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August 2023 – Connecting

By Katie Eccles

Chief Clinical Officer, COMPASS-Ghana

I sit writing to you on the veranda of our temporary home whilst the rhythm of the church band is banging its drums loudly around me. Do all charity workers live in the community in which they work? This is a question I asked myself this morning, as the babies cry, fumes from the burning of plastic bottles surround me and the red ants make their way towards my feet! Maybe the wise check into a hotel or live within an ex-pat community! John and I have chosen the harder way to live here, yet it is the right way to live whilst setting up this NGO.

It is not easy, it is certainly not romantic, it is hard!

With all these challenges there are many positives. The shop sellers in the community have embraced us and we are affectionately known as Grandma Katie (I’ve aged in my short time here!) and Mr John! The food traders give us food and the neighbours often pop in just to say hello or to ask for our advice. Their three young children remain fascinated by us! We feel welcomed into their community, their lives, and their country.

Returning from work yesterday I took time out to reflect on the challenges of my day. A deep sense of alertness surrounded me the whole time whilst entering the ward. The Emergency Room (ER) was heaving. At a glance I was able to see all the patients as there are no curtains. There is no dignity. The clinical environment and practices are so very different from the UK. That is my only description of this sad situation.

After our busy day at work, we ordered and waited for the Bolt car to arrive. Bolt being our new best friend, reliable and very cheap!  We stood just outside the hospital, the sellers were selling their food, sick patients were being carried in, the rain was about to fall. I noticed the mother of the palliative care patient we had cared for in the ER department that morning, her grandson, strapped securely on to her back. I approached her and in words that she would not have understood I somehow told her I was thinking of her and her family at this time. She recognised me, and I know she was grateful for those words. My experience tells me it is not the words you use but how you make someone feel that makes all the difference.

Still waiting for the Bolt car which on this occasion proved to be unreliable, a lovely young nurse doing her National Service helped us and told us where to wait. She didn’t leave us until the car arrived. I asked if I could give her money for lunch as she had spent the whole of her lunch break with us. A 10 cedi note passed hands (67p). I knew she could get quite a feast with it!

This work is tough, this work is worth it.