Ghana Together works with our Ghanaian friends of Western Heritage Home, a Ghanaian-registered and managed non-profit, to improve social, educational, and health conditions in Axim, Ghana. Together we accomplish projects, connect WHH to resourceful individuals and organizations, and create sustainable programs. We make a real difference to real people in a local, grassroots effort. Our website at tells our story.

Jan 12, 2010

We Host John Abugri, Axim-based Ghanaian Health Officer

Ghana Together (GT) and Engineers Without Borders–Northwest Washington Professionals Chapter (EWB-NW) had the pleasure of hosting Mr. John Abugri, a Disease Control Officer from Axim, Ghana. John arrived in Bellingham, Washington on November 18, 2009. He financed his own travel expenses and we in turn welcomed him into our homes and shared our meals and our ordinary lives with him. W arranged meetings and experiences for him to learn all he could, focusing on the EWB’s ongoing water and sanitation project in Axim and on public health and sanitation practices here in our area. While here, John served as a consultant to the local EWB-NW team, which had recently returned from their fact finding mission to Ghana in September 2009.

John’s first “event” was a joyous social reunion with most of the EWB-NW and Ghana Together team members. John is well-known to all of us from our former journeys to Ghana. In fact, it was John who first requested and has been our partner for our Ghana Together “veronica bucket” project, which has placed 64 hand-washing stations in Axim schools. And, most importantly for his visit to the US, John had served as a vital resource to EWB-NW team while they were in Axim.

Since it was Thanksgiving week here in the US, work was put aside and John was treated to the gifts of the Pacific Northwest—Pike Street Market in Seattle, the Space Needle Restaurant, and a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with Jeanie Birchall’s family. Jerome Chandler took him to St James Cathedral in Seattle, and a visit to the Ballard Locks. Other enthusiastic friends took him to play in the snow on Mt Baker twice—the one big wish besides the EWB work for this son of tropical Africa!

Having been properly introduced to our Northwest culture and environment, on Monday, November 30, the serious work began. Ravyn Whitewolf, EWB-NW Axim Project Manager and civil engineer with Bellingham’s Public Works Dept and John met in her office, followed by a long work session with the entire EWB-NW team.

Together they reviewed their findings from the recent EWB project assessment in Axim, Ghana in September, 2009, in which John had participated. They laid out a plan for the next steps with the project. John agreed to be a communications conduit between the EWB-NW team and its counterparts in Axim. He was supplied with many maps and documents to deliver to the partners on the ground in Ghana.

Since part of John’s job is teaching disease control and sanitation in the Axim schools, and because he was formerly a primary teacher, he felt a visit to a typical American primary school would be helpful. GT Board member Barbara Gilday arranged for presentations in second and fifth grade classes in a Bellingham public school. In the 5th grade class, he was captivated with the thoughtfulness of the questions—particularly the one asked by a boy about why someone has not yet developed a vaccine against malaria. As a Disease Control Specialist in tropical West Africa, John battles the causes and effects of malaria daily, but he was surprised that an American boy was so knowledgeable and concerned about it.

In the second grade class, he played with the children and teased them, including inviting himself to breakfast with one boy, who quickly wrote his telephone number down for John to call his mother. The children loved him and we think maybe he loved them back!

On December 7, John met with the local Whatcom County Public Health Department. Ravyn Whitewolf presented a slideshow highlighting background information about health challenges in Axim, Ghana. This was followed by many questions and answers regarding health issues in both Bellingham and Axim. Later that day, accompanied one of the staff members, John observed field inspections. This was his other big wish besides the EWB work.

We are inspired by John---his determination to make life better for ordinary folks in Axim, his humble nature and eagerness to learn, his gentle ways. We know this visit was one of the highlights of his life and will inspire his work in every way. We have been privileged to have him in our midst.