Saturday, October 09, 2010

Growing Up In A Small African Village

In his memoir, ‘Growing Up in a Small African Village’ Dr. Robert Peprah-Gyamfi provides an account of his childhood experiences growing up in Mpintimpi, a small village in Ghana where there were about 100 residents. His inspiration for telling his story comes from a poignant memory when he was young man about to leave the village to pursue his education endeavors. Dr. Robert Peprah-Gyamfi remembers one of the villagers saying to him, “Do not forget us.” His heart has always been with the villagers no matter where life took him, and now his goal is to establish a Health Centre that will improve the lives of the villagers.

Dr. Robert Peprah-Gyamfi’s memoir entails an in-depth account of experiences that influenced his work ethic, his belief in the importance of family, his spirituality, and his desire to help impoverished people as a doctor. He shares remarkable stories about his family, villagers, customs, education, and spirituality of the community. A strong emphasis is on the role of the extended family and community support. Customs such as polygamy are chronicled, as well as interesting customs such as when women were having their menstrual cycle; they could not cook for their husband. He highlights the hardships endured as a child, including the quality of health care. Readers will learn about the ignorance of the nurses and doctors in the hospital that was in another town that was a very far distance from the village. As well, readers will learn about unsanitary injections by people who were often not qualified to do give injections. ‘Smuggled injections’ is another issue discussed. ‘Smuggled injections’ involved fake doctors convincing the villagers that an injection would treat any condition. Many unnecessary injections were given and the villagers would be sent back to the village. Home health care and witchcraft is another interesting subject of the book. Readers will learn of how the villagers did their best to treat illnesses, even if the medicine was not appropriate for the particular condition. For instance, the medicine called Atwood was used to treat a wide variety of illnesses although Atwood was just a medicine for treating constipation. The practice of painful circumcision is also chronicled.

In regards to the community, Dr. Robert Peprah-Gyamfi provides an in-depth account of life in the village that included colorful residents and how their hardships were not seen as obstacles, but challenges to overcome. Readers will learn about meal preparation and how the chief meal ‘Fufu’ is prepared. Readers will be surprised to learn of the use of the chemical DDT to catch fish by pouring the chemical in the water, waiting for the fish to die, and then collecting the fish to eat. Fortunately, DDT was eventually banned. He also discusses his childhood education where at the age of 6, he would walk 2 miles to school and return home to do the chores followed by homework by Kerosene lamp. He also discusses the act of caning a student as punishment for such reasons as failure to perform well on a mental arithmetic test.

‘Growing Up in a Small African Village’ is a compelling and well written story that will make readers feel as though they have been transported back in time to experience the events Dr. Robert Peprah-Gyamfi recounts. Readers will understand why the village has had such a positive impact on Dr. Robert Peprah-Gyamfi’s life. It becomes quite clear why he has never forgotten the village and why he wants to create a health centre to improve the villagers’ lives. As well, readers will gain an appreciation for the strength of spirit of the community. No matter how hard life became, they made the best of it, and worked hard to survive. ‘Growing Up in a Small African Village’ is the story of an impoverished community with an immense spirit.

Tracy Roberts, Write Field Services


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