Comfort was visiting from Ghana in the early 2000s when Dr. Neal Stretch and his wife Aggie met her.
The couple who live in Walkerton, Ontario were involved with helping adult survivors of sexual abuse at the time in addition to family medicine and teaching.
“We met this lady who was full of energy, hope and passion for the Trokosi women in Ghana,” Dr. Stretch remembered. Something about her really resonated with the couple who had been thinking about doing medical mission work. Trokosi girls and women are modern slaves. The practice calls for virgin girls to be sent to the shrines of fetish gods to pay for crimes committed by one of their relatives. They become living sacrifices, protecting their families from the gods’ wrath. Some stay at the shrines for a few years; others for life.
In 2002 Neal and Aggie set out with their son, who was 12 at the time, for Ghana. There they met Walter Pimpang, who is the head of International Needs Ghana, the lead NGO in Ghana advocating for an end to the Trokosi practice.
“Walter brought us to a school and we examined 100 kids there and he suggested we come back the following year and start something,” Neal recalled. The project began with Neal assembling a small team and seeing students as well as newly released women and girls.
“We built partnerships with the hospital and the project grew and grew,” he said. Every year they have brought teams. “People were so generous with their time and money.”
Over the course of the project, which lasted for 10 years, Neal and Aggie saw beautiful results: the Trokosi slaves have largely been liberated and the medical care has been taken over by Ghanaian doctors who Canadians have sponsored through medical school.
Every year Neal brought Physician Travel Packs provided by HPIC. Each PTP is a standard assortment of essential medicines and medical supplies that can provide up to 600 treatments.
“We wouldn’t have gone without HPIC,” says Neal. “Having a safe and dependable supply of medicine is vital. I know the medicines in the PTP are good and safe and I know how to use them.”
On the last trip to Ghana in 2013 the team brought 2 Physician Travel Packs and set up a mobile unit in a school. They saw more than 3,500 children and women in eight villages. Now Neal and Aggie are hoping to start something similar in Zambia, where they are headed in November.