Over the past two weeks, Operation Smile has been working in Cape Coast in the Central region where they, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Cape Coast Teaching Hospital, evaluated over 400 patients and performed 90 surgeries from April 13 through April 17, 2015.
“Patient turnout for the Cape Coast mission exceeded expectations – the great team of volunteers handled every challenge calmly and tactfully,” said Director of the Reconstructive Plastic Surgery and Burn Centre, Dr. Opoku Ampomah.
“Ninety families were full of Smiles at the end of the week. I pray we will be able to return in the near future to put smiles on the faces of the many patients who, unfortunately, we were unable to treat on this mission. I am grateful to Operation Smile for the opportunity to serve my kinsmen.”
“Thanks to our diligent patient recruitment partners, we now know that there is a significant need for continuous cleft-care in the Ghanaian population,” said Operation Smile Program Coordinator Molly Milroy.
“We deeply appreciate the support of various organizations that spread the awareness such as Seven Day Adventist, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Church of Pentecost, Presbyterian Church, Pentecostal and Charismatic Council, Assembly of God, Apostolic Church of Ghana, Behasun Integrated Develpment, Firm Health Ghana Foundation, Renel Ghana Foundation, Hype and Ricerca e cooperazione.”
Members of the Operation Smile team were from Canada, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
“Cape Coast Teaching Hospital was a model hospital for us to partner with,” said Operation Smile Program Coordinator Francis Gadegbekou.
“They provided a space for us to work in and also gave us nursing and administrative support.”
During most Operation Smile medical missions patients are housed at a shelter, where they stay for the duration of the mission.
In Cape Coast, Operation Smile, in partnership with other non-governmental organization including the Peace Corps, The Africa Rights Initiative (ARII), and the JustCare Foundation, ran workshops at the shelter with one objective: to help create self-sufficiency.
ARII, the volunteer-based international relief and development organization responsible for promoting human dignity and sustainable livelihood in Africa, supported by the JustCare Foundation, delivered skills development training in bead making, weaving and batik tie dye-making.
To ensure that the patients and their families could apply their new skills, another local NGO, I-Vol AFRICA, explained how to raise funds to purchase the items – that they can in turn sell – and what to do with the revenues they make: how to determine what to save, what to reinvest and what to spend.
“When we looked at the number of days patients and guardians had to stay for the medical mission, and the brief time needed for the surgery and recovery, we saw an opportunity to utilize the time available at the shelter to advance education,” said veteran Operation Smile volunteer Sabrina Ghiddi.
“We achieved this with workshops that developed their skills and knowledge allowing them to go back to their villages and share their newly acquired talents.”
When the medical mission concluded, the Operation Smile volunteer team visited the patient shelter where they saw the impact of the workshops, and were able to purchase the goods they made, such as purses, slippers, bracelets, and fabric. The money raised was used to purchase a ‘starter kit’ to aid families as they embark on their new venture.
Throughout the mission, the Peace Corps Volunteers were also extremely active in organizing workshops discussing AIDS/HIV, health and nutrition, hand-washing, and Ebola awareness.
There were also opportunities to the community on the scientific causes of cleft conditions. “Many patients and their families believe clefts are associated with a spiritual curse,” said Sabrina Ghiddi.
“We sparked a forum among participants to share their own stories and experiences, and we provided information on the causes and treatment of cleft. Operation Smile looks forward to continuing their work in Ghana.
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