With your help the people of West Africa have "a chance, not only to change their own lives and their own destinies, but to change the future of an entire generation".

Monday, October 29, 2012

Practising for Emergencies

After a lot of rain in the past two week, we finally had a flying day today with some customers coming for their lessons at WAASPS.

A little communications problem in the control tower staffed by the AvTech students was an excuse for an impromptu exercise in emergency preparedness. The pilot called out the emergency code, and the AvTech girls and Patricia piled into a ground vehicle on the apron ready for action. Fortunately their expertise was not required, as the aircraft landed safely.

During the debrief, everyone present discussed the communications issue, the possible causes and how to avoid the communications problem in future. Suddenly, the esteemed “Boss” fell onto on the bench writhing in agony and uttering strange 115.3 dB cries, reminding us of an orangutan drowning in a barrel of honey. A perfect opportunity for the girls to practice their best first aid bedside manner. Then Patricia showed us how it should really be done.

The poor patient was unable to maintain his orangutan imitation for very long as he, along with everyone else dissolved into peals of laughter! Kpong Airfield is a place of fun, teasing and laughter!

Friday, October 26, 2012

National Youth Achievers Award

Last night Patricia was honored by the Nation of Ghana with one of the first 'National Youth Achievers Award' (youth in this case is classified as 15 - 35 years), along with film stars, Movie directors, footballers, paralympians, business and other achievers - but she was the only pilot amongst them! Patricia was recognized for her commitment to young people and health in AvTech and Medicine on the Move. President John Mahama is Patron of the system, and was present throughout, congratulating and shaking each young persons hand and encouraging them to lead by example for the young people of Ghana to make the country a better place today.

The event, a sort of 'Oscars for Young Achievers' was fantastically choreographed at the National Conference Center. The Award itself is very beautiful - and very heavy, and has been shared back with the team at Kpong, since Patricia insists that 'we must all share in this'.

In addition to the award there were some other gifts, including a laptop computer, which Patricia immediately donated to the Data Center to help compliment the equipment there.

Medicine on the Move, and all that happens at Kpong, extend warmest congratulations to Patricia, who in turn has asked that ALL those supporting the work at Kpong should consider themselves a part of this award.

Congratulations Patricia!!

Congratulations to Patricia Mawuli, co winner of the First National Youth Achievers Award in the Young Professional Category. Everyone at MoM is very proud of you. Your hard work and dedication are truely remarkable.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The best laid plans…….

Of course we plan our activities ahead of time, but so often, something unexpected happens.

A few days ago, the water tap in kitchen started spraying water: I had to cancel plans for office work, writing blogs etc. We cannibalized a water tap from a bathroom that had no water yet, and after removing the entire sink, were able to get it fixed. 2 hours.

Today, the grass areas needed to be mowed before the expected rain, but in time for the three-day holiday weekend which would be an important revenue-producing weekend for WAASPS.

Unfortunately, with the big storm two days ago, the soil was still too wet to support the weight of tractor mower, so we needed to use the push mower. Now we discovered that the motor mounts were completely broken, plus the rocker cover had a hole. We spent almost 3 hours fixing this, and now Lelle was able to get the apron area mowed before today’s rain came.

Things constantly break down here with the harsh environment – the heat, the vibrations from bad roads, the insect nests, the harmattan dust, the UV radiation from the sun that breaks down plastics much more quickly than in temperate climates. It doesn’t help that imported products (especially plumbing fixtures) are often of such low quality, that might as well be guaranteed to break within a short period!

All this means that while planning is a fun exercise in Kpong, the best laid plans may never happen!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tony, a volunteer making a difference

One of the nice parts of having a volunteer at the site here in Kpong, is that they provide a different view and blog perspective. Having Tony around this month is such a boon, he accepts any task thrown at him, and then goes on to find five more (remember he has been here before, used to live in Ghana, and knows the ropes!).

We enjoy all the volunteers who come here and grasp the concepts, seeking the things that stimulate them and, of course, 'hanging with the gang' - spending time with the girls listening to their questions, sharing culture and concepts - especially in relation to flying and health; as well as with Patricia and I in regards to the management of the place and how we can improve on our systems (and giving us a needed break from the 'constant pressures'). Clearly, in the discussions there are areas that we agree on, and others that we discuss - and that is wonderful - it provides insight and the outcomes can be varied. Sometimes there is opportunity for change here, other times a change in understanding on the part of the visitor - open minds on both sides is key to success! The main thing that we love about having volunteers is the chance to share - share ideas, share challenges, share workload, share ice-cream (the biggest treat on the site!) and share a smile on movie night in the Data Centre!

The girls movie night this week was 'Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines', and just as the film started, a visitor arrived on the site. Patricia and I had to leave the room, knowing that Tony would able to explain the idosyncrocies of the movie (it is not easy to just show a film, without some explanations, or misunderstandings and confusion can and do occur).

From flying to engineering, helping with computer training and CBT, preparing materials, accounts entries, office work, presentations, working with the girls as they do their SDS (Self Directed Study) or just chatting to the visitors - 'the volunteer' opportunity is a great two way exchange that helps to grow our operations as well as to grow the experiences of the volunteer! We will have fresh volunteer opportunities next year - and if it interests you, drop us a line - let us start exploring and making sure that this is the best place for you - so that it is a positive two way experience...

Monday, October 22, 2012

Flying Weekends at Kpong Airfield

Flying weekends are so amazing when visitors come for their trial flights, or their flight lessons with WAASPS. These weekends are of course important revenue generators for WAASPS which allows the company to fund the Avtech Academy as well as Medicine on the Move in an ever more sustainable manner. Some licensed pilots come to hire an aircraft and enjoy the beautiful scenery of Ghana. I’ve experienced three of these weekends at Kpong (one on 2007 and two during my current stay), and there is always such a wonderful mix of people. The AvTech girls on duty staff the tower in a very professional manner (except for the very occasional giggle). The girls are self-confident as they work with visitors, and occasionally use their authority to request a visitor to obey a rule. At the airfield we are all safety conscious and we respect the voice of authority – no matter whether it is from a 15 year old young AvTech girl who came from a local village or a more mature (and occasionally brusque!) British gentleman.

We have fascinating conversations with our visitors who come from all walks of life. While watching airplanes take off and land, and while eating Mavis’ great food, we discuss rural development, air drop systems for health materials, mobile technologies, aviation and global economics - in fact, we are solving the problems of the planet! Kpong Airfield is indeed a global meeting place.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Medicine on the Move opens Mini-Clinic at Kpong Airfield

On Saturday, 13th October 2012, we had a very exciting event: the opening of the ‘Helen Himsworth Mini-Clinic”. Helen Himsworth, who sadly passed away last week, along with her husband, Paul, and their children has been a wonderful supporter of MoM, and we deeply miss her.

The mini-clinic will function as a care facility for our AvTech students and local community and also as a training facility for first aid of non-life-threatening trauma. A number of very distinguished guests joined us in the celebration, and Dr Seth Fiadoyor, representing the Chief Executive of the Volta River Authority, from the VRA Hospital at Akosombo performed the ribbon-cutting to great cheers.

Prior to the ribbon-cutting, Patricia led the group in a tour of the aviation facilities. She also did a hugely impressive demo of bag drop from her aircraft flying at 200 feet in front of the excited audience with Lydia as Drop Master. The AvTech Academy girls, Beatrice, Juliet, and Lydia and put on a skit where they demonstrated their prowess in treating a well-simulated deep cut on Beatrice’s arm. The clinic has already been used to deal with a couple of minor issues among the girls and members of the local community. We see that there is real value in having this facility as it provides an environment conducive to not only ‘fixing’ a problem but it also provides a calm environment where the patient receives good care as well as a thorough dose of appropriate health care education! There is a large multiplier effect as this knowledge spreads throughout our rural communities.

Some of the guests spoke, and their very encouraging words showed the deep support that is developing in Ghana for the work of Medicine on the Move. We are looking forward to some potential long-term collaboration with a major hospital as well as other exciting new opportunities with local health organisations, as we join hands in order to changes more lives one flight at a time.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Grand Opening of the new Helen Himsworth Mini Clinic

On Saturday, an enthusiastic group of distinguished visitors and friends came to Kpong Airfield to celebrate the opening of the new Mini Clinic. We even have positive news about potential future collaboration with a major hospital. We'll be writing more about this in the next few days, but here are some photos of the tour and girls’ presentation prior to the opening ceremony to give you a sense of the excitement!

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Mavis, Fueling the troops

Where would we be without Mavis our wonderful cook – making delicious meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner for MoM staff and guests!

Good nutrition plays a critical part in maintaining our health, and we know it is a problem in many parts of the world including the USA, China and rural Ghana. When young girls join the AvTech Academy for their training, they get healthy meals, and we can already see improvements in their health within a few weeks. For pilots and engineers, who have to think clearly and make important decisions that can affect the lives of others, good nutrition is particularly important. Just as we need well-formulated and uncontaminated fuel for our aircraft, we have to to have good food including carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals to ensure that our bodies and brains operate at peak performance. The girls are learning to tell others about the importance of good nutrition – food is medicine and they are ready to spread the news!

So, thank you Mavis for making sure that our fuel is always of the very best quality!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

A Holistic Learning Environment

What really struck me today is that the girls are learning in a holistic environment that is possible only because we have three organizations working together – Medicine on the Move, WAASPS and the AvTech academy.

This morning, it was time for the generator to get its oil change, so Patricia gathered all the girls, and with everyone squeezed in the generator room, she taught the girls about engines and the reasons why engines need oil. At the same time, the girls could see the difference between old and new oil, and experience the oil handling along with all the sights and sounds of a generator set.

In the afternoon, an aircraft needed a new windscreen, which had to be cut out of a sheet of Lexan. The girls observed how this was done and also got a chance to learn about the material by cutting out some very smooth doughnut shapes.

In between, when talking about standard bolt sizes, we got into a deep conversation about fractions and how to visualize the mathematics of fractions. Finally, the girls practiced demonstrating some health training scenarios: wound management and solar water disinfection. Lydia did a great job simulating the irrigation of Beatrice’s wound!

When I went to university in the last century, it was almost all theory, so I’m a little jealous of the girls’ learning environment – theory and practice, technology and health care. It’s all part of their day!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Tony arrives in Ghana Oct 11,2012

What a delight to be back in Ghana after five years absence. Last night, after an uneventful flight from Amsterdam, but with some stunning views of the Sahara, I arrived in Accra. 1.5 hours after landing, I was thrilled to see Patricia, Matthew and Jonathan again. Coming to the airfield in Kpong was amazing – the place is almost unrecognizable with all the new buildings. I stayed in what I have to call the Kpong Hilton which is a new bungalow complete with fan, flush toilet, shower, and lights powered either by the generator or for a couple of hours by rechargeable batteries when the generator is off.

The netting on the windows was so good that not a single mosquito managed to come and visit me during the night – despite all their good intentions! My big mistake, however, was to not wear earplugs, so my night’s sleep was far too short: after a long evening with Patricia and Jonathan, I got about 4.5 hours of sleep before being woken by a melodious concert from some highly talented birds and insects.

My first morning started with a delicious egg breakfast prepared by Mavis. The day proceeded with all the usual fun and games that I would expect, for example the starter motor of the truck refused to operate, so once we got it working (with a quick ground-assist), the poor driver would be harangued with repeated cries of ‘don’t turn off the engine’ as we ran our errands in the local area! This included getting more diesel for the truck, generator and tractor, but we couldn’t fuel the truck directly because we did not dare remove the key from the ignition in order to open the tank cap! Then it was back to pumping fuel from the oil drum in to the truck using a hand pump once we got back to the airfield.

Another job: a medical bed which had kindly been donated, required cleaning, some changes plus a new cover, so we took it to a roadside upholstery shop. We left the bed at the shop in the care of Emanuella, and she did a stellar job supervising the work. It got done within a few hours, and now we have a nicely re-covered bed ready for the opening of the mini-clinic on Saturday.

During the day, the whole team worked on cleaning up the engineering training center in time for the events on Saturday – after a few hours, a magical conversion took place under the expert guidance of Patricia. She even choreographed a team of the Avtech girls as the turned over a wing so that it would be displayed properly.

One more day before the mini-clinic opening on Saturday, so we have a lot to do tomorrow!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

International Day of the Girl Child 10/11/12

Today is the International Day of the Girl Child. Today we are thrilled to share some exciting news. Angela was one of the first young ladies to come to Kpong Aifield and to taste the stimulation of flying. In 2006 she first came to see us, and spent two weeks with us as part of a summer camp that we organised, getting exposed to the inspiration that only aviation can provide - talking about aviation and health, and getting a different look at the world. She later came to stay and worked alongside the team, and visited the airfield on a number of occasions Angela spoke on several occassions about the idea of being a flying doctor.... Having completed here Senior High School, and inspired that young women can achieve their dreams, Angela has just been accepted into Medical School here in Ghana, where she will study to be a Doctor. Congratulations Angela, this news thrills us - and we look forward to your visits to Kpong as you train and, who knows, when you learn to fly! Girl children are worth investing in. The returns are amazing. Go on, invest in one today!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

International Day of the Girl Child

Thursday 11 October 2012 is the first UN International Day of the Girl Child.... and it raises awareness of issues around the world - even in the so called 'developed West' ... take a look a http://dayofthegirl.org/girls-issues/ - and then ask yourself 'What about the developing nations?'

Medicine on the Move is committed to a long term support partnership for the training of rural girls in West Africa as pilot/engineer/health educators in order to meet the aims and objectives in rural outreach for expansion to more locations and in more ways in the coming years. Plan International has a programme called 'Because I am a Girl' and Dr Wilfred Owen came by to chat with the girls sporting one of their T Shirts.... A few moments of encouragement go a long way as we seek the sustainable solution to reaching the isolated communities in Ghana and West Africa.

We strongly believe that empowering the Girl Child is empowering the community - and we look forward to the Graduation of the young women you see here who are already sharing health education and its associated empowerment on a regular basis as part of their syllabus and curriculum.

Monday, October 8, 2012

An opportunity to teach

Deborah complained of a very bad stomach, and came to the mini-clinic. After a long chat and establishing that there was nothing major, we learned that had eaten some street food that was not well cooked and or hot.

Patricia took the time to educate on the food hygiene and this minor event became a major health education opportunity.

Deborah said she has learned to be more careful and ensure food its both hot and properly prepared and cooked.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Treading lightly

With around 60 days to the Presidential Elections in Ghana, we are seeing a lot of campaigning going on. We are exercising additional caution in all that we do in order that nothing can be mistaken as a 'politcal statement' or 'politically motivated action'. Misunderstandings happen, it is our role to avoid them.

Many people outside of the environment we live and work in, and some who are inside, struggle to grasp the approach and methodologies of 'caution' that we take.

Aviation related avitivites are different to others, especially in this environment. It is important that people remember that Aviation for the People in many of the developing nations is a relatively 'new' thing. Ghana is leading the pack - and very successfully - with MoM being a key piece in that development.

Traditionally, aviation has been the near exclusive domain of the military, commercial transport and the occasional 'foreigners club'. The reasons for this have been many, and quite honestly, on the whole valid. Security has been a major concern over the years and, coupled with the cost elements, has been a very protected environment. But things are changing and we are at the forefront of those changes.

When WAASPS and Medicine on the Move came on the scene in Ghana, there was a lot of 'caution', quite rightly so. Over the past few years we have changed a lot of perceptions, and have earned trust and confidence, at all levels, in all that we do. Part of that is related to our 'self-regulation' - knowing when to do something, and knowing when to 'stop' or 'delay'. Misconceptions can occur at levels and it is our responsibility to use our privileges in the manner in which they were granted. We do not have the right to do what we do, it is a privilege and we must respect that, work with that and ensure that we listen to the sounds of the system in all that we do.

Much of the success of MoM in gaining the freedom to carry out certain activities are linked to the fact that we have made the effort to grasp the local nuances and to work towards the greater good, within the confines of the local situation and condition. At times that is frustrating. At times, some of you write to me suggesting 'just do it'.... but we are not a Nike advert - we are here for the long haul, not for a one off 'spectacular'. We are not a foreign operation, we are a local operation - we have responsibility for the local people by the local people - peoples health, education, jobs and livelihoods are on the line. By considering carefully each and every action we take, we try to ensure that we respect the local conditions, assist those that we can and are still here to help in the future. At times there is a need for a strategic withdrawal - that may be a challenge to grasp from outside of the theatre in which we are daily embroiled.

Medicine on the Move has no political nor religious affiliations, and does not allow the promotion of politics or religion in any of its activities We do promote the concept of improved health, education and socio-economic improvement for all, in a sustainable manner. At times that means we take some tough decisions - we do not expect everybody to agree, but ask that all understand that the reasons are well thought out.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

One door closes, and another opens....

It is in that light we have decided to withdraw completely from the Fulani Camp outreach. The reasons are many and complex, and we are sad to take such a decision, but we have explained it to the community leaders and they realise that they have moved forwards, they have changed their ideas and they have gained. We remain on positive terms with them, but from a distance.

As always in all parts of the world, there are many reasons, most of which mean nothing to those who are not in the thick of it all and trying to explain it all often only leads to greater misunderstanding!

We believe that the people of the community will take the contact that they have had and use it positively and powerfully as they move on to new pastures and new projects. We also look forward to channelling our energy and resources into some exciting new areas, knowing that we have made a difference and have opened eyes, ears and minds to learning and health.

Others wishing to pick up where we have left off will have a good foundation, and we wish such folks well. However, we know that we must channel our energies in more wide reaching ways and will be announcing some exciting new developments in the coming months.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Our First walk in patient!!!

The first 'self-referred' patient came into the mini-clinic this weekend. Martin, an expat working 30km North of the field, had cut his fingers. Nothing too serious by 'western standards' but enough to have him concerned to get it clean and dressed properly. Driving to the mini-clinic at Kpong meant passing three or four hospitals, but he insisted on coming to Kpong.

When he arrived and we unwrapped his hand the wounds looked fairly minor, but one slice was a little on the deep side. The atmosphere here is rather dusty and particle filled. So, the first task was to wash his whole hand, clean the wound sites, irrigating out the debris and then to dress them, using suitable resources from the well equipped stores we have developped. It is a challenge to find somebody with the knowledge and experience in simple, non-life threatening, wound cleaning and dressing here, and this event is a clear sign that the mini-clinic is in the right place, at the right time. In many countries a colleague at work or a family member would have been able to dress a simple wound like this.... yet here, that skill is not yet developed and is part of our target development in the rural areas, where access to a clinic is not an option.

The assistants for the treatment were Lydia (an old hand at wounds!) and Beatrice (a new starter from Kete Krachi). They were thrilled to be able to help Martin, who has helped them both in the past. With his hand dressed and a big smile on his face, Martin went back to work. Meanwhile, Lydia started to explain the purposes of each item in the cupboards at the mini-clinic... a wonderful sight of peer-education at its best!

This week we are sourcing the treatment bed, which will complete the mini-clinic ready for its opening on the 13th October at 1400!