Catherine Crowley, Director.
Miriam Baigorri, Clinical Director.
Darcy Abrams, Rachel Albert, Dana Arnold,
Amy Atkins, Alana Bibergal, Ingrid Curniffe,
Victoria Hatzelis, Joyce Huh, Laura McCarthy,
Jayne Miranda, Charlene Poulos, Jessica Salas,
Molly Singleton, Sarenne Sutton,
Michelle Tella, and Caitlin Ruderman (honorary).
Fifteen graduate students and three clinical supervisors from the graduate program in speech language pathology at Teachers College Columbia University made the trip to Ghana. At hospitals andschools, the Teachers College group worked with the parents, teachers, and medical staff. The model they followed was to identify the person's communication challenges and then develop recommendations that the family and teaching or medical staff could implement.They could return for additional therapy sessions where the recommendations could be modified if needed.The TC group benefited greatly in many ways including learning how to work with interpreters and deepening their sensitivities to and skills in working with people from diverse cultures.
In the fours days at
When asked what the parents wanted for their children, most said that they wanted their children to be more independent, especially to be able to walk to the local market and to buy and sell items there. This was not possible for many of the students who could not speak and the TC group introduced AAC to these families. We created materials that reflected what they needed to communicate in the market, such as hand-drawn picture boards with symbols for water, plantains, fufu, money denominations, and other market-centered items. After seeing how effective these boards were, the families seemed very open to using them with their children.
The last day in each of the schools turned into celebrations full of dancing and singing. We were presented with gifts of bracelets, waist beads, and large bags of oranges. We in turn gave each teacher a certificate of appreciation for volunteering their time to work as interpreters and cultural informants for the students and their families so the Teachers College group could provide effective and sustainable services.
Each day, Emmanuel arranged for a snack for the TC group. On the last day, Emmanuel, Albert, and all the nurses who worked with us prepared a closing ceremony where they thanked us for our work. We responded with our thanks and gave them
We met as a group eight times at night to discuss the readings in our coursepack and to connect our experiences to the readings. We were treated to three guest speakers: Belinda Burkari from the
Belinda Burkari the founder and head teacher of the Effiduasi unit school joined us with her husband and two children. Belinda said that when she decided to open the school, friends and acquaintances thought she was crazy.When she was pregnant with her second child, many people told her and her husband that her baby would be born with the same disabilities her students have--that her baby would "catch" their disabilities. Belinda and her husband described the parade of people that went through their houseonce the baby was born to see for themselves that her baby was born without any disability. Belinda's committmentto provide educational opportunities to children with disabilities in Ghana,when so little is available and so little understood,was extraordinary to witness.
Monsignor George is a family friend of Molly Singleton. He described the historical structure of the villages where each village had its own governing system with a chief and his"royal family" along with a fetish priest, the religious leader of the village. Many Ghanaians practice both Christianity and the traditional religions--attending church and paying respects to the fetish priest. Monsignor George was very supportive of our work in
Earlier in the trip we had watched the movie Emmanuel's Gift narrated by Oprah Winfrey about Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah. Emmanuel was born with a deformed leg and Ghanaians with physical deformities were expected to become beggars. Emmanuel's mother died when he was young but gave Emmanuel the confidence to believe he could do more than that. His story is simply remarkable and meeting him was a gift for all of us. We hope to accompany Emmanuel for the
Experiencing the cultural diversity of
A dance troupe performed for us and then taught us some West African dances.
The visit to the dungeons of slave castles of St. Georges and
People were celebrating the results of the Ghanaian election with music and dancing. We danced with them through the narrow walkways that threaded the market.
We visited a fishing village and walked on a rope bridge over the jungle canopy.
We saw and were invited to participate in a wedding, a funeral, a baby's naming ceremony.
At Larabanga we visited the oldest mosque in sub-Saharan
We visited Ntoso, a village known for its adinkra dye stamp cloth.On walking safaris and in canoe trips we encountered an elephant, hippos, baboons, warthogs, and African antelope.We did more dancing at Asanka Locals Chop Bar in
We visited a monkey sanctuary in a forest where the monkeys were revered by the nearby village as fetishes for the gods of the traditional religion.
Needs going forward:
In addition to the Ghanaian professionals, Karen Wyles, an Australian-trained SLP moved to
There is much in place and this will be a Ghanaian program. Our input will be simply to fill some academic and clinical holes untilGhanaiandevelop the expertise to take over our roles.
For the past several years Professor Wiredu of the
In addition to the coursework, the SLP students will need to acquire 400 clinical hours during the master's program. It may be possible to recruit experienced SLPs from overseas to volunteer to provide supervision. This supervision could be done via the internet, through a review of a student's journal entries about the experience, by direct supervision by experienced speech language pathologists. Here again, we can implement a hybrid model that might depend on the skills of an individual student.
We have developed a draft syllabus for the speech language pathology program that is being reviewed by our Ghanaian colleagues.