15 Lehigh Students Visit W.E.B. Du Bois Center, Accra-Ghana during the “Globalization & Health in Ghana” Study Abroad Program
Globalization and Health in Ghana
Since 2014, the Africana Studies Program in collaboration with Sustainable Development Program; Global Studies; and Health, Medicine and Society (HMS), have provided various opportunities and life-changing experiences for Lehigh students. This year, fifteen (15) Lehigh students from various background and academic disciplines including Africana Studies, Global Studies, HMS, College of Business, Sociology and Anthropology and others participated in the 2018 Lehigh summer program in Ghana, “Globalization and Health in Ghana.” The program was led by Professors Kwame Essien and Sirry Alang with assistance of Professor Bruce Whitehouse and the study abroad office.
Eight (8) of the students were Africana Studies majors and minors. They benefited from generous gifts and support from Ronald J. Ulrich ‘66, and John D. Franchini ’92.
On-Campus Classes and Cultural Immersion in Ghana
The 4-week classroom and field-based summer program AAS/ GS/ HMS 197 (3 credits) was divided into two parts: (1) classroom learning and (2) research projects and cultural immersion. The course fosters global engagement by introducing students to the historical, social, cultural, economic and political factors at the forefront of globalization and health processes in Ghana.
The program began with a week of classes on Lehigh campus, and 3 weeks on-site activities in Ghana. Students travelled across several cities and towns for lectures on university and college campuses, government health facilities, private hospitals and clinics. They also visited churches and religious sites of healing, Herbal Clinics, herbal research centers, pharmaceutical stores /providers, nongovernmental organizations, and so much more to gain broader insight into different interventions to diseases, illness and wellness.
For cultural immersion activities, students visited slave forts and dungeons to understand the horrors of the transatlantic slave trade and the middle passage. Students also visited national parks and historical and Pan-African sites including the W.E.B. Du Bois Center in Accra, Ghana’s capital (see first picture above). The W.E.B. Du Bois Center is the home of Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois (1868 to 1963), an African-American sociologist, historian, civil rights activist and Pan-Africanist. Dr. W.E.B Du Bois is the author of The Souls of Black Folks, and he was the first African American to attend Harvard University. Du Bois died in Ghana and he was buried there with his wife, Shirley Graham Du Bois.
Students Learning Objectives and Accomplishments
Students who completed the course benefited in many ways: They
- immersed in Ghanaian cultures
- interacted with and interviewed health service providers;
- identified the linkages between history, globalization, capitalism and health in Ghana
- had a broad understanding of the origin of herbal medicine and visited local churches to learn about religious/Pentecostal faith healing in Ghana
- had a good knowledge of intersections between Ghana’s colonial experience and culture, and the impact of Western medicine
- gained insight in the role and contribution of globalization and capitalist systems in merging or separating herbal medicine, faith healing and Western medicine
- became aware of wide range of interpretation and myths about illness and wellness, particularly the ways in which history, culture, religion, science and technology, globalization, neoliberalism, and capitalist factors continue to influence Ghanaians preference for herbal medicine, faith healing or Western medicine.
Final Research Project and Presentation
Students in the program had the option to come up with their own research topics. At the end of the program, students presented their final research findings at the University of Ghana on various topics including:
- “The Perception of Traditional Medicine and its Relation to Western Medicine in Ghana”
- “The Presence of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Ghana in the Age of Globalization
- “Pentecostalism in Ghana and the Phenomenon of Faith Healing”
- “The Effects of Globalization on Ghanaian Medicine”
- “LGBTQ Activism in Ghana”
- “Prevalence of Birth Defects in Ghana”
- “Mental Health in Ghana”
- “The Effects of SAP on Healthcare and the Economy in Ghana”
- “Sexual and reproductive health education in Ghana”
- “The Effects of Globalization on Ghanaian Medicine”
What Students said about their Experience in Ghana
“Going to Ghana was such a beautiful experience, I could not have imagined a more lovely and unique place to study! Going abroad, especially to Ghana, was incredibly beneficial to my understanding of international relations. Emerging myself in the culture and learning about the history of the government and international influence in Ghana was invaluable as an International Relations major. Studying there was also important because I am now expanding on my research on NGOs and globalization in my IR 345 Democratization class!”
“This study abroad trip in Ghana exposed me to the difference between traditional medicine and orthodox medicine and the history of colonization in Ghana, which I have never known about before.”
Yuxuan Blanche Wang
“The waves will bring me back" "I had so many hopes for my Ghanaian adventure and Ghana didn’t disappoint. Who would’ve thought that a trip across the ocean would give me so much more understanding of both who I am, and what my ancestors been through. From the discussions to the tours everything in between, my time in Accra made think of Ghana as more of an old friend than another country. I have to go back. I want to get to know her better. Walking through the “Door of Return” at Elmina Castle was so powerful, I wish that everyone could do it one day.”
“To me, this trip was the epitome of Sankofa: To learn more about my history, I had to retrace the steps of my ancestors. This trip redefined my own connection to blackness and what that means to be African American.”
“Ghana was a life changing experience. The knowledge I learned and the friendships I made will never be forgotten.”
"As an Africana Studies student I am grateful to have been able to experience the Ghana study abroad program which I would not have been able to do without the help of the Ulrich grant. Mr. Prosper was also very helpful asset to the program because he is knowledgeable about the state of Ghana’s economy. This was beneficial for business students such as myself whose research was not strictly about pertaining to medicine."
“The time I spent in Ghana was beautiful, challenging, and inspiring. My topic was on LGBTQ activism, a sensitive subject in a relatively religious country that outlaws same-sex sexual acts. I was excited to meet with activists and hear their stories, specifically how they create space for community building and activism despite institutional homophobia. I was amazed at the trauma many LGBTQ activists face, and how fearlessly they continue to resist. As a queer woman myself, I realized I took for granted the ability to live authentically without my security being threatened (not that LGBTQ people don't face violence in the US, it just isn't my personal experience, gratefully). I also think its amazing how responsive and sensitive some religious and traditional institutions are the LGBTQ peoples' right to exist safely. My experience reaffirmed for me that resistance to tradition is global phenomenon, and there's a lot to learn from like-minded people whose activism looks different from my own.”
“Lehigh in Ghana was an incredible experience that allowed me to explore my passion in a beautiful country.”
“Mr prosper did an Amazing job organizing the logistics of the trip, we were able to experience life changing events because of him. Also, his background studying business was very beneficial to my research, and he was able to assist me with knowledge and resources that gave my research more substance. Staying in Suakamono, was very crucial to fully immersing ourselves in the Ghanaian culture, fully.”
“My time in Ghana was an amazing, eye opening experience: I learned so much about the health field as well as the Ghanaian culture, and had the opportunity to meet many incredible people along the way.”
“There is no better way to have one's worldview challenged and enhanced in many a different way as through traveling to different places around the world. The study abroad trip to Ghana definitely fulfilled a part of this for me. While in Ghana, we stayed at Sakumono Estate, a place not so far off from the city. This place provided a great environment for full immersion into the cultures of the many peoples of Ghana. It gave a sense of the lived realities of everyday Ghanaian life which in my opinion, is the reason why study abroad travel is important. The place was also central to so many things. We had access to a gym, a jogging loop, and a mall nearby. As an icing on the cake, the beach was just nearby and provided a nice place to take a walk.”
“Lehigh in Ghana is an amazing opportunity in which you are able to learn how globalization and health can be viewed in a different lens as well as immerse yourself in a completely new and exciting culture.”
Living at the hostel was a blessing due to the ability to be isolated enough from city life and extreme noise, but also the accessibility of taking a taxi or walking down Sprintex Road to get to any place. The hostel was close enough from various churches and a populated area where I could gather Pentecostal/Christian advertisements to use for my research. It was close enough to walk to Junction Mall and easy enough to take a taxi cab to Accra Mall."
“Globalization and Health in Ghana really helped me apply everything I was learning in the classroom to real life; it helped me materialize much of the concepts and trends I've studied before. It is one thing to discuss elements of public health and analyze social determinants of health, but it was another thing to see these things unfold. It allowed me to appreciate the importance and weight of my academic work, but also healthcare workers in general. I have a new found respect and appreciate for those within the healthcare and public health sphere. I was particularly able to learn a lot from the highly advanced and sophisticated research being conducted in the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research and Mampong Center for Plant Research. I am truly grateful for this experience…My project focused around the undeniable connection between the sociopolitical circumstances around immigration and economic decline as a result of Structural Adjustment Programs in Ghana. The current iteration and focus of the research was the analytical exploration of the current political tension between the Fulani people and Ghanaian citizens. Consequently, due to limited and fleeting resources, there have been many fatal conflicts between the Fulani and Ghanaians in the Northern region. These material conditions result in pinning poor populations against each other; something inextricably tied to the history of western exploitation and the effect structural adjustment programs have had on the Ghanaian people.”
Africana Studies’ Study Abroad Programs
The Africana Studies Program faculty have organized about eight (8) study abroad programs including internships, individual research projects, and two credit-bearing courses since 2014. Most of the programs were funded through gifts provided by Ronald Ulrich, John Franchini, Lee Iacocca, Dale Strohl and Trevor Bond. The Africana Studies Program led the first Iacocca Internship on the African continent, Ghana, “Internship for Humanitarian Engineering" in 2014.
In general, sixty-four (64) Lehigh students have participated in various Africana faculty-led international programs: Ghana-53; Senegal-7; and Cuba, 4. The Africana Studies program will continue to link classroom learning with on-site cultural immersion activities and travels to historical sites, to enable Lehigh student’s to have deep appreciation and understanding for transatlantic cultures and experiences that continue to bind people on the African continent with people of African ancestry across the African Diaspora (United States, Cuba, England, Brazil and others). The Africana Studies Programs’ global initiatives and engagements seek to reach over 100 students by 2020.