, we saw lots of locals with their boats and fishing nets. In the castle, some of the rooms are turned into book shops and gift shops, which were filled with bags, shirts, purses and many others made out of beautiful textiles and prints.

Some boats at the shore of the sea close to the Elmina Castle. 

Overall, I really enjoyed every bit of this trip. Even though I come from Ghana, this was my first time at the Castles. It was a very educational, informative, insightful, exciting, sad and interesting experience that I will keep in memory forever.







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