With your help the people of West Africa have "a chance, not only to change their own lives and their own destinies, but to change the future of an entire generation".

Monday, July 30, 2012

Flying high at AirVenture 2012

Three MoM volunteers have spent the week at Oshkosh, not fund raising, but raising awareness, sharing with the supporting organisations of the operations at Kpong, and meeting with those who have followed our progress.  This trip and all the practical arrangements and scheduling was only made possible by the kind support of several of you reading this, and we thank you all.  Lydia Wetsi - the young woman of small stature and a big story came too, after long trail of paperwork for passport and visa!  'Ringmaster and web-lord', Clay made sure we were all where we were meant to be!  Lydia was met by many people who commented on how her story inspired them - an a amazing knock on effect of the operations in Ghana.  One gentleman with an incurable disease came specially to have his picture taken with Lydia 'You are such an inspiration to me' he said, adding 'I have read all about you and watched the videos with you in - I am very proud of you!'  It is wonderful for Lydia to pay back some inspiration to those in the developed world who have been instrumental in her positive story.  Such feedback is also a massive boost to her development, and a vote of confidence in the approach and outcomes of our operations. We all loved meeting those who came up and told us 'I read about you!'.... it was very special.

Once again, we were based at the Zenith Booth, the company who provides the 'plans and kit parts' of the aircraf that we build and use.

Whilst at Oshkosh Lydia met with her 'heroine', Jessica Cox, the only certified pilot without arms in the world, and if that were not enough, they were together with the amazing Melissa and Rex Pemberton, regulars at Kpong Airfield, role models, mentors and supportive advocates of the outreach and training programmes that we are involved in.

During a walk between two appointments, Lydia had the opportunity to board a C17 Globemaster and chat with medical aviation experts who operate at the top end of the scale in the cavernous belly of the disaster theatre aircraft - it provided an inspiration to all of as toeards the long-term aim of a flying ambulance, at some point in the future...

During the Able Flight awards, a special programme for disabled pilots in the USA that we attended, the world famous Tuskegee  Airmen representative spotted the smile and attentiveness of this young african aviator with a desire to share health education to her people, and chased after her to present a Tuskegee Airmen (famous for the Red Tails in WWII) T shirt.  These pilots struggled against the odds, and we shared the commonalities of challenge in developmental aviation and the development of the 'red tails'.

To top it all off, in this week of being amazed at what aviation can do in so many realms, we all met with Karlene Petit, author of the novel 'Flight for Control', which has a passing mention of MoM in the story line.  That and some great interviews with AOPA and the EAA, left us all exhausted.

One thing that became clear to all of us on this trip is that 'raising awareness' is more important than we ever realised.  If we missed you, we are sorry. If we met for the first time, it was a pleasure to get to know you.  If we met up again, we were happy to enjoy the 'family reunion'.  All of you are special, and we look forward to welcoming you to Kpong Airfeld, receiving a mail from you, or simply knowing that you are out there, reading about us, and supporting us quietly as we strive to change 'Lives, one flight at a time....'

On behalf of the whole team, THANK YOU!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Community Changes

Submitted by Michaela Sholes

It is such an encouragement to me to be able to spend time with the health reps, whether in person during the trainings or via phone conversations! I thoroughly enjoy working with them to address any questions or concerns, but also just to hear from them and learn how they are making an impact in their homes. A recent blog addressed some ETCHE-related numbers, including the number of people impacted simply through attending health talks in their own communities by the health volunteers. I'd like to take this blog in a slightly different direction and talk about some of the changes reported as a result of what they are learning:

One of the health volunteers (who is also a teacher at the local primary school) recently shared with me how he had taught his students the "Hand-Washing Song" and as a result, has seen a marked increase in the number of children practicing good hand-washing habits. He also noticed that fewer children were missing school as a result of diarrheal disease. An observation shared by several of the Queen Mothers across communities, as they shared at the training how they have seen for themselves that there have been fewer bouts of diarrheal disease, despite it being the rainy season...a time when the communities typically see a spike in diarrhea.

In addition to increased hand-washing, several communities also reported mobilization efforts by the people to reduce urination and defecation in or near the river or lake in order to help reduce the transmission of schistosomiasis and other illnesses. The support of community authorities like the chiefs and elders in a community is critical in order to affect that level of reach, and we are glad to hear that they actively support the information they've received with the ETCHE drops!

We consider ourselves privileged to work with these communities and individuals who are working so hard to see positive change in their own homes!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Children are the Future

Sunbitted By Michaela Sholes

I recently received a call from one of the community health reps with some interesting news.

Amongst our exchange of stories, anecdotes, and health education questions, he told me a story about a situation where there were group of children in his village playing on the banks of Lake Volta. Like many days in Ghana, it was very hot. As a result, the children decided that they would take a dip in the cool (well, at least cooler) water of the lake. However, upon executing the plan, one of the little boys in the group reminded the others in the group that they had a meeting a little while earlier explaining the dangers of swimming in the lake as it will likely result in contracting schistosomiasis.

 "Weren't you at the meeting? Did you not hear that if you swim in the lake the disease will pain you?"

While we can teach these concepts over and over about safe health practices, it is ultimately up to the people to make their own decisions. And, while the adults have developed their own opinions and routines, it seems the children, like in many aspects of life, could be the key to beginning sustainable change over time. Nonetheless, child or adult, we are happy to hear that there are some that are affected by our efforts.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A few Numbers

Submitted by Michaela Sholes

In the 6 bag drop flights made thus far in the ETCHE program, nearly 100 bags were delivered to isolated lakeside communities..and that's with plenty of storage space left to spare! Roughly 3/4th of those drops included materials that were directly health education related (such as health posters and messages), while the remaining drops were made up of logistics like the initial “ping” drop forms and invitations to trainings. Hard to believe we’ve come all this way on only 6 drops!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Community feed back

Submitted by Michaela Sholes

I felt like a kid at Christmas following the last training session from the plethora of evaluation forms provided by the communities! It was our first opportunity to begin putting some numbers to what we've done and get an idea of the community-level impact. In each health education drop, we included an attendance and feedback form for the local health volunteer to complete and bring to the next training session. So, in an ideal situation, we would have had 3 completed forms for each of the communities. As in any program however, we hit a few snags, but overall we had a good response rate. Not all the communities completed all 3 of the forms, but the available attendance and feedback reports were positive! Over 2,000 individuals across the communities were reached through meetings initiated by the local health volunteers and the Queen Mothers! Over the course of the diarrhea, schistosomiasis, and malaria bag drops, attendance at the meetings ranged from 2100-2500!

Monday, July 9, 2012

ETCHE can make a difference

Submitted by Michaela Sholes

Parts of Ghana, including our own Eastern region, have been affected over the past few months with outbreaks of Cholera. This disease, transmitted by contaminated water, is particularly devastating in areas where sanitation is a challenge or where there are few water sources. Its sudden onset of heavy diarrhoea (described as "rice-water") can quickly result in life-threatening dehydration, especially when combined with vomiting. Transmission can also occur if stool particles from a person infected with cholera contaminates water sources used by others. Children are at a higher risk for complications from cholera. Cholera infections can usually be managed successfully through rehydration efforts and basic antibiotics, as long as the disease is reported early to a health facility.
While MoM has not specifically addressed cholera in our health education messages, sanitation and clean water have been a major topic for some time now and many of the principles are the same. We emphasize

-Thorough, frequent, and appropriate hand-washing practices using soap and water:\

-Before and after eating

-After using the toilet

-Heat your food thoroughly before eating

-Store your food properly and heat food thoroughly when reheating

-All water used for drinking and cooking should be purified through boiling or methods such as SODIS

With particular relation to cholera, however, additional efforts should be used to prevent transmission of the disease:

-Ensure effective disposal and treatment of any fecal waste from cholera patients and any contaminated materials to prevent further transmission

-Any materials that come into contact with cholera patients should be treated by washing them thoroughly in hot water and chlorine bleach if possible.

-Wear gloves when touching cholera patients or their clothing/bedding and make sure to thoroughly clean and disinfect hands which have come into contact

As always, MoM encourages community members to quickly report any incidence of cholera to the nearest health facility, to ensure prompt management of the disease.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The mini-clinic gets an upgrade

Submitted by Michaela Sholes

The mini-clinic moves even closer to completion following the hard work to install ceilings and screen doors. While the outside of the clinic has been completed for some time now,it has been a work in progress as things are coming together inside. Ceramic tiles have been purchased to create a clean, professional atmosphere and sets the stage for future use. An examination table and desks for the training area are also currently under construction.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Fulani education Center update

Submitted by Michaela Sholes

Attendance has been a bit lower in the Fulani camp since the rainy season has been in full swing (bringing with it sickness and discomfort due to the cold wet weather), but it is those who are dedicated and who continue coming week after week who encourage us. It is also little surprises like realizing the children in the camp were on holiday today as well, following the Ghanaian holiday yesterday (Republic day), so we got to see their cheerful little faces again.

Although the men's session was almost non-existent today as they were either sick, running errands, or simply absent, we were able to use that time to review with the children who had come to join in. Despite the challenges with an inconsistent taxi driver to take them to school, most of the children are still attending even though they now have to take a tro-tro into town. This isn't the ideal situation as the tro-tro doesn't take them directly to school, but rather drops them at an intersection about a half mile away...however, we are simply glad to see that they are finding ways around these challenges. We were so glad to have them come visit us this morning though and it really was a lot of fun to spend the time reviewing with them and singing the songs they'd learned from us before. Barikisu demonstrated for the other kids all the hand motions for the "Hand-Washing Song" while Mamuna was very proud of her rendition of "Head and Shoulders".

Unfortunately, we didn't get to spend very much time with the women as some heavy rain put a damper (quite literally) on our class. Amina had just finished sharing with the group her review of the talk we gave last week on burns and we were settling in to review our letters when we found ourselves in a heavy downpour with just enough wind to make it impossible to hear each other well...especially when there are babies and kids to add to the mix. (These women inspire me, by the way.. I had a hard enough time being able to pay attention in college when it was just managing myself and perhaps a noisy student sitting near me. These ladies are trying to concentrate and learn, even while having young children and infants coming up to them for this or that, needing to breastfeed, etc...) So, we decided to save our literacy section for next week and closed the class for the day so people could get back to their homes and avoid catching a cold.

We hope that the weather and other forces will work in our favor for nextweek's session!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Law of Averages

Submitted by Ben Sholes

So, roughly a month ago now we started encouraging the Fulani men to consider using a budget system.  It quickly had an initial impact of showing them how much they were actually spending on the items they decided to track.  However, the cool thing about budgeting is that it gets more effective over time (if you have the discipline and the right techniques).

As of the last Fulani session, we finally had enough spending data to start taking a look at trending analysis.  Across two spending categories, we were able to take weekly totals over a month and derive an average of what they "should" be spending on those categories (from a purely historical perspective).  Today, we got to see the results of using those "average" numbers, and they were surprising.  Not only had the men used their numbers to try to limit their spending, there were cases where they were purposely changing their habits to "beat" their average number. A good example of this is one of the men consolidated his normal twice a week trip to get food to a once a week trip thus cutting his food transport costs by half.. He said it required moving money around from other purchases, but he understood that ultimately he would be spending less money overall. Can you say, "I think he gets thepoint"?

It will take a lot more time, discipline, and experience to perfect juggling finances for these guys.  But, I'd say they're on the right track.  Great job, fellas.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Miss Lydia .. Healthcare educator

Submitted by Rachelle Milam

One of the best parts of the training this past Friday was watching the AvTech girls step up and take a part in teaching and demonstrating first aid techniques to the communities. Juliet assisted Michaela to talk about how to treat a burn, Emanuella assisted a visiting nurse to give a demonstration of stabalizing a fractured limb, and Lydia assisted Audrey, one of our long term volunteers, with showing how to treat a wound. They all did an amazing job and worked very hard with the rest of us to make Friday a success. The greatest impact, however, came when Lydia stood in front of the community reps and Queen Mothers and told the story of how her arm was disfigured. She explained that when she was very young, she'd been bitten by an insect. Because her parents had no knowledge of first aid, they relied on traditional healing methods, like mixing herbs and applying them to the wound. Sadly, because of these methods, her arm became infected and ended up becoming disfigured. While the communities were interested in all the demonstrations, it was easy to see that Lydia's story was what they really connected with. They related to it because they all had children who'd been hurt. It drove home how important these steps could be, because it's not a matter of loving their child or wanting to see them well; it's about being aware of the necessary steps to make sure that their child will be effectively treated if something happens. Lydia did such a wonderful job, and we hope that her story inspired the people to learn ways to prevent such a tragedy occuring with their own families.