Monday, January 10, 2011

Next Stop: Kumasi!

We awoke this morning refreshed and excited for our first full day in Kumasi. Following breakfast, the students and supervisors split into two separate groups. One group boarded the bus and headed over to the Unit School at Effiduase to work with children of various ages who have special needs. There, they met with the head teacher, Belinda, and divided the students into groups depending on language abilities. For every 6-8 students, there were two student clinicians leading activities designed to stimulate language and evaluate the individual needs of the children in the classroom.

The other group of students loaded into taxis and headed over to the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital where the group was further divided into two small teams. Patients and families were interviewed and assessed, and recommendations were given that could be practiced in the home. One of our patients was 26-year-old Nathaniel, who had recently entered the seminary and was studying to become a priest. Nathaniel explained to us that he had stuttered since he was a child, and was interested in learning strategies to help improve his fluency. He was talkative and friendly, and seemed very eager to learn. Our group was excited to share with Nathaniel some techniques that he could practice, especially before meeting new people, and when speaking in front of his audience. After reviewing our suggestions, Nathaniel enthusiastically put them into use by saying, “Today I met with the people from America!” He thanked us each wholeheartedly, and we were all very confident that he would be spending his life moving parishioners with his words.

After our clinical work, with our minds buzzing with ideas and thoughts about all that we had encountered, we headed to the Pempeh Jubilee Museum where we learned about the Asante culture. There, we marveled at photos and artifacts and were enlightened about the cultural values of the Asante people. Throughout the cultural center, we explored beautiful handmade goods and visited many local artisans who were working tirelessly at their crafts. It was there that we met Joel, a local artist who was painting a portrait of an African village. Due to his physical disabilities, Joel sat in a wheelchair and painted breathtakingly beautiful pictures using a paintbrush that extended from his mouth. Many of us bought his artwork, which Joel happily signed on the spot, and we left feeling very lucky to have met such an amazingly talented man.

On our bus ride back to the hotel, we sang traditional Ghanaian songs while beating rhythms on the handmade drums that had been purchased at the local market. The monotony of traffic was made much more tolerable as everyone enjoyed some delicious local snacks, including crunchy plantain chips, sweet bits of sugar cane, and water from freshly chopped coconuts. As we shared food, we also exchanged our ideas about the work that we would be doing over our last few days in Ghana. Back at the hotel, we organized an assembly line and feverishly began preparing materials that we will bring to the classroom tomorrow, including large, brightly colored nametags that will support literacy and language. We are excited to return to our placements tomorrow to move forward with what we have started!

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