Mar, 12

Ghana 2012: Refurbished with Love

(Reported by Sam Levitt, Cliff Goldkind and Della Heiman, volunteer members of the Ghana 2012 surgical mission organized by the Colorectal Center at Cincinnati Children’s)Thursday March 29: From the balconies, stairwells, and corridors of the building, more than 100 people spilled into the newly painted courtyard of the Mother’s Hostel at Korle Bu Teaching Hospital.
Members of the visiting surgical team, hospital administration, the Mother’s Hostel management, and dozens of hostel guests gathered for a special evening dedication to celebrate the renovation.  While the surgical teams were busy at the hospital, non-medical volunteers worked through the week to improve this 124-bed hostel, where traveling families stay while their children receive care.
The mood this evening was joyous, illuminated by colorful Ghanaian garments and the beaming smiles of children.  As a news crew from Ghana TV set up their equipment, team members played games with giggling kids and toured the refurbished hostel, which sparkled with a new paint job, beautiful murals, shiny appliances and new bedding.

Months of preparation pays off

The ceremony began with a prayer of gratitude led by the hostel’s manager, Hillary, followed by an introduction of the medical teams by Mustapha Salifu, Korle Bu Hospital’s public relations officer, and Nelson Lees, the Colorectal Center team’s logistics coordinator.  Next, Dr. Marc Levitt explained the mission and introduced his mother, Eva Levitt, who organized the Mother’s Hostel project.

Mrs. Levitt narrated the months of community philanthrophy and preparation that went into the hostel project. The work involved internal and external paint jobs, procuring new appliances, murals created by two talented local artists, a large donation of textile products and other donations from the United States and the Netherlands.

Overall, the Ghana mission cost about  $60,000, including donations and in-kind services. About $15,000 was dedicated to the hostel project. Mrs. Levitt augmented this effort by collecting 39 duffels of toys, stuffed animals, clothing and toiletries from the Lehigh Valley community through an ad placed in the Jewish Federation newsletter of Allentown, Pa. For months, she arrived home each day to find bags and boxes of donations waiting on her front porch. Meanwhile in Cincinnati, 14-year-old Tyler Miller also collected duffels of stuffed animals for his bar mitzvah project.

A major contribution came from Cincinnati-based  Standard Textile Company, whose owners Gary and Kim Heiman donated a shipping container of textile products for the Mother’s Hostel and the Korle Bu Hospital. Standard Textile already donates textile products for Cincinnati’s Ronald McDonald House, which made the company a perfect match for the Ghana mission. The company donated 118 cartons of sheets, towels, pillows, and blankets to replace dirty, ripped or non-existent bedding for the hostel’s 124 beds.

Mrs. Levitt recounted the excited reactions of the hostel’s mothers as they watched their rooms transform into bright, clean spaces.

Standard Textile also donated reusable medical and surgical items for Korle Bu’s operating rooms and recovery wards, as well as baby
shirts and blankets for newborns and their mothers in the maternity ward.

The team also thanked other donors and sponsors who helped make the mission possible.

Hostel project sponsors also included the Ronald McDonald House of Greater Cincinnati, the Five Guys restaurant in Miami, Dr. Inbal Samuk, Eva Levitt, Aliza Lerner, Julie Guttman, and other anonymous donors including families of colorectal patients.

Other mission sponsors included MedWish, Ethicon, the Division of Pediatric Surgery at Cincinnati Children’s and Delta Airlines.

Dutch contingent goes beyond the call

As Mrs. Levitt’s story unfolded, she took a small toddler in her arms.  “This little girl,” she told the news crew, “is wearing a dress that was donated from the  Netherlands.”

These donations were organized by OR Nurse Louise Walraven-Arts, who made enormous efforts to collect a container of medical supplies and
literature, surgical tools and apparel, children’s clothes, and toys.

Ms. Walraven-Arts learned about the team through Dr. Ivo deBlauuw, who has been a friend and colleague of Dr. Levitt for more than a decade.  She and OR nurse Joke Strik met Dr. Levitt during a surgical case in the Netherlands. Impressed by their skills and demeanor, Dr. Levitt invited them – during the operation – to join the mission to Ghana.

“Who knew that they would make such a big contribution?” Dr. Levitt said.

All the members of the Dutch contingent, which also included Drs. Pim Sloots and Chris Bleeker and anesthesia assistant Wouter Coenen, were excited to lend their skills to the surgical mission. Ms. Walraven-Arts led an effort to do even more.

She began speaking to team members in Cincinnati, including OR Nurse Sarah Wilhelm, to better understand which products would be helpful in Ghana. Then she began cold-calling medical equipment suppliers, friends and colleagues to request donations. Like Mrs. Levitt, she was welcomed home each day with boxes of newly arrived contributions.

In addition, she collected dozens of boxes of medical supplies from her hospital that were headed for the landfill during a major renovation. In all, Ms. Walraven-Arts collected 66 boxes of donations filled with OR gowns, scrubs, instruments, catheters, syringes, tubes, needles, IVs, anatomy books, children’s clothing and toys.

“It has been such a great experience,” she said. “Everyone on the team is really hard working, and they’re tired but they always have smiles on their faces — Lovely!”

Families will benefit

Mrs. Levitt closed by recognizing the painters and artists of the project, as well as the energetic hostel staff.  Her comments were followed by an interview with Professor Hesse, who spoke about the significance of this renovation to Korle Bu Hospital and to the mothers of
hundreds of ill children. She explained that many families make the long journey to Accra and arrive without any connections or accommodations.

“On behalf of all of Ghana,” she said, “We thank the team and the generous donors.  We look forward to continuing this collaboration.”

As the news cameras dispersed, the team loaded onto buses and headed for Accra’s famous Captain Hooks restaurant for a dinner
hosted by the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital.  The room filled with a great sense of pride and promise as the entire Korle Bu Hospital administration and the visiting team joined together for the first time.  Through warm conversation, speeches, and delicious platters of local cuisine, the two groups expressed mutual gratitude and appreciation for a thriving partnership.

Tim Bonfield

About the Author Tim Bonfield

Tim Bonfield is an associate in Marketing & Communications at Cincinnati Children's. He joined the medical center in 2009 after 17 years at the Cincinnati Enquirer as an award-winning health beat writer, assistant local news editor and Butler-Warren bureau chief. Tim is a proud Cincinnati native and the frazzled father of two teen daughters.


  1. What a fabulous story and very moving to be able give health and hope to so many children !!!! Congratulations and Mazel Tov to all

    Joan Epstein - April 3, 2012 at 1:59 pm Reply

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