Beyond #ONECampus: My summer internship in rural Ghana

The children’s ward in Our Lady of Grace Hospital. Photo Credit: Ashley Horne

Ashley Horne, a ONE Campus volunteer, is a pre-med student at the University of Iowa. In this piece, she shares her experience as an intern with ProWorld, a rural health care organization in Asikuma, Ghana.

My summer internship is at Our Lady of Grace Hospital in Asikuma, a very small town in rural Ghana. My trip here has definitely reinforced my desire to pursue a career in medicine and focus on global health. I have learned more about health care, poverty and AIDS than I could have ever imagined, but above all I think that I have learned the most about myself, and I really have grown as an individual.

I work mostly in the ER and the children’s ward, and by far the most common case seen in both areas of the hospital is severe malaria and anemia in children. Malaria is very common in the tropics but is entirely preventable and curable, and brain damage that severe malaria causes only perpetuates the poverty cycle.  

Photo caption: Ashley testing a child for malaria. Photo credit: Ashley Horne

I will never be able to forget one of the first severe cases I saw in the emergency ward. In the ER one day, a very sick child was brought in. His condition had escalated to cerebral malaria and the sight of him made me extremely uncomfortable.

The little boy was gasping for breath, and was thrashing around with intermittent violent convulsions. He had no control over any of his actions because the parasite had taken over his brain. Meanwhile, his mother just stood there, not knowing what to do.

I couldn’t help but think how simple health interventions – like those that ONE advocates for – could have helped the boy avoid so much pain and body trauma, not to mention the negative effects he will surely experience later in his life due to malaria.

Since starting at Our Lady of Grace, I feel for patients that come into the hospital, especially because a simple fix to their problem is not always readily available. Some adults I met were so thin and weak that they weighed only 30 kilograms (66 pounds).

I also met a pregnant woman who was HIV-positive. Because she had been taking HIV medication for years, she was able to have her baby and protect it from contracting HIV.

By living with a family in this rural community and getting the opportunity to speak with community members both in and out of the health care setting, I have come to understand how complementary most issues relating to extreme poverty are. ONE Campus members can do so much to promote further education and increase healthcare accessibility in Ghana and other places in Africa.

Photo caption: Ashley with her homestay baby sister, who was named after her. Photo credit: Ashley Horne

By continuing to raise public awareness and pressuring political leaders to support smart and effective policies and programs that deal with these issues throughout Africa, ONE Campus members can be an integral part in saving many lives.

ONE Campus definitely helped me prepare for this internship. Through ONE Campus meetings and events (including one with ONE Fellow Michael Gerson), I became more passionate about the issues of extreme poverty and lack of health care in Africa. Discussing issues with other ONE members and working on challenges during the year kept my mind engaged and motivated me to go to Africa and see firsthand what was going on.

I encourage college students to join the ONE Campus Challenge and visit sub-Saharan Africa if they have a chance. It’s a great way to see how life-saving programs that ONE advocates for are put into action.

Want to make a difference starting at your school? Join ONE Campus Challenge now.