(Permission to reproduce the following article was granted by Jake Krob, editor of the Mount Vernon-Lisbon Sun, retrieved July 30, 2008 from http://www.mtvernonlisbonsun.com/article.php?viewID=3222)
Upper Iowa student helps set up hospital in Ghana
by Dave Morris · July 30, 2008
It’s an interest in helping others that led Ali Guetzko of Mount Vernon to join a group on a medical mission in Ghana.
During the three-week June trip, Guetzko, 20, helped with a dental team that included her uncle, Dr. Rob Burris of Springfield, Ill. The 36-member team was sent as part of the International Health and Development Network.
While in Ghana, the group assisted in setting up a new hospital, which had been a goal there for many years.
Guetzko, who will be a junior this fall at Upper Iowa University in Fayette, also worked with students ages five and older on basic toothbrushing skills, did fluoride treatments and assisted with other procedures. The visit may lead to a career direction for Guetzko.
“I just like helping people a lot,” she said. “I hope to go back again.”
One of the most gratifying parts of the trip was seeing how appreciative the people were for the hospital and the care provided.
“They were so happy we were there to help,” she said, noting that 2,000 people showed up for the opening of the new hospital. “They were happy and smiling.
“Seeing how everybody was so grateful and excited was nice,” she said.
Malaria, hypertension (high blood pressure) and hernias are major health problems in the still-developing nation and the health care system is doing little to address them.
One of Guetzko’s jobs while she was there to do initial screenings for things like hypertension, which has to be under control before certain dental procedures can be pursued.
Guetzko said despite the cultural differences, she felt welcome in Ghana. Children would say their native word for “white woman” when she passed by. Some of the smaller children, who had never seen a white woman, were initially frightened and tearful, but that didn’t last long, she said. “The rest were smiling and waving.”
“I really didn’t feel uncomfortable at all,” said Guetzko, who stayed in a dormitory-style room while there. “Everybody was so nice and knew already who we were.”
June is a winter month for Ghana, but it was still at least as hot as an Iowa summer, she said. The local people, however, wore long sleeves and pants due to what they referred to as a colder weather.
She was able to work in a few side trips while there, including trips to beaches in both Ghana and neighboring Togo and a visit to a former slave castle that dated to the 1700s.
Guetzko is hoping to make a return trip to Africa with a team next summer and also would like join a similar mission to Jamaica.
It’s a trip Guetzko said she would recommend to anyone interesting in helping others.