My Week - Lily Canter braves potholes and mouse droppings

The volunteer press officer at Freed UK recounts her week

Lily Canter
Lily Canter

MONDAY: I'm off to north-west Ghana to report on Freed's work there, but there is chaos at the Virgin Atlantic check-in desk and then a flight delay.In Accra, we have to cram a group of 20 dentists, nurses, doctors, biomedical scientists, teachers, students, football coaches, a cabinet-maker, a journalist and all our aid-laden luggage into a bus that looks big enough for 10 children. Predictably, the 400-mile trip to the hospital in Nandom takes a day longer than expected because of brake failure, road accidents and potholes the size of garden ponds.

TUESDAY: I spend the first day organising the hospital library, which is nothing but a room with piles of dusty newspapers and cardboard boxes of books. While I clean and catalogue, the cabinet-maker measures up the room. He spends the rest of the week building shelving units and making worktops and shelving for the hospital kitchen. My work in the library includes sweeping up a huge amount of mouse droppings. I use a dust mask, but still have a bout of sickness and diarrhoea for seven hours non-stop.

THURSDAY: After a day in bed I spend the next day reporting on the stomach-churning work of the dental team. Pulling teeth, swabbing abscesses and cutting into infected gums are all on the schedule. I also have to deal with internal hospital politics and find out where the supplies have disappeared to - the dental suite has been closed for a year. More politics at the orphanage, too: it seems that much of the toys and clothing have been snapped up by members of staff.

FRIDAY: Today is a much more positive day, full of celebrations. First, the £30,000 hospital kitchen funded by Freed UK is finally opened after four years of fundraising and construction. Second, a borehole is completed at the hospital farm, which allows the kitchen to become sustainable. Third, the medical library is completed. We also put on a football tournament, which is a hit in the community.

- Freed UK is a health and education development charity that supports the community of Nandom, Ghana

- Lily Canter is a volunteer press officer at Freed UK

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