More in News
MVHS teacher journeys to Ghana
Children at a rural clinic in Kansa, Ghana surrounded Mountain Valley High School health teacher Kristen Provencher as she passed out crayons and coloring books. MVHS Peer Helpers donated supplies.
Kristen Provencher holds one of a set of twins while their mother received medical treatment at a rural clinic. The experience made her miss her three-year-old son back home.
The medical team from UNE and their hosts from Ghana pose for the camera.
Kristen Provencher, Mountain Valley High School health teacher, began her journey on a Thursday with a bus ride and a flight.
She finally arrived at her destination in the tiny West African country of Ghana on Saturday, July 28, at three in the morning! The mission for her group was to provide much needed health services to rural people.
However, the journey really began in March when she received an email inviting her to join a group from the University of New England.
“Professor Jennifer Morton has developed a partnership with the Ghana Health Service and she leads UNE students there twice a year,” Provencher explained. “Since I’m working on a master’s degree in public health, I was definitely interested.”
The group consisted of 20 people, including students in physical therapy, physician’s assistant, social work, nursing and public health. Two nurse practitioners and a licensed physical therapist accompanied the party.
After some rest to recover from the journey and time to get to know each other, the health team set up an outpatient clinic in a church in Sekondi, a city on the Ghana coast.
Provencher described, “We saw everything from open wounds to chronic disease like diabetes and high blood pressure. Since their diet is mostly carbohydrates, diabetes and obesity is very common. We even saw a little girl with suspected congenital heart disease and referred her to a hospital in the capital.”
The physical therapy area was very busy. “Because women carry everything on their heads, they have lots of low back pain. The therapists taught them stretches and how to do tasks differently so it doesn’t hurt as much,” Provencher said.
She continued, “One women showed how she bent over to do laundry in a bucket on the floor. A student asked her if she could put the bucket on a stool so she wouldn’t have to bend over. The woman agreed. Sometimes simple solutions can really help people!”
The health team ventured into rural Ghana for clinics on two days.
Provencher observed, “It was all dirt in the rural areas. They have nothing.”
Back home, Provencher is the advisor for the MVHS Peer Helpers, a student-run improvement group. Peer Helpers donated $50 towards the mission and Provencher bought coloring books and crayons.
“It was amazing to see how much the children enjoyed something as simple as coloring,” Provencher noticed especially in the rural areas.
The Americans had a little time to play tourist. “We went to Kakum National Park and did a canopy walk in the rainforest. The narrow bridge was 80 feet off the ground! It was scary but thrilling.”
Of particular interest to Provencher was a visit to a girls-only high school. Ghana has a huge initiative to increase female education. Girls can choose between co-ed and girl-only high schools.
“The high school I visited had 1,500 girls with a lot living there. One classroom had at least 30 girls. They were very polite and sang their school song. One girl asked about our gun laws. Another girl asked if our views of Black people had changed by seeing their country.”
Asked about her personal experience, Provencher said, “I definitely gained perspective. I know as Americans we are spoiled. I already knew I am lucky to be an American. I was amazed the people I met have so little but are happy. They are very religious and that keeps them going.”
She added, “We went to a church service and it was quite different from any church service I’ve been to. They were singing the whole time and they had a band. You could see and feel their joy.”
“I would like to do something like that again,” Provencher concluded. “I now think that everyone should do a mission. They were so grateful for us just being there and for everything we did – even a 30-day supply of Tylenol!”