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Question #89947 posted on 09/11/2017 3:34 p.m.

Dear Sherpa Dave,

In poetry or prose (or not), can we hear about Ghana?

-Auto Surf


Dear the most automatic of surfs,

Well, as some of y'all may know, I spent some time in Ghana this summer. Six weeks to be exact! I was doing a non-paid internship with Unite For Sight, an NGO that specializes in supporting local eye clinics around the world. Essentially they're trying to help local eye clinics provide care to more people and eliminate patient barriers to eye care. So for six weeks I was in Ghana working with different local eye clinics in different cities and villages in Ghana. It was way rad and I'm gonna tell you more about it in the paragraphs to come.

So just about every weekday, we'd take a van ride out to a village with the eye clinic that we were currently working with, which would usually be about 4-6 people. These were Ghanaians who worked at the eye clinics. (I should mention that I was with other volunteers from BYU and always had 3-5 other volunteers with me at any given clinic.) But everyday we'd see about 50-400 people and we'd do an eye health screening that consists of the following

 - Registration: For most of the time we would sit down each person and ask them their name, age, and what was wrong with their eyes. Sometimes they spoke English, but for a lot of the time we had to learn some Twi, the most common language in Ghana. A lot of other times, we had one of the clinic staff help us out with translation. People spoke a lot of different languages, but many spoke English, and we learned some Twi.

 - Visual Acuity: This was basically just a vision test, with one of those fancy fancy charts with different sized letters on them. Except the one we used just had "E"s facing different directions, so we just had them motion which way the "E" was facing. That was pretty hard sometimes with the language barrier, but we got better and we had some Ghanaian guys to help translate.

 - Doctors: The people then went to the table where the Ghanaian doctors actually were, and they checked out people's eyes. They prescribed medication and eyeglasses. It was pretty impressive to see the doctors checking the eyes of like 200 people a day sometimes.

 - Medicine and Eyeglass dispensing: This was the other part of the outreach that we got to help out with, we would hand out medicine and eyeglasses and have people pay the small amount that we charged. We'd charge a small amount for eyeglasses and medication, so that people would value everything a little more, and just so the NGO could stay afloat.

The whole experience was really cool, we spent most of the time out in smaller villages, and it was great to work with actual local eye clinic staff. We ate a lot of local food and met some really cool people. It was of course a very humbling experience, and it was amazing to see how passionate the eye clinic staff were about public health in their country. It was also cool to be so immersed in a culture that I was so unfamiliar with. 

There were a lot of really funny stories, but I don't have time to write them all here, and you definitely don't want me to bore you with all of them, but one of the best was probably when this older lady thought I was really funny, so she offered me her daughter. But then after sticking around, she decided I was going to marry her instead. She then announced to everyone that we were married. Soon after, she threatened to leave me if I didn't buy her ice cream. I bought the ice cream but then she never spoke to me again so I guess maybe we're not married anymore. Also she was crazy.

Also there was another great time where I got swarmed by like 150 Ghanaian kids because I played the ukulele on a elementary school playground.

But overall it was an amazing experience, and I'd love to go back sometime. I wanted to express some of my feelings about the trip in poetry, but I'm not that good at poems and also life is crazy and I have no time.

Keep it real,
Sherpa Dave