Every Sunday, Child Rescue Centre student Ibrahim Bockarie sits on the front row of Leader UMC, not so he can hear the sermon better, but because he has a friend who needs his help. Ibrahim’s new friend, Toma, is a blind man who faithfully attends church, but needs someone to guide him to his seat and assist him throughout the service.
Ibrahim escorts Toma to their spot on the front pew, helps him with the offering, renders assistance if Toma needs to use the restroom, and stays with him until the service is over so he can help him down the stairs.
The CRC recently recognized Ibrahim’s service with a special citizenship award, which was announced in front of the entire staff at Wednesday devotions. “Ibrahim shows humility and love to the blind man, as taught by God and directed by the Child Rescue Centre,” CRC staff member Victor Kanu said proudly.
Ibrahim is 12 years old and attends UMC Kulanda Primary School, alongside many other children enrolled in the Child Rescue Centre. Not surprisingly, Ibrahim loves playing football in his spare time.
Midwife Mariama Bangali was very surprised and happy to receive Mercy’s quarterly staff recognition award in May. She is clearly a very dedicated worker, however, because she attended a training and the staff meeting one day, even though it was her day off. On top of that, she was sick and had a cannula inserted in her hand (what you connect to the IV). She even went on Outreach the next day with it still in! According to her co-workers, going above and beyond what is required is just what Mariama does.
About being selected for this award, Mariama said, “I am very excited and so happy. I think I won the award because I worked hard for it. I work in the maternity department and do the antenatal clinics and work in the labor ward. I started working at Mercy almost one year ago now. Mercy is so nice and I really like my colleagues and the management. Everyone works so hard. Mercy is quite different from other hospitals that I have worked at. The maternity department is trying our best and getting along so well. We work fast to make sure our patients are healthy and have safe deliveries.”
Christiana (her supervisor) had high praise for Mariama, sharing that ““she comes to work on time and she never leaves her duty. She is very diligent and committed. She is ready to do any duty at all. Mariama treats the patients very nicely, she knows how to talk to them and to encourage them. I feel very good that someone from our unit was chosen. She’s a hard worker."
- filed by Kim Nabieu, Medical Programs Field Director
Exam preparation classes were organized and held for all CRC students taking the National Primary School Examination (NPSE), and the Basic Education Certificate Exam in mid-April. NPSE classes were held on April 10th and 11th, and BECE classes on April 12th and 13th. These important exams are ‘gate-keeper exams;’ students are required to pass them in order to be promoted to Junior Secondary School (for those taking the NPSE), or to Senior Secondary School (for those taking the BECE).
Offered with the support and assistance of Allen and Patty Morell, these classes were led by tutors Lawrence Johnny, Edward Brewa, and Vandi Sitta. This was the first time that the CRC has offered exam preparation courses separately to NPSE and BECE students, who have always been combined in the past, and it worked very well. NPSE students took their exam on the first Friday in May, and the BECE exam will happen some time in June.
Mercy Hospital is hosting two groups of students for training.
The first is a group of six SECHNs (state enrolled community health nurse). The students are spending three months at Mercy in the middle of their four year schooling program. During that time they will rotate between the various departments so they can get a holistic idea of the various aspects of nursing. The nursing students came all the way from Freetown to do this practical, proof that Mercy’s reputation is known across the country.
Five Laboratory Technicians from Eastern Polytechnic in Kenema comprise the second group. The lab tech students are at the end of their two year schooling program, and after their one month at Mercy they will sit their final exams for the program. They are excited to be able to have hands-on experience and see what Mercy does both at the hospital and on village outreach.
On a recent outreach to Tikonko village, the Mercy medical team saw an extremely sick baby named Adama, who was suffering from severe diahrrea and vomiting. The child was restless, irritable and disoriented. The team brought her back to the hospital for treatment, accompanied by her mother Hawa. At the hospital, Adama was diagnosed with severe malaria.
On admission, Dr. Sao Amara prescribed medication, which was provided free of cost. The nurses administered the drugs and Adama was kept under observation in the hospital until the vomiting and diarrhea stopped. Hawa stayed with her baby for two days until she was alert, oriented and stable. Dr. Amara reported that "the mother is very happy for her child's health and the child has been discharged." There is no doubt that the outreach team saved little Adama's life.
Tikonko village is one of the places served by Mercy Hospital's outreach team.
The remaining children in the residential program enjoyed spending Sierra Leone Independence day with their families, returning with stories and good news.
Norman Koroma and his sister Kadijah will soon be reunified to live with their extended family. “I am very happy to go and see my family and friends at home and within the community,” Norman exclaimed. He played football with his friends, and was very happy to meet with other boys in the community.
Norman and Kadijah enjoyed a special meal of fish balls, rice and soup prepared by their aunt. They went to church on Sunday, and afterwards he had lunch with his grandmother at home. “I am also very grateful that the CRC has been sending me home to connect back with my relatives. Now I can go to the community with a sense of belonging, and not as a complete stranger," Norman said.
Janet Musa also enjoyed the Independence holiday with her parents, brothers, and sisters at home, where they played the "lodo" game and enjoyed a meal of cassava leaf. On Saturday, Janet helped her mother wash her clothes and went with her grandmother to visit her uncle. On Sunday, Janet and her sisters went to church.
For Janet, the most fun was playing stone ball with her sisters and friends at home. “I look forward to going back to my forever family soon. I am happy for the CRC for tracing my family and connecting me with them."
Edwina Davies spent her holiday visit with her grandmother. On Independence Day her grandmother prepared her favorite food, rice and cassava leaves with oil. “My grandmother is living with my five cousins. The whole family was very happy to have me join them on that weekend. My cousins and I played a lot just like we did at CRC. In the morning, I am the first to get up from my bed and woke everybody up for devotion. After the devotion, I greeted everybody at home. My grandmother told my cousins to copy my good examples of saying thank you, praying at devotions and greeting everybody in the morning," Edwina said proudly.
Abdulai Dakowa spent his holiday with his mother Saffie Dakowa, his elder brother Lahai, and his younger sister Nyalima. Abdulai said his family was very happy to have him spend the holiday with them. On Independence Day, their family attended a morning service at church.
Abdulai enjoyed participating in family activities. “During my stay with them, I always helped my mother in the evening hours to water the plants in the garden. My mother is a gardener. She sells potato leaves and krain, and uses the income for food and school lunch for the family. I also helped my brother to clean the house. After we have finished all our house chores we studied together. Thank God to the CRC for teaching me all these domestic activities, and for connecting me with my family,"
Baby Betty was rescued from severe malnutrition by the Mercy outreach staff, and her story was shared in the April 2017 newsletter. A year later, and Betty is out of danger, a healthy and beautiful little toddler. Last month was Betty’s 12th visit to the nutrition program (her mother has been one of the most consistent participants). It was also the first time she was in the “green” range of the MUAC*, and she may be eligible to graduate from the program this month.
Last year we also shared stories about Baby Mamie (original story here and update here) a severely malnourished infant first encountered by the Mercy outreach team in Tikonko village. A year later, and Mamie has made significant improvement; although still small, she is a healthy, active toddler. Mamie is on her 6th visit to the nutritional clinic, and she is “yellow” now, moving towards green.
*Interpretation of Mid-Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) indicators
In early May, staff of the Child Rescue Centre and Mercy Hospital participated in a training held by OneVillage Partners to learn community mapping and other concepts for effective community development. The skills learned in the training will help the CRC and Mercy to connect with the community, religious, and government leaders, as well as members of the community to make it easier to identify and support the most vulnerable members of the community.
OVP is a Sierra Leone-based organization that helps rural communities train, empower, and mobilize leaders, so that they can address their community’s most pressing, self-identified problems. By including the community in the process of identifying problems and developing solutions, OVP empowers people to solve their own problems and strengthens community investment in solutions.
OVP trainers Musa Gangha and Muje Josephine Lansana taught the CRC staff critical communication skills including focus group facilitation, appreciative inquiry (how to interview without leading the subject), and the Mercy Staff power-wise ranking (how villages can vote for their own priorities), and social and resource mapping. OVP trainers also coached both staff in identifying stakeholders, to ensure good representation in data collection.
The staff learned skills specific to developing and including voices which are often more difficult to hear, especially those of women and children.
“We found the OVP training very important as it directly relates to our present job,” observed Child Support Program assistant coordinator Victor Kanu. “The training has changed my perception about community development. In any community work I am doing, I will involve community people for better participation.
Ismael Vandi, Mercy Hospital statistician, found the training very worthwhile. "I really learned so many things I did not know before. The mapping for example, I never knew there were so many types of mapping. It was really interesting to learn about the power wise ranking method. It really helps make the decision making process easier and clear. Bringing the community people on board and making them really involved means that it will be easier to understand the community. Participation by community members is key. They know best what they want and need in their community. We need to ask them and involve them in any development project so they benefit and understand it."
OVP’s central concept is the “sharpening stone” (see video below). When a person tries to farm with a dull machete, he cannot do the work well, he needs a sharpening stone to make the machete effective. The “sharpening stone” of community empowerment is the teamwork involved in community mapping.
Scenes from Mercy Hospital's training session with OneVillage Partners.
Below, the Child Rescue Centre training.
A one month old set of twins (a boy and a girl) were orphaned when their mother died in childbirth. Their grandmother is raising them, but had no means to nourish the infants, so Mercy Hospital is providing formula for them.
As the nutrition outreach program expands, Mercy is seeing more cases like this one, and providing care that is not otherwise available. There is no other facility in Bo that provides formula to motherless babies.
Update on Jeneba: Jeneba's grandmother brought the baby back to Mercy just one week after receiving the milk, and she already looks so much healthier. It is amazing how something so simple as formula could make such a huge impact in only a week.
Below left, Jeneba is wrapped in a blanket made and donated by volunteer Malessa Porter. Jeneba's grandma loves the blanket and always keeps the baby wrapped in it. The name Jeneba means "beautiful one" in Mende, and indeed she is a beautiful baby.