Shots, Shots, Shots

image002Last week was the first time I volunteered at the Beacon House, a children’s home here in Accra operated by a missionary woman.  It currently houses around 35 children, ages 3 months to 14 years.  I was there the same day an immunization clinic was being held at a nearby church.  Government nurses travel to different parts of Accra throughout the month providing free vaccinations to babies and toddlers.  We (3 female Ghanaian staff, another missionary, and myself) took advantage of this opportunity and gathered up 8 children under the age of 2 and their medical records and walked with them the 4 blocks to get some shots.  I must admit that carrying one child and holding the hand of another short and very slow person was challenging.

We arrived at the immunization clinic as the nurses were setting up.  There were about 25-30 mothers with their young children.  Interestingly, there was one young man with his child, also.  Everyone was seated in his or her own white, plastic chair.  The first order of the day was to weigh each baby.  Each parent undressed their child completely.  However, I noticed that nearly every child, except the ones we brought, was wearing beads around their middle.  I’ve since learned that if a child doesn’t have this necklace around the waist, it means the mother is a witch.  Sarah Erdman, a Peace Corp volunteer who was in the Cote D’Ivoire and wrote of her experiences in Nine Hills to Nambonkaha, best describes the weighing process.  There are 2 tall wooden supports across which there is a beam and a dangling hook.  The naked babies are fit into “shorts with straps. . . . Hang the scale on the hook and the shorts’ straps on the scale, and the contraption suspends the baby several inches above the ground.”  It’s quite a sight watching the “terrified hanging babies pedal the air.”

After each baby was weighed, they were redressed and the parents waited for their baby’s name to be called for vaccinations.  I observed as the nurse drew up medication into new syringes, using a new needle every time.  However, I was a little mortified as I noticed that she never once put on gloves to give the shots.  After a shot, the babies, of course, cried which allowed the nurse to administer an oral vaccination.  After only a few short hours, we headed back to the Beacon House, children in tow.  I was glad to have the opportunity to see more of the medical care provided in Ghana.




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7 responses to “Shots, Shots, Shots

  1. My heart goes with you every time you tell us what you are up to!! Also Sarah and Kyndall read these posts about the children you encounter! Sarah’s comment
    “Mom I always knew you were a witch!”
    Hahaha Ha Ha Ha ……….errr
    They won’t be laughing when I present them with the bead belts:)
    Hope you are carrying your own gloves (or would that be offensive)
    Anyway we are enjoying your journey so much!

  2. Myra

    This is awesome, Tywonn. Your work impresses and humbles me.
    I cringed when you mentioned the lack of gloves, too, for the health of the nurse and the children. I am trying to understand why they wouldn’t have them~ expense is my guess; plus, reusing dirty gloves which would hold contaminants would be just as bad as uncovered hands. I don’t know, just thinking. Makes me think of the practice of praying before we eat (for food to be healthy and blessed), like praying for the benefit of the immunization shot.

  3. The carrying of the babies are to strengthen your arms!
    Thank you for the book recommendation. I’ve put it on my Amazon wish list!
    Thank you also for the tradition behind your activities. Let’s me see what you are doing and why God has you there! Break the darkness!

  4. Tywonn

    Renee, your girls are so smart. I’d love to see your face when they’d get the beaded belts! 🙂

    Myra, you make some very good points. I believe these nurses are government employees. I’m not sure if they didn’t have gloves due to a lack of money or a lack of concern for their own health. Either way, as you said, they are gambling with their health and the health of the children. After all, 1.9% of the population in Ghana is HIV positive! To calm some of those fears, I took 3 children for lab work yesterday and the technician that drew the blood wore gloves.

  5. Pingback: Monthly Hits « The Davidson Mission

  6. mom

    Tywonn, I am so proud of you. Keep up the good work. Love, mom

  7. Hi Tywonn,
    You don’t know me, but I used to volunteer at Peace and Love orphanage in Adenta. It has since shut down due to abuse and I’m planning a return trip next summer. I was wondering if Blessing is at Beacon House. He would be a little over a year old now and was at Peace and Love when I was there. I’m trying to find out how he’s doing since all the abuse happened at P&L. If you could e-mail me, that would be great. Thanks!

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