Local Rotarian having international impact
Walter Hughes Jr. returns to Africa
Walter Hughes
Walter Hughes Jr. of Union Hall checks out the new medical equipment for the Tamale Teaching Hospital and Eye Clinic in Ghana, West Africa. Hughes spearheaded a drive to ship almost $1 million worth of badly needed equipment to the facility.

The Franklin News-Post
Rocky Mount, Virginia

Monday, April 6, 2009

Walter Hughes Jr. of Union Hall is back in Africa, one of many trips he has made in an effort to improve the health of some of the poorest people in the world.

Hughes, a member of the Rocky Mount Rotary Club and pastor at New Hope Methodist Church in Callaway, has spearheaded an effort to put together an international coalition of Rotary clubs to garner more than $250,000 in grants to build and repair wells in Ghana, West Africa.

Residents, especially the children, of this country have been plagued with various diseases related to drinking polluted water, including infestations with the guinea worm.

During the last two years, enough wells have been either built or repaired in the country with the grant money to almost wipe out the guinea worm and other impure-water related diseases.

Besides visiting one of the last towns to install a new well on this trip, Hughes also saw the culmination of another project, providing medical equipment to the Tamale Hospital and Eye Clinic, a hospital which recently had no working bathroom.

Hughes had spearheaded work to gather enough equipment to fill two shipping containers, the equivalent of almost $1 million worth of badly needed medical supplies.

After many months, the containers have arrived. One had already been unloaded and Hughes arrived in time to help unload the other.

The following is a brief account of Hughes' travelogue of his current trip.

Stephen (Shipes) and I arrived in Accra, Ghana, on Friday, March 27. We saw two schools in Accra. The first school is called Lila's Child Care Foundation. The school is helped by Jim Niquette, director of the (Jimmy) Carter Center, and several Rotary clubs in the USA.?

Jim's school takes street children who are breaking up rocks to make gravel or selling goods in the middle of the street and gets them prepared for elementary school. Jim will convince their parents that the children deserve an education instead of making less than $1 per day running between cars selling toilet paper, gum, bananas, and other wares.

The drive to Kumasi was harder than I ever remember. The road is in a constant need of repair. Accra and Kumasi have grown larger and the roads are worse with more potholes. It has been two years since I was in Kumasi. Kumasi is about 150 miles away, but it took a hard six hours of driving to get here.

I went to the Barker & Seibel School in the slums of Kumasi. I was impressed with a new principal, Vivian, who has moved home from England to help the school.?

We drove to Sunyani on Monday morning. We met with the Sunyani Central Rotarians. We discussed a potential women's center project. We also agreed that our hands are full.?

Child slavery in the fishing villages is not on our agenda even though Sunyani Central Rotary has a Rotarian who works for a charity that tries to free child slaves. We also discussed the buruli ulcer disease. It is a flesh-eating disease. It is becoming more dangerous in southern portions of West Africa.?

Jim Niquette, Stephen Shipes and I had a lot of good conversations on the road. The most frequent topic was how to make the biggest difference in people's lives with the smallest amount of money going to feed overhead of certain charities and governmental organizations.?

We arrived in Tamale, Ghana in time to meet John Nadolski of Living Water. He had a team from the USA celebrating work over the past year and looking for new places to drill boreholes or wells.?

Stephen and I are staying with Dr. Jim Murphy during our stay in Tamale. We will be focusing our attention on the Tamale Teaching Hospital and Eye Clinic. One of the medical containers still needs to be emptied, organized, and distributed. The hospital and Tamale Rotarians kindly left me some work to do!?

It has been a hard couple of days. In Africa, getting started is very difficult. My goal for this week was to get the medical container opened and the contents distributed to the appropriate medical departments. This step is the beginning of the end of a two-year effort to improve the conditions at the hospital.?

We finally opened the last container of medical equipment and supplies at the Tamale Teaching Hospital and Tamale Eye Clinic. I didn't make any progress the first day toward opening the container. In fact, it didn't look promising. Today, I insisted, begged and pleaded that the medical equipment be unloaded. It took about eight men to open the doors of the container. The container had a seal which had to be sawed off.?

It takes a lot of thinking and talking before the action can happen. Today, the electricians were wiring the eye clinic. I also reviewed supplies from the first container. I went around to the various departments to see the medical equipment in action.?I was treated to observing part of an eye surgery performed by Dr. Seth Wanye with a brand new Scan Optics portable surgical microscope. ???

We woke up at 5 a.m. to leave at 6 a.m. to go out to Fufuiso. It is one of the last villages to have the guinea worm parasite. We saw four children with the disease.?

I gave a girl a bracelet made by the children of New Hope United Methodist Church in Callaway. It helped a little to ease the terrible pain caused by the parasite. The soka pumps are being used which we bought in 2007 for the worst city that year.

We are planning to go to the "Overseas Region" of Ghana on Saturday. We talked about taking the new bridge at Kpasinkpe, but the new bridge has a very bad old road. It is faster to go by canoe across the White Volta River. It will take 14 hours to get to this village and back to town. We will celebrate the mechanized water system in Singa on Saturday. It is one of the first water systems in this very remote region. This area feels like you have traveled hundreds of years back in time. Water is a severe problem in this area.

On Thursday, we are going to the new church construction at Sagadugu. My pastor's hat will be on and my Rotary hat will be off. We are trying to get ready for the roof. I hope to see the roof on by next week.

We will drive the two hours back on Friday morning to attend and speak at the Rotary Celebration at the Tamale Teaching Hospital.

I was thankful to see the eye surgeries being performed on the new portable surgical microscope. I also enjoyed talking to people in the maternity ward. They are looking forward to a lot of new medical equipment.?

It is hard to help people in Africa. Is it worth it? You bet.

Thanks to all of you at home who are making a difference.