Yonkofa Director, Dr. Deborah Martin, Wins Humanitarian Award from Medical Association of Georgia (MAG)

Bringing hope to rural Ghana (re-printed with permission from Philanthropy Spotlight)

“Imagine what life would be like with no access to healthcare, no hospital or doctors in your community, nowhere to turn when illness or injury strikes you or a loved one.  This is a reality for the inhabitants of rural Ghana, where children and adults die of pandemic disease and disabling conditions that are both treatable and preventable.”

This is the introduction shared on The Yonkofa Project’s website. The Yonkofa Project was born from the experiences of Dr. Gabriella Nanci and Dr. Deborah Martin, who first traveled together to Ghana on a short-term medical mission in 2010.  There, the doctors found that many of the rural villagers’ diseases could be prevented with basic access to medicine and preventive care.  

Shortly thereafter, Dr. Nanci conceived a project to bring sustainable healthcare to the remote areas of this struggling country.  Drs. Nanci and Martin formed a non-profit, and "Yonkofa," which means “friendship” in the local Twi language, was chosen as the name.  Building plans were developed, the land for the first clinic was donated, and, in the rainforest village of Yiwabra, The Yonkofa Project took root.

“There are not many hospitals in Ghana; the nearest one to Yiwabra is a regional facility located more than an hour’s drive away. Getting a taxi to come to the village is almost impossible and the villagers can’t afford cab fare anyway. There is such a need for primary care clinics throughout the country,” Dr. Martin explained. “Dr. Nanci and I wanted to take part in something that involved more than just occasional short-term medical missions to Ghana. We wanted to created a sustainable source of primary medical care.”

The Yonkofa Project is not simply a philanthropic effort by American doctors. It is a growing collaboration that includes physicians, local residents, Ghana’s Ministry of Health, the University of Ghana and more. The clinic in Yiwabra is well underway, with two buildings constructed from prefabricated components that often take several months to arrive via cargo containers.

“The village chiefs donated the land for the clinic, and the local villagers are doing most of the construction with supervision by a Ghanaian engineer,” said Dr. Martin. “The difference in what we’re doing is in the partnerships and the teamwork. We have made the connections to establish something permanent.”

Dr. Martin says that the goal of the project doesn’t stop with the completion of the clinic in Yiwabra.

“Our hope is to build a new clinic in a different region of Ghana each year until there is a source of primary care available to every Ghanaian citizen,” she said.

Learn more about The Yonkofa Project by visiting yonkofa.org.