Amanda Lewis, a fellow dentist, describes her experience of Ekumfi Etsibeedu
January 18, 2014
In August 2013 I was privileged to take part in a life-changing trip to Ghana with a student-led charity initiative, bringing dental and medical care to communities with little to no access otherwise.
The ten day brigade took us to a small village called Ekumfi Etsibeedu, on the coastline of Ghana. I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting to find as we took the somewhat bumpy and incredibly dusty journey into, quite frankly, what seemed to be the middle of a large bush!
There could have been no preparation for what greeted us at the end of this tight, winding track. Almost from nowhere, our bus was surrounded by masses of excited children waving profusely, men and women dancing as though we were in Rio, and elderly people singing as they bustled alongside us!
Anticipation quickly turned into excitement as I got off the bus and danced with the community members down the remainder of the long path. It was like our own private street party! With soil flying everywhere and the drums beating, the path was alive with colours - we had been greeted, Ghanaian style!
After a tremendous opening ceremony, we got to work. The trip consisted of us providing medical and dental care to the community, which is rife with illness and poverty. We set up mobile dental units where we were able to consult with members of the community after they had been triaged by the doctors within our team. Many had never seen a dentist before, and had come to simply accept the pain and discomfort their various ailments caused.
During our time on site we were able to offer relief to many by way of tooth care. However, after spending only a short time in Ekumfi, the question developed in our minds as to how else we might be able to ease their obvious suffering, and make changes that would have a long-term, lasting effect.
Behind the beautiful smiles was incredible hardship and affliction. The scenes were somewhat shocking and far removed from my life in London. Many simply do not have enough money to eat. There are no creature comforts and after incredibly long days working in the fields, there remain very few activities for the people of Ekumfi Etsibeedu.
It's a harsh reality to realise that we can't enable these families to have the privileged lives that we have had, but there is certainly room for change. We decided that we would like to take on projects to try and improve day-to-day life, starting with the formation of a library for the children. Not only will this hopefully offer a form of enriching entertainment, but more importantly could also inspire and encourage them to embrace learning, perhaps leading to an improved quality of life.
The plan is by no means simple, and must be viewed within the framework of a long-term vision. We endeavour to make our project sustainable through regular communication and collaboration with village elders, with whom we share the same aspirations for the future of the village. However, the venture will take time and will rely heavily on donations.
Reflecting back on the trip, the spirit of the community touched me deeply. They offered me a huge amount of comfort, and taught me a great deal - which seems to be the wrong way around, as I struggled to come face-to-face with their suffering. I am determined to make a difference to the lives of the people in this wonderful village, making a long-term, sustainable impact.