Michelle Cornell's Archive

Cultural Comparison, Part 3

9 Commentsby   |  07.22.11  |  Accra, Ghana

My last installation of cultural comparison between Ghana and the United States will be over the healthcare systems. However, after interviewing Corrinne, the Village of Hope’s nurse, it was apparent that the healthcare systems have very little in common. Thus, for this last project, I will give a brief overview of the Ghanaian system, discuss some issues within the system, and propose a solution for improvement.

Ghanaian healthcare is a national public system. Citizens are not required to have health insurance, but it is strongly encouraged. Overall the system is not incredibly efficient: the system for healthcare is backed up, and sometimes it takes over a year to receive an insurance card, at which point the card becomes ineffective. Many villagers are reluctant to pay for an unreliable insurance card, especially when other basic needs, like food, are not being met. Thus, most Ghanaians receive medical care through a local clinic which they pay for out of pocket or they consult the village doctor. Hospitals are located in major cities, especially in the greater Accra region, though access to medical assistance is fairly limited and unreliable for the majority of the agrarian sectors of Ghana.

The Village of Hope’s nurse is a woman named Corrinne, who formerly lived in Michigan. A year ago the Lord told her to go to Ghana, so she sold all she had and moved to work in the Village of Hope’s clinic. The transition for her has been difficult, but she loves every minute of it. Having listened to her stories and inside information, it is clear that the first major issue for Ghanaian healthcare is its lack of resources. When she arrived, basic medical supplies were lacking, which is not uncommon for clinics across the country. On her first visit to the clinic, the nurses were using old IV tubing as a tourniquet because of lack of supplies. With such a lack of basic resources, it is incredibly difficult to meet even the most basic of medical needs. Secondly, the distribution of the resources that are actually available is very poor. Insurance cards are received unreliably and in an untimely fashion. Patients often cannot even afford transportation to go to the clinic, and so medication is simply not available for them because they cannot physically get there. Also, the availability of clinics is not evenly distributed, being concentrated in larger cities and lacking in small villages and agrarian societies.

Though the first two main issues are concerned with resources, the last main issue with the healthcare system is a lack of education on health issues. Concerning medical personnel, many nurses and doctors lack proper training and management skills to efficiently run a clinic. Concerning the general population, there is still a persistent belief in superstitions and herbal medicines. Many witch doctors tell the local people that they will die if they go receive medical help from a clinic. Moreover, certain diseases and health issues, like STD’s and tuberculosis, are considered taboo, and so the afflicted persons will refuse to receive medical help. Overall, the attitude towards health is not focused on prevention, but rather on reactive solutions. Because of this, clinics are forced to play a game of “catch up” by having to focus on simple issues that could have been prevented with proper knowledge.

Considering the overarching challenges for the Ghanaian healthcare system, the solution that would lead to the greatest amount of national medical improvement would be to focus on increasing the caliber of education available to the country. By focusing on and improving the quality of the educational system, many preventive health issues would be eliminated, and superstitions would not hold back persons who truly needed medical assistance. Additionally, a better educational system would produce medical personnel equipped to properly handle health clinics. Thus, higher educational standards would lead to higher health standards. However, it is also still important to consider where the country is at in its history. With Ghana as a country being little more than half a century old and having an even newer constitution, Ghana is considerably better off than many of its neighboring countries. One of the issues in comparing Ghana and the United States is that America has a considerable advantage simply because it has had more time to shape and perfect its society and government. Keeping in mind the timeline for Ghana as a country, I have high hopes for its future. Though its healthcare and education systems are not as polished as those in a country like the United States, I believe they are on their way to considerable improvement. The government is pressing for education among the people, and health campaigns and advertisements to the population are abundant. If Ghana continues to grow and mature with its new constitution, it is my hope that, step by step, as a country, the people will see improved standards with education, leading to an improved healthcare system.

Cultural Comparison Project, Part Two

6 Commentsby   |  07.13.11  |  Accra, Ghana, Uncategorized

One of the more curious subjects for observation when traveling cross-culturally is the family unit. Families are integral to our lives and development; they are such a constant that we hardly ever stop to think what makes them “normal.” However, the ever present family unit looks and operates in vastly different ways in different cultures. When comparing the United States and Ghana, factors which contribute to these differences include the view of self, the level of industrialization, and the distribution of authority.

In the spectrum of the view of self, there reigns individualism on one end and collectivism on the other. Individualism is a type of the view of self which is highly independent and does not rely on surrounding persons. Collectivism, on the other hand, is a more communal approach to the view of self in which a person is more defined by who they are surrounded with. On the whole, the United States is a country in which individualism is valued. As a people, Americans value individuality, being unique, and entrepreuneurism. The idea of the American Dream is that everybody has the ability to “go out and make it on your own” and to follow their own idea of happiness. In regards to the family unit, individualism plays a major role. In America, it is custom for the parents to raise children who will one day go to college, get their own job, move out, and live on their own. The American conception of family is nuclear, rather than extended. However, in a community-centered country like Ghana, family as a cohesive whole is more important than the individuals within it. Together the individuals work and support each other, which creates a safety net for them all. Rather than the family catering to the needs of the individual, the individuals cater to the needs of the family. Thus, family units remain together, and there is less branching off and separation than there is in a country like the United States.

The level of industrialization also plays a large part in how family units operate. Ghana is a more agrarian state than America, which is incredibly advanced in technology and industrialization. Because of this, Ghanaian families tend to stay more local. Work is more physically strenuous and the value of manual labor is more appreciated. This agrarian state plays into collectivism because families must work together to support themselves. Children do chores not merely because they have been assigned them, but because they are necessary to the livelihood of the family. In contrast, the amount of technology available to families in the United States pushes them farther along the path of individualism. With the level of efficiency offered in the majority of America, there is less of a need for communal effort. There is more opportunity to be individualized in the United States.

Finally, the distribution of authority also affects how family units are shaped. In an American family unit, authority is fairly evenly distributed between the parents. Both have authority to make decisions, and much value is placed on gender equality in the United States. Additionally, families are often catered to the children, who may not have direct authority, but still have many resources given to them. Ghanaian families tend to be more paternalistic. Most of the authority lies with the father figure to make decisions. The mother is often in charge of the household, but in terms of how the public and culture views the family unit, the man will always have the final say. Also, families are not catered to their kids. Children are expected to contribute to the livelihood of the family, and, though admittedly my population pool may be biased, I have yet to meet a spoiled Ghanaian child.

When comparing the types of family units in the United States and Ghana, it is difficult to say whether one is superior to or better than the other. In truth, both have their strengths and weaknesses: the individualism which is rampant in American families can isolate individuals and weaken community development, while the collectivism of Ghanaian families can hold back individuals who have the opportunity for further education or advancement. To conclude, one system of family is not necessarily better than the other; rather, the two capitalize on different sets values. The value of connectedness, group unity, and working as a part of a whole which are learned in Ghanaian families are values which are just as important as individuality, independnence, and uniqueness that are learned in American families.

Village of Hope, Round Two

4 Commentsby   |  07.12.11  |  Accra, Ghana

Hey Everyone! We have been back at the Village of Hope for about a week and a half now, and I simply cannot believe we only have 11 days left! I just wanted to give a quick update on what we as a team have been doing since coming back from Nkwatia. 

First, it was Ashton’s birthday on the 5th! We didn’t have much celebrate with, but we did manage to whip up a very successful pineapple upside down cake.  It was so good! We have also gone on a day trip to visit a national park and the oldest slave castle in Africa, called El Mina.   On the way back we also drove past a parade in which all the local chieftains were being celebrated.  It was really neat to be able to experience even more of Ghana as a country and culture.  After the trip, a group from the United States came and set up a health fair so all of the children could receive medical and dental checkups.  We helped out by organizing and assisting at the different health stations.  Since the group has left, life has settled down a little bit and has become more routine.  I have been helping out in the nursery, the library, and with afterschool reading programs.  It has also been awesome to grow and focus in on some of the closer relationships I have built with the kids.  Because there are so many kids, it can sometimes be a little overwhelming, but I am trusting that God is working in the midst of it all. 

We are now on the home stretch before we return back to the United States.  It has gone by so fast, and I am sure these next days will go by even faster.  Please pray for endurance as we press in for the final week and a half.  Grace and peace to you all!

Cultural Comparison Project, Part 1

5 Commentsby   |  07.06.11  |  Accra, Ghana

International traveling always provides the opportunity to compare and contrast different cultures. This comparison is natural, and if analyzed outside of an ethnocentric lens, can be instructive and helpful. As part of a contract with the Honors College, I will be conducting a cultural comparison between Ghana and the United States in an attempt to broaden my worldview and take advantage of this wonderful blessing of cross cultural interaction. The Village of Hope is composed of a school, an orphanage, and a medical clinic. Thus, this project will focus on three topics for comparison: the educational system, the family unit, and medicine. The following post is installation one of my project and focuses on the topic of schooling. Enjoy!

Our team of interns landed in Accra, Ghana on June 1st and has been here for two and a half weeks. Since then, we have traveled to Village of Hope’s satellite school in the small town of Nkwatia. This school is understaffed and is in need of teachers, and thus, I have been teaching in the school and assisting the teachers. Needless to say, in this position it has been relatively easy to compare and contrast American and Ghanaian schooling. Three main factors which contribute to the differences between the two educational systems are the way in which the two cultures approach time, the amount of resources which are available, and where the responsibility for learning rests. A nation’s or culture’s approach to time can either be tempo-centric or event-centric. A tempo-centric culture is one in which time itself has value. Efficiency is considered incredibly valuable. In a country like the United States, the schedule itself is important and not just the events. However, in an event-centric culture like Ghana, more value is placed on the interaction. The schedule forms around the events and is subject to change depending on how the events turn out. The concept of time is held loosely in comparison with the task at hand. One way in which a culture can reveal its tempo-centricity or event-centricity is through its educational system. In the United States, the school systems are structured and scheduled literally down to the minute. Regulations about time spent on certain subjects and topics are stringent. However, in Ghana the school system is much more relaxed. Instructors teach on a subject until they are finished, at which point they move on. Start and end times are flexible and depend on the day and the teacher. Thus, while similar content is being taught in both systems, the way in which it is taught is vastly different due to the correlation of how time and events are valued in each culture.

The second main factor which dramatically affects both educational systems is the amount of resources available to the schools. Resources may include books, paper, school supplies, and technology. One main difference between Ghana and the United States is that America has vast amounts of resources, while Ghana is rather limited with resources. In America there is an increasing amount of not only learning and teaching tools, but also of technology in the classrooms, including computers, smartboards, and digital media centers. Additionally, Internet is available regularly for students who need to research for papers or projects. In contrast, Ghanaian classrooms typically consist of a chalkboard, wood desks, and a cement or dirt floor. Textbooks are not always readily available for all students, technology and computer learning is limited, and Internet cannot be accessed readily for research. Having spent time in Ghanaian schools has personally taught me how to rely solely on my teaching skills to give a lesson, rather than relying on any outside resources. However, even if the instructor’s teaching skills are adequate, outside resources bring dimension to the classroom and body to the lesson. If Ghana could improve in one area to bolster its educational system, I believe better access to resources would be the one which would have the greatest impact. That being said, the one area in which Ghanaian education tops American education in regards to resources is with languages. In America, typically English is taught in addition to one other language, usually French or Spanish. However, in Ghana the local language Twi or Fante is taught, as well as English and French. All students are at least bilingual. Thus, while Ghanaian schools lack material resources, the language learning skills taught are impressive.

The last main contrast between American and Ghanaian education deals with whose responsibility it is for learning. In America, the student is very much the recipient of learning and the burden rests on the teachers and administrators to convey the information in such a way that the student can best understand. Thus, learning tends to be catered to the student. However, in Ghana a student must be proactive in their education to continue on with schooling. Not all students are guaranteed entrance or have the opportunity to attend university or even high school. The responsibility for learning lies solely on the individual student to make it their priority. Obviously, these observations about proactivity are general and are not true for all Americans or all Ghanaian students, but it is still interesting to note the overarching comparison. While neither extreme of responsibility is most beneficial, a blend of the two would provide the ideal learning environment in which the faculty and student work together fairly towards a common goal.

To conclude, Ghanaian and American cultures differ from each other in several ways, which leads to differentiation in everyday life, including schooling and education. These differences include their views towards time, the resources and tools available in classrooms, and the amount of responsibility the student holds for his or her education. For the age of Ghana and its current constitution, the nation is doing relatively well for itself as a younger country. Though currently the United States may have more academic opportunities and resources, I believe Ghana has a realistic hope for its educational future. As the country continues to grow and progess, I look forward to seeing expansion in educational resources and opportunities for the youth of the country.

Leaning on my Beloved

4 Commentsby   |  07.03.11  |  Accra, Ghana

Hey everybody! Well, it’s hard to believe we’re already more than halfway through our internship in Ghana.  Time here has been slow in moments, but has also gone by so quickly.  On Thursday we came back to Village of Hope’s main site in Fetteh, so I thought I would give a couple concluding reflections on our time in Nkwatia.  First off, an update on the junior high vs. faculty soccer match: unfortunately, faculty lost by one goal (though it must be said there were at least twice as many junior highers on the field than teachers).  Also, I think Jesus poured out his infinite grace on me to recall those long lost goalkeeping skills, and all in all it was a very fun afternoon.  Besides soccer, we also got to attend a school district competition about Ghanaian history and travel with the headmaster as he planned out a field trip for the students.  The field trip planning day turned out to be quite an adventure, which included meeting three English medical students, buying fried bread off the roadside, traveling across Lake Volta (the world’s largest manmade lake) in a fisherman’s boat, visiting the district’s Department of Education (a.k.a encountering the first air-conditioned room since we’ve been in Ghana), and enduring two three hour long busrides.  What an adventure!

These past couple of days, I have been reflecting a lot on our time in Nkwatia.  It was such a blessing to build relationship with the teachers and students and church leaders there.  The day we had to part was a sad one, and I must say that if we never see them again in this world, it will be wonderful to see our brothers one day in Heaven.  As much as I taught in that school, I feel that I was the one who walked away having learned the most.  These past three weeks I have learned what hospitality and generosity truly looks like.  I have learned that as much as there is an earthly physical world around us, there is perhaps even more so a spiritual world right in front of us.  I have learned the value of prayer.  And I have learned that even in the wilderness, Jesus continues to meet us right where we are.  In Song of Solomon 8:5, the chorus inquires about the bride, “Who is that coming up from the wilderness, leaning on her beloved?”  I think most of all this small African town in the middle of the wilderness has taught me that I desire to be one who leans on her beloved, who relies on Jesus every step of the way, who looks to the Holy Spirit to be directed in all action and thought.  Thank you, Jesus, for taking us to the wilderness.

And once again, thanks to all of you for your prayers.  I wish I could share all of the experiences we’ve had here on this post, but I suppose that will just have to wait until I see you face to face! I cannot say what it means to be supported by prayer warriors like all of you.  You all complete my  joy!

Nkwatia

7 Commentsby   |  06.21.11  |  Accra, Ghana

Hello Everyone! So we all have been here three weeks in Africa, and everything is going well.  Sorry about the lack of updates; the Internet access is pretty limited up where we are currently staying!  About a week ago we traveled to Village of Hope’s other school location in Nkwatia, a small town in the mountains.  It is much cooler here and less humid (praise the Lord!), but it is still tropical.  I love it here in this location: it is truly beautiful.  The school here is understaffed and in need of teachers, so we have been going up everyday to each and assist in any way we can.  This has been a wonderful experience for me personally, especially since I desire to go into teaching.  I have been learning so much.  It is very different from the U.S. (on the first day I had to take away a machete in class, rather than a cell phone), and teaching has been excellent way to learn about the Ghanaian culture and people, as well as connecting with the kids.  We are all doing well, though Ashton had a malaria scare after falling ill a few days ago.  However, it turns out it was not malaria, and she is already feeling much better.

We will be in Nkwatia for the next week and a half, and will then travel back to the Village of Hope in Fetteh.  Out time here so far has been full of interesting adventures, including exploring the town and hiking to the highest habitable point in Ghana, killing spiders as big as my palm, tasting starfruit, riding in a small van with thirty kids to and from school, coming up with creative ways to eat rice and potatoes, and planning the demise of the rooster that wakes us up at 5:30 a.m. everyday. Next week we will be having a soccer match at the school (faculty vs. junior high), so hopefully I will be able to recall the skills I had in high school!

Thank you for all your prayers – God has been so good to us here.  I feel that I am learning more about Him everyday that I am here and how to be more fully led and guided by the Holy Spirit in all of my actions and words.  Learning to have complete reliance on Him is a wonderful adventure.  I hope to update you all again soon, hopefully with good news about the soccer match!

No Place I Would Rather Be

52 Commentsby   |  06.08.11  |  Accra, Ghana

Today it has been one week since our team has arrived in Africa, and I am beginning to get my feet on the ground.  This has been a crazy week, as all first weeks are, but I feel that I am becoming more acclimated to the culture and life of Village of Hope.  We are getting a handle on the schedule and beginning to settle into routine.  On a typical day we will have breakfst at eight and exchange any weird dreams caused by the malaria pills (I first began to consider the side effects  of these pills after I dreamt that in preparation for our trip Gary Green and Larry Henderson gave us instruction on how to ward off zombies with a match).  After breakfast, we head up to the nursery and help the teachers there.  I have concluded that some things about nurseries remain the same wherever you go, like how you can never manage to leave them without kid snot and food all over you.  The kids are truly a joy, though, and I love spending time with them teaching the ABC’s and 123’s.  After the nursery, we spend the afternoons assisting in the school and being with the kids after school gets out.  At night we do devotionals and help tutor with homework.  We have been working hard to learn all the kids’ names (there are so many!), and it has been so good to spend more time with them.  As the relationships develop, we learn more about their histories and pasts, which are very hard.  Their genuine affection and childlike joy never ceases to amaze me. 

Tomorrow we will be leaving for Village of Hope’s other site in the mountains for three weeks.  We will be doing much the same thing: teaching and building relationships.  Please pray for safe travels.  Also, another intern named Heather from Lipscomb was supposed to go home yesterday but was not allowed to get on the plane because she came down with malaria.  Please keep her and her situation in your prayers. 

Jesus has been teaching me so much here.  He has been so good to me, as He always is.  I am learning complete and utter reliance on Him and how to be more fully led by the Holy Spirit in all of my daily actions and words.  A song that I have been listening to speaks to Jesus saying, “There’s no place I would rather be than here in your love.”  His steadfast love endures forever, in America, in Ghana, and everywhere.  And truly, there is no place I would rather be.

Greetings from Ghana!

8 Commentsby   |  06.04.11  |  Accra, Ghana

Greetings Beloved Ones!

It has been three days since our team (Zach, Ashton, Shelby, and I) has reached the Village of Hope outside of Accra, Ghana.  We left on May 31st from Dallas and arrived in Accra on June 1st.  Aside from Zach temporarily losing his yellow fever vaccination record in London Heathrow Airport and finding it in a trashcan about an hour later, all travels went smoothly.  Thanks for your prayers for a safe journey!

The Village of Hope is tucked away outside of the city limits about a mile from the beach.  All total, between the school and the orphanage, there are around 600 kids ranging from 2-17 years of age.  We were immediately involved our first day here, teaching and assisting in the school.  After the kids get out of school for the day, we then spend time with them, helping cook dinner, attending devos and church, and bonding with the youth and house parents.

All in all, it has been a crazy first few days.  Between jet lag, time adjustment, and some culture shock, there have definitely been easier days.  But despite all that, there is so much to be thankful for.  There has been such ease in connecting with the kids, and I truly look forward to growing in relationship with them.

A verse that I have been thinking about these past couple days is Matthew 10: 40,42 when Jesus says, “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me…And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”  Let’s praise Jesus for how we have been received with open arms by these little ones and continue to pray that God would use us to give them a cup of cold water.

Grace and peace,

-michelle-