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University of Southern California
University of Southern California
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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Greetings from Ghana!


April 26, 2017

Externships International

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Hi everyone! I am back from a long blogging hiatus and can’t wait to share with you something very close to my heart: Ghana, Africa.

As both Jessica, Kimmy, and Raisa have explained, every spring the second year students in the MAII program and those in the MAI program complete a “leadership externship” in the two weeks prior to spring break. I chose to be a part of the annual trip to Ghana, Africa, where we promoted OT, collaborated with other healthcare professionals to learn how we could work together, participated in school readiness assessments, and gained cultural competency. Perhaps everyone’s favorite part is spending time with the kids at the boarding school we stayed at. The school, Mephiboseth Training Center, is for children with disabilities. Our team came from many different backgrounds and countries. We had occupational therapists, physical therapists, a language pathologist, teachers, and even an actor! Learning from this team of woman made me excited to go out into practice and make a difference. 

The whole team!

Everyday looked different from the next, making it fun and full of surprises. We had the opportunity to try the local food that the cooks made for us, explore a local jungle, visit a former slave castle, go to the beach, and visit an artisan market. Did you know that it was the first Africa country to gain independence from colonial rule in 1957?? Cool huh?!

Looking out over the rainforest!

The program was started fourteen years ago by Dr. Bonnie Nakasuji, who just won the first ever International Service Award this year at the AOTA Conference and Centennial Bash in Philadelphia!

This experience was something I looked forward to for four years. I first heard about this opportunity when I came to an info session; it was there that I knew I wanted to go to USC for OT and go on this trip. Yes, this trip was a factor in my decision to choose USC. I had never been to Africa, or that far away from home without my family, but it was something I knew I had to do.

One of my favorite memories from the trip was from beach day. The kids live a few miles from the beach, but there is not enough support to take all of them unless our large team is there. We all piled into the TroTro (which is a combo of a bus, taxi and van. Not a helpful description) with kids on our laps and headed to the beach. Since Ghana is so hot and humid being close to the equator, we all look forward to the beach as a chance to cool off, but for the kids, who are used to the temperature, think it’s cold! Seeing their faces as they splash and dive into the water was the best.

Beach day is the best day!

OT is in its infancy in Ghana as they are just now graduating their first students. However, they do have Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR), which reminded me of OT and social work. They go out into the community and find people who would benefit from services. The CBR students that my group worked with were stationed at the Salvation Army in Daukwa for what was similar to a Level II fieldwork in OT school. This specific Salvation Army center specialized in children with cerebral palsy. There are children and families who would stay there for around a month to receive more intensive services that we were able to work with. They also made a lot of the assistive devices for the kids there in the workshop. They used the workshop as a vocational training center as well.

Learning how to make shoes!

The CBR students we met were assigned to clients in the community and we were lucky enough to meet some of them. The children would be assessed for their needs and see if they would be a better fit for the educational route or the vocational route. We met a few clients to see how they are doing and if they needed additional supports. One girl we met (pictured below), was learning how to make silk flowers through an apprenticeship in hopes that she could be independent and make these on her own.

With our CBR students and their client

One thing this trip taught me was to lean in. I really had no idea what to expect there and had no idea what I was getting into. All I knew is that it was going to be insanely hot and I needed to get shots. I cried packing because I was so nervous. Ghana was such an incredible experience and I can say I cried more saying goodbye to the kids than I did saying goodbye to my mom. I’m not afraid to go out into the world and let life happen now.

I think it’s hard to fully describe the experience, so here are a lot of pictures.

Our team of USC OT students wearing our handmade clothes from Ghana

Everyone say cheese!