In November this year (2011) I returned to Ghana to work with the Ghana Homeopathy Project after a gap of three years.
The project has evolved in the intervening years in some very positive directions. My trip this time was divided into two distinct parts. The first week I spent in the peace and calm of Mafi Seva ( now on mains electricity) watching the daily routine going on around me, photographing the chickens, lizard,s goats and the children with huge bundles of sticks on their heads who mysteriously traverse the compound from time to time and ,of course, seeing patients.
People arrived, sometimes from a considerable distance away, and were welcomed to our table in the shade where they told us about their aches and pains and also about their stories. Even in the calmest of rural existences there can be tragedy and hardship. From the woman whose son had been imprisoned following an accidental but fatal shooting and who had had to pay a fortune to get him out of prison at the end of a four- year term to the young man who had himself been shot whilst gold-mining and whose friend had not been seen since; from people who had been cheated out of all their money to men struggling to support far too many wives and children; from violent itchy skin eruptions to IBS and the ever present arthritis, consequence of long years spent labouring in the fields. The rhythm of life is calm and steady, however, and the cares and worries of urban life in the UK just slip away. I walked around the fields of peppers and cassava and watched the women in the neighbouring village grind and roast the latter to make gari. This versatile tuber is also the basis of Ghanaian staples, fufu and banku, and of tapioca. Our clinic in that village had to be cut short, sadly, as the rain came and threatened to wash the road away leaving us there for longer than intended.
Emperor was my translator and co-prescriber in Mafi Seva, and Pastor John joined us for some of the time. It was good to see old friends again and to sit discussing homeopathy with two such accomplished practitioners and to see their continued enthusiasm for learning.
When the time came to leave we got a trotro from the village to Adidome, the district capital where Emperor and I had been invited to meet the Mayor and the head of the local administration, both of whom were delighted to learn of the homeopathic work going on at Mafi Seva and were very interested in the impending arrival of the Doctors Bhattacharyea. The contrast with the entrenched attitudes and prejudices of bureaucrats in the UK was stark.
On our return to Accra the change of pace hit me. The crowds, the traffic, the street traders and the roadside stalls are almost overwhelming in their profusion; it is an exciting place. It is also hot and a challenge to negotiate – especially when one is trying to follow one’s red suitcase as it disappears into the distance on the head of a young girl who is, in turn, trying to keep up with Emperor!
On my previous visit, when I was staying and working with long-term volunteer Mel Duprès, we had been based at Banana Inn, an urban suburb in the vast sprawl of Accra, but the second week of my trip this time was to be at the School in Kasoa.
Teaching at PISHAM
The Premier Institute of Homeopathy and …… is located in this market town on the edge of Accra on the way to Cape Coast. The building comprises a classroom and clinic rooms where the students can observe and participate in case-taking with Julius Berdie, the Director, or Grace Rhoomes, a UK trained homeopath who has come to live in a coastal village nearby; I was lucky enough to be staying with Grace and Openi in their house by the beach.[nggallery id=3]
There are two intakes of students in training at the School; I started with a four-day stint with the 2nd years and then had three days teaching the first years. Students come from a variety of work backgrounds. Many are employed in complementary health clinics already and will therefore have a head-start as they move into practice. Here they are not only having to learn the complexities of classical homeopathy and repertorisation but they are having to learn it all in a second language.
Their achievement is nonetheless impressive. We worked with role-play and the students’ own presentations of materia medica on the principle that effective learning is an active process rather than a passive one but the classroom is also equipped with projector and whiteboard to facilitate the more formal side of things. Seven days teaching is hard work, of course but, as anyone with experience of teaching knows, it can also be energising and very fulfilling. It feels worthwhile and constructive to be involved in training new generations of homeopaths who will in turn be taking homeopathy forward for years to come.
Having discovered on my previous trip how friendly and helpful Ghanaians are and how easy it is to get around I followed my time with the Ghana Project with a short trip of my own up to Cape Coast and Elmina to learn a bit more about the history of Ghana and to visit some conservation enterprises around the National Park. It was a fascinating, albeit thought provoking and at times disturbing experience. I would thoroughly recommend that volunteers consider taking a bit of extra time if they possibly can to do something similar.