Oak Ridge, Tennessee Rotarians boost health, education in Ghana village

Elaine Bunick and Adolf King, members of Rotary Club of Oak Ridge, are pictured with Ghanaians in the village where they led the medical and educational missions. (Submitted photo)

A regional health director in Ghana, a country in West Africa, recently designated the attempt by the Rotary clubs of Oak Ridge and Accra (Ghana’s capital) to renovate the Wurupong Health Center as a model project for Ghana. “It must not fail!” exclaimed Ogori Yaw Yeboah, head of the Volta Region Health Directorate.

The renovation of the health clinic, motivated by a partnership among Rotary clubs and Catholic churches in the Oak Ridge area and Ghana, will help support 15 jobs and improve health care and medical education in an underserved rural part of Ghana.

The initiative to provide medical services to the poverty-stricken village of Nkonya-Wurupong in the Volta Region has been spearheaded by Elaine Bunick, M.D., a local endocrinologist and diabetes specialist. She is a member of the Rotary Club of Oak Ridge, which honored her earlier this year with the William T. Sergeant Vocational Service Award, the club’s most prestigious award. She updated the club members on the latest mission trip results at a recent meeting this month.

The medical mission started in 2008 as a result of Bunick’s connection with Father John Appiah, priest at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Oak Ridge, who was born in Nkonya-Wurupong. The priest had received a request from Bishop Gabriel Mante to help the village in Ghana. The mission was expanded in 2015 to the Ghana Medical, Education and Technology Mission co-led by medical mission coordinator Bunick and education mission coordinator Adolf King, a Rotarian in the same club who heads the International Education program at Roane State Community College.

In July of 2015 and 2016, the mission participants traveled to Ghana to provide services for the village. On April 1, 2016, the effort was boosted by a hard-to-get Global grant from The Rotary Foundation, one of the world’s most efficient charitable organizations.

The $96,000 grant was awarded to the Rotary Club of Oak Ridge in partnership with the Rotary Club of Accra “for the purpose of providing medical, educational and technical services, as well as renovations to the Wurupong Health Center, in order to bring the health center up to the regional standards for care,” Bunick said.

Here are some 2016 mission numbers. Oak Ridge Rotarians packed and shipped more than $580,000 worth of donated and purchased medications, equipment and supplies. The medical mission team provided medical care to 1,670 villagers and screened more than 300 villagers for vision problems.

“The most common medical problems,” Bunick said, “were high blood pressure, malaria, parasites, allergic conjunctivitis and rhinitis, pregnancy complications, wounds, rashes, headaches, malnutrition, anemia and abdominal, neck, back and joint pain. We performed minor surgical procedures in some cases.

“Dr. Raymond Ewusi, an ophthalmologist in Accra, helped the team provide eye care and select patients who will need eye surgery. Polio immunizations were also given during the mission by regional and community health nurses at the Wurupong Health Center.”

As part of the World Health Organization program on preventing, recognizing and treating malaria, Juliette Tuakli, member of the Rotary Club of Accra, educated the mission team volunteers in Accra on malaria and its complications, mosquito-borne hemorrhagic infections and parasitic diseases.

One volunteer was Amanda Kuipers, a graduate of Oak Ridge High School and freshman at the University of Tennessee. (Amanda’s father Devrin is president of the Rotary Club of Oak Ridge-Sunset.) She, Rotary Global Scholar Christopher Basham and King were instrumental in conducting the malaria education program in the village’s St. John Vianney Middle School, as well as in the clinic. Maternity education was presented to the clinic staff by nurses Lucy Freytag, Mary Williams and Carol King, a nurse at Methodist Medical Center of Oak Ridge.

Other team members were Renee King, M.D., medical education organizer, ORHS graduate and daughter of Adolf and Carol King; Cecelia Sorensen, M.D.; Kelly O’Brien, P.A., and Martha Creazzo, E.M.T. (who work at the University of Denver with Renee King).

“The Rotary Club of Oak Ridge thanks everyone who donated money and equipment to and helped with this mission,” Bunick said. “Special thanks go to the All Saints and St. Mary’s Catholic churches, who helped sponsor this mission, as well as Remote Area Medical, Vine International, AmeriCares, Bausch & Lomb, Team Technologies, Methodist Medical Center of Oak Ridge and the generous doctors and Rotarians.”

As for the education and technology parts of the mission, Adolf King said that progress is being made in establishing computer and science labs at St. John Vianney Middle School, including providing electricity and Internet services to the classrooms. The next Ghana Medical, Education and Technology Mission will be in July 2017. Anyone interested in helping or going on this mission is asked to contact the Rotary Club of Oak Ridge through the www.rotaryor.org website.

Source: OakRidger.com