My name is Catherine Patterson, and I am a senior Biology and African Studies double major at UNC. I first met Emma and Lauren through Project Heal, a global health organization they founded on campus that seeks to facilitate sustainable development in Ghana. From the very first meeting I attended as a freshman, I was drawn in by their vision and passion—it was absolutely contagious. As I began becoming more involved in Project Heal over the years, I became more and more personally invested in the group’s commitment to improving health and wellness in Ghana through locally driven and sustainable efforts.
Through my involvement with Project Heal, my interest in global healthcare flourished along with a newfound interest in Ghana. I subsequently chose to study Ghanaian rural healthcare at the University of Ghana during the fall of my junior year. I also volunteered at the University Children’s Ward in Accra where I witnessed firsthand how many Ghanaians sought medical care from poorly resourced health centers. Despite this hospital being relatively modern and in an urban center, staff and supplies were limited. When I returned home, I eagerly joined the MedPLUS Connect team as an intern.
Unable to stay away, I returned to Ghana this past summer on a trip through Project Heal. This time I traveled to rural Lawra, where MedPLUS Connect has sent shipments for several years. I led an initiative to construct two composting pit latrines with slabs at a school with no waste facilities, with the objective of reducing the negative impacts on the environment and the spread of disease.
The project utilized only locally acquired materials and included workshops and booklets on how to build and maintain the latrines, in hopes that that they will be sustained and replicated by the local community.
While working on this project, as well as several others, our Project Heal group came into contact with nearly the entire Lawra community. Not a day went by that members of the community did not approach our group and tell us how much they appreciated the work of Project Heal and MedPLUS Connect. They eagerly showed us past legacies from Project Heal and MedPLUS Connect such as the library at the Lawra District Hospital and the playroom at the Methodist Clinic, as well as the universal nutshellers, hospital beds and numerous other donated medical supplies at the Lawra District Hospital. The impact MedPLUS Connect has made in the Lawra community is a lasting one.
I cannot thank Lauren, Emma, and Emily enough for sharing their passion with me. Project Heal and MedPLUS Connect have given me the opportunity to help improve health and wellness in Ghana, thus shaping my interests in global healthcare and sustainability.