Beloved family and friends, AKWAABA (greetings) from Ghana,
Internet is not working here in the foothills. I bought a modem on my last trip but that service has been down since December. This is my 1st opportunity to slow down enough to put out an update.
I arrived, in Ghana, 7 March 2012, with Khadijah 4 and Fatima 6, two of my great granddaughters, in tow. We had 5 trunks, 1 large box, 3 rolling carry-ons, and 3 backpacks. Fortunately, I arrived on the same plane as Sabayet’s founding family, the Pennys from St Louis and a tour they were hosting. I am so grateful that the Pennys took the 2 trunks and box that were strictly medical supplies, for the class and it’s participants, on to Dutch Komenda, to the class site. I don’t know how I would have carried so much luggage up and down, across Accra, with me and the girls. I spent 2 days with my girls at their grandmother’s in Accra to ensure they were well settled. I then left for the site of the training in Dutch Komenda, a very rural community 4-5 hours away.
Sabayet, an NGO here in Ghana, is one of the sponsors of the 4 day training for Traditional Community Midwives; I was invited to Ghana, on this trip, to teach. The other sponsors included JUSLUV Educational Foundation and it’s CEO, Karleisha Coleman, a lecturer at Cape Coast University, The Sankofa Birthing Project, Birthing Project USA and it’s CEO Katherine Hall-Trujillo, Midwives On the Move and it’s Administrative Executive Aima Bey Abdel RahimEl, friends and supporters in the US.
The collaborative effort, “Assignment Heal”, March 12-15, spearheaded by Sabayet and it’s founders, Nana Kofi Penny, Mrs. Willie May Penny and their daughter Zakiya Penny, served 3,500 people in 4 Dutch Komenda villages providing breast exams, first aid, health screenings and health assessments. Volunteers and translators for the three languages spoken in the area (Fanti, Twi and Ewe) were provided by The University of Cape Coast Health Education Dept. along with 50 senior class nursing students from Ankaful Nurses Training College. Many of the Afrikan American Diasporan Community (descendants of slaves who have returned to Ghana permanently) came forward to volunteer time and money to this tremendous Diasporan undertaking.
On the Sunday before “Assignment Heal” began, Sabayet had a groundbreaking for a permanent clinic on their beachfront property that was covered by local TV, Radio and Press. Before we left on Thurs, the foundation had been dug, by hand, and block was in place to begin building.
Birthing Project USA (I serve as their Midwifery Director) called upon me after an unsuccessful search for a nurse midwife in Ghana willing to do the training. While “Assignment Heal” traveled to a different Dutch Komenda village each day, the community midwives assembled at Sabayet for 4 days of classes. We were scheduled for 12 midwives, 3 from each of the 4 villages. We had 18 midwives from 5 villages show up! It was a dynamic and exciting time. We had all levels of expertise from 25 years experience to current trainees. With the limited time available, I asked a lot of questions and allowed them unlimited questions to ascertain what THEY wanted to know. We opened and closed with prayer led by a different midwife each time and we sang “I love Being a Midwife” and other songs each day.
Day #1 we covered extensive introductions, the importance of women and of community midwives, how the body works, dating a pregnancy, palpation, how to be a better midwife, sanitation and nutrition. After lunch, with the help of the senior nursing students, we showed them how to take vital signs and blood pressure and they practiced on each other.
Day #2 we covered the importance of prenatal care, how to take a health history, an obstetrical history, a family history, the elements of a prenatal visit, keeping records, danger signs with emphasis on recognizing problems early and transporting them to the hospital. I was told their breeches usually die or are “very slow”. We spent time on ways to recognize a breech before labor begins and transporting to hospital rather than attempt a delivery at home.
Day #3 we covered labor and delivery, problems that risk a mother out for home birth, methods of sterilization, cleanliness, signs that labor is close, the process of labor and birth, and danger signs. We encourage village study groups and area wide “peer review”, the discussion of problems encountered, how they were handled and how others have handled similar situations.
Day #4 we covered the immediate post partum and postpartum visits, danger signs for mother and baby, kangaroo care, colostrum, breast feeding and nutrition. After lunch presentations were made. Each village received a blood pressure cuff, a stethoscope, a headlamp, and A Book for Midwives by the Hesperian foundation. Each village chose their leader to keep these gifts for the whole and agreed to start a regular study group.
Each midwife, actively doing births, received a bag with equipment and supplies, including, gloves sterile and non-sterile, instruments, thermometer, watch with second hand, under pads, plastic sheet, bulb syringe, an enema bag, betadine, antibiotic ointment, alcohol preps, sanitary pads and mesh panties, and “Safe Birth Kits” equal to the number of births the midwife attended in the past year. These kits were donated by Birthing Project USA.
Each participant received a certificate of attendance and a small gift bag of toiletries. We provided lunch each day, and a wonderful time was had by all. Thank you to all our supporters whose donations made this exciting happening possible. We will continue to interact and provide continuing education for this group of magnificent, eager women when Midwives On the Move returns to Ghana in late Aug with another group of NARM applicants.
Since I began writing this update, a week ago, my 25+ year friend, and MOM’s Administrative Director, Aima Bey, contracted Malaria and has been really sick for 5 days. I took her to the hospital early, as soon as I heard her symptoms. The exam, the IV, the blood work, and the medication cost about $30. Aima traveled to Togo, a neighboring country, in Feb, for 3 days and came back with over 100 mosquito bites! This fits the incubation period of 6-8 weeks. She lived in Ghana, cumulatively, over 2 years and has never had Malaria. She is on the mend and much improved but I’m really glad I was here. I had to coax and bully her into the shower when her fever was up, and come up with tempting things to convince her to eat and drink. You just want to sleep. She ate 2 meals today, not just pineapple or coconut, and she sat outside with the neighbors for ½ an hour. My cup runneth over.
The time is growing very short for the “outdooring and enstoolment” ceremony that will make me Queen Mother here in Abura Dunkwa. I have been given a new name, Nana Aba Kwansima I, Queen Mother of Health and Development, by the King, Nana Osam Kwasi VII. It is a very great honor.
When Nana Osam asked me to become Queen Mother, it was a part of Midwives On the Move being given 3 acres of land to build a Birth Center/Clinic and Midwifery Training Center. The King and the community have purchased 2 pieces of Kente (Traditional Royal Cloth) for the 2 day event, gold jewelry, a crown, and cloth for under the Kente. I will be carried high, in a special boat called a Pallequin, on the shoulders of strong (I pray) men, throughout the town while the drummers play.
There are also costs that are traditionally for me. Who knew? I had no idea! I’ve never even seen an enstoolment ceremony. I needed 2 pairs of Royal Slippers, 100 commemorative T-shirts with my picture and name on them, to be worn by the men who carry me, friends and family, and the crowd of people who follow my Pallequin as I’m carried around town, waving their handkerchiefs at me. I provide cookies and candy to throw to the crowd as I’m carried about town, dinner and drinks for 100 guests (friends from the hospital, the neighborhood, the muslim community, Ghanaian friends from Accra and Kumasi, and the large Diasporan community) who will come to witness, a professional photo for the T-shirt and a video of the event. AND, when a major Chief or Queen Mother is made, she or he is given a “husband” who will come when you call, accompany you wherever you go, and go for you if you are not able to go. My “husband”, Nana Gladys, a minor, hereditary Queen Mother, must be provided with a new dress and new slippers for her walk beside my Pallequin.
Zena, my granddaughter, my household partner, is not working. She is severely anemic, critical values, from unknown causes. She needs a blood transfusion and many tests. She will not be coming for the ceremony. Please keep her in your prayers.
Had I known then what I know now, I’d have turned down the Queen Mother and asked for the land without it. Hindsight is 20/20. Long story short, Money I had with me to pay for filing our NGO here in Ghana, surveying the land and filing our Indenture with the Land Title Registry has been eaten up by this process. It is important to begin the process while I am here on site. There are many government offices to visit and I am the one who needs to sign and file the paperwork. This will also improve our standing for grants. We need $3,000.
Please send whatever you can. Together we can make this happen. It is so exciting to be standing on the threshold of so many blessings for midwives and families on both sides of the Atlantic. You can send money, without a fee, to my PayPal account,firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also send money by Western Union, to Ghana, cheaper than sending money within the US. My legal name is Sondra Abdullah-Zaimah for pickup in Cape Coast, Ghana. Call Zena 404 748-8506 with the reference number and name of sender, we speak almost every day. Peace and Blessings to all, Much Luv, Umm