Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Psychosocial Issues in the Disability Culture

Last week we discussed some of the psychosocial implications in which having a disability in Ghana may result. First and foremost, we discussed the social stigma associated with physical disabilities and other diseases, most notably AIDS. There are stigmas associated with physical disabilities in all cultures generally stemmed from how a person looks, moves, or ambulates. People with disabilities such as Cerebral Palsy or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's Disease) are commonly assumed to have intellectual disabilities simply because their physicality can lead to mistaken assumptions. Neither Cerebral Palsy or ALS affect a person's cognition. These assumptions can have vast negative impacts on a person's psyche and especially in areas such as Africa, I'm sure we will run into instances where people have been discriminated against due to a misunderstood physical disability. AIDS is a disease in which people are especially discriminated against, to the point of being shunned from their village. In addition to the psychosocial impacts, this introduces health concerns.

While we're in Ghana, I'm certain that we'll encounter differing views on disability and I only hope that I can not only understand their views but perhaps provide understanding of different disabilities.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Preparations and a Special Guest

As I continue to update the blog today...on March 4 we had a guest speaker from the social work department, Randi, come and talk to us about her experiences taking students to Ghana. She showed us a DVD she made about VCU social work in country and aside from it being amazing, it totally pumped me up to leave! Not that I need all that much encouragement. :-) She talked about what sorts of things we need to pack, what we need to do and what we need to avoid while we're there, and about the amazing people of Ghana. What struck me is the network of street children. For those of you who don't know (and I must admit that I didn't until recently), street children are orphans, children from bad family situations, or those who lost their homes and family who live on the street. It was fascinating to learn about how they take care of and rely on one another for support, money, protection, and encouragement. For example, Randi once gave a group a loaf of bread and instead of fighting over it, they meticulously divided the loaf so that each child got an equal share. A large amount of the children work for a living in dangerous jobs for little pay and are at constant risk of contracting diseases and infections such as Malaria. But, this is their way of life and from Orme and Seipel (Survival strategies of street children in Ghana), a boy stated "I think, tomorrow maybe I don't have money. So I will go and find some work to do. I will earn money tomorrow and buy some food which I will cook and eat."

Among other things, I am extremely excited to meet and interact with the people of Ghana, go to the market (which might be a bit overwhelming!), and visit the coast and the rain forest! But, in preparation for all of these exciting adventures, I'm first doing all the boring logistical stuff. Last Wednesday I got all of my vaccines (and subsequently couldn't raise my arms over my head for 2 days) and am in the process of filling out paperwork for my Visa. I've also begun to put my packing list together and am slowly acquiring all of the necessary *stuff* for the trip (at the top of my list is sunscreen, Deet, and Immodium). I figure if I make it to Ghana with those three things, I'll be ok. :-) Ghana, here I come!! Well, in 2 months...

Childhood Disabilities and Interventions

Back on February 25 (wow, where has the time gone?!), we had a meeting where we discussed some of the common disabilities, illnesses, and health conditions in Ghana. Obviously, AIDS is at the top of the list but I was surprised to learn that conditions such as Polio still affect children across the country. Stacey informed us that we are probably going to see children and adults with lasting after-effects of Polio and other seemingly simple fixes such as a child with Cerebral Palsy suffering from contractures (something that is avoided in the U.S. by splinting and proper use) or decubitus ulcers from lying in a bed or sitting in a wheelchair (something we would combat in the U.S. with pressure relief strategies and position-changes). It baffles me to think that we have access to vaccinations against diseases that are all but eradicated here in the states, but where we're going access to these vaccines, much less access to a medical facility, are considered luxuries (if they're considered at all). So much of what we're trying to do when we go to Ghana is to educate people about how they can help themselves and others around them. I only hope we can make a lasting difference on the people we encounter!