Counselling in Ghana; the challenges and the rewards

Megan Cruise is a trained counsellor with vast experience and a passion for counselling young people who have cancer and their families. Her career history includes working for ten years at the UK’s largest cancer charity for children, CLIC Sargent. Megan is currently volunteering in Ghana as a counsellor to provide support to young cancer patients at Korle Bu Teaching Hospital for a six month period. Today she tells her story about her start to life in Accra.

"I first visited Ghana with World Child Cancer in 2015 when delivering workshops to doctors and nurses at both Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital in Kumasi and Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra. It was this experience that inspired me to return to Ghana for six months with the aim of offering further support to the families of those affected by childhood cancer and the incredible nurses that care for them.

"Since returning to Ghana I have experienced an incredible warmth from all the people I’ve met which has made me feel extremely welcome. One of the most pleasing things about life in Ghana is seeing people greet each other on the street with a smile even as strangers, very different to life in London!

"Being a counsellor, it’s interesting to see how differently people react to things emotionally and even how their emotions are expressed. Being a volunteer psycho – social professional in a developing country where child cancer survival rates are as low as 10% means going through some extraordinary difficult experiences.

"My work recently brought me in touch with Afia, an 11 year old girl who was suffering with leukaemia. Afia was a happy girl with a beaming smile who enjoyed things every little girl does including playing with her friends. Returning to day care one day I was on the lookout for Afia’s smile but she was nowhere to be seen, I soon found out she had become very unwell overnight and been admitted into the ward. I immediately visited this beautiful little girl, her health had deteriorated so drastically and so quickly that she only had enough energy to look me in the eye. Just one hour after visiting Afia her mother approached me with news that no mother should ever have to give.

"The thing about working with children is that they bring you so much joy. There are no judgements and no preconceptions, they will approach you as their equal and they will offer you their unconditional love. Being in Ghana for an extended period of time, I have built strong relationships with the children with us talking, laughing and playing together. I am very passionate about my work and these relationships enable a closer bond between myself and the children but at the back of my mind is always the fear that any of these children could die just as Afia had.

"The fact that many of the children with advanced cancer could have been treated far earlier and better had they visited the hospital sooner is painful to see. Access to treatment is a major issue for many families in Ghana where the financial burden of cancer could have life changing implications.

"Being able to do what I do means I get to spend quality time with the children. Seeing the big smiles on their faces when I arrive and being able to give them my full attention is incredibly rewarding. However, it’s not just the children that inspire so much as the nurses go above and beyond their call of duty each day. They have been fantastically receptive when engaging in training and their passion continues to put a smile on my face.

"I feel privileged to be given the opportunity to carry out a role that has not been done before. It comes with its challenges but I am gaining so much from this experience and I sincerely hope the families and medical teams gain something from me being here."

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 professions 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 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