‘We’re grateful for the chance to do this’

The mission of Kenmore’s Bastyr University is, of course, to teach and promote natural or naturopathic medicine.

  • Monday, February 23, 2009 11:06pm
  • Life
Bastyr University students headed for clinics in rural Ghana next month include

Bastyr University students headed for clinics in rural Ghana next month include

Bastyr students ready to lend

a hand in Ghana

The mission of Kenmore’s Bastyr University is, of course, to teach and promote natural or naturopathic medicine.

Now, nine students are about to help take that message to some seemingly unlikely spots, namely three different clinics in the rural Ashanti region of Ghana.

Leaving Kenmore March 21, the group will spend two to three weeks in that country, not only providing health care for local residents, but hopefully learning from the local doctors, as well.

“We’re grateful for the chance to do this,” said student Jamie Corroon.

Seattle-based Village Volunteers is coordinating the trip, which will take the students to any one of several clinics operated by native Ghanian physician Addae Mununkum.

After spending 15 years studying and practicing in Germany, Mununkum, a cardiothoracic surgeon, returned to Ghana and founded a grassroots, community-based, nonprofit known as the Rural Care Network.

According to the RUCNet Web site, the organization has clinics in the small towns of Sekyere, Tebeso and Bonwire. There are at least three more clinics on the way.

While this will be the first visit to Ghana for these nine students, the Bastyr student group Action Africa has sent past volunteers to that country and to Kenya, according to current student Jamie Henrichsen. She and Corroon both said Mununkum has expressed interest in naturopathic medicine and the students hope to leave behind a sort of legacy of their stay, namely a botanical medicine garden.

While in Ghana, the visitors will spend part of their time at Munukum’s home, but largely will stay at the clinic to which they are assigned. Student Britt Marie Deegan said they all had been briefed somewhat on the types of conditions they might face. She talked of a possible lack of running water and taking “bucket” showers.

“We were also told to expect long lines at the clinics,” Deegan added.

As for what types of illnesses they’ll be dealing with, Deegan said AIDS is believed to be severely underreported in Ghana. Corroon talked about diseases such as malaria, but also said visitors were told to expect to see the effects of malnutrition.

The nine students obviously are dedicated to the study of medicine. Why naturopathic medicine?

“It just makes sense,” Henrichsen insisted. Fellow student Brian Orr described natural medicine as a philosophical approach to healing, one that makes use of the body’s own natural power.

“We use all the tools,” he said, “but it’s how we apply them.”

Corroon said the naturopathic approach makes clear sense in underdeveloped countries where traditional Western medicine is likely to be economically out of reach.

“This type of medicine is more sustainable,” he said, referring once more to the botanical garden students hope to establish in Ghana. The hope is the garden will become a more dependable source of healing for the locals than pills donated from a drug company, Corroon said, though he and others quickly added there is room and a need for those pills, as well.

Henrichsen noted all nine students have spent a good part of the last months raising money for the trip. Airfare alone is about $1,500 per person, Corroon said.

The students have held a couple of different fund-raisers, including two silent auctions using items donated by local businesses. The group is still accepting donations and plans to take donated medicines and textbooks along with them. Send an e-mail to actionafricaclub@bastyr.edu if you’re interested in helping out.

In addition to fund-raising, Deegan and yet another student, Rachelle Price, said those making the trip have spent a good bit of time tracking down and receiving the various required vaccinations. Deegan said the group has had problems trying to find yellow-fever shots.

“You have to kind of search it out,” she said, adding there also is apparently a shortage of the vaccine.

Having taken a previous, similar trip to Nicaragua, Henrichsen believes all the effort being put into the Ghana trip will be well worth it.

“Amazing,” was her one-word description of that Nicaragua trip. “It’s totally different than just traveling … It was unlike anything I’ve ever done.”

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