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It takes crowning a nurse to bring new hope to remote Ghana

November 13, 2013 - 1:48 PM


KELOWNA - It is good to be king. Just ask Muriel Kranabetter.

The associate professor at UBC’s Okanagan campus School of Nursing was granted that rare distinction in a special tribal ceremony in the remote mud-hut Ghana village of Chanshegu. It confers upon Kranabetter the role of village elder. That is largely in recognition of the work she has led since 2009 with fourth-year students travelling to Ghana for clinical practicums.

“It was quite an honour,” says Kranabetter, who dressed in traditional garb for the colourful festivities, spread out over several days. “There were a number of ceremonies, each with dancing and chanting and drums.”

Kranabetter was given the name Malgu Naa – “King of Peace and Unity.” Chickens and goats were sacrificed and the village feasted for days. Once the ancestral spirits were consulted and ceremonies complete, the village not only recognizes Kranabetter – Chief Yussef Derri and elders call upon her for advice and help.

Kranabetter makes the trek to Ghana for six weeks every year, leading students in providing nursing care in Chanshegu and the surrounding villages. The team teaches maternal and infant health, gives immunizations, give classes in schools and deliver nursing care in hospitals and clinics. But UBC’s initiative in Chanshegu goes far beyond the annual trip. They raised funds for water filters three years ago following a cholera outbreak.

But being king came with a request for help of a different kind – the village wanted to build its own nursing clinic. The closest free clinic is 20 kilometres away, accessible only by foot. Sick and elderly villagers are often too ill to make the journey and succumb to their maladies, which might otherwise be treatable.

Plus, 10 per cent of the village’s village population of 500 are orphans – due to high maternal mortality from malnutrition, bleeding, infection, hypertension and lack of proper care.

It was a tall order – but the newly minted King knew the only course of action was to support the villagers in what they needed.
Among those pitching in was Wade Bottorff – whose wife Joan is a faculty member of UBC’s Okanagan campus School of Nursing. Bottorff, an experienced builder, travelled to Ghana last spring, took over logistical duties and helped the volunteer crew cast bricks on site for the footings of the 20- by 40-foot building.

Completing the effort depends on nursing students and faculty raising the remaining funds to complete the clinic. The School of Nursing students are conducting fundraisers for the $10,000 needed to pour a concrete floor, build the walls and put a roof over the clinic, which contain examination areas, a meeting room, storage, washrooms – and living quarters for a permanent staff nurse. The Ghana government will fund a nursing position for the new clinic.

For students, the opportunity to build something lasting for Chanshegu holds deep meaning.

“As a collective, we are making a huge difference,” says Samantha Waller from Kelowna, who will go to Chanshegu next spring. “In Ghana, the cost is very real and you get a renewed appreciation of how well off we are and how people less fortunate really suffer. Leaving a significantly positive footprint for Chanshegu is a lasting legacy.”

Nursing students Caitlyn Robertson and Sarah Duddle will travel to neighbouring Zambia to do their clinical practicum but consider the Ghana clinic vital.

“Building this clinic is also about starting leadership,” says Robertson. “It’s a good foundation that will help me achieve my career goals.”

Duddle says the clinic is a life milestone. “Our participation in helping to get this clinic built is an achievement we can point to for the rest of our lives. And it will serve as an example for others to get involved.”

UBC’s Okanagan campus students have a website to take donations by credit card, Pay Pal, cheque or cash. About $2,000 has been raised. For information on donating to the Ghana clinic project:

Nursing students also hold an annual Global Gala to support their overseas practicums to Ghana, Zambia and India – but need to raise dedicated funds for the clinic. This year’s fundraiser is being held Saturday, November 23, at the Laurel Packing House in Kelowna, complete with African-inspired meal, live band, silent auction – and presentations by students who have gone on past trips. Tickets to the Global Gala are $50 each or $375 for a table of 8 and are available at: or 250-874-0784.


Kingly responsibilities for nursing prof

Once she was named king of Chanshegu, village Chief Yussef Derri told Muriel Kranabetter that her efforts to bring pure water and a promise to build a health clinic meant a future for the community.

“You give us hope. We know you are coming, we’re not forgotten,” the chief told Kranabetter. “Somebody knows our suffering. You have stopped our suffering. You have stopped our tears now.”

Kranabetter is pursuing her PhD in anthropology and nursing, working with Chanshegu’s women to create healthy families and children in a culturally safe way.

She will live in Chanshegu for eight to 10 months in a thatched hut, immersed in village culture.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013
InfoTel News Ltd

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