By Sarah Caraballo

My voyage to Ghana, West Africa was a trip and experience like no other. This trip was one of unique encounters and valuable cultural confrontation. It gave me a new perspective on life. Ghana was a trip that was not only enjoyable, but one that was life altering. All of those who traveled with the International Healthcare Volunteers; doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists and nurse anesthetists, dentists, and volunteers all gave up their time and money to assist those who had limited resources when it came to their medical well-being.

As a 17-year-old junior volunteer, I engaged in assistance in the operating room at Mankessim as well as assisting in Cape Coast for a day. In the operating room at the Cape Coast Regional Hospital, I was able to watch two Cesarean sections. After each child was born, it is first wrapped in a blanket, and then a nurse will suction out its nose to make it easier for the baby to breathe. Then the baby is shown to its mother. The moment the mother sees her baby is one of heartfelt emotion. She may smile ever so slightly however, the look in her eyes tells a whole new story.  It was a moment of compassion between a mother and her child. At Mankessim, I mostly saw women with urinary incontinence and fistulas.  Those who we operated on that had fistulas went into the operating room as women that were in mental pain because of their condition. They woke up as women free of a situation that had haunted them for too many years. The look on their faces in the recovery room gave the doctors, nurses, other volunteers, and I a sense of accomplishment. We had given many of these women a shot at a new life.

Although we helped many patients, there were some that we simply could do nothing for mostly because of our limited time. We had a hard choice to make and that was deciding whom we took care of this year, and who would have to wait until the next year. Surprisingly, the patients who were turned away were simply grateful for the time we took to assess their condition. They were pleased to know they had another chance at treatment next year. Their attitude perplexed me. I am not sure of the emotions that I would feel in such a situation if I were placed in the Ghanaian’s shoes. I suppose that is why the people of Ghana are such a great people. They are not spoiled by riches, nor are they greedy. They are grateful for anything that they have. They ignore what they do not have and make the best of what they do have. It was the Ghanaian people that made my encounter so rich and educational. They taught me more than I taught them.

My trip to Ghana is one that I will never forget. The things that I witnessed and participated in give me a drive to travel there again. The attitude of all the teams; Cape Coast, Mankessim, Kumasi, and Apam, made our mission successful and effective. All that I saw, all that I experienced, and all that I participated in made me open up to a new view on the quality of my life in the United States and the impact that I can have on those that are less fortunate.