After several weeks spent volunteering at a low-income maternity ward in Ghana, former Longhorn Emily Hsu came back to the states with a strong desire to help the hospitals.
Hsu traveled to Ghana after hearing about a friend’s summer teaching at a small school in Kumasi with Longhope Bodaou, a Ghana native and a teacher in Bryan, Texas.
She moved to Kumasi in August 2005 and lived with Bodaou and her family where she fondly remembers having hot tea and homemade bread every morning before heading down the road to Manhyia Hospital, where she would spend most of the day in the maternity ward.
Hsu said her hands-on experience was “invaluable,” recalling standing next to a surgeon as he performed a cesarean section.
“I was always right there as they talked through the procedure and I experienced everything,” she said. “When I came home I wanted to give back to the people who had taught me so much.”
Hsu said she remembers women having to supply their own sanitary supplies such as alcohol, cotton swabs and trash bags to lay on.
She said she will never forget the day she had to watch over a baby who was born breathing weakly, and the hospital couldn’t provide an incubator.
“Imagine a basket made out of bars with a little padding; that’s all they had,” she said.
Hsu brought hospital stories back to the 40 Acres and in 2006 the organization, Women in Medicine, held a pageant to raise money for Manhyia Hospital.
HOPE Africa, an annual charity pageant named after Hsu’s host family friend Longhope, has raised on average $2,000 a year since its creation five years ago. The money has bought mosquito nets for the maternity ward, retiled the floor and provided blankets and other supplies.
Computer sciences senior Steven Rapp, one of six contestants in this year’s pageant, and was named Mr. HOPE Africa 2011.
As the only non-medicine-related major, Rapp said he felt like the odd man out, but he saw his participation as proof that anyone can lend a helping hand.
“Thankfully, despite me not knowing a damn thing about anatomy, I can still help this hospital out with my contribution,” he said.
Amanda Sunny, a human development and family sciences senior, said her experiences with West African hospitals have been humbling.
She said she appreciates HOPE Africa and believes it’s unfortunate more light isn’t shed on the hospital insufficiencies in West Africa.
“I’ve noticed on television that they tend to go for moneymaker problems, and I guess a hospital without enough beds doesn’t appeal to the public as much as other issues,” she said.
Manhyia Hospital is still working to purchase incubators for the maternity ward, and Hsu said she hopes the pageant proceeds will soon help them realize that dream.
“I know HOPE Africa doesn’t raise $10,000 every year but it does help,” Hsu said. “If the money can continue to help them take small strides then it will continue to be worthwhile.”