International Conversation about Partnering in Sierra Leone to improve health, community development and education
The bi-annual UMC SLAC Partners conference gives HCW a chance to discuss broader collaborations with other NGOs and humanitarian ministries operating in partnership to tackle the same problems we are address.
The conversation gave Kim Nabieu and I an opportunity to speak with our new and old friends about the needs of the UMC medical facilities, and our potential combined impact on the Sierra Leone Healthcare System. Representatives from Mission of Hope Rotifunk, alongside the Norwegian UMC that is supporting Rotifunk Hospital, as well as the conference supporting a specialty Surgical Clinic (Ophthalmology) at UMC Kissy Hospital, and the United Methodist Churches General Board of Global Ministries put their heads together with Kim and I and we came up with several opportunities for collaboration. Expect to hear more on the new task force that formed out of this!
With respect to child welfare programming at the Child Rescue Centre, Olivia Fonnie of UMC and I had to sort of straddle the education and community development break out sessions, as there wasn't another NGO tackling child welfare present, outside of those who were doing community development.
Overall, this was a great opportunity to look more holistically at the issues of job creation and sustainable futures, and make the links between separate missions that focused on healthcare or education, or efforts to dig wells, install public sanitation, build schools and churches, provide business training, support agricultural ventures and other social infrastructure supports.
Of course, most of our partners are churches, and that is the case with international partners as well. So, we had plenty of opportunity to consider our spiritual mandates as well as our practical program supports.
Learning how Sierra Leone works.
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.