PT Student Hilary Obert (Class of 2015) shared her experience in Ghana with us:
As we arrived in Ghana, we were told: “Come, come. Because if you don’t come, you can’t understand; if you don’t understand, you can’t HELP!” This gave me the chills as I tried to figure out what it truly meant. By the end of the trip, I fully understood and loved this quote.
Ghana, what a beautiful and loving country! Where we, SLU students, belonged and wanted to understand the lifestyle & CULTURE of fellow humans in a place so far from our safe United States. Admittedly, I couldn’t help but think that I was going to be dealing with underprivileged people who had so much less COMPARED to us, but now my eyes have been opened to the error of my original outlook. Dancing, singing, or playing soccer, they were some of the happiest and most grateful people I have ever met. They don’t think they are underprivileged and I understand this now.
Ghana, where we, healthcare professionals, wanted to come, experience, and learn about a different healthcare system and to be able to provide them with much needed medical relief in areas where healthcare is not accessible.
Ghana, where the profession of physical therapy, is greatly needed. I do not make this statement lightly. Physical therapy is needed here in Ghana because everyone works hard every day, harder than I have ever seen many Americans work. They work hard, long hours in the fields or at their homes starting at the age of 12 and only stopping once their body can physically take no more. Therefore, everyone has aches and pains and most people are not aware of proper body mechanics or stretching techniques. I am talking about a culture wherein if one sits down while washing laundry, they might be perceived as lazy. And let me tell you, this culture is NOT lazy, but full of some of the greatest attributes that can be humanly possessed. They are brave, strong, mentally & physically tough, and hardworking, as their life depends on it. Physical therapists are needed because we can give them lifelong skills and exercises that will make a difference in the long run. We taught many people stretching exercises with the hope that if one person starts doing them daily, then these new ideas will catch like wild-fire and everyone will continue to do them.
Physical therapists can make a difference because we can instill in them exercises/stretches that can change the way they treat their body. I had the great privilege of attending a brigade with not only a physical therapist (the first ever to go to Ghana with GMB), but also with a SLU alumni, Meg Robben. If nothing else, I gained a great deal of knowledge about physical therapy while observing her during our ten days there. God worked in me and through me in the community of Nanaben. My life has been opened up to new possibilities: new cultures, new ideas, new outlooks on life, and the true love of helping those in need, no matter who they are. I am passionate about the people of Ghana and I owe to them so much because they have truly changed me for the better. I hope everyone, physical therapy students or physical therapist professionals, consider attending some type of medical relief trip—whether it be with Global Brigades or another organization; because I promise it will change your life forever or at least your perspective on life, as it has done to mine.
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