Postcard of the Week: Greetings from Ghana
My mother, Malvena Stuart-Taylor, was out in Ghana again a few weeks ago volunteering and training Ghanaian doctors with the G.A.S. Partnership, and she sent me this postcard. Last year she wrote a guest post about her incredible 3-week-long Overland Ambulance Trip to Ghana, which details some of the difficulties the communities face in northern Ghana. I asked her to give a bit more background to this relatively unknown country that she’s grown to know very well, having travelled there several times a year. Here’s what she said:
Ghana has a similar mass size to the UK and ¼ of its population. However like any country the population and wealth is concentrated where its thriving capital Accra lies, in the south.
It is one of the first 10 African states to be granted independence (in 1957), since which time it has managed to maintain relative political and economic stability.
However it still has its fair share of poverty and ill-health. Of all the UN Millennium Development Goals, it is currently failing on maternal and childhood mortality. The annual income from the poorest regions (in the north, bordering on Burkina Faso which is of French heritage) was just £41 in 2008.
What strikes me most about the country and its people is the association between their beaming smiles, warm hospitality and constant toiling of the land. In the far north you will still see subsistence farming with the classical pose of a woman bent steeply over, hoeing the land with a hand-tool carved out of a hard wood. Their principal crop is millet from which their stable diet is derived. Occasionally they may be able to supplement their diet with a little goat, delicately cooked in a rich spicy sauce containing ground peanut, chili, tomatoes and onion.
Another endearing characteristic that I have grown to love is the harmony between their religions. The majority of Ghanaians, like many African countries are active followers of their belief… whether it be Muslim or Christian. Each person celebrates their own belief yet embraces that of others. You only have to read the shop signs to see how much religion underpins their spirit. They do not segregate it.
However poor they are they will welcome one with open arms and offer whatever vitals they may have in the house. It may be a ripe Shea nut (from which your face cream may have been made), or a sumptuous ripe mango plucked that morning from the grove. When they do have meat or fish (Talapia being a common nutritious breed) they will probably eat most of it. To our western habits we may feel repelled by the thought of eating a fish head but they wish to waste nothing (and it is nutritiously very healthy).
The final surprise to me was in learning how sharp their wit is and how English it is. They are as happy to joke about themselves as they are about you, but don’t take offence, it is a compliment and means that they value you as a true friend.
I can only wish that the natural resources being discovered in the country (oil) will allow this amazing culture to grow with grace and not to allow corruption to seep below its beautiful skin.