The Real World: Tontokrom

“This is the true story of seven strangers picked to live in a loft and have their lives taped to find out what happens when people stop being polite and start being real.”  This introduction to MTV’s The Real World – in my opinion, the genesis of reality TV as we know it – came to mind the moment I was told that the Millennium Villages Project (MVP) Bonsaaso Health Team (including me) would be relocating to the village of Tontokrom to work every Tuesday through Friday.

Tontokrom Housemates

Meet the “strangers”: Bright Asare, Community Health Worker (CHW) Supervisor; Eric Akosah, Health Coordinator; Joe, Health Information Systems Manager; and me, Sarah Rauh, CHW Program Volunteer and author (only of this blog – so far).  There are not seven of us.  We are not total strangers, but we’ve only known each other for four weeks and have only interacted at work.  When we move, we will share an office AND a four-bedroom, one-bathroom house.  We travelled to Tontokrom last week to check out our new digs and found the following:

  • One mattress
  • A propane cook stove
  • A papaya tree (don’t get too excited; it’s a male, and only females bear fruit)
  • Chickens, a chicken coop and a lot of gardening space
  • Two abandoned excavators (interesting story to be told in future blog post)

MVP Health Team House

Based in Tontokrom, the health team will work more closely with Community Health Workers, provide greater program visibility in the communities, demonstrate MVP’s commitment to improving health, and save money and time spent on daily drives from MVP headquarters.   We are all looking forward to being “on-site”, but I’m not sure these guys realize what they’re in for in having me as a housemate.  I have not co-habitated with this many people since I was in college.  And let’s not ignore the fact that I’m the lone female (although three female Community Health Nurses live just next door).   I’m not high-maintenance by American standards, but I don’t know where I land on the Ghanaian scale.

Regardless, I will do my best to be the cool female housemate.  I promise to be patient and reasonable with regards to tidiness and sharing one bathroom.  I promise not to throw any late night parties.  I promise to do my share of the chores.  And I will do so happily, because Eric, Bright and Joe love to cook and there are fresh chickens right out the front door.


  1. Chickens, a chicken coop and Sarah! Can’t believe you have been gone a month. Going too fast. Thanks for keeping us in the loop on your great adventure.

  2. Your dad says we can send some okra seeds. I think spinach, radish and lettuce grows pretty fast. How about if we send a turkey can the guys prepare it for Thanksgiving?

    1. Thanks for the offer of okra seeds, but there is no need to send them. Okra is very popular here and is used in many stews. The okra stews remind me a lot of gumbo. I think this is a good indicator that Dad will like Ghanaian cuisine. I think a good pigeon chicken can serve as our Thanksgiving “bird” without a turkey’s expense and customs issues.

      1. Hello Sarah!! Your only friend that is NOT on facebook-I finally track you down:) I have, however, seen MTV(an original viewer). So great to hear how you are doing! I will subscribe so I get frequent updates. Can’t wait to hear about you and the people you are helping. You’re doing great things!!! You make me proud!!! Kim

  3. That is shaping up to be an adventure! It sounds like a challange but I think you are up to it. I look forward to hearing the next update!

  4. So good to hear from you, Sarah. It sounds like you are adjusting well (which I knew you would).
    I can only imagine what all you are doing and I am sure your collegues are finding out how fortunate they are to have you around! Best to you—and stay safe.

  5. Hi Sarah, Sounds like the living arrangements are going to be a real challenge, it should be interesting to see who gets the mattress. I hope things go better, you are being a real trooper. I do think it sounds like a reality show, let us know how things are progressing. Miss you

  6. Sarah- sounds like a great adventure. Peyton and I head to MSU next week. Still healing the hand 😦 Think of you often and knowing you are safe is fabulous!

  7. We are nice guys, very enthusiastic about our work, very zealous, desirous and dedicated to achieving the health sector MDGs by 2015.
    Sarah from GSK has been a great partner and colleague to with. Thank you Sarah for your hartwork and dedication.
    I really enjoy working with GSK volunteers. The PULSE programme is great.

    1. Eric!!!! So happy to hear from you and also read about Sarah experiences in Tontokrom!!! OMG so many nice memories from my PULSE assignment there!!! I´m still missing all of you!
      Sarah!! Great to hear that you are doing well… you are in the best place to be!!!! Good luck and all the best!

  8. Love hearing about your adventures! We think of you often–especially as I travel the miles in Nebraska……Miss you at our meetings but know you are doing great work. Football season starts this weekend—and Nebraska plays Wyoming. Go Big Red! Stay safe and don’t forget about here in the States. It is hot and dry in our area.

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