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The Sahanaayili Village during the Pandemic

(The above image is a gathering at the Sahanaayili Village of Nanton before the pandemic. Now only twenty people or fewer are allowed to gather as of May 2020.)

Separated by a Pandemic – United in our Response

It’s been over five months since I last saw my partner with the world transforming before our eyes.

In March, Chief Suale and I spoke on the phone about whether he should fly back to the States. I worried about his health and well-being given most people in Ghana live in communal ways.

 

Sahanaayili Village – pre-pandemic.

 

I would’ve liked to have my husband with me in America, but I knew he needed to stay in Ghana to assist the people during this challenging time.

The Government’s Response

On March 23rd, Ghana responded to the coronavirus by closing all borders: land, sea, and air. All travelers arriving in Ghana (before the lockdown and closure of airports) are tested for the virus and quarantined for fourteen days. Certain roads throughout Ghana are now closed to prevent the spread of the virus.

In a country that is the size of Oregon in the United States and a population of over 30 million, there’s been 5,735 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 29 deaths.*

Map of Ghana, West Africa

COVID-19 in Tamale, Ghana

In the Northern region, there are thirty-one cases and ten confirmed COVID-19 cases in the city of Tamale.

The infected individuals within Tamale are from other countries: Guinea and Burkina Faso. These individuals were in the city for business after traveling through Burkina Faso and Togo. Officials quarantined them at their hotel while also testing the hotel staff.

At one point, a Guinean woman who was part of the group quarantined escaped from the hotel in the early morning hours, but found and detained a few days later in Accra.

Restrictions of Large Gatherings

President Nana Akufo-Addo is receiving praise for his swift response to the health crisis, and his poignant messages to the people.

A child wears Kenti cloth face mask. The textile design is from the Ashanti Ghanaian tribe.

The president placed strict, social distancing measures including no gatherings at mosques, churches, or city markets and large weddings and funerals are banned until further notice. Schools are closed until further notice.

Communal living and celebrations are an integral part of the Dagomba tribe, who live in the northern region.

It’s not uncommon to see enormous gatherings at weddings, funerals, and naming ceremonies.

While this government order has been tenacious, it’s necessary to help flatten the curve of the virus.

Minister Offers Help

One of the government’s minister met with Chief Suale to discuss the needs of the village. Ministers meet with chiefs to assess necessities; especially during a state of emergency.

The minister provided hand-washing stations to Sahanaayili village and placed them throughout the community. They also placed a hand-washing station near the roadside for frequent travelers who pass by.

Not everyone has access to clean, running water, so these hand-washing stations are vital in protecting the people against the virus.

A Nurse Visits the Sahanaayili Village

Two weeks ago, a nurse visited the village to discuss COVID-19. He discussed factual information regarding the virus and offered the best practices during the pandemic. The nurse also handed out pamphlets and hand sanitizers to the group.

The demonstration was especially important since it provided preventative practices for the community. This is crucial since the nearest doctor and hospital is an hour away from the Sahanaayili village.

A nurse travels to our village to share preventative efforts against COVID-19.

Lifting of Restrictions

On April 20th, Ghana eased partial restrictions of the lockdown. Some criticized the president’s decision, fearing the lift in restrictions may cause a surge in infections.

While there was a spike in recent cases, this was in part because of a backlog of samples that were tested and cleared in laboratories for the virus.**

Enhanced testing and contact tracing have also become prevalent, which may also contribute to the growing number of cases.

What has worked in Ghana’s favor is the government’s swift action, using their own emergency funding versus waiting for international aid, and fast, extensive testing.

Drones Helping Combat COVID-19

Ghana is the first country to use drones to test for COVID-19 in remote locations.

The drones provide quick delivery of samples from rural areas in the bush that normally would take several hours to deliver.

Using drones can save hours, even days, in providing test results. This offers a quick response to individuals who test positive for the virus.***

Gratitude

With the government’s help and its outreach to rural areas, so far there have been no COVID cases in the Sahanaayili village. While we remain vigilant, we know continued education is important.

During these ever-changing times, we’re grateful for the healthcare and essential workers who are serving so many around the world. We want to express our deep appreciation for your assistance and service. Thank you!

Come Together

It’s clear now, more than ever, that we realize how connected we are through our shared humanity. Let us move forward and create a world where we uplift and empower one another other with a newfound sense of community.

This is my aspiration and motivation as I traverse this unfamiliar landscape and the dawning of a new world.

 

Take care everyone and be well.

 

Peace, love and blessings,

Stacy

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Statistics as of May 16, 2020
** From BBC News article  
***  Time’s article 

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The Horse: A Noble Steed

The essential joy of being with horses is that it brings us in contact with the rare elements of grace, beauty, spirit and freedom. ~ Sharon Ralls Lemon

 

For the next few posts on this website, I’ll be sharing my time in Ghana with my partner, Chief Suale.

A Graceful and Sentient Being

The horse has been a faithful guardian and trusted confidant throughout time. It’s not surprising that this noble creature is deemed sacred and held in high regard within the Dagomba tribe and it’s clear that there’s a special affinity between Chief and grandfather’s horse; a deep bond that knows no bounds and at times, feels otherworldly.  

Communion

The evening sun fades in the distance and the first star rises into the painted sky of rich pink and purple hues. Twilight’s presence is serene. At a nearby mosque, an Imam sings evening prayers over a loudspeaker; a lullaby to the end of the day.  I close my eyes and breathe deeply, the melody is soothing and a sense of peace washing over me.  

The beauty and grace of these magnificent beings.

It’s still in the upper eighties (along with high humidity) even though the sun has set so I do my best to stay cool in our bedroom catching up on some reading. Time passes and I wander out into the great hall to discover Chief is nowhere in sight. I saunter out onto our porch, where now the darkness of the night envelopes the landscape with only a few dots of illumination gleaming from nearby houses. 

Stardust

There in our courtyard quietly sits Chief with grandfather’s horse, Stardust. Even though the Dagombas have a special bond with these four legged beings, they don’t name their horses, so I took the liberty to do so. Stardust is a striking white stallion with a silver mane and flecks of grey spots splattered throughout his torso; almost as if Jackson Pollock decided to used his body as a canvas. 

Stardust with ceremonial henna on his forelock, chest, hips and legs.

I lean against our porch railing when Stardust glances up towards me with his ears at attention. Chief swings around and upon seeing me, grins. I wave back; not wanting to disturb the silence of this unique communion. Stardust resumes grazing; chomping on some fresh cut grass from the bush that some local boys collected. Suddenly, he abruptly stops, raises his head and stares at Chief. 

Knowingness

I feel the intensity of Stardust’s gaze and I quietly take a seat in a handmade, wooden chair. A chorus of frogs bellow from the stream next to our home and the crickets chime in with their verse; a symphony of nature coming to life. I listen and feel their earnestness; a desire to become a part of this unique, wordless dialogue.

Chief and Stardust have been communing for hours; a communication beyond words; beyond any sounds or movement – it’s an exchange of energy, a sensitivity and knowingness that honors each other for who they are. To be a witness of this communion is stunning, surreal and somehow familiar. I soon realize that I’m also an active participant being a bystander; connecting with both of them in this dynamic expression.

The Medicine People

This sensing and knowingness is not uncommon in Africa and especially with the Medicine People. Indigenous healers are important pillars in the Dagomba community and they offer an array of remedies and consultations including; guidance, insight, clarity and protection. 

Chief riding grandfather’s horse.

Chiefs often need protection due to their stature within the community and horses play a unique role as protectors to the chiefs. Medicine Men/Medicine Women prepare charms (for lack of a better term) for the horse to wear to increase his/her strength, protection, and to heighten their senses to see and feel beyond the veil.

Horses also support in the journey of a chief’s career. It’s said a horse will carry a chief to his or her destiny and the Medicine people are able to view and discern the capability of each horse and the qualities it possesses.

Special Occasions

One can find horses throughout Tamale and they are often a part of special occasions including marriages, naming ceremonies and funerals. Below is a link to a video of a horse dancing to the rhythm of the drums at a funeral in Tamale from a couple of years ago.

Teaching

The next morning I wake to the crowing of roosters at 5:00AM in a nearby yard. The early rays of light break across the horizon beckoning me to rise and greet the day. I wash up and take my time getting ready while the outside world comes to life; bustling with energy. 

A couple hours later, I glide through our great hall when I hear chief’s booming voice. I glance out the window to discover he’s with Stardust and about twenty young children.

Children visiting me at our home.

 

Kids often stop by our home to pay their respects before scampering off to school.

It’s not uncommon for children to wander into our compound as they seem to be fascinated by us. I’m sure their curiosity is partly due to the fact that I’m the only Caucasian living in the area.  

The children sit in chairs and on the ground surrounding him and Stardust; they are a captive audience. In today’s lesson, Chief teaches and shares with the youngsters what he’s feeding Stardust and how important horses are to the Dagomba culture.    

Children after their lesson with Chief.

Wonder and joy fill their eyes and the children beam in delight. This may be the first time they have seen a horse in such close proximity. The beauty of this moment is sublime; another type of communication, one of sharing, passing down stories, traditions and culture from one generation to the next.

To be an active participant, partner, and advocator in teaching children of their rich culture lifts my spirits and feeds my soul.

 

With love and gratitude,

Stacy