Page 25 - IU Southeast Summer 2012 Mag

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IU Southeast
Summer 2012 23
IU Southeast alumna Alicia Allen (B.S. ‘10) receives a hug from Ghanaian chikdren.
Taking students to the field
Woodward began taking groups of
students to Ghana in 2008 to help
establish a baseline PTSD rate to
compare with the rates she had
discovered in Liberia on her previous
trips. Ghana is unique in West Africa
because it has never experienced
the civil wars that have befallen its
neighbors. The country has been
surrounded by devastation but has
managed to maintain stability.
By the time IU Southeast students
began traveling to Ghana with
Woodward, the Buduburam refugee
camp had closed. But that didn’t mean
the need for counseling left with it.
As Woodward expected, the baseline
rate for those who are suffering from
PTSD in Ghana was about 10 percent,
significantly lower than the nearly 50
percent of the Liberian population
suffering from trauma.
What was surprising, as Woodward and
her students discovered, was that the
baseline rate for PTSD in Ghana was
also much lower than the rate in the
United States. The research indicates
that while many Americans tend to look
at what went wrong, Ghanaians focus
on hope.
“There is so much hope there that
it doesn’t seem to matter how much
adversity they face,” Woodward said.
IU Southeast alumna Alicia Allen (B.S.
’10) noticed that fact during her three
weeks in Ghana.
“It was the most life-changing thing
that ever happened to me,” Allen
said. “The people in Ghana are these
amazing, resilient people.”
Kavanaugh, a fellow 2010 trip
participant, also noticed the difference
in attitudes between Ghanaians –
who come from a part of the world
where civil war is common, poverty
is rampant, and basic necessities are
limited – and Americans.
“I was interviewing a young lady who
was 21 – the same age I was when I
Any research
program that
would further
the cause
of trauma
healing is
most worthy.
Kadio Sah Ali
went to Ghana – and she was already
married and had a child,” Kavanaugh
said. “She was so amazed that I was
so young and doing all these things,
but she kept talking about how happy
and amazing her life was. And here I
complain about the stupidest things.
It taught me to be grateful for what I
have.”
In addition to helping survey
participants find assistance with
counseling, the trip changed the
students’ lives. Seeing her students
interact with the survey participants
and the community in general gives
Woodward hope that her work – and
her dream – will continue.
“In this very short experience abroad I
watch my students grow, and I watch
them develop a sense of power,”
Woodward said. “That desire to enact
change – that’s what comes back with
them. We are training the people who
will change the world.”