HEALTHY VILLAGES, INC.
2018 Annual Report and 2019 First Quarter Report
We carried out two important pieces of work in 2018 - our most ambitious medical mission at the end of February/beginning of March, that also included the distribution of 750 kits of cloth, reusable menstrual pads; and the Voices of the Ancestors storytelling project in October.
The year started out on a very positive note, with a medical mission with a group of 9 volunteers, our largest group yet. With two additional missions planned for later in the year, we felt like our organization was on the road to success. Sadly, both of those missions fell through as the volunteers dropped out at the last minute. This was disheartening, as well as a loss of potential income for the organization.
The February/March mission presented an additional challenge – while having a large group meant we could see more patients, it was also difficult keeping the group organized and satisfied. Most of the volunteers were great about pitching in wherever they were needed, though.
This mission was successful largely because of the recruiting and fundraising of our board member, Lisa Bowers RN. Lisa and her twin sister Teresa Richard also took on the huge task of organizing large groups of volunteers to create kits of cloth menstrual pads and menstrual hygiene accessories, and transport all 6000 pads, 1200 panty shields, 1200 pair of underwear, 600 washcloths and soap, and 600 bottles of ibuprofen from Washington DC to Accra, Ghana!
One of the learning curves of 2018 was the unfortunate realization that not everyone with a professional license acts in a professional way when it comes to volunteer work. Despite being extremely clear about the costs each person would be responsible for, sending out detailed documents with information about the missions, and a timeline of when deposits and paperwork were due, we had at least 20 nurses initially very enthusiastic about coming who disappeared when it was time to make their deposit. These folks did not even contact us to let us know they were not able to come and did not respond to us reaching out to them. It was very disappointing and caused us to have to cancel the other two missions we had planned.
It became clear that we would have to find a different model for the medical missions, if we wanted to continue this work – something that we are still exploring.
We were able to end the year on a positive note though, with the Voices of the Ancestors storytelling project. This project was in the back of our minds for three years, but we did not have the necessary funding in place until mid-year 2018. The overall goal of the project is to record ancestral stories of the Ewe tribe and to publish them in book form. These stories have been passed down orally for many generations and are in danger of being lost as the elder storytellers pass on. Our vision is to create a sense of cultural pride around the preservation of these stories as one of the ways our organization promotes overall health and wellness of individuals and communities in Ghana’s Volta Region.
We joined with professional author, storyteller and playwright Gail Nyoka for this project. Healthy Villages co-director Godfried spent 10 days scouting out remote villages in the Volta Region where the elders still remember the stories and were willing to share them. Then Gail arrived and the two of them went back to each village for storytelling sessions with the elders. In all, they collected 60 stories on video and audio, which Godfried translated and Gail is in process of transcribing into written form. The story-gathering part of the project was quite an undertaking – and as there are many more stories out there, could easily be extended with additional funding.
For Healthy Villages, it was very exciting to be awarded a grant from the New England Biolabs Foundation that paid Godfried’s travel expenses. Gail’s grant from the Canada Council for the Arts paid her expenses and honorarium, plus Godfried’s administrative fee. We would love to do more grant funded projects in the future and will be exploring this opportunity.
February/March 2018 Medical Mission
For specific information about this mission, please follow the links below to our blog:
Voices of the Ancestors Project
For specific information about this project, please follow the link below to the Voices of the Ancestors website and blog:
March 2019 Medical Mission
This was another successful medical mission, serving 730 patients over five days. There were only three Americans on this trip – one repeat volunteer, a 76-year-old non-medical woman who was on our 2018 medical mission; Healthy Villages secretary Lisa Bowers RN; and Healthy Villages co-director Sara. Again, we had the very unfortunate experience of many nurses expressing enthusiasm about going on this mission and then when it was time to pay their deposit, disappearing. Because Lisa had already been successfully fundraising, her sister Teresa was busy organizing volunteers and sewing pads, and “Grami” was excited about coming to Ghana again, we decided that although it was just the three of us, we would do whatever we could to serve the poor in Ghana with free medical care.
We learned from this mission that having a small group is so much easier from an organizational standpoint, and we can still be effective in treating people because of our excellent Ghanaian medical team’s involvement. The three of us plus Godfried stayed in a nice, but inexpensive, air conditioned (!) hotel where we could get two delicious meals a day, that was a mere 15 minutes from our worksites. And we had plenty of patients; indeed, more than we had intended to treat. The entire mission went so smoothly – and would have been perfect were it not for the intense heat and humidity.
The ability to carry out this mission was due to an incredible amount of fundraising thanks to Lisa, who is fundraiser extraordinaire! Her home church congregation, Community Mission Church of the Brethren in Woodstock, Virginia, has been our most faithful supporter since the beginning and their enthusiasm for Healthy Villages and our work in Ghana is so heartwarming.
In addition to providing medical care, we were also able (thanks to Teresa, Lisa and friends) to give out 80 kits of washable menstrual pads to women coming for care, who indicated they would benefit from this product.
More information and data about this mission will be available on our blog in due course.
2018 Annual Report Financials
$70 worth of medical supplies from Brother’s Brother Foundation
$2550 worth of fabric and supplies for cloth menstrual pads
50 pounds of children’s clothing
Thousands of medicine bottles
Innumerable volunteer hours
Monetary donations from private individuals:
$14,344 (carried over from 2017 to pay for 2018 medical mission)
$2,727 (2018 donations)
Monetary donations from Healthy Villages, Inc. co-directors:
As in 2017, we unfortunately operated at a loss, requiring the co-directors to put in over $5000 to meet expenses. We were extremely fortunate to have around 50 volunteers in Virginia who met regularly over six months to create kits of washable menstrual pads and accessories. We also received boxes and boxes of used medicine bottles, more than we could use. We were able to take a suitcase full of donated children’s clothing on our 2018 mission, which will be used as an incentive to get caregivers to bring the children in for routine vaccinations and well-child checkups, all of which is provided free by the Ghana Health Service.
Like most non-profits, fundraising is our biggest challenge. Lisa Bowers, board member, has been our leading fundraiser. She’s been organizing a fundraising event every year at her church that has become quite popular – a sit-down dinner and auction of donated items. We are thankful to the Community Mission Church of the Brethren and other Church of the Brethren congregations in Virginia who have been the largest supporters of our work in Ghana.
Healthy Villages, Inc. has served 6,230 patients in SE Ghana as of this writing. Our patients (from infants to elders 100+ in age) receive totally free medical care, including prescriptions. Many of these folks have treatable conditions that they’ve lived with for years – sometimes decades – but have not been able to access medical treatment. Most of the villages where we set up our outreach clinics have a building meant to house a clinic – but is just a structure and a few pieces of plastic furniture. The Ghana Health Service is doing what it can with limited funds but getting medical care to the desperately poor is often lacking. That’s where we come in, and we believe we provide a tangible benefit to the health and wellbeing of those in impoverished areas in the lower Volta Region.
With adequate funding, we could expand our outreach and create a site for ongoing care of chronic conditions, such as hypertension and diabetes which run rampant among adults in our service area. We could also provide other services to sustain the health of communities, such as menstrual hygiene to girls and women. As we move forward as an organization, these are the issues we will be addressing.