Sunday, March 2, 2008

Project HOPE Volunteers Arrive in Africa

After getting just about every vaccination known to man and some ugly khaki shorts to go with my Project HOPE t-shirts, I was finally packing so that I could be on my way to West Africa, specifically Ghana and Liberia, with Project HOPE. Project HOPE is a non-profit. More importantly they are a non-profit that focuses on sustainable advances in healthcare across the globe. They teach healthcare workers how to better care for their patients and train other health professionals so the cycle of learning and teaching continues long after Project HOPE has left the country. This is not the only thing Project HOPE does—Project HOPE has programs in 36 countries across the globe in women and children’s health, HIV/AIDS and TB, health systems and facilities, health professional education and humanitarian aid—but it is one of their main focuses and what the HOPE volunteers will be doing while in Africa.

Project HOPE volunteers and Project HOPE staff –myself included—were on our way to Africa to partner with the United States Department of Defense (DoD) for Operation Africa Partnership Station. This is not the first mission in which HOPE has partnered with the DoD. The first time was in January of 2005 when they asked Project HOPE to join them in a disaster relief mission to areas in Southeast Asia that were severely affected by the Tsunami. Asked to fill 200 positions HOPE reached out to the medical community and received over 4,000 volunteer applications. After the Tsunami Project HOPE again went on to help but this time stateside when Hurricane Katrina and Rita devastated the Gulf Coast. The Katrina and Rita missions were followed by another mission to Indonesia to continue caring for those still affected by the Tsunami. Most recently Project HOPE again joined the DoD for a 2007 summer mission to countries in Latin America and Southeast Asia. Now HOPE is at it again in West Africa.
With one suitcase and a cool back pack, that surprisingly held not only my laptop nicely but also a camcorder to record the work we will be doing, I was off to the airport for my 14 hour flight to Ghana. Traveling to Ghana required an almost seven hour flight to Germany and a two hour layover in the European country which almost took an unexpected turn when the volunteers and myself were asked if we would give up our seats for 600 Euros in cash because the flight to Nigeria/Ghana was over booked. After thinking about it for maybe 30 seconds –because that would have been a lot of money in U.S. dollars—we decided people needed us to be somewhere so we should continue our travels. Interestingly enough on our six hour flight from Germany to Lagos, Nigeria the flight attendants kept asking us if we wanted red or white wine or Bailey’s Irish Cream or cognac—don’t worry we all resisted the temptation. After an hour layover on the plane in Lagos we finally took off and landed Ghana an hour later where I and all the volunteers showed up exhausted but extremely excited.

After going through the immigration process rather quickly we proceeded to grab our luggage only to find out Sue—one of the nurse midwives—was missing one of her suitcases. She didn’t get very bothered because the suitcase that did arrive had her most important stuff in it, all of her education materials. When we actually exited the airport we were greeted by the heat and humidity of a country closer to the equator and what appeared to be hundreds of Ghanaians waiting and picking people up. We waited around too for our DoD counterparts to arrive. We than caravanned our way to what would be our home for the two weeks in Ghana. It was dark on our way so we could not get a glimpse at the country until the morning.

Our living space is barebones white and looks like a storage facility with one door leading to the men’s side and another to the women’s located across from what looks like an out of use hanger which is now our meeting place and mess hall. Inside the walls are white paneling and the floors look like they belong in a gymnasium but are not as bouncy. In the middle of the building there are two bathrooms divided by a simple curtain to separate the men from the women. Each bathroom has three stalls and three shower stalls and six sinks. Each room, because we have fewer women all the women got their own room while some of the men had to bunk up, has two sets of white metal bunk beds with blue bedding and eight lockers. These might sound like very basic rooms but we are all really impressed with the accommodations. The rooms are air-conditioned—a plus when you are trying to sleep in 90+ weather—and the showers have hot water and good water pressure.

With our accommodations settled we had a brief meeting went straight to the showers and bed. It seemed and still seems everyone is in high spirits and ready to work despite the weekend long travel.

--Marisol Euceda

Help support the Project HOPE mission in Africa.

1 comment:

  1. Let's not forget the fine sailors of the Maritime Civil Affairs Team 202 who deployed to Accra and Monrovia to prepare and coordinate for the arrival of the McHenry, Swift and GIK donations coordinated by Project Hope. Big congrats to Caroline Teeter in Monrovia.