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Ogdensburg native travels to Ghana with Le Moyne nursing students

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Kelsie E. Rupp until recently had never been anywhere outside the U.S. except for Canada. When the opportunity came to visit a country halfway around the world, the Ogdensburg native and Heuvelton Central School graduate jumped on it.

“I always wanted to travel and thought it was a good opportunity to help others,” said Ms. Rupp, 22.

In January, Ms. Rupp, six fellow undergraduates and three graduate students from the nursing program at Le Moyne College, Syracuse, were part of a health care group that visited the rural village of Worawora, Ghana.

They provided hands-on care in pediatric, female, male, maternity and infectious disease wards at the Worawora Government Hospital and performed head-to-toe assessments and treatment of more than 430 residents in two community clinics.

When she arrived in Worawora, Ms. Rupp said, she discovered the world was not altogether unfamiliar from her own.

“Most people have a picture of huts on television, but it is way more modern than I was expecting,” she said. “We immersed ourselves into their culture and went in with the intent of teaching those with whom we came in contact, but we later realized that we were the ones who were learning.”

Before they could begin providing care to villagers, Ms. Rupp and her group had to meet with a special council of elders.

“They asked us why we were there,” she said. “A leader from the group translated the Ghanaians’ native language, Twi, to English. They prayed for us and thanked us for coming to help their people. They even offered Worawora, where we stayed, as a second home.”

She said the hospital was in stark contrast to those in Watertown or Syracuse. The Worawora Government Hospital, she said, has a total of 44 registered nurses, two physician assistants and one physician for the entire hospital, compared with Watertown’s Samaritan Medical Center, which has more than 100 physicians alone.

“The nurses were very gracious,” she said. “They were interested in our education and how we got to choose where to work. In Ghana, the government chooses where they work.”

Unlike the United States, health care is universal and sparse, she said.

“It only covers so much,” she said. “For instance, it doesn’t cover blood transfusions. For those, you have to pay out of pocket. If they want to see the doctor, they have to go the hospital. Unless they are literally on their deathbed, most villagers would never see a doctor.”

Although she was there for only 18 days, she said, the memories will last a lifetime.

“It was very culturally enriching,” she said. “Nobody was worried about what they didn’t have, and they were happy, given the few resources they did have. They seemed to embrace life to the fullest.”

Ms. Rupp, who is graduating in May, plans to continue her education at Le Moyne and earn a master’s degree in health administration. She said she would like to reapply to serve in Ghana next year.

“I would do it again in a heartbeat,” she said.

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