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Archive for November, 2013

Bruce Lee watering whilst moving the hose with the help of his child.

Bruce Lee watering whilst moving the hose with the help of his child.

The pumping is very similar to operating a stair machine at the gym.

The pumping is very similar to operating a stair machine at the gym.

Positioning the intake hose in the well

Positioning the intake hose in the well

For years we have been intrigued with the possibility
Bruce Lee headed for the farm with the irrigation equipment.

Bruce Lee headed for the farm with the irrigation equipment.

of finding a manually operated water pump that would allow local farmers to irrigate crops of tomatoes, onions, and peppers during the Ghanaian dry season. Ghana is mostly flat not far above sea level, resulting in ground water only 10-20 feet below the surface. Farmers with low-lying land come together and hand dig large holes (wells) which fill with muddy water November-February. In a Herculean task under baking sun, each farmer then waters his crops twice per day by repeatedly dipping a 5 gallon container into the well and carrying the water to his 1-2 acres of of crops. Believe me, these farmers could all pose without touch ups for a men’s body building magazine. However, hernia’s, back problems, and utter exhaustion cause many to take a year off periodically with significant negative impact on the family and their ability to pay for health care and school fees.

We thought that if anyone deserves some assistance, it would be these hardworking men trying to support their families. Initially, we found the perfect foot irrigation pumps in both Kenya and India. When we looked into shipping and Ghanaian customs tax, the cost became prohibitive,

Then, 1 year ago we learned of a terrific private company, Burro, that was selling foot pumps in Ghana. Burro was founded by Whit Alexander of Seattle and he has published a very interesting book about his experiences titled “Bright Lights, No City”. Shortly after sending Whit an email, we had purchased a foot pump for under $200 and Burro had transported it to the north of Ghana in anticipation of our next visit.

For the culmination of this particular adventure, on last Saturday we went to set up the pump at the farm of a dedicated and successful local farmer named Bruce Lee. His garden consists of one-and-a-half acres of tomatoes, with some onions and peppers. In less than an hour we had the lengthy hoses connected while his wife stood eagerly nearby with a swarm of young boys eager to try the pumping. We waited with anticipation as the pump was primed and the hose began to fill. As the outlet hose became round with water, Bruce Lee started running to un-kink the hose and follow the progress of the water, we knew at this point that the water flow was going to be even stronger than anticipated. As the water sprayed from the handle, the delighted look on Bruce Lee’s face made it obvious that using this pump to water the garden was going to save hours of work and allow him to expand his garden. In order to make this economically feasible, we will loan Bruce Lee the pump for this dry season which will allow him to buy the pump with the earnings from his crops.

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Born to be Wild

The literature teachers are off to work. They have 5-6 miles of rough, dusty road to reach Kongo Senior High. The book they are teaching (actually a play) is “In The Chest of a Woman” by Ghanaian author Efo Kodjo Mawugbe. You Can’t find this one on Amazon.com.DSCF1528[1]

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One Man Fire Brigade

During this dry season of the year in the rolling hills of Kongo grass fires are not unusual.  Roadsides and areas around homes and buildings are surrounded by dry grasses.  Here and there you see blackened spots, evidence of a grass fire.  I suspect the grass fires around living areas and buildings are caused when garbage is burned, a common practice.  Roadside grass fires could be caused by tossed cigarettes, sparks from building equipment or, most likely, sparks from motorcycles. Today, at the bottom of our hill one of these causes started a grass fire.  From our excellent viewpoint on the patio of the S. R. Centre we watched the fire grow.  The wind picked up, the fire grew, nobody came to put it out.  The workers right next to the fire didn’t even turn around to look, they just continued hammering.  The fire spread, the smoke grew thick, still no one came!  Motorcycles flew by on the road, no one stopped. As the fire crept up the hillside I started thinking about loading up my suitcases which was really silly as our building is stone and tin. Phone calls were made to the friary and finally the fire brigade arrived…a man with a machete who hacked some green branches of a bushy tree.  He began to beat down the fire with the branches and once the wind died down, so did the fire.

I am still amazed that no one came to help him.  I think Kongo needs more than a one man fire brigade.

Author Denise Larson (Madame Denise to the students at Kongo Senior High)

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DSCF1471[1]In a modest room with the bare essentials, Janet (my translator) settles in for a day of patients. And I prepare for a surprisingly varied collection of patients with joint pains. The first patients are two older women, each with marked hip pain and likely either severe osteoarthritis or even more serious hip pathology. They limp painfully and have virtually no movement in the hip joint(s). Both of them will need to find a way to make the 10 mile trip to the regional hospital for x-rays, probably a painful trip in a crowded market truck. It is likely to be their first trip ever away from the immediate village area. The next patient was a 5 year old girl with generalized extremity pain, but no swelling or deformity. I had observed her walking slowly to the clinic, trailing behind her mother who would occasionally turn to scold the girl to walk faster. She also needed to be referred, this time for a sickle cell anemia test. Sickle cell disease causes widespread joint pain and is common in this area. The symptoms are worse with “cold” weather, which is anything below 80 degrees in Ghana. Then after thoroughly enjoying the chance to evaluate and treat a few low back pain, shoulder pain, and headache patients, there was a 40 year old patient with pain in the leg joints and moderate swelling of the entire legs bilaterally. One look and I knew this was filariasis (elephantiasis) and needed referral for medication. Filariasis is actually a tiny worm that is contracted through mosquito bites, the very same mosquitos that spread malaria. The worms destroy the lymphatic system causing the swelling. Though the swelling cannot be reversed, antibiotic treatment can kill the worms and prevent further damage and swelling. And now you know a little about my day as a chiropractor in northern Ghana, and a bit of tropical disease trivia. The photo is of my rudimentary office with Janet ready to translate.

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Serious Baboon Business

DSCF0639[1]/a>First-time volunteer Denise Larson and some-what seasoned veteran David Stone arrived in Accra Nov 2. These two ‘took the lead’ with the plan that LIsa ( David’s wife) and Marilyn and Lou Schuster will arrive one week later. Denis and David taught together some eighteen years ago at Duniway Elementary. Though this is Denise’s first trip, she has been there several times ‘in heart’ as she contributes yearly to help successful high school applicants enter teacher”s colleges or nurse training college.

“Accra! Accra!” It sounds exciting to hear this loudly amplified cry to board a bus for the largest and most sprawling city in Ghana. But this duo was chafing at the bit to leave the chaos behind with sights on Mole State Park, located in the north near Tamale. Ok,…. it is not hear Tamales in minutes and hours as a dusty bumpy road that last for some significant time divides the park fromTamale. Once you have reached the park, it truly seems like an oasis, with good rooms with fans – Oh yes! It is warm! – and even a swimming pool that is near the escarpment where one can view the wild animals.

Serious ‘baboon business’ can take place at the park. You see pictured a baboon who has been knocking on all the room doors in our block, testing for possible entry. One does not challenge a baboon. They are quite the strong animal and can move gracefully fast on ground, so not to be reckoned with. This mid-sized fellow had a glaring contest with David who decidedly snapped the picture and closed his door, David, not the baboon.To complete the environs of our block there are also grazing warthogs who seem to pay little attention to the two-footed clothed guests.

The ‘D and D duo’ do go on safari and do sight an elephant, probably the highlight of the Mole visit. “You’d have to be there” is probably the most concise way to explain the excitement of seeing an elephant while you yourself are on foot. A picture is not worth a thousand words as we could see just the flapping ears and trunk just 30 yards away.

With this memory well placed in our minds we catch a 4 A.M bus taking the same brutally challenging route that eventually reaches pavement to get us back to Tamale and soon on our way to village Kongo where we are now teaching literature to very eager and attentive high school students and teaching reading to primary 5 and 6. Classroom time is one of our favorite times. Maybe a blog on that soon! – David Stone

Very willing to escape the chaos at first opportunity,

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In Ghana November 2013

There are 5 of us now in Ghana working on projects affiliated with Yakote Women Farmers.We are settled in 3 rooms at the Kongo Spiritual Renewal Center. Other than afternoon temperatures in the 100’s, we are reasonably comfortable. The 2 teachers in our group, David (Stone) and Denise (Larson), teach literature and reading for both high school and primary students. On the medical side, Lisa (Revell, David’s wife) has started treating patients with “rheumatic pains” at the Kongo-Logre Clinic. Marilyn and Lou (Schuster) are overseeing the finishing touches on the yet-to-be-named social center/food storage facility/skills training center in Yakote. They are planning a festive dedication ceremony involving local chiefs and people of the nearby villages for December. This photo shows Lou Schuster and Denise Larson with the landowner of a farm near the newly constructed social center. Lou brought the hat to the landowner as a gift and he absolutely loves it.    Image

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