I am so happy to report that our team has arrived safely to the Accra Airport after a very interesting journey that began at 7:00am today. But first let me rewind a little …
Yesterday, our packing and inventory day was interrupted by an envoy that arrived to the compound. David called us all together under the gazebo where the District Chief Executive of the Bole-Bamboi District came to thank us on behalf of the President of Ghana. Speeches were exchanged and a photo of our entire team with the government representatives was taken. The gift he brought was a gift we have never received on any of our missions. The President of Ghana gave us a bull. That’s right, a bull. And according to Brenda’s dad, Gene, it is a fine animal! David was so happy to add this bull to his collection. The bull didn’t look at all pleased.
While we were meeting with Honorable James Janga, an artisan arrived and filled the gazebo with local crafts, material and jewellery, so we spent the afternoon shopping.
The kids on the compound decided to have a football (soccer) match and they were thrilled when Dr. Martin and Dr. Anthony joined in. With sticks as goalposts and a brand new football (given to the boys by the surgical team), we witnessed the incredible skill of these young players. As I sat watching the match with David and Ernestina, the intensity of these two weeks seems to dissipate. We didn’t talk about disease and death. We didn’t talk about the future of health care delivery to this region. We were just three friends genuinely enjoying a great game of football. I will cherish that moment.
And the party. I must tell you about the party. Decked out in our Ghanaian outfits, we all arrived to an outdoor dinner party where every NEA staff member and every volunteer had gathered under the stars. I’m guessing there were 250-300 people there. We enjoyed fufu and mushroom soup as an appetizer followed by a roast beef dinner and custard for dessert. It was incredible. David and Brenda took the time to honour each and every team member with a gift, and three team members received their five year anniversary gift. This was the fifth mission for Dr. Kyle, Joan, and Dr. Magdi.
The best part of the night for me was when David’s mother, Abena Fulamuso, asked to speak. She spoke in a soft voice that we could barely hear. As David translated, I couldn’t believe the words coming from her mouth. This woman who had witnessed so much suffering told us that she never dreamed that one of her children would be the catalyst to bring health care delivery to this region. She told us that she had 10 children and had lost most of them to preventable diseases. Then she said “Tonight it does not feel like my children are dead because now you are all my children.” These words speak for themselves.
We set off very early this morning for Accra. Fried egg sandwiches were packed and ready to go, as were fresh meat pies for lunch. Our journey was seamless until some “maintenance” needed to be done on the bus. It seemed there was an issue with the cooling system. We had an extended stop at the roadside next to a little village. You should have seen the look on the kids faces as 60 of us stepped off the bus. Within moments, Michael had the guitar out and we were all singing.
As time started to tick away I thought I would check in with the driver as to how the repairs were going. With a big grin he said, “Things are very positive, madam. We are just waiting for a saw.” Right. I returned to the singing only to hear those kids singing a song for us. It is a old hymn of the church called “Trust and Obey.” What a timely message. So, with a pediatric cardiologist, two surgeons, an anaesthetist and a family physician looking over his shoulder and offering the odd comment, this gracious master mechanic fixed the problem and off we went. The look on the faces of those kids while we drove away was priceless. Another special experience to add to our collection of lessons and memories from Ghana.
And so we wait to board our various airplanes to return to our various countries. It is hard to say goodbye to our dear friends. Our time has been rich and we have all been impacted in different ways. We will all return a little different that when we arrived. We have completed our mission with excellence. We have served thousands of patients wholeheartedly and are now ready to return to our loved ones and our places of work.
JanJam (thank you) to each person who has been involved directly or indirectly to make this mission possible. So many individuals contributed in so many ways. Thank you all for helping NEA be the catalyst — “an agent that provokes or speeds significant change or action” — to bring sustainable health care to Northern Ghana! Let’s continue to link hands with our brothers and sisters in Ghana until this dream becomes a reality.
(born on a Monday)