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.
Kim Nabieu, Medical Programs Field Director
Jeneba celebrated her 3 month birthday at Mercy Hospital. The previous day, she had been brought into Bo from a faraway village. Her mother died not long after giving birth to her, most likely of pregnancy/delivery related issues. Jeneba’s grandmother was attempting to care for her but without breastmilk, the only alternative was to give the baby water which she occasionally added sugar or milk to.
After almost three months, Jeneba's grandmother knew something was wrong. The baby was not growing and was the size and weight of a newborn. Worried, she called her sister, Memu, who lives in Bo. Immediately, Memu told her sister to send the baby to her and the next day she traveled to Mercy Hospital with Jeneba.
Mercy staff immediately identified Jeneba as an at-risk patient. As she is still below six months of age, Mercy determined that the family should be giving her formula. This is very cost prohibitive (a can of formula costs $5 and lasts about a week). Mercy was able to provide a can to the family and has committed to supplying Jeneba with the nutritious milk she needs until she is 6 months old and able to eat the Bennimix provided in the Mercy Nutrition program.
Memu chose to bring Jeneba to Mercy because she had heard from a neighbor that Mercy had cared for their malnourished child during a village outreach event.
This is an awesome story of the impact Mercy can have, how the outreaches spread word of our programs, and the wonderful extended family system in Sierra Leone.
Also worth noting is that we have seen children whose mothers have died, and they didn't make it because the intervention wasn't early enough. I think we have enough time that this will save the child’s life! Go Mercy! There is no other organization I know that does this……what an important gap to fill!
"Don’t worry, you are going to get well soon.
Abu Bakarr Kanu has made excellent progress in his recovery from severe burns he suffered in March of 2017. Since that time, Mercy Hospital has been committed to his care and recovery. Abu Bakarr lived for months at Mercy Hospital, so that he could receive around the clock care. Additionally, The Child Rescue Centre provided weekly counseling sessions to help him to cope.
Abu Bakarr and his brothers Yahyah and Mohamed were officially enrolled in the Child Rescue Centre, and last fall, he was able to move home with brothers, uncle and grandmother, and begin classes at the Bo Kulanda Town Primary School.
Abu Bakarr loves school, and is getting good grades. His best subjects are English and mathematics, and he spends a lot of time studying for both. His best friend in school is named Brian, and they are also in the same class. Brian and Abu Bakarr love to play and read together. His brothers continue to encourage him in his recovery, telling him often, “don’t worry, you are going to get well soon.”
Abu Bakarr’s wounds are still healing, as healing from serious burns is a long and laborious process. He is happy to be home and going to school, but he still visits Mercy regularly to get his bandages changed, and to allow the Mercy staff to track his progress.
Fortunately, Abu Bakarr's family lives close to both the school and Mercy Hospital, and he has many friends who are happy to walk with him to school and to the hospital. Neither is far, but he needs to take breaks along the way.
Though progress on construction came to a halt during the recent presidential elections in Sierra Leone, the finishing touches are at last being completed on the expansion at Mercy Hospital.
The electrical wiring and three air conditioners have been installed. These units are a critical part of keeping patients and doctors comfortable and safe during surgical procedures. The remaining items to be completed are primarily cosmetic; finishing the ceilings, installing light fixtures, covering pipes, installing doors for the operating rooms, finishing the ramp, and completing the waiting area.
Additional facility issues at Mercy have also been addressed. One of the things Mercy has wanted to do for a long time is to better ensure the security of the compound. Mercy was able to use some savings to build a wall behind the hospital, extending from the Child Rescue Centre on one side, to the old wall that surrounds UMC Urban Centre on the other to create a U shape. The new wall will limit the number of people who use Mercy’s grounds as a pass through, and help the hospital secures its own and patients’ property. It will also strengthen disease control by allowing staff to monitor people entering the compound, and ensuring everyone washes their hands as they pass through the guard station. If a contagious disease breaks out, Mercy will be in a much stronger position to contain infection and protect patients and staff.
New fencing was also installed around the ash pits and garbage container, to ensure proper containment of hazardous materials.
Several months ago, Mercy Hospital successfully treated a small boy who had suffered second degree burns on his hands. The mother could not afford to pay for the child's treatment, but Mercy treats all patients regardless of their ability to pay. His mother returned to the hospital to show her appreciation to Mercy staff for the care they provided to her little boy, who has healed well from his injuries.
Burn injuries are among the most devastating and traumatic injuries, and are a major contributor to child mortality in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the World Health Organization.
Mercy Hospital Maternity staff recently held a one day training on gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes mellitus occurs in women in whom diabetes commences or is recognized for the first time during pregnancy. A small proportion of such women may have had occult diabetes before pregnancy.
Dr. Amara explained why he felt the class was needed. "The reason for this topic came as a result of diagnosing a pregnant woman who came with classical symptoms (polyuria, polylepsia and weight loss). I ordered a random sugar to be done which happened to be 12.5mmol/L (higher than normal).
"I asked the charge nurse of the maternity ward the incidence of gestational diabetes at Mercy, and her response was she had never diagnosed one.
"I came to the conclusion that there may be gestational diabetes coming at Mercy but they may be missed. This was an awareness training for staff at the Maternity to pay attention to the cardinal signs of gestational Diabetes."
The training was conducted and facilitated by Dr. Amara and Sister Augusta, hospital matron.