Posted to journeytosolidarity.org by Jay D. Breitlow. Photos courtesy of the author.
Lovemarking a patient in Kumasi.
This week, I closed the Outreach clinic in Accra early, so that I could make the arduous and, I later found out, often perilous journey north to the city of Kumasi. Before I begin, I must introduce Dr. Robert Champagne. Dr. Robert is from Canada and transitioning from several successful decades in practice to the non-profit Chiropractic world. Essentially, Robert is to “Chiropractic for the World Foundation’” what I am to “Journey to Solidarity.” Two non-profits each based out of North American countries and both focused on the long-term development of Chiropractic abroad. We had a brief email exchange before his flight to Ghana, in which he explained his purpose for coming, and “Hey can you help with a few logistics?” Largely, he came to research Ghana for his new Non-profit and to check-in on their team’s project to help build a school. Coincidence we just “happened” to meet in Ghana? After reading this story you will know that answer is “nope.”
Dr. Robert, Father Moses, Dr. Jay
Kumasi is the traditional seat of power for the Ghanaian ‘Ashanti’ people. Steeped in history, the area is still ruled by a traditional king, who as of this week has adorned the seat of power for ten years. The king sits on the throne bequeathed in layers of gold necklaces, anklets, earrings, and bracelets that traverse the entire length of his thin, leathery forearms. Atop his head sits a rather simple, albeit oversized, crown. The man wears more bling on his body for formal occasions, than the entire West Coast rap scene does together on a Saturday night.
This demonstration of wealth is not indicative of the typical Ashanti people, who are humble, full of life and largely monetarily underprivileged.
In fact, a general rule of thumb is that the further north you go in Ghana, the poorer the population is. Kumasi is about half way from Accra (the southernmost part of the country along the Gulf of Guinea) to the Northern border of Burkina-Faso (the country just north). The sights and sounds of Kumasi are anarchic as cars, goats, people and oxygen fight for space. The signs are abundantly clear: I have entered into a significantly more impoverished part of Africa.
Once here I was hoping to find people who needed to receive a Chiropractic adjustment for the first time in their life. Since the population of Ghana is 20 million and there are almost zero Chiropractors here, finding people like that should not be a problem.
The School that Robert and his team are helping to fund. J2S pitched in by raising money this week in Kumasi
However, both Dr. Robert and I wanted to be sure that we were educating people about their health, not just giving away adjustments. What we found was this: people were willing to line up for over an hour for the power of an adjustment, even if it meant standing under the scornful eye of the unrelenting Ghanaian sun.
Fate seems to have an interesting sense of humor because as relative strangers who just met, Dr. Robert and I adjusted just under 200 people together in about an hour and a half! We were only focusing on the upper thoracic and cervical spine for several reasons. 1) Time 2) That is where most of the power of the human body comes from and 3) People in this part of the world generally respond better, and quicker, to adjusting only a few segments. This volume of people can give you an idea of how well we work together as doctors and friends, yet think of what can happen when we are able to work together as Canadian and American non-profits. It is a very exciting time for both of us, and this new partnership, I am confident, will exist for years to come.
To get to this point, we had a great deal of compassion and help. Our contact in Kumasi was a Catholic priest and educator named Father Moses. Father Moses is a truly blessed and unique person. First, his presence in front of church demands immediate respect and purposeful attention. When I first saw him, he was dressed in his clean white church robe and dark, horn-rimmed glasses speaking to over 700 women about their faith and family. Rumor had it, this man was jovial and friendly, but from his ardent sermon, which was delivered with an undertone of damnation, you might never guess that. However, once I spoke in person with him, it was clear to me that I was the only person in the world that mattered to him at that moment. Later that week, I would witness the good priest open a bottle of Guinness beer with his teeth. Truly a humanitarian and perhaps the best preacher/teacher/bottle opener in the history of the world!!
After the sermon, Fr. Moses began the introduction of Dr. Robert, Chiropractic and me. The man had, at this point, been adjusted several times by Dr. Robert and had successfully re-told the Chiropractic story, passionately, several times. He was a huge fan of the philosophy, science and art of Chiropractic, and you could tell he would be for life by observing the way these Catholic women held their collective baited breath. At one point he brought the two of us up to the stage and asked us to speak a few words.
The line was over a hundred deep to get the first adjustment.
Dr. Robert eloquently spoke about how the body is either moving towards a stronger, healthier place each day or a weaker, sick life. It was clear to me at this moment why Dr. Robert was successful in practice. He told the story; he told it right, and he spoke with true passion. I now strive to meet him at his level. Then it was my turn, and true to form I went to the microphone to get everyone fired up about the experience they were about to have.
The women in the pews before me broke out in joyous laughter as the first words to come out of my were, “Ete sen” (How are you?) in perfect Ghanaian Tri. When I pursed my lips and excitedly continued, “Wohotesen” (I am very well),you would have thought I started running around the room lighting off fireworks, because they went bananas. After a brief introduction about the white dude from America and stated intentions to serve, I told the crowd ‘Medaasi paaaa” (Thank you VERY much). That was the cherry on the ice cream, because even Father Moses was shocked at how well this “abruni” (white man) spoke Twi. In Ghana, English is the “official” language, despite the fact that almost none of the locals speak it as their primary tongue. They prefer one of about 50 tribal dialects, the best known of which is the Twi. I speak very little Twi, but if you can learn a few basics and lead a conversation with a Twi word or two, any and all cultural barriers are annihilated. With this simple act, natives immediately understand that you respect Ghana, its people and their culture. I heart Ghana, and these women knew it.
Notice the that the author is covered head to toe in sweat. I heart my job.
The pictures speak much more than words. Covered head to toe in sweat, energized by the smiles and laughter of these women, Dr. Robert and I positively changed lives for over 200 people in just over an hour. It was magical. There were several points in time when the women lining up to meet us started to sound like hens in a coup positioning for the rooster. But Twi is a very animated language, and dialogue that sounds like a disagreement of epic proportion, may merely be a conversation about what type of corn is best used to pound Fufu (a local soup). And yes you do “pound” corn and plantains with a 6-foot tall wooden stick to make fufu.
The author helping up a young lady after her 1st adjustment
After we finished adjusting the masses, we moved to the rectory where a few people would trickle in throughout the day. For each person we adjusted, we required two things. 1) The each person needed to understand what we were doing here and why. Thus, either in broken Ghanaian Twi or in broken North American English, a brief test was given so that we knew they fully understood that they were about to receive the first adjustment in a series that ultimately would lead them to a stronger and more healthy life. 2) Each person was required to know that we were not here to correct money for our non-profits or ourselves. Instead, to complete the cycle of giving, we asked each person to consider making a donation to a school that Father Moses and Robert were building. The donation we asked for was 2 Ghana Cedis (About $1.50 U.S.); however, if someone could only pay a few cents or nothing at all, that was also acceptable, as we turned nobody away without their power turned on!
Dr. Robert and Dr. Jay adjusting under the watchful eyes of Father Moses and the Virgin Mary.
There is one P.S. to this story. The whole time I was sick. I had the worst case of the stomach flu (aka Montezuma’s Revenge) than I had my entire life. Despite this, it was one of the best days in my life. Certainly the best day clinically in the short 6 months I’ve been a doctor. Truly, what I have learned that there are three vital forces that provide nourishment in our lives: 1) a nervous system free of interference 2) the intent to make a positive difference in people’s lives and 3) compassion to serve from the heart. In combination, these three forces can overcome even the most vengeful case of Montezuma’s Revenge known to mankind.
I am approaching my last fortnight here in Ghana, and am very sad to be leaving. The people have been nothing short of amazing and I am so grateful for all the support that the J2S team has offered. Intentions, money and supplies have gone farther than you can imagine.
Please continue to help us bring wellness and Chiropractic to the world. The relationship with Ghana and Dr. Robert’s Chiropractic for the World Foundation is far from over. Our parting words at the airport on Sunday were, “See you back here soon?” With your support that answer is “You betcha!”
Tags: africa, africa chiropractic, Chiropractic, chiropractic mission, chiropractic missions, christina hunter, donation, Ghana, Health, Health mission, jay breitlow, Journey, journey to solidarity, Robert Champagne, Service, Solidarity, volunteer, wellness