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.
Happy 2019, Team HCW! I cannot believe I left the US a week ago. After 36 hours of air travel, and a chilly night in the Amsterdam Airport, the Nabieu's and I arrived in Freetown, where we were greeted by our good friend, Joseph, the MTC driver. I know our missioner's are well aware what a wonderful sight it is to see his face and know we are welcomed back to Salone. We arrived at Lungi Airport with layette kits for new mothers, back packs for students and all four computers needed to finish installing the Mercy electronic records system.
Have you heard of street cleaning day? I had not until last Friday night, when I learned that we would have to stay off the road until noon the next day. It's the law in Sierra Leone. It was a great excuse for a leisurely breakfast with additional time available for adjusting to the time zone.
Mohamed had meetings in Freetown, so Kim and I finally hit the road to Bo, where we were greeted again by more friends at the MTC, Fudia, Rosaline and Jinnah and dinner was already on the table for me.
It felt like coming home.
Yesterday the whole team was able to participate in village outreach with the Mercy Hospital staff to Flawahun, a village in the Sembahun Salenga catchment area. We served alongside the staff in pre-natal visits, lab testing for malaria and HIV screening, nutrition for the youngest children, and pharmacy disbursements. It was humbling to be among so many people with such need and limited resources. It was a hot and exhausting, but very rewarding day. We all appreciated the care that the Mercy staff give to every person they come in contact with.
Today is our last day in Bo! We are wrapping up our projects and writing up our notes and observations. Sometimes it feels as though the time has flown by, and other times our experiences have impacted us so much we cannot believe we have been here less than 2 weeks. We are all looking forward to coming home and sharing our experiences with friends and family.
Sunday was a great day. We split the team in 2 and attended both Leader UMC and Centenary UMC in the morning. Such joyous services with lots of singing and praying. Even though we had some difficulty understanding some of what was said, much of the services had the familiar elements from home. It was laity Sunday and the services were a little shorter than usual so we were on time for lunch!
After lunch Joe and Henry took us all out to visit our sponsor children. We were able to meet 4 of the children and visit with their families at their homes. Some of the children were a little timid when first meeting their sponsors, but they quickly warmed up. We carried a portable printer with us and were able to take pictures and print them right there so that the children received a photo of them with their sponsor.
This was the second time Kristen was able to visit her sponsor child, Raymond. He was not timid, but came running out of the house to greet her. They even played a little football (soccer) with the ball she brought for him.
We are now on our second week of our projects and can't believe how quickly the time is going by.
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10
Yesterday was a day of life in the full! We started the day as most of our days in Bo begin – a delicious breakfast prepared by Fudia and Rosaline and worshiping Papa God with our partners at the Child Rescue Centre (CRC) and Mercy Hospital. The morning was spent doing one of three activities. Linda and Kerry visited three schools in Bo Town with Mabel, Education Manager at the CRC. Students packed into classrooms were thrilled to see their visitors. Mabel and Kerry led discussions with teachers that had participated in the summer team’s Teacher Learning Exchange. They were able to obtain follow up data about implementation of the classroom practices discussed a few months ago and learn about which practices have been most useful to teachers in Bo.
Doug, Kristen and Julie spent the morning with JJ (Sponsor a Child Coordinator) and Imourana (Child Support Program Coordinator/Case Manager) traveling to Maguama, a nearby village about 7 miles from the Missionary Training Center. Julie recently began sponsoring Mohamed, a ten year old boy living in Maguama. On arrival the team was greeted by about 150 children excited to see, touch and mimic their new friends. Julie was able to visit with Mohamed and his mother, as well as provide them a gift of rice, school supplies and a soccer ball. (See picture of Julie and her sponsor child.)
The remaining three team members spent the morning participating in a medical outreach conducted at Mercy Hospital. Sonja and Debra worked to measure the length and mid-upper arm circumference and take the weight of each baby/toddler (about 170 in all!) to assess the growth of each child and see if another month of nutrition supplementation was indicated. Chris worked alongside Matron Augusta to perform cervical cancer screenings -- about 40 mothers were screened! (See picture of Sonja and Debra working at the outreach.)
As we spent the afternoon recovering from the heat in the peace hut, we were able to discuss each of our experiences and process together. One of the common themes we all witnessed yesterday was the amount of hope that the CRC and Mercy staff brings to the people they encounter daily and the joy they find in their work. Each of us has been feeling truly inspired and we pray that our presence can in some small way help to provide a little more hope. We laughed about funny parts of our day over a surprise dinner created by Fudia last night – shwarma and soda! Later during team devotions we were able to reflect together about how faithful God has been in each of our lives to bring us to Sierra Leone and how Jesus invited his disciples into his work during his time on earth, just as he invites all of us into a full life with him. We are so thankful to be in Mama Salone working alongside our partners!