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Meeting Minutes – March 6, 2013

Speakers – Dr. Cynthia Swenson and Sarah Logan for Project Okurase

Sarah Logan:  Okurase is a twi word for village.  Who am I?  I am a grad student like you but I am also a volunteer for Project Okurase and I went on a trip to Okurase last year.  It was a really special trip. I got to take my son and other Charleston locals also took their sons as well.  Ghana is in West Africa.  Has anyone ever been to Africa?  Was it on an MUSC affiliated group trip?

Charleston and MUSC became involved in Project Okurase because Dr. Swenson had a goal to get high risk youths off of the streets.  To reach this goal she wanted to immerse them in their African culture through traditional dancing and drumming.  Through this, the Djole African drumming and dance company was born.   Powerful, the chief of the Okurase village actually came to Charleston to teach at-risk kids how to do the drumming and dancing.  The Okurase village chief, Powerful, was also the drummer for the opening of Madagascar 2.  Ghana is well known for its rich cultural heritage.  The languages spoken are Twi, Ga, and English. 

There are several problems with basic needs in Ghana.  There is virtually no running water in Ghana.  Children go to the river in the morning to get water in a bucket and they carry it on their head back to their home to drink.  The same river is used for baths, laundry, and the toilet.  The water is not clean and it can make you sick and can lead to death.  We buy water and bring it there and take a sponge bath.  There is no great infrastructure there.  There is nowhere to put human waste and trash.  There are trash mounds outside of the village.  

Another issue is education.  Very few families can afford to put their kids in school.  There are a few old buildings that are falling apart.  Teachers have few or no resources.  This past summer, we brought new supplies and hands on activities and the kids were crowding around interested in these new supplies.  Boys are more likely to be able to go to school than girls.  Most girls don’t go to school at all.  Also, the girls must shave their heads. 

Health is a major issue.  The major cause of death among children under 5 is malnutrition and diarrhea.  85% of population there gets malaria and a child dies every 20 minutes from HIV/AIDS related illnesses.  At the village health outreach we started, we had HIV and TB testing.  The village health outreach is swarmed with people during the beginning of the day. Most that go there have never seen a doctor before, and if we are not there, they just have to deal with their medical issues.  One of the focuses this year will be wound care.  We will be teaching people to take care of their wounds on their own.  Children often die of simple illnesses because of the lack of access to medicine or doctors.  There is also not a lot of food.  When they do have food, they are willing to just give it to you.   Children are so friendly.  The whole village embraces you. 

What we do here for the health outreach is donate medical supplies.  We had a Student Broadcast message asking for donations for medical supplies as well as basic goods and clothing items.  With these supplies, we created a pharmacy there.  You can see better pictures of the village at the library on the 2nd floor.  Another problem is basic needs, such as flip flops.  Most people run bare foot and children don’t have underwear.  All of the donated goods and clothing items did not go to waste.  I spent hours packing bags and rearranging things to take them with us to Okurase.  Thank you for all that you have done. 

Dr. Cynthia Swenson:  I’m a psychologist and professor in the department of psychology in the COM.  I got into the Ghana project through a community violence problem in North Charleston.  There is a direct heritage with Ghana and Charleston through the slave trade.  In fact, if you go to Fort Moultrie, you can actually read a lot of information about this site as a slave trade location. 

We’ve had a 14 year relationship with Ghana since our first time when we took 14 at-risk kids to the Okurase village in Ghana.  While we were there, Powerful told us their issues and problems as a village.  The village wanted to do something about the problems and they asked if we would work with them.  Since 2007, I’ve been going back to Ghana to come up with sustainable solutions for their problems.  They wanted a village center with a medical center, school, recording studio for artists, and homes for fostering orphaned children.  Clemson architecture students helped us by designing a village center.  The first building we are working on is a vocational school that is 18000 square feet.  We have not used a single machine in building this school.  Everyone in the village is helping and learning skills to build this structure.  

We are currently trying to get clean water to the center.  We are working with Water Missions International to help solve this issue.  We started a hydro-geological survey to see where we might find water around the village.  Right now it is the dry season in Ghana and people have to walk miles and miles to get water from another village if no water is found.  We are hoping that by April, we will have 3 wells drilled in Okurase. 

We also want to address the health care issue.  Part of this includes getting rid of trash piles and waste, a big health risk for them.  There is no medical care at all.  People often die from measles and sore throats.  Five years ago we started having a health outreach every summer.  We started bringing physicians and nurses as well as nonmedical folks.  Last summer, we had 6 or 7 days of a clinic.  During this time, 1300 patients were seen.   Everyone who worked in that outreach saved those children’s lives. 

We want more students involved.  Ghana is a very safe and warm country.  It is very poverty stricken country.  Although there is gold and cocoa, it never goes down to the people.  This summer from July 5th through July 16th there will be a health outreach trip to Ghana.  With this group, we will travel to Ghana.  Once we arrive, we will first start at the resort so that you can have a proper shower after the plane.   We also want people to see the slave castles so they can understand the history and our link to the history.  Then we go to the village and see patients for the 5 or 6 days we are there. 

Our major focus is malaria.  We have recently started to focus on HIV.  We have avoided testing for HIV in the past because we don’t know what to do if we find someone positive.  There is medicine now, but it is expensive so it is not realistic.  We started testing last summer and discovered a couple positive individuals. One has a newborn.  We are trying to get locals to help us get people treated.  Wound care has been important due to the work they do.  They use a machete from age 3 up.  We also found a lot of testicular hernia, which is a growth on the hernia that can be so large that it can expand from the waist to the knees.  It is water born problem, but there is a surgical solution so we have gotten a lot of folks in surgery involved.  Other problems include eye problems, pediatrics, and women’s health issues.  We have discovered that a lot of women have waist pains.  In these individuals, we found many with breast masses and we referred them to the hospital.  A lot of women die during child birth.

 If you are interested in going, let me know.  It is not cheap.  Delta flies into Okurase.  I’m hearing that United is starting up and maybe competition will drive the prices down.  It costs $3000 to go. You will also need vaccines, a visa which usually costs about $100, and a passport.  The yellow fever vaccine is required.  You also need typhoid and hepatitis vaccines.  Anti-malarial is essential. When we are in the village we don’t go to a hotel, we live in the village.  We think that it is important to know what village life is like.  We have bucket baths and buy clean water for bathing and drinking.  It is very safe.  We have volunteer quarters where we just got electricity.  We have fans there as well. 

The medical professionals that work there work differently and see different things than we do here.  There is a lot to learn about different diseases.  I was there last week with 29 students from a Saudi Arabian high school.  One woman construction worker had a hurt ankle and wanted me to look at it.  There were holes with puss all around her ankle.  I took a picture with my cell phone and we did a little tele-medicine.  The teacher took it back to Saudi and showed a physician.  He said it was a worm, to take a match and put it by her leg to draw the worm out.  The woman had been sick for 2 years, and there was a simple solution.  You won’t get the worms while you are there because we won’t let you go into the river.  

We also work on education with the kids.  There are some schools that are falling apart without certified teachers.  I took an iPad with educational apps there and the kids really loved it, so we are going to set up an electronic classroom and bring some iPads with us this time.  Powerful is actually the chief of development, but the head chief is a very old wise 95 year old woman.  There are many religions represented and there are about 7-8 sub-tribes with a lot of diversity.  We will continue to work there until all 16 buildings are built in the center, and we have a fluid educational program.  Seven pharmacy students from Albany will be coming this summer with us.

Chayla Handley:  Could you ballpark the total cost?

Dr. Swenson:  $3000.  We have a new center for global health that has recently opened in October.  I am on a committee for that and we have recently decided to release some funds to help with travel expenses for students. 

Dr. Burnham:  How do students sign up?

Dr. Swenson:  Email me at  I’ll send you a packet.  So far 25 people have committed and space is limited so you really need to contact me ASAP.  You don’t have to work independently as a physician, nurse, or dentist.  You don’t have to do anything medical. 

Igor Alvarez:  When are you collecting donations?

Dr. Swenson:  There is a church in North Charleston that we are collecting donations at.  We also have a private nonprofit that we take donations through.  If you want to donate money and tag your name to go on this trip, you can do that as well.  We desperately need medical supplies that are not expired and will not expire within the next year.  A lot of times medicine will be expired and we have to call OSHA for medical waste.  We will be shut down in Ghana if we bring expired medicine.  We have a lot of scrubs, but we need basic things like Ibuprofen and Neosporin.

Chayla Handley: How do you transport the donated goods?

Dr. Swenson:  In a suitcase.  We ask volunteers to take their own suitcase and one of medical supplies.  Shipping is not an option.  It will take a leg and an arm to ship. 

Igor Alvarez: How far is the village from the airport?

Dr. Swenson:  Accra, the capital, is an hour and a half from the village.  The Chinese have been building roads so travel is better.

Toya Williams:  What is the maximum student number?

Dr. Swenson:  Around 25.  We still sleep luxurious compared to the villagers, but it is rustic.  Women cook for us over an open fire and it is traditional food.  We eat a lot of fresh fruit. I have my card and a few packets that I will leave here.  I also check email pretty regularly and would love to talk to you more.

A traditional Ghana night dance video was shown. 

PRESIDENT:  Cason Hund is replacing Brandon Hagan

Old Business

Reading of the February 20th minutes:  Approved

New Business

SGA 2013 Election Info:  Meet your candidates information has been posted on the SGA website.  Read the information and send the links out to your colleges so that we can get a lot of participation in the election this year.

Next General Body Meeting is March 27 due to spring break

Reps (2) to clean up after meeting:   Toya Williams and Anthony deClue


Old Business


New Business

Paddle Boarding/Kayak trip:  Sunday, March 24th at Shem Creek. The cost is $20/person (2 tickets per MUSC student ID) and will be limited to 40 participants. 

Regina Brown:  Who do we contact about purchasing tickets? 

Danny Vo:  Student programs

 Alhambra:  Saturday, April 13th from noon to 5pm at the Windjammer.  The theme this year will be Peace, Love, and Alhambra.  The cost is $15/ticket (2 tickets per MUSC Student ID).  Tickets will go on sale on Monday, March 18th in the Office of Student Programs. Ticket cost includes 5 hours of beer, non-alcoholic beverages, bands, DJ, food, and limited T-shirts. 

Alison Gilchrist:  Do the tickets usually sell out? I am asking because that is our spring break.

Danny Vo:  They will sell out before the event but not early. If you want someone to buy your ticket for you, you need to give them your ID.

Holly Berry:  Are you cutting back on freebies?

Danny Vo:  We may be cutting back on koozies, but not cups.


Old Business


New Business



Old Business


New Business

MLK Day recap:  Last week there were some concerns about MLK day.  Liz is going to talk about these issues.

Liz Sheridan:  It was a terrific day for an event outdoors.  You can’t beg for a better day.  We partnered with Meeting Street Academy.  Two years ago we have had it at Sanders Clyde and the outdoors event there was great so we were happy to do another outdoor event.  Meeting Street Academy was thrilled and they used it as a recruiting activity since they are not a public school.  They realize they fell short on attendance, but they are a small school, K-3, so we probably had a majority of their enrollment there.  I have to credit SIPS and Jacqueline Pratt.  She was right on target with diversified booths for the children.

Katherine Shugart:  Could we increase participation by combining schools?

Liz Sheridan:  Could we extend the invitation out to other schools?  Sure, we can certainly do that.  We can always hope that the surrounding community will also attend.

Cody Chiuzan:  Can we have a feedback sheet for service events like we do for social events?

Liz Sheridan:  We do.

Cody Chiuzan:  Maybe to have an open-ended questionnaire for improvement, instead of specific questions.

Liz Sheridan:  I think we do have that. But I’ll look at it. 

Caroline Hoover:  Liz works incredibly hard to plan events and make a difference in the community.  If you ever have any feedback, don’t hesitate to let us know. 

Blood Drive Challenge Drawing:  This year we did not have a specific college for the drawing.  Jocelyn Kerpelman from COM won an Alhambra ticket package with the drawing.

Upcoming Spring Service Hour Opportunities: 

I am passing around a sheet with your service hours, if your name is highlighted on the sheet, you don’t have any hours. 

Liz Sheridan:  Details for Habitat are not known yet.  We will let you know the week of the event. 


Old Business


New Business

Website Update

Intramurals – Nancy Lemon: Intramural 4-on-4 basketball champions are CLUB MED!

College and Organizational Reports

MUSC Gives Back

Student Programs: 

Dorothea Gadsden:  Please send out the information regarding work study students to your classmates again.  We did hire one person already, but we would like to hire more.  Work study students are needed in Student Programs Office.  Students need to be available 10-20 hours a week to work in a fun, interactive environment.  We are looking to hire 3-4 students.  Perks include 2 free admission tickets to events if they work that day and a lenient schedule.  MUSC Gives Back is also looking for 1 student worker as well.  Flyers are posted up around campus.  They don’t include the MUSC Gives Back information but direct any student interest to me and I will get them in contact with Liz Sheridan.  You can contact me for more information at 792-2693.

Katie Gonzalez:  Is the work study over the summer?

Dorothea Gadsden:  Yes

Jewelry is Fun fundraiser – This SGA fundraiser is taking place on Wednesday and Thursday, March 20-21 in the horseshoe under the portico from 9am-5pm.  There will be a payroll deduction for employees.

Dr. Burnham:  The president is asking that an SGA rep from each college meet with the board, including its newest members, to tell the board what your experience is like in SGA and answer questions.  There will be some specific questions you will need to prepare to answer that I will send out to you.  The meeting will take place on April 12th and will most likely take place from 8:45am – 10am. As soon as you are done speaking, you are free to leave.  I’ll send you more details.

MUSC Smoke-Free Campus Student Position is currently available and will close on March 15th.   There are 7 applications already in the pipeline.  The pay is $12=15 hours and the schedule is flexible.  We have extended the smoke free boundaries around MUSC.  These students will assist in educating people and walk the campus to support the educational initiative.  You will not stop people and give tickets.  You will make note of repeat offenders to tell public safety.  Training will be available for those who are hired.  Please remind your classmates.  The pilot program will take place from April 1st to June 30th. If there has been a good response and the ambassadors feel this program needs to be extended, we will extend the position until December. 

You will receive an announcement for Earl B Higgins award on Friday.

The Student Leadership Society Nominations are now being accepted. I will send an electronic copy of the form to Kayla tonight.  There is a $1500 scholarship that goes along with that. Nominations will be accepted immediately and will close on Wednesday, March 27th.  There are 6 Criteria, including leadership, participation in variety of leadership, and commitment to the University.  All students selected will be honored at the annual Student Leadership banquet.  If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to email or contact me. 

University wide Committees

Dental Medicine

Graduate Studies

Health Professions – Chayla Handley:

CHP Elections are currently undergoing so this is the last meeting that you will see Cacey and I. 

CHP will be having a fundraiser from March 25th - 29th to expand the CHP scholarship fund.  There will be a benefit at a different restaurant every night.  15-25% of the amount you spend at the restaurant will be donated to scholarships.  The restaurants have not been selected yet, but I will send that information out.   

PT is having their wheel chair basketball tournament. If you would like to put together a team it will cost $25 per person.  This includes practices with professional wheelchair basketball athletes, food, and jerseys.  Six is a good size team.  The event will take place on June 15th. Let me know if you are interested.  It will cost $5 to attend.

International Student Association

Medicine – Regina Brown:  Dr. Fitzharris is retiring.  He has done a lot for students across all colleges.  I thought it would be a good idea for the students to do something for him.  Do we want to sign a card through the student programs office or send a card or cake or something?

Cason Hund:  We will see what we can do!

Multicultural Student Advisory Board