Counselling in Ghana; the outcomes and the memories

During my time in Ghana I became very mindful of the lack of awareness of childhood cancer with many children coming to hospital with advanced cancers. When I first planned my visit, I hoped to provide the local nurses some extra skills they could use in supporting families. I soon learnt a great deal about the issues families face such as the huge financial burdens and the emotional impacts on entire families.

In the six months I spent volunteering at Korle Bu Teaching Hospital (KBTH), I delivered counselling training to 18 paediatric oncology nurses and four general paediatric nurses. This included sessions on the emotional impacts of childhood cancer on patients and their families and support techniques nurses can use to help them. I provided one to one sessions for the nurses as well as implementing a support plan which will hopefully help them cope with the demands and pressures of care work. One of the nurses is delivering some of my training at the twinning hospital in Kumasi this November which is excellent news for the future of psychosocial support for children with cancer in Ghana.

I was lucky to provide support for children who were going through a really difficult time in their lives. Having worked at CLIC Sargent for 10 years, I already had an in-depth knowledge of what families might be experiencing in the UK but I was interested to know how families around the world coped and how I could help. I was taken aback by the determination and mental strength of the families I supported in Ghana. I gained the trust of families and young patients and built strong relationships, enabling me to provide some much-needed emotional support.

It was challenging to adjust my counselling approach to fit a different culture with a unique way of life. For example, if you ask any child in Ghana how they are, they will always answer ‘I’m fine’ even when they are unwell or sad. I worked hard to encourage the children to talk and let them know it’s alright to say they’re not fine.

I have so many memories from my time in Ghana - both good and bad. I will always remember the fun, laughter and incredibly happy times I spent with the children. However, seeing the pain and suffering on some of their faces is something I will never forget.

More work needs to be done to raise awareness of childhood cancer so children can receive treatment as early as possible. World Child Cancer is striving to achieve this and with more volunteers and support, we can have a positive impact on the lives of children with cancer and their families around the world.

I hope to encourage more counsellors to volunteer their time to experience a new culture and help those who could benefit enormously from training that many of us delivery on a daily basis. However, for the immediate future, more financial support is needed so that these children can be given a chance to live.

World Child Cancer aims to remove the barriers that prevent children from accessing the treatment they need through cost – effective and sustainable solutions. By developing twinning partnerships between volunteer healthcare professionals in the developed world and those in developing countries, we can train more healthcare workers to spot the early warning signs of childhood cancer and improve access to treatment.

With every donation you make, we can help more children gain a faster, better route to treatment. Just £50 could fund training for a healthcare worker on the early warning signs of childhood cancer. You can also help make a difference to the lives of children with cancer around the world by supporting Megan Cruise's fundraising page today.

About the author

Megan Cruise

Counsellor and World Child Cancer Volunteer