Happy at Halfway

Mid October marks the halfway mark on my assignment with Jhpiego in Ghana. Three months in with three months left to go, and I remember a comment from my first blog, ‘The next six months is going to be busy!’ I’m not sure I would have predicted the three months that followed, but I can say it has all been worthwhile, so far so good:-)

The mid-point seems as good a time as any to reflect,  let’s start with a typical day:  It’s already hot as I wake up and outside I can hear a man trimming the grass back with a machete – yep that common garden implement(!).

Baby bananas!

On the walk to the end of a hilly and pot-holed road, we pass a mango tree, cassava plants and banana trees in various stages of bloom/ fruiting.We will often see vultures most definitely an odd sight in North West London but quite at home in urban areas of West Africa.  Then there’s the scramble for a taxi to work, taxi journeys are an adventure in themselves, the cars are in various stages of repair.  It’s not uncommon to travel in a taxi with a completely cracked windscreen, or a fully carpeted interior (doors and all!).

Taxi..complete with Union Jack and a Chelsea FC flag

My favourite thing about the taxis is the assortment of flags and stickers in the car.  Quite often they represent English Premiership football which has a huge following here especially Chelsea. I have had many a conversation about the football league…I try and keep up, it’s a different type of education :-)Then the working day begins, the brief I received for this PULSE assignment before I arrived was for a Data and Monitoring specialist.  The scope of my assignment has evolved since then with a broader focus.  The first two months was all about understanding and collecting data with a few bumpy road trips on the way to monitor reported data against source data.  It served as a great opportunity to meet Community Health Officers, working in remote, rural areas and to identify actions for the months ahead.  When asked what their major challenges are, I feel we can identify with some as a large organisation: ‘there is so much information being released, but it is hard to hear it at the grass roots’ and then there are others: ‘accessing funds for a community ambulance is really difficult, the river boat only goes on some days and we can’t always find a car willing to take referred clients to hospital’.

Meeting with Community Health Officers

We’re now looking at the impact and actions to follow data evaluation.  Part of my role will be to work with Jhpiego and their stakeholders to define best practice for communicating project outputs.  At times, the going seems slow and I have learned of the phrase GMT….not so much Greenwich Mean Time as ‘Ghana Man’s Time’, it’s not to say that the work doesn’t happen or that people aren’t motivated, quite the opposite, the process for getting things done is just very different.

Evening and spare-time activities are dependent on whether there is a power cut and where we can go that has a generator.  We’ll start off with a mini-tutorial in the local language taught by the staff that maintain the compound where we live.  The only slight issue is that the local language is Twi or Fante depending on who you speak to and I am none the wiser as to which language I am attempting…   I am still a regular at the gym..yes even I am surprised by this, my PULSE buddy Allison is to blame there!  And it has been great to explore the surrounds, last weekend we visited a forest reserve, check out Allison’s blog for pics of the rope bridges, all I can say is, health and safety!  There were so many people on the bridge at one point, the only thing to do was hold on tight and keep moving forward 🙂

Thoughts on the last 3 months…flexibility really is key to operating in a very different working culture.  It takes time to build trust, but taking time to listen (not always my strong point) and asking questions has really helped in understanding how to best support a very experienced and talented team.  Being able to contribute and be of benefit is truly rewarding.  The experience is different from my initial expectations, very much in a positive way.

To all those enabling my experience and particularly to my team mates here in Ghana I say Medase Pi, thank you very much!!  (I’m pretty sure that’s Twi).

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