Mid-week during our second week in Ghana we went to the New Horizon Special School. This is a school for children with special needs which transitions into a vocational school for adults. We were all but blown away by this school and the programs and classes they have in place. There are 6 classes with students divided by age, disability, and severity of disability. There are 2 classes for individuals with Autism where students are taught one-on-one, 1 classroom (where Lea and I spent most of our time) with older students with Cerebral Palsy, 2 general classrooms, and 1 where new students are placed to assess their needs and abilities before being placed into a classroom. Behind the school is the vocational center where adults are taught skills such as basket weaving, doll-making, fabric dying, and jewelry-making, to name a few. There is a shop attached to the school where their goods are sold so students can earn a little money.
We came to Ghana with "MacGyver Kits" that had anything from duct tape to pvc pipe. While at New Horizon, we split up between 3 classrooms to do a sort of needs assessment to see what we could provide the students and teachers with in terms of adaptive equipment a la MacGyver. So, that night we had all sorts of fun creating long-handled sponges out of pipe, long-handled spoons out of paint stirrers, built-up handles out of pipe insulation, sock aids out of water bottles, built-up pens with tennis balls, and lots more but you get the gist. The next day we went back to give out the goodies and do a short seminar on how to use what we made along with performing safe transfers with students. This was an extremely fun and rewarding day and I was very sad to leave our classroom and the friends we made there!
Trying out the scissors
Tennis ball pen
Teaching team transfers
The next day we went to Echoing Hills, which is a residential school and adult home for individuals with special needs. There was only a small group of students at the school when we visited because most were out working, so there was very little for us to do. But, we were given a tour of the facility and spoke with the director, a good friend of Eric. The teachers at this school were 2 individuals involved with the Peace Corps (I think...). According to the director, they rely on volunteers to teach year-round. The facility was very nice and had a medical clinic (used only once per year by a group of volunteers who provide care for anyone who shows up) and two huge rooms FULL of refurbished wheelchairs, walkers, canes, and crutches. The equipment is free for everyone and is sent to Ghana from a company in the States who then goes to Africa once a year and distributes them in villages around the country. But, we were absolutely astounded to learn the hoops people had to jump through to get equipment from Echoing Hills during other times of the year. First, a person has to learn about the resource, they then must visit a doctor (which requires transportation and money) who will determine whether they *really* need the equipment and then write them a script. Then, the person has to get themselves out to Echoing Hills (about a 30-45 minute ride depending on traffic) to retrieve the equipment. This was one of our "fix it" moments...what if we hire a doctor, rent a tro-tro or van, drive around Accra and find people in need of equipment, have the doctor write a script, and then carry everyone out to Echoing Hills to receive their equipment? I think it's genius.
Wheelchairs and more wheelchairs
Our last center visit was to the Accra Rehabilitation Center (the ARC). To be honest, this facility held the most promise for me personally, but upon arrival I found that I was extremely disappointed. The facility's goals and mission are wonderful. Individuals must apply to attend through Ghana's equivalent of the Department of Social Services and have a physical. Accepted applicants (apparently anyone who applies generally is accepted) attend ARC daily for 3 years and live on the facility grounds where they are taught a trade such as shoe-making or woodworking. Then, they are given a small amount of money to purchase materials and start their own business. Now, in theory this is a wonderful thing. But, as with all wonderful things, there must a funding source and follow-through, which at ARC, there is neither. We walked around the facility and met some of the gentlemen who attend, most of whom had little to do because of the lack of materials. I would absolutely love to think that when I return to Accra, this facility will meet my expectations for the wonderful thing it could be...we'll see. On the up side, the instructors and attendees were very welcoming and willing to talk to us and answer all of our questions. Ghanaian hospitality never falters. You've gotta love it!