No doubt about it, this was both one of our most successful missions in terms of number of people served, and one of our most challenging. While we had hoped the rains would come in before the arrival of our group of volunteers from the U.S. and the climate would cool down; instead we had sunny, hot days with a temperature index over 100 degrees Fahrenheit every day. We were “stationed” at two different village secondary schools and a remote village clinic – none of which are air conditioned. The school headmasters and health clinic staff took care to provide us with places out of the sun to work – but it was still very challenging for our volunteers used to a temperature-controlled environment.
Working in that kind of heat is a real challenge, physically and emotionally, and the strain showed on all of us. But despite this and other challenges, we reached a total of 1,193 girls and women over six days of work. Of these, 650 kits of washable menstrual pads made to last up to three years were distributed to school girls in rural villages and 100 to women patients during our medical mission who had no access to hygiene products. 514 girls and women received medical services - 71 girls and 100 women received both kits of menstrual pads and medical care.
Taken together, a total of 1,364 services were provided to girls and women in need. This is something our team can feel great about! Additionally, carrying out missions provides a boost to the local economy in our work area. Money spent on medicines, lodging and food gives a significant boost to individuals and businesses in an economically depressed area. We are also happy to help our Ghana staff of nine medical professionals and four cooks with needed additional income.
Overall, since Healthy Villages, Inc. started leading missions in June 2016, we have now facilitated medical and dental care, and menstrual hygiene management, to just shy of 5,500 people! People living in the villages in Ghana really struggle to maintain themselves and their families. The patients we see are grateful to have free care and medications for acute conditions like malaria, respiratory infections, wounds, etc. In general, taking care of their health is not a priority – folks don’t seek medical care and often don’t want to know why they don’t feel well because long-term treatment or hospitalization is seen as being out of the question financially. We routinely see adults who’ve had the same symptoms for a decade or longer – and sometimes the problem is easily treatable. Making a commitment to pay for and take the needed meds for chronic conditions – and go for checkups – requires making life changes that only some will follow through with. But at least we’ve treated the most pressing concerns and given them a start on making long term improvements to their health and wellbeing.
Stay tuned for a summary of the data from the menstrual pad distribution and women’s health mission!