Wanting to return to Africa, Catharine searched for another Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) to volunteer for. She found ‘For The Young Shall Grow International’, a small NGO serving an island in Ghana called Bomigo. After fundraising once again, she set off for Bomigo. Here is Catharine’s story about her time in Ghana:
First Day of Class
Class Under the Neem Trees
Children Carrying Children
This trip really was the ultimate fulfillment of my dream. This time I got to do what I especially love to do – train the local people to be midwives.
I spent 5 weeks in Bomigo, a small island in the river mouth in Ghana, close to the Togo Border, where I lived in small mud hut, slept on the dirt floor, with no electricity, running water, or toilets. There were mangrove swamps all over the island so the mosquitoes were the worst I’d encountered so far. Alom, our helper, was tireless in taking care of us. She carried our water from the well every day, as well as shopping and cooking for us.
Erika and I gave a month long training to local TBA’s (Traditional Birth Attendants) at the village center, which was their meeting place, under 3 giant neem trees. We had a group of 21 students ranging from ages 17 to 75, some with previous experience and some with none. The majority of them didn’t speak any English and couldn’t read or write. What a wonderful experience, finding ways to be creative in our teaching. We did a lot of role playing and repetition, used charts and diagrams, and spoke through an interpreter.
I also got to see and be a part of traditional African life in a country that wasn’t torn apart by violence or disaster. I was privileged and honored to have the experience of taking part in many ceremonies. Funerals are particularly spectacular, lasting 3 days with lots of drumming and dancing. Erika and I were invited to observe one of the local shamans perform a cleansing/healing ceremony to cast out bad spirits. We witnessed a beautiful and simple birth and the subsequent ‘Outdooring’ ritual, which is what they call their baby naming ceremony.
But the most incredible of all was the farewell ceremony they gave us. The whole village turned out for our presentation, which included a beautiful performance of dancers dressed in their traditional finery, and their drummers. Through their dancing and drumming they told the story of their island’s history. They presented us with gifts of their beautiful woven cloth, and beaded jewelry. Then they dressed us in this traditional garb, and the dancers led us around the square. It’s hard to describe how deeply moving this experience was.
So even though the living conditions on this trip were the worst I’d had, the experience was the most fulfilling. It was so satisfying developing such a strong bond with all of our students, and the people of the village, and it was the most enjoyable by far. We had so much fun with all the men, women and children – they laughed, and joked, and sang with us on a daily basis.
The Island’s Midwife, Peace
Going to The Market
Dancers Leading Us To the Village Square for the Final Good-bye Presentation