By: Yasmin Amaro-Garcia ’22
Hey everyone, it’s Yasmin here! I loved my experience abroad to Ghana as my colleagues and I provided free medical care to residents. We did wound care, malaria testing, medication administration, and blood pressure readings in several villages from infants to older adults. And when we weren’t working, we got to see visit some major landmarks in Ghana such as the Kpong Reservoir seen in the second photo. I was so grateful to serve the people of Ghana and see their beautiful land!
By: Lisa Grazioli
On my study abroad trip to Ghana, Africa, I realized so many things about the country we live in and about myself. It was one of the most eye opening experiences of my life. Before leaving for the trip, I had a lot of anxiety about traveling so far to another country. Trying new things and getting out of my comfort zone is difficult for me, but going to Africa really helped me get over that fear in life. When we first landed and got settled in, everyone was so welcoming and kind. I do not think I have ever travelled somewhere where people were that welcoming. It made me feel a lot better about my surroundings and helped ease some of my fears. We were greeted by the best group of team leaders who worked for IVHQ and made out stay here phenominal. They guided us and were by our side the entire trip answering every single question or concern we had.
When we got to the villages, there were local children who were already outside waiting for us when we got there. These kids will always have a special place in my heart and little did I know would have the most impact on my stay in Ghana. Besides helping those in need at the clinics, I had the best time forming strong bonds and connections with the locals. We taught them so many different games, and they also taught us some too. It was very difficult accepting not being able to see them again unless coming back to the program. We also formed bonds with a few of the people we met at the clinics and it was very difficult to have to help them once and say goodbye forever. One of the best experiences I got out of this trip was the impact I had on the communities I travelled to. We helped hundreds of people in such a short amount of time, which really filled my heart with happiness.
Studying abroad with GCU is something that I would do 100 more times if I could. I believe it is really a once in a lifetime experience that really changes your life for the better. You realize to not take small things for granted because some people there do not even have basic needs to survive. We complain if our food at a restaraunt is not hot enough, but some people there do not even have a meal to eat during the day, barely even a snack. After this trip, I learned to appreciate more and really see things through a different perspective. I would recommend IVHQ every single time to anyone trying to travel abroad.
By: Brenda Rojas
Hello everyone! My name is Brenda Rojas. It has always been a dream of mine to volunteer abroad and help people across the world. I am so grateful that I have been able to take part in this trip to Ghana and learn so much. Everyone was so welcoming throughout our stay. Not only did we provide medical care, but we also explored the culture of Ghana. My nursing peers and I made meaningful relationships with the IVHQ team. We set up a free clinic in different towns each day of the week and provided wound care, malaria testing, blood pressure checks and more! It was a life-changing experience that will always stay with me. The pictures do not do justice of how beautiful and rewarding the trip was. I will once again return to Ghana in my future nursing career!
By: Kerry Mendes
Hi everyone! Being able to volunteer in Ghana was truly an amazing experience. Throughout the stay, other nursing students and I did malaria testing, wound care, blood pressures, and medication administration. While providing medical care, we also had the opportunity to explore Ghana’s culture and landmarks. Everyone was so genuine, friendly, and welcoming to us. My experience in Ghana is something I’ll never forget, and I can’t wait to be able to go back!
By: Lauren Fernandes
Volunteering in Ghana was truly the experience of a lifetime. It was enriching to learn about their culture, meet the kind and welcoming people, and take in the beautiful landscape and ways of life. Everyone we came in contact with was so kind to us saying “you are welcome” and greeting us with genuine, warm smiles and waving to us from the side of the roads. Seeing everyone effortlessly carry large items on their heads and women carry their babies on their backs was amazing! Taking a boat ride in the Volta River and swimming under the Wli waterfalls (the tallest falls in west Africa) and even appreciating the landscape of the drive to these locations, was breathtaking. There were palm trees and lush green vegetation on the sides of the roads where villages were not built. There were also goats, chickens, and stray dogs roaming around, coexisting with the locals. It was truly a sight to see! The children in Frankadua would come to our volunteer house daily and just wait outside for us to come out and play. They were amused by any game we taught them, one being Simon says and a Chilean rendition of “rock paper scissor”. They were full of life and were a very big part of why I loved it there so much.
Providing healthcare to the people in villages was a very humbling experience. People were living their lives with deep wounds, crippling injuries, and sick with malaria and other illnesses- and doing so with a smile and peaceful demeanor. Even though there are hospitals there, they are either too far from most people or procedures & medicine are too expensive for them to afford. Most wounds were so severe that in the US this individual would be hospitalized for months and seen by surgeons, doctors, and wound APNs and treated with wound vacs and top of the line medical care. In Ghana, they were treated by nursing students with solely first aid materials in a suitcase such as triple antibiotic ointment, wound healing gel, Vaseline, gauze, and tape. We have no idea how lucky we are to have access to high quality healthcare. Another eye opening experience was being part of a delivery at the village clinic with two of my peers. The mother was a 15 year old girl who was delivering her first baby. For the majority of our time spent with her, we were the only ones by her side and aiding her in the delivery process (with little to no experience of ever doing so). The nurses that were to deliver the baby, seemed to speak harshly to the girl in Ewe, relating to us that they didn’t think she was pushing enough; even though it was evident that she was trying her best. When the delivery was posing to be too complicated and requiring further medical intervention, the only option was to send her to the nearest hospital which was 45 minutes away by tro tro (van). Keep in mind, this is on very poorly kept dirt roads with tons of holes and no streetlights, while the 15 year old mother-to-be was fully dilated. I never found out what happened with this mother and her baby, but I am hoping that she made it to the hospital in time and that everything worked out for them. Although this was not a typical delivery experience, with it being complex, it was still very eye opening to me and really made me grateful for the type of healthcare we have available on the US. On the other hand, when we made it to the end of a different delivery and were able to dress and hold the newborn, it was a very exciting and happy occasion that somewhat made up for the latter.
Overall, this experience was a life changing one that I will never forget. It actually helped me realize that this is something that I want to pursue with my future; whether it be an international travel nurse, international medical volunteer, or manage to squeeze in volunteer trips on between US travel nurse assignments- I know that I want to continue to travel abroad, especially to underserved countries and help volunteer and provide healthcare while simultaneously learning about all of the beautiful cultures and other ways of life out there. If you’re ever considering studying abroad, do it! It’s worth every penny 🙂
By: Nicole Mercado
My name is Nicole Mercado, I am a senior at GCU and set to graduate in May! FINALLY! I am 33 years old, married, and a mom of three kids, with two of them under 4 years old. This was my first trip abroad, as I always felt that since I had my own family, this was off the table for me. It was not until the middle of last semester, after watching a Charity: water YouTube video (I highly recommend Googling this), that I changed as a person, I wanted to make a difference like this guy did. I guess it was meant to be, as the tears were streaming, Laura’s “Last chance to sign up for Ghana” email came through, and the rest is history. It was stressful as I had to expedite everything, but I got it done, and I am forever grateful.
One nursing related experience that stood out to me was their lack of medical care and how not having simple treatments leads to terrible outcomes. Small cuts or bites left feet or legs forever mangled and as I was treating these wounds I would think, “are they going to lose this leg?” to quickly answer my own question, knowing that surgery is not an option and the sad truth is they would probably die from infection before they would ever have the chance to amputate. This really opened my eyes to how privileged the US is, but at the same point the amount of waste (especially in “expired” medical supplies) that the US has, disgusts me. Other countries would be able to utilize so much of what we don’t and I would love to see a collaboration take place. I am POSITIVE they would appreciate our expired sterile gloves, when they have NO gloves at all.
The one non-medical thing that stood out to me is just how inviting the Ghanaians are. I literally felt like a celebrity while there. There are friendly, OVERLY accommodating, and so welcoming. Everyone waves to you and tells you “you are welcome” and they truly mean it. Coming home, I knew as soon as I landed in the USA because I had become accustomed to waving and saying hello to everyone after my stay and I no longer got a welcoming response, I was more likely to get ignored.
I was able to see a brand new baby while there, and some of my classmates dressed her. I also assisted another woman in an attempt to give birth, although she was having difficulty getting the baby out and was eventually sent to the hospital, which I was invited to, but did not go. I am still thinking about her and the baby, however I do not think the outcome was good.
I would go back in a heartbeat, even though leaving my family was extremely difficult for me. I know that I changed so many lives in my short 11 days and that is a feeling I will never forget. The truth is, they changed me to and I am forever grateful for that.
By: Elizabeth Karu
The couple weeks I spent in Ghana was completely life changing. I signed up for the trip in 2020, and even though the trip kept getting pushed back I was still committed to going. The wait was definitely worth it. This trip allowed me to step completely out of my comfort zone. It was amazing to learn all about and experience the culture, spend time with the locals, and truly apply all the nursing care we have learned. Due to the pandemic, our nursing school experience was not what it used to be. Clinicals have been much different, oftentimes online. While we still learned a lot in our classes, the hands-on experience was hard at times. Going to Ghana as a medical volunteer made me feel like a real nurse for the first time. Here we were pretty much in charge. We brought our own supplies, used our knowledge and team work skills, and made the decisions on how best to help the people.
We were given so many opportunities for different nursing experiences. Some of us even got to assist in the deliveries of babies! It is so interesting to compare healthcare in the US to healthcare in Ghana. It was completely different and made me realize just how much we take for granted in the US. We were not in Ghana for a long time, but the time there was so meaningful. It has opened my eyes to a different culture, taught me so much, and I believe will make me a better nurse. Even though I will be graduating in May, I would love to return to Ghana as a medical volunteer again in the future. Georgian Court should definitely offer another Ghana program for students in the future!