Flying into Accra I couldn’t wait to get to the picturesque Lake Bosumtwi where this year’s Ghana Dental Outeach was located. It had been three months since I had met Mr Addei, Afrik and the other village leaders for the first time to discuss the possibility of organizing an outreach project based out of their village.
Arriving at the Bay View Lodge accommodation, set right on the lakeside, I met the 10 adventurous student dentists. They were all in high spirits and eager to start the treatment the following day having spent the first day visiting the partnership hospital in Kumasi and meeting the staff team and clinical supervisors. They had also had their first meeting with the primary school children they would be treating at the Adwafo RC Primary. All of the students were surpised by the warmth of the welcome they received from both teachers and students.
Speaking with the students it was apparent they had immediately bonded as a group and had already enjoyed interaction with the local people during the welcome ceremony with the village chief, who had welcomed them as honoured guests. By the end of the first night students were eagerly lapping up their first language lesson our Project Leader was providing. Within no time the students were confidently greeting each other and instructing each other to “open your mouth, please”.
The busy day had obviously given the students quite an appetite as the local Ghana dinner was devoured by students, much to Dorkas, our caterers delight!
The plan for the outreach was to visit 13 villages in total during the two week project and treat children from over 28 primary schools. Logistically, as with all outreach projects, it was difficult to forecast how many people we would treat a day but it was hoped that all the students would take well to the rural setting and the task ahead of them with enthusiasm. The students certainly did themselves proud on their first full day of work. The ten students split themselves into two teams, splitting between a screening and education team and a treatment team. In the first day alone five schools in two different villages were screened, with over 4000 children screened, giving us over a hundred referrals of which 87 were treated.
The small Abono primary school were the treatment clinic was located for the first week of the project was buzzing with activity. Our students worked extremely efficiently under the constant supportive supervision of Dr Frema, our senior clinical supervisor from our partnership hospital. Working in partnership with the region’s largest hospital allowed us unparalled access to essential equipment that is otherwise impossible to get hold of in Ghana.
Dr Frema commented at the end of the first day that she was surprised at the number of children that had been treated and the dedication and high level of clinical skills the students had shown in what were basic conditions and working with limited resources and equipment.
Clinical experience is obviously a big attraction for students participating in an outreach project and the students were involved in extractions, fillings and scaling from day one. The screening team also learnt how to communicate effectively with children who spoke very limited English and the educational team entertained and educated classroom after classroom over excited and receptive children on how to maintain good oral health.
Due to the very rural location of the project the daily transport was always by Toyota 4x4, something our students relished each day. The excitement of off-roading to small schools were very few foreigners had ever visited only added to the excitement and satisfaction students gained from knowing they were making a real positive impact on the local communities.
For me, as Project co-ordinator, it was great to see the group of ten students supporting each other and having such a memorable time together. On their weekend off the group travelled to the city of Kumasi and explored the ancient historic sites of the Ashanti people, shopped for local cloth and handicrafts and even managed time to watch an international football match between Ghana and Nigeria – a grudge match to rival that of England playing Germany!
As the programme draws to a close the final figures stand at over 4000 children screened, with just under 1000 treated. As the students now head off to various parts of Ghana to enjoy the stunning beaches, national parks and vibrant cities, they can all be extremely proud of the fantastic and lasting impact they have made on the area. The mood of the local people can be summed up by one old lady who took the time to explain to me “We thank God that these ten dental students have come to our village to help us. We could never afford to travel to the city and have treatment so this has been a small miracle for us here”.