Meet our community members - Mensah
If you have never been to one, it might be difficult to imagine what it is like to live in a rural community in Ghana. To give you a glimpse of what daily life in Humjibre looks like, GHEI will introduce you to its community members in our new blog series ‘Meet our community members’.
What are the hopes and dreams of a junior high school student? What do first-time mothers struggle with when raising their baby? Who runs the local drinking spot? How do GHEI’s local staff feel about their work? Read it here! Meet Mensah, GHEI's Health Program Administrator - Sunday, June 3rd, 2018
It is weekend, so Mensah spends his time at home, in Soroano, where he lives with his wife Joyce and her daughter Mary. Soroano is a small village, with about 800 inhabitants. “‘Soro’ is the name of the river that flows through the village and ‘ano’ means ‘behind’, so we are in Soroano, the village behind Soro”, Mensah explains. It is about a 25-minute taxi ride away from Humjibre, where GHEI works. Mensah’s house is on the hillside, offering a great view over the rest of the village spread out below.
In the morning, Mensah’s wife Joyce is making palm nut oil. This is a lengthy process. First, she has to get the oil fluids from the palm nut fruits. The extract is then boiled in a big pot. Then, it is pounded, only to be cooked again. After the second time of cooking, the oil is extracted, which is then cooked for a final time. While Joyce is busy extracting the palm nut oil, Mensah sits on his porch and fills out a stack of documents.
“The district has asked me to distribute the Mectizan medicine in Soroano. The medicine is used to prevent and to fight parasites that are spread by black flies.” The number of tablets each community member has to take depends on his or her height. In his notebook, Mensah keeps track of who received a tablet, and how many. Then he reports back to the district.
L: Mensah doing the administration for the distribution of the Mectizan medicine. R: The pots and pans used for producing the palm nut oil.
In his role at GHEI, Mensah also occupies himself with the health of community members. Mensah has been GHEI’s Health Program Administrator since 2009, and he has many important responsibilities. For GHEI’s Handwashing with Soap Program, Mensah hits the road once in a while to conduct surprise visits at participating schools, checking whether their polytank is filled with water and if there is soap. For the Health Facility Delivery Incentive Program, he meets with pregnant women in Ampenkrom and discusses the health benefits of delivering in a health facility. For GHEI's biggest program, the Mother Mentor Program, he conducts family assessments whenever new participants sign up. And in the summer, when GHEI hosts groups of international volunteers, Mensah is the one to travel to Accra and pick them up at the airport. Is this the job he had always envisioned for himself?
Mensah checking whether there is water in the polytank during one of the surprise visits
“When I was a child, I wanted to be an accountant”, Mensah responds. “I went to commercial school, but my dad died when I was young. After his death, I did not have money for school so I had to drop out.” Even though he may not have been able to finish his studies, he still gets to be an accountant from time to time when he is managing the budgets for the health programs.
“I am very happy to be doing what I am doing now. I am proud of my role and I love that I have made so many friends through my work at GHEI”. Once Mensah is done filling out the reports for the district, it is time to eat. Mensah helps his wife to prepare fufu, a popular local dish. It is made by pounding plantains and boiled cassavas together to create something that resembles a big ball of dough, which is to be consumed together with a soup and some meat. When preparing the fufu, one person is in charge of using a strong wooden stick to pound the fufu, while a second person assumes the role of the ‘driver’, who is responsible for turning the fufu around to make sure every bit of it gets pounded well. This afternoon, Mensah is pounding while Joyce is ‘driving’. An hour later food is served.
L: Joyce is 'driving' while Mensah is pounding the fufu (R). In the evening, there is not much left to do except preparing dinner. Although it is summer, the sun sets quite early, as Ghana is located close to the equator. Normally, Mensah spends his evenings reading a book, watching some television or listening to the radio. But as Soroano has been struggling with a power outage for a few weeks already, none of these things are possible. Mensah goes to bed after dinner, around 8.30 pm, ready to go to work again for GHEI the next day.
When asked if he would work anywhere else in the future, he answers with a firm no.
“I want to work for GHEI until I retire”.