The End by Caitlyn

So I just finished packing. I can’t believe our time in Ghana has already come to an end. The last 48 hours have really wizzed by. Rather than trying to write detailing all the wonderful things that have happened in the last two days, I’m going to just show you in pictures. This has truly been a magical and life changing experience. Thanks for reading so we all could share some of our experiences with you!

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One of three wheelchair cushions we made for New Horizons

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Transfer training with teachers at New Horizons

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New Horizons, Day 1 by Caitlyn

Today we went to the New Horizons Special School in Accra. This school was created for kids and adults with intellectual disabilities. It is both an educational and vocational training center that stresses the importance of each student reaching their full potential. We really didn’t know what to expect when we walked in but I think we were all blown away by the organization of it all. They way they approach working with kids with disabilities is quite revolutionary considering the readings that we did on disability culture in Ghana. The teachers, staff, and volunteers there are truly doing such incredible work serving the unique needs of their students.

During our school tour, they identified several children who could benefit from some OT framed solutions (mostly children that were having feeding, positioning, and fine motor problems). While one team of us attempted to solve a complex positioning problem for a student with kyphosis, another team worked on servicing some well used wheelchairs.

Sorry this post is short and sweet but we really only got to scratch the surface today compared to the many things we want to use our knowledge to help with. Look for another post tomorrow (hopefully) to share more about what we are able to accomplish there.

It’s all ON your head by Caitlyn

So I just finished telling my family that I wouldn’t write a blog tonight but after hanging up, I thought of a great thing to share and decided to post one after all.

First today was another great day. We painted two classrooms at Grace Life International School, went to a market and did lots of shopping, and had a delicious dinner of crepes. For risk of spoiling some of the surprises I’m bringing back for friends and family I don’t want to share any more than that.

But what I do want to share about is the common practice of Ghanaian women and sometimes men carrying objects on their heads. I feel like when Americans think of this task they imagine African women walking to a water source, filling a bucket with water for the day’s needs and carrying the water filled bucket on their heads back home. This is not what we have observed here for the most part though. It seems most Ghanaians carry stuff on their heads for commercial purposes – to hawk or sell items. Vendors walk up and down the street when there is a red light selling their goods such as: water bottles/bags, plantain chips, fruits like papaya and watermelon, candy/sweets, eggs, bread, toiletries, and many other things. Most of the items sit in bowls or platters which then sits on fabric on the head.

Other people carry items this way just because it is a convenient way to carry their own belongings or purchases from one place to another. In these cases we’ve seen people carry big sacks of rice, flour, or cornmeal and other more eye catching items like a machete and even a sewing machine!

While carrying things on your head initially seems like a strange and difficult, the more I’ve thought about it, the more it makes sense. Many of the items they are carrying are awkwardly sized and heavy. Carrying them in your arms would take significant energy and for the vendors, leave them without a free hand for trading their goods for money. Why not free up your hands and use the your whole body to hold whatever it is up? It just seems easier. I do wonder what carrying this way does to vertebrae but that’s an investigation for another day. For now enjoy this picture of me embarrassing myselft. It was heavy!

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Shout out to Carole for the photobomb. Haha!

The fabulous fourth day by Caitlyn

Today was a day of excursions. We took a day off from our usual work and did a couple touristy things in Ghana.

The day started bright and early as we left the hotel at 6am! We then had a 3 hour tro tro ride to get to the Central Region of Ghana to see our two chosen attractions: Kakum National Park and the Cape Coast Slave Castle.

Kakum National Park is a rain Forrest reserve home to many diverse species of animals including monkeys, antelope, honey badgers and elephants to name a few. Unfortunately we did not get to see any of the animals though because we walked over the trees on a series of 7 canopy walkways! It was incredible, beautiful and an adrenaline rush all at once. Definitely in the top five coolest experiences of my life. Here are some pictures but they don’t do it justice.

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The Cape Coast Slave Castle was a very enriching experience. Over 10 million Africans were sent over as slaves to North and South America in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. This castle served as a holding place until the ships came to take them across the Atlantic to the Americas and Carribean. The holding dungeon conditions were horrible and many men and women died before even boarding the ships. It was a very solemn and profound time touring the castle and learning more about what these men and women went through.

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Cape Coast along with being home to this slave castle is also a very cool beach town. After the tour we went to this great beach bar where I sat facing the ocean and drank a delicious Star beer and ate Spaghetti (don’t judge me mom and dad, I know it’s not a beach food) which is a pretty common dish here. After linner (combination of lunch and dinner because we ate around 4), we walked down onto the beach. I walked barefoot through the sand and even put my feet in the water which was surprisingly warm. There were a bunch of school children there and we even took a few “selfies” together on the beach. I love love love the beach so ending the day with a wonderful beachfront dinner and then my toes in the sand was the cherry on top of this perfect day. While riding back home in the tro tro I was just so happy and fulfilled from this most wonderful day. With each day here in Ghana the experiences get better and better. I’ll admit, adjusting to the heat and cultural challenges was overwhelming day one but with each day that has also gotten easier. I’m excited to see what this next week has in store for me!

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The Animals of Ghana by Caitlyn

Before posting about our fabulous fourth day of adventures, I wanted to add a quick post about the animals we’ve been seeing in Ghana because I’ve found it so interesting!

Goats – They’re everywhere! Many homes we pass have multiple goats of varying sizes just wandering around outside. Some are big (4 feet), many others are very small (1 foot tall). It’s hard to snap a picture of them but we literally have seen hundreds of goats.

Hens – They are smaller than what we normally imagine but also quite numerous and usually hanging out with the goats. Eggs are a very common food here.

Lizards – They are much bigger than the little ones we see in Virginia and they are really colorful and cool. Yesterday we even saw one doing a backflip through the air to catch a bug. They tend to hang out on walls and dirt mounds just catching some sun rays.

Dogs – There are some. They are not treated as pets like they are in the US. All of them are small, one color (black or brown) with short hair. None seem aggressive towards us but I’ve heard they are used as guard dogs sometimes.

Cats – We’ve see about 3 and again they are smaller than in the US.

Pigs – We did not see pigs at all until today. We were so surprised and amazed to see them wandering on the beach of all places.

Cows – We saw a herd once and they were smaller and not nearly as muscular as cows in the US. It seems goats are more commonly used by locals for milk.

Zebras! – Okay just kidding! But a kid at Grace Life did tell me he sees Zebras when he walks out his house in the morning but he was joking and we all had a good laugh.

Here’s just a few pictures of the animals we’ve seen. Some have been hard to snap a picture off because we are in the tro tro (van) when we see them.

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And I saw an elephant! We’ll sort of…

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There are forest elephants in Kakum National Park we just didn’t see any real ones.

Day 3 by Caitlyn

Today was our last day working with the children at Grace Life School. It was a pretty simple day. We finished up the rest of the developmental screenings by noon. We had a good system going with stations and each of us did a different section. Carole, our faculty leader, and her son spent the day in the office typing up result reports to print and put in the children’s files. Kate, an OT Doctoral student with us, did a few interviews with Ghanaian mothers for research purposes so that we can understand more about how Ghanaian children are raised and when they reach certain developmental milestones. It was neat to listen in and hear some of their responses like that babies here start walking around 8 months old!

We got picked up a little early today, but not before the children came outside to play a little and take more pictures. Many of those pictures are on my camera but here are several from my phone 🙂

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Day 2

Obruni! Obruni! Obruni! That’s what the kids were cheering this morning as we entered the gates of Grace Life International school. It means white man and was used affectionately toward us. Throughout the day the kids loved playing and interacting with us and often fought with each other to hold one of our coveted hands. It was all very sweet and we had a lot of fun playing and singing with them throughout the day. Some new songs that were introduced were Ring Around the Rosie, 5 little monkeys (jumping on the bed), Happy and you know it and you are my sunshine. In the afternoon we did a couple of novel crafts too. We made a long paper chain out of construction paper where each child added a ring (or multiple) with glue. We also had some coloring book pages that they colored with crayons. School supplies here are very limited so often these kinds of creative activities are not done because they waste supplies. We enjoyed having enough supplies though so that they could do these new and exciting craft activities. All of the kids we worked/played with today were from the 1st floor of the school (so 2 through 7 or so). The older students have more serious and rigorous school work and do not seem to have regular chances to play like the younger kids do.

But it wasn’t all fun and games. Our main goal of the day was to complete developmental screenings for the children in the 2 y.o. preschool classroom and a few other various children they had concerns about. We used the Denver Developmental Screening tool to test gross motor, fine motor, and social communication skills. Today we tested 25 kids and tomorrow we’ll test 30 more. We are planning on doing a write up later this week with a little blurb on how each child did to give to the school. Next year, the next group of OT students to go will hopefully screen the same children to see how they’ve progressed.

It was a hot and busy day but we enjoyed having more of a decided role in the day activies. And of course, we loved playing with the cute kids!

More pictures…

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First day by Caitlyn

I don’t even know where to start. We got to Grace Life International School around 11am today after getting just a little lost in the tro tro. The school is in a rural region outside of Accra and from the third floor baloney, the view of the mountains was beautiful. The school has children ages 2 through 15 in grade ranging from pre-school to first year junior high (~7th grade). We got to sit in on some of the classroom lessons and were amazed at the level of the material these kids were learning. Two year olds could write letters. Kindergarteners could read and knew times tables 1 through 12. First graders were beginning French. And the rest of the classrooms were kind of a blur but involved subjects such as English composition, environmental science, integrated computer technology (learning about computers without computers), mathematics, creativity, physics, Twi (the local language), and on and on. Some of the lesson written on the board were over our heads even.

Even though everyone there spoke English, we had a hard time understanding one another because of accent differences. For example, one classroom first graders were learning about animals and I asked them what animals they see outside of their home (after sharing what I see in America). One girl said a “bode” and I asked what animal is that and the teacher said the ones that fly. Then I got it, she said a bird! The pronunciation is just so different between our two cultures for this and many words. Usually we can figure out enough to mostly understand one another.

My favorite part of the day was teaching the first grade class the Hokie Pokie. We were sent in to help the teacher and she asked if we knew any rhymes or songs and it was all I could come up with (comment on this post if you have rhyme or song ideas for me). The kids loved it though. We probably sang it 10 times! After school was over we also played some games in the yard including: duck duck goose, red light green light, simon says, and hopscotch.

Overall the day was exciting, overwhelming, fun, insightful, thought provoking and exhausting. We finished it off with beer and dinner at a restaurant near our hotel.

And now for what you’ve all been waiting for….pictures!

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The school building

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Maakye (Ma-chee)

Good morning from Ghana! It’s a little after 9am here and we’ve all had a breakfast of toast, eggs, coffee, and pineapple juice. Now we’re waiting for tro tros (our van ride) to pick us up. The Accra group will be heading to Grace International School and the Volta group will be heading on to the Volta region.

Looking forward to our first full day here!

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Picture from the front porch of the hotel. It’s quite lovely and has wifi and air conditioning 🙂

It’s a beautiful day in London by Caitlyn

We made it! We’re at the Heathrow airport. The flight was great! Free food, music, tv, movies, and alcohol. I think we all got a little sleep. We’ll be at the airport for a couple hours before boarding our flight to Ghana. Almost there!

Here’s a picture of the little bit of a view of Europe from the terminal. Remember, this is my first time on international soil!

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Bye for now!