An illustrious event. With fun on the side.
For This is what I went to Sierra Leone to do, to officially open the surgical wing at Mercy Hospital. I couldn't wait to get there and help with preparations. I finally got to meet many of the people in charge of UMC SLAC, and those who had participated in bringing this vision to life.
It was my honor to represent all of the Helping Children Worldwide partners and leaders who worked so hard, believed with such faith, and operated with such compassion. Of course, I had to put in a plug for the "next steps" work we're doing to raise up Sierra Leone.
For more photos, check out the HCW news story.
This is what I said:
Remarks of Melody Curtiss, Executive Director
Helping Children Worldwide
January 18, 2019
Dedication of Mercy Hospital Surgical Wing
Good morning, I am Melody Curtiss, Executive Director of Helping Children Worldwide. HCW has been a UMC Sierra Leone Annual Conference Partner for twenty years. We are blessed and honored to be included in this occasion. We are represented here today by myself and two others who are well known to most of you, my Financial Specialist, Cynthia Grant, the longest serving member of the HCW team, who has been part of this ministry since the birth of Mercy Hospital ten years ago, and Kim Nabieu, my Medical Programs Field Director, who has been living here in Bo and working with Mercy leadership for two years. Please stand and be recognized.
We are grateful to have been able to come alongside Bishop John K. Yambasu, DS Rev. Francis Charley, Health Coordinator Catherine Norman, Manager Jinnah Lahai, Doctor Sao Amara, Matron Augusta Kpanabaum and all the amazing medical and support staff at Mercy Hospital in this shared Christian ministry and desire of attending to the healthcare needs in Bo.
Eight months ago, I stood at the top of that ramp with Sister Catherine and the Bishop and looked out across this entire campus of the UMC Urban Centre, talking about a shared vision for this facility. We spoke of what was possible, and imagined this very day, with all of you here together to witness Mercy Hospital celebrating the opening of a new surgical wing, with trained surgical staff to perform complex medical procedures, and surgical deliveries of babies. It seemed a long road, but, with God’s help, we have arrived.
I am blessed to have the responsibility of helping to find resources to aid the mission of Mercy Hospital. I don’t do this alone. The Board Members of HCW are great leaders. My staff is amazing and we have a partnership of UMC churches and donors all across the United States to assist as well, including Ebenezer UMC in Virginia, who made a large bequest available for the construction project, and the Peterson Family Foundation, who sponsored the shipment of surgical supplies and equipment necessary for an operating theatre.
It takes more than money to do what Mercy Hospital has done here. Their leadership and dedication shows in every miracle they manifest. They are the very hands of God in their care for their patients. HCW also has a medical advisory group of talented doctors who work with Mercy’s medical team, and a relationship with the Medical University of South Carolina to support Mercy’s dedication to operating under the highest medical standards.
We have so much to celebrate here today. Look at this beautiful campus, every day, a new improvement. I can see them right now, and keep in my mind’s eye all the visions that Bishop, Sister Catherine and Manager Lahai shared with me. However, that day in April when we all imagined the future of Mercy Hospital together, we did not imagine that Mercy would have the advantages of working in so many collaborations with other hospitals and medical facilities in Bo, and I am delighted to have met so many of you during my visits to Bo. We did not imagine how the leadership of District Medical Officer Dr. Roland Carshon-Marsh would create new opportunities for collaboration and alignment with the government of Sierra Leone priorities. We also did not imagine that in our midst was a talented team of professionals who would engineer an Electronic Hospital Information System for Mercy Hospital, the first of its kind in all of Sierra Leone.
I would like to introduce to you the database designer, Joseph Lamin, to share with you the next future innovation for medicine in Sierra Leone, and for operations at Mercy Hospital.
I will leave you with Joseph and my sincere gratitude and delight in the miracle of Mercy Hospital. May God continue to bless our lives.
Our mission for the first 2 weeks included working with the Mercy Hospital leadership team and the CRC leadership team as they began the next phase of their shift to Activities Based Budgeting, by connecting UMC's goals in Health and Child Welfare with the Global Sustainable Development Goals and setting program goals, outcome targets, and progress indicators and defining program activities.
Cynthia, Kim and I worked on the ground with the leadership in Sierra Leone and the team back in Chantilly joined in remotely. Even with the challenges of scarce internet and electricity, we managed to make significant progress from day one. Thanks to Cynthia Grant - by day 10, we were on a roll!
After missing out twice on the opportunity, Cynthia and I were determined to make it on outreach. Our trip was well worth it! We got to witness two babies graduate from the Mercy Nutrition program, and talk about potential solar power options at Mercy at a remote health clinic where Outreach provides the nutrition program to supplement other services already in place.
It wasn't all good news. There were some positive test results in the lab diagnostics and testing, and a mother and baby were referred for follow up at Mercy for necessary treatment. They are lucky that the Mercy team was there to provide testing at this crucial moment in this baby's life and that Mercy Hospital will be there to serve their health needs, regardless of ability to pay. As difficult as it is to see this, it made me proud to be supporting such an important life-saving program and to see it in action.
Weekends are time for helping Henry and students from the SAC program in a letter writing event at the CRC Happy Hall, then dropping in to visit a training for Mercy Hospital and all the Medical Facilities in Bo hosted in the CRC Great Hall (courtesy of Rural Health Care Initiative - see prior entry about our visit with them) - then a Sunday Service that turns out to be the Funeral for the father of one of the children at the letter writing event the day before, not to mention a visit with the tailor, eating coconuts fresh off the MTC trees, taking another trip to the river, and sharing a visit with Fudia. Productive, fun, and inspiring family-time with our friends and partners.
The miracle of clean water has inspired a village to request that the United Methodist Church please consider planting a church in the midst of their community, so that God may bring them more miracles, and they may praise and honor him.
Our team went out to inspect the well site and was met by the village chief and members of the community, who expressed their deep gratitude and renewed their request for a United Methodist Church.
It isn't hard to understand why this has occurred. Mercy Hospital Medical Outreach Coordinator Mohamed Khadar explains why this village was selected.
1. No source of clean water.
2. The closest stream was used for drinking water, for clothes, for bathing and for human waste.
3. Even the filthy water they relied upon is 3 miles away.
4. By the time somebody walked to the stream and back to collect water, it would often spill out upon the ground.
We traveled to Tikonko Chiefdom, first to meet with RHCI at the mother's waiting center, and then traveled on a bit further to see the deep bore water well project sponsored by Bethel UMC through Mercy Outreach. Mbao-mi Mothers’ Home is a safe place for women in the villages of Tikonko who are expecting to give birth to wait out the last weeks, rather than trying to reach a birth centre once they are in labor.
HCW has been brokering collaborations between Mercy and RHCI for about a year, and this meeting was the first of what is hoped will be many new collaborative health initiatives between the two provider organizations, including nutrition, maternal health, and prenatal care.
Tuesday started with devotions at the Child Rescue Centre, followed by a joint meeting of leadership to solve campus wide infrastructure issues, and a trip to the District Health Office to speak with the DMO. I was reminded that the bugaboos of program administration, organizational management are universal and life is a process of constant negotiation.
The afternoon, however, brought more uplifting silo-busting collaborations, as we met with the Drs. Kabba, two German trained doctors working at Gilas Children's Hospital, to discuss ways that Gila and Mercy medical teams could work together to serve patients, several immediate decisions resulted in improved care outcomes for patients that very day, and two improvements to the electronic medical records system that Mercy Hospital is piloting. This system is the only one of its kind in the country, and it will go on line at Mercy in 30 to 60 days, transforming care there, and demonstrating a attainable higher standard for care management in Sierra Leone. For a nerd like me, this is dream to see it launch.
Hats off to the incredible team who had the vision and talent to develop this system.
I'm really starting to sense a trend in this mission trip. Sustainable Development Goal No. 17. Look it up!
Monday began with Kim Nabieu sharing our revised agenda for the week. I realized that our time will be full of meetings with organizations that the team at HCW has been working for a year to bring together, and how lucky I was to be on the ground to witness all these huge steps forward. Next - morning devotions in the new Mercy Hospital waiting room and then a tour of the new surgical wing, the new HIV clinic, the new consultation area, improved pharmacy, refurbished patient wards, the new maternity labor and delivery ward, complete with indoor toilets, and so much more!
After that, a whirlwind round of meetings to discuss administrative matters associated with the opening of the OR, the upcoming partners meeting, the Sierra Leone Methodist Church Annual Conference and improvements to the energy and internet infrastructure on the campus. We attended joint meetings with leadership from Mercy, CRC and MTC, and the District Supervisor, Rev. F. Charley in his Bo office. Kim Nabieu and I were particularly blessed when Christians in Actions International Ministry, our contractors in the deep well project in Tikonko, arrived at Mercy Hospital, and we joined Hospital Administrator Jinnah Lahai, and Mercy Hospital Outreach Coordinator Mohamed Kadeh to discuss the next clean water project. We had a deeper conversation on the village mapping that had identified sanitation and clean water needs for almost every village in the catchment area. It was great to have Elmer and Tommy in the room with us as Mohamed discussed the particular health problems Mercy Outreach has identified in each village they serve and are tracking. Many are associated with sanitation issues in the lower resource communities. The importance of the work Helping Children Worldwide does to promote key collaborations was driven home for the second time that day as we all participated in the prioritization of long term goals and problem solving discussions.
Visiting the sandbar with Fudia
Sunday morning at Leader Memorial United Methodist Church was the usual uplifting experience of lots of singing, dancing and celebration of the world that the Lord has provided to us, including our marvelous challenges and opportunities to demonstrate compassion and generosity for one another.
A special treat was a evening visit with the MTC Caretaker, Fudia Ernest. We talked about the upcoming publication of her cookbook to benefit the MTC, and her vision for the future of the Missionary Training Centre. Then, Fudia and I drove out to the river to look at the progress of the new bridge that is being built there, and the new road that connects to it, and to watch the laborers dredging sand from the sandbar and carrying it in hand dug canoes. From there, other workers would load it into buckets and bags and carry the sand to the road, where they dumped it into a larger pile, which was loaded by trucks. The sand is then sold for building materials. By this, entire families were working to make a living, including old men, children and women with babies in slings on their backs. I would guess by the size of the piles, they had probably been working since the day began.
In the course of an evening stroll, we marveled at these symbols of how far Sierra Leone has come in rebuilding its infrastructure, the promises and opportunities and challenges that lie ahead for those engaged in the work we support.
I am so proud to be here with these amazingly courageous, hard working, smart, resilient and creative people building sustainable futures for the next generation.