Last week, I got to share in one of those journeys that changes a man forever.
Ghana is the first country to do this with two vaccines at the same time and thousands of children will be vaccinated against pneumonia and rotovirus in the coming months. It is a huge step forward for the country and ONE had a lot to do with keeping awareness and funding for programs like this alive and well.
When people asked what my job for the week was, I told them that it was a mix of photo journalist, citizen reporter and travel writer. I was there to observe, learn and be inspired. My camera never left my hand except for when I had to write something down in my notebook. Plus it is time that the ONE Moms program expand to include dads as well and I’m officially the first ONE Dad.
We got to see many different aspects of Ghana and projects that are helping the country improve healthcare, agriculture, small business and daily life.
Our journey took us to Africa’s third largest hospital to learn how they are helping HIV+ mothers insure the disease is not passed on to their children. We spent a morning at another hospital that not only helps children recover from acute malnutrition, but also teaches the mothers how to cook meals with local ingredients that will provide more nourishment for their families. There was even a stop by two local entrepreneurs who took their dreams owning their own businesses and made it a reality.
On the last day, we headed out into the mountains to see the vaccines being administered in the field.
Traveling with a mix of journalists and aid workers from around the world made for great conversations. In the two villages we visited, we were greeted by the elders and the initially hesitant but soon enthusiastic children. If you ever want to see the biggest smile in the world, take a photo of a child and show it to them for what might be the first time. They go crazy and it instantly warms your heart.
Seeing the moms bringing their babies to the clinics to get their new vaccines was a powerful moment. With so much hardship facing every children in Africa, having two less things to worry about because of the vaccines must be an overwhelming feeling.
Notice that I’ve said “moms” a lot?
That is because while the men of the family are usually the money earners and thus make all of the family decisions. They are not always that active in the welfare of the family, but still make the decisions. It scared me when one speaker was talking about how they must educate fathers why vaccines are so important because if they don’t allow it, the wife would not be allowed to bring the children into a clinic. It is an educational challenge that must be overcome. Getting the information out to all families.
We went to the US Embassy to receive a briefing from a team at US AID. It was amazing to hear how a part of their activities involve getting permission from dads to allow their wives to farm and do other things to help out their financial situations. I wasn’t that familiar with the work that US AID does, but I can tell you that across the globe they are doing very important work that is helping improve lives on multiple levels.
I met lots of parents while in Ghana and every dad I met was a fellow proud father like myself. I wish the trip had allowed for more conversations one on one with them, but we were not there for that so I hope I get to return with a focus there because I think there is a lot of good that could come of it.
Ghana is a beautiful country with a lot of opportunity ahead for it. The work that ONE and other organizations like it do is vital to the future of Africa and I sense I’ll be more involved with them in the future. They do great work.
Thank you for having me be part of this!