Matthew Zhou, Ragini Bhushan, & Sasha Jones
GlobeMed’s Grow Team
Location: Ho, Ghana
John & Martha Mabie Fellowship for Global Health Research
In Ghana, the traditional greeting to welcome guests is “Woé zɔ”, literally translated as “You are welcome”. Ghanaian hospitality exemplified this idea, unreservedly welcoming us into their country, culture, and homes. GlobeMed at Northwestern’s GROW team, funded by Northwestern IPD, traveled to Ho, Ghana this summer for three weeks to conduct research at the H.O.PE. Center. Our goal was to learn more about cultural post-natal nutrition practices and infant care in the local community. In the process, we had the privilege of learning about the intricate and proud culture native to Ghana. We were humbled by their sincerity and kindness, acknowledged for our differences yet still accepted into their lives.
Our research centered around the breastfeeding practices and nutritional care for infants distinct to Ghanaian culture. We wanted to answer the questions of how Ghanaian mothers raised their children after birth and whether these methods keep children within international health standards. Our partner organization, the H.O.P.E. Center, assisted us in arranging interviews with mothers, taking measurements of the babies for statistical analysis with WHO health standards, and providing translators to bridge the cultural and language barriers. Our data revealed a number of differences between American and Ghanaian breastfeeding and child nutrition, information that we plan to give to the H.O.P.E Center in creating nutritional outreach programs for mothers.
Our host family took us in as one of their own, cooking us local foods such as banku and fufu (rice-based dishes) and sitting with us to watch the Ghanaian presidential campaigns and movies. As we got to know each other better, they told us of their culture – of grand weddings and funeral celebrations, the fierce mountains and jungles of Ghana, and the hope of building a better future for their nation. They were people proud of their country, calling for national unity even during their presidential elections. This seemed especially striking to me contrasted with our own nation’s polarized political factions for presidency. This theme of unity spread to their religion as well, with the vast majority of the population comprised of Christians and Muslims. As we accompanied our host family to Sunday church, we could understand the powerful draw of organized religion in Ghana. Upon raising the draped cloth that covered the entrance and crossing the threshold, we were enveloped in a sense of community and purpose. Voices joined with visceral passion and joy, and as the pastor delivered her sermon the congregation rang out with spontaneous exclamations of “Hallelujah”. It was a strikingly raw experience that shed a lot of light on what it means to be Ghanaian.