RUMFORD — A 10-day medical mission to the West African country of Ghana was an eye-opening experience for Kristen Provencher.

The Mountain Valley High School health teacher said every student and teacher should have a similar experience.

“We are so fortunate,” she said at a presentation on her trip to a group of students and staff Thursday afternoon at the high school. “I gained a new cultural perspective.”

Provencher, who is working toward her master’s degree in public health at the University of New England, traveled to Ghana with 20 other college medical students in August. They set up a clinic in a church in one city, and two other clinics in more rural areas.

Those qualified checked people for malaria, diabetes and other illnesses. Few, if any, doctors regularly provide medical care to the population, she said.

Many women, Provencher said, suffer waist pain because of the tradition of carrying heavy baskets and other objects on their heads while “wearing” a baby.

The babies are wrapped so it’s placed on the women’s lower backs, enabling the women to keep their hands free.

When she ventured into a city, she said, there seemed to be no traffic rules and the streets were dirty. She said people were curious about the white people who came to visit and to help.

Providing education for women is a recent emphasis in the coastal nation. The belief, Provencher said, is if girls are educated, the nation will be educated.

Although many villages have their own language, the first language is English.

Provencher wore a colorful lavender and green wrap-around skirt made of native fabric by a native woman. The markets are loaded with colorful fabrics, she said.

Provencher said she plans to make a similar presentation to some of her college classes and use some of the health-related material she learned.

Mountain Valley High School’s Peer Helpers supplied numerous small items to give to the children of Ghana. Provencher said she hopes to gather a variety of books to send to the people.

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