By Dr. Jennifer Wilson
Alexandria is one of our Ghanaian nurses who has worked with us for many years now. On Friday, she became sick and had to stay back on the compound to rest. Once she had recovered, she shared with me how overwhelmed she was by the way the NEA staff took care of her. While she was sick, plates of watermelon would be left outside her door and someone would check in on her every few hours bringing cold water, asking what they could do to help her. She told me, “I actually feel at home in this place.”
She expressed something that this 2018 Health Team is feeling as well. Not enough can be said for this NEA staff and the entire support team for their hospitality and commitment to the success of this program. Tonight’s blog is dedicated to them — the behind-the-scenes heroes that make our work possible.
The indoor kitchen staff that prepares food for our team starts at 3:00 am and ends at 9:00 pm every day. The quality, colour, flavour and creative presentations with which they prepare the meals is unbelievable. Tonight, we had peanut soup over rice balls, chicken and roast potatoes, salad garnished with fresh vegetables and tuna and fresh watermelon. On talent show night, the kitchen sent up a Ghanaian appetizer platter to contribute to the celebration. It was mini-skewers of chicken gizzards with fresh jalapeño pepper and onion. There is also an outdoor cooking team that prepares three traditional meals a day for all of the translators, volunteers, staff, compound kids and post-operative patients. It is a massive operation.
Every three days, each team member’s laundry is done for them. We send it out in a personalized black bag and it is returned to us at the end of the day. A large group of women from local villages make up this team. Once a week, our sheets and towels are laundered as well.
We never see the cleaning staff, but we arrive home every day to find our residences and washrooms absolutely spic and span. Tea, coffee, crackers and Laughing Cow cheese are set out for our enjoyment with a fridge full of water and pop.
The compound has never looked better in my opinion. The groundskeeping staff have created a place of true beauty, and the attention to detail in the landscaping and the maintenance of the property and buildings is breathtaking.
Our security staff are on duty 24 hours a day and a security team travels with us. We don’t notice their presence but we know they are there and as a result, we feel safe and completely at ease at all times.
We have an amazing team of NEA drivers. Manoeuvring three busses in convoy down bumpy, pothole-ridden village roads takes skill, and these drivers are the best. Despite the dust and the dirt, the buses are always spotless inside and out, and we have yet to have any mechanical problems.
Our translators wear blue shirts, and they are by our sides at all times while we work. We are lost without them.
The clinic volunteers are the heroes in the yellow shirts. Today’s team left at 3:00 am. When we arrived in Asantekwaa, the crowd was well organized and the entire clinic was already set up, ready for us to begin working. These volunteers also control the flow of patients through the stations, run prescriptions to pharmacy and assist with the taking down of the clinic and transporting it back to Carpenter at night.
The surgical volunteers are responsible to manage all transportation, housing, and feeding of the hernia patients during their two-day stay in Carpenter.
Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention the pastoral team. This large, dedicated team has the important task of praying for us, for our patients, and for the mission as a whole. They pray constantly from the moment we leave our homes and will continue until a word is received that we have all returned safely to our loved ones.
I’ve shared with you what this NEA team does but what I have not done is communicated how each of these individuals discharges their duties with such kindness and love. This is what Alexandria was talking about . It is this love that they show us in such practical ways that makes this NEA compound in this remote area of this small African country a second home to so many of us.
PS: The entire team had a beyond busy day but we managed to all make it to the dining hall by 7:00 pm for dinner and team reports. We were off to bed early as we know what we are in store for tomorrow! Apparently a patient arrived from another country yesterday to get in line for our Wednesday clinic!