Waterloo Kissi Town Community is the site of a refugee camp that operated during Sierra Leone’s civil war (1991-2002). It is also one of the fastest growing areas outside of Freetown.
Services for the population, especially health care services for the poor and vulnerable, were needed.
In early 2017, an opportunity arose for Caritas Freetown to acquire a building complex at Waterloo from Missionary Friends. But equipment, medicines, medical supplies and staff were needed in order to get the facility running. Getting support would take time, but Father Peter Konteh, Executive Director of Caritas Freetown, knew waiting was not an option for those needing help.
“We do not choose where we are called to serve, but when called we must move forward even in uncertainty,” noted Father Peter. “Pregnant women, children and those with chronic illnesses desperately needed health care services.”
Christ the King Opens
Christ the King Hospital in Waterloo, Sierra Leone opened its doors in June 2017. Within a short-time the need for services was obvious. In December over 800 monthly patient visits were recorded, up from 427 from the first full month of operation in July.
Under the direction of Sister Josephine Amara, the facility has flourished with a focus on ensuring the community receives quality health care.
“Each year our patient visits increase, with 9,190 in 2018 and 9,311 in 2019,” said Sister Josephine. “We are very proud that the community has chosen to trust us with their care and three years have gone by so fast! We are looking forward to the future and providing additional services.”
Under-5 population reached
Of particular importance is that 63% of the outpatient population since the opening of Christ the King are children under-5. Sierra Leone has one of the highest under-5 mortality rates in the world and it is critical that this vulnerable population has access to health care. Life-saving child immunization services are offered at Christ the King. In 2019 nearly 3,000 under-5 immunization doses were administered.
HealeyIRF supports Christ the King Hospital with medicines, supplies and equipment. We want to take this opportunity to congratulate Caritas Freetown on the three-year anniversary of Christ the King Hospital. They are truly meeting the needs for those in need.
Father Daniel Sullivan, HealeyIRF’s first Executive Director, had a dream after visiting Sierra Leone – to help the village of Newton build a clinic to provide critical healthcare services to vulnerable families. Father Dan raised the needed funds but died suddenly in 2013.
His dream, however, was realized in 2015 with the construction of the clinic in Newton. A recent story from the clinic staff reminds us that Father Dan is ever present and certainly smiling down on those working and receiving care at the Monsignor Daniel Sullivan Clinic
In Sierra Leone the need for maternal care is overwhelming. It has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world with 1 in 17 women in Sierra Leone likely to die from childbirth and its complications.
In late March, 28-year old Aminata came to the Sullivan Clinic for a routine antenatal visit. This was her second pregnancy. She had delivered successfully in 2017 at the clinic. On this visit she had high-blood pressure and was diagnosed with preeclampsia. The staff followed establish protocols to manage her condition.
Swift Action by Clinic Staff
Unfortunately, she later returned to the clinic with more severe symptoms. Referring her to the maternity hospital in Freetown, about an hour away, the staff called for an ambulance. With the rise of COVID-19, however, ambulance service was spotty. It was unclear when the ambulance might arrive.
Describing what happened next, Community Health Officer Manjia said, “Instead of sitting and waiting for the ambulance to come as we were not sure when it will really come, we were forced to carry out the delivery. We did whatever we could to save Aminata’s life such as opening an IV line to support the delivery. The delivery was successful. Mother and child were safe. She and the baby spent the night in the facility.”
Aminata returned with her husband to the clinic for her postnatal exam. They expressed their profound and sincere thanks to the facility for the life-saving service Aminata had received. “I was closer to the grave as I felt my one foot was at the grave and the other was in the world. Your prompt decision saved my life and that of my baby,” said Aminata.
As a way of expressing appreciation to the clinic, they brought a large pineapple for the staff.
The staff at Monsignor Daniel Sullivan Clinic receive training to handle emergencies, such as this. But, it doesn’t hurt to have Father Dan smiling down.
Together with the Partnership for Humanity, the Healey International Relief Foundation (HealeyIRF) continues to support survivors of flooding disasters and the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, alongside Tzu Chi, Lanyi, and Caritas. These survivors comprise of children orphaned by the eighteen-month long Ebola outbreak and the various floods, as well as survivors who are currently battling ill-health conditions as a result of both the epidemic and the natural disasters.
In recent years, Sierra Leone has experienced increasingly heavy rains that have caused devastating floods. According to eye witness accounts, the flooding disasters brought overwhelming destruction to already vulnerable communities. Many sustained injuries, some lost family members, while others were left homeless. Mabinty Kanu, a resident of Moyiba Town, Freetown, expressed appreciation to the Partnership for Humanity for the rice, clothes, and blankets supplied to her and other flood victims.
Although the Ebola outbreak was five years ago, affected families lost their breadwinners. Those who have survived are currently suffering from a range of medical complications. The Partnership for Humanity has continued to serve these communities throughout the years.
During a distribution of items to
Ebola survivors, the President of the Sierra Leone Ebola Survivors Association,
Yusuf Kabba, remarked how HealeyIRF and the Partnership for Humanity have
continued to fulfill their promise to them by continuously distributing rice
and other needed items to survivors.
To support sustainable development for these impoverished communities in Sierra Leone, HealeyIRF and the Partnership have established a relationship with Home Leone’s Destiny Village, located on the outskirts of Freetown in Newton. The Home Leone Foundation works to relocate inhabitants of disaster-prone areas to the Village, located in a much safer environment. HealeyIRF, together with its partners, visited the village this year to follow up on the success of a previous distribution and to further facilitate interactions of love between the families and over twenty-five Tzu Chi, Lanyi, Caritas, and HealeyIRF staff and volunteers. During the visit, items were distributed to pupils of the Destiny Academy, a school established in the Village for relocated children. After the interaction, a certificate of appreciation was presented to the Healey International Relief Foundation.
to Sierra Leone quite literally brought my work to life. I’ve been here at the Healey International
Relief Foundation for eight months and up until a couple of weeks ago, spending
Monday through Friday in an office in Cherry Hill, New Jersey—about 4,300 miles
away from Sierra Leone’s capital city of Freetown. This week-long venture to Salone would leave me more connected to
my work than ever.
On November 10th, 2019, I landed in Lunghi International Airport alongside my boss, Ben, his wife Flor, my coworker Vicki, and a representative from our partners at MAP, Jeff. As we stepped out of the airport, luggage rolling beside us, a familiar face greeted us, Ishmeal Alfred Charles himself. To me, this was wild. I had communicated with Charles via emails, texts, and video conference calls but never became acquainted face-to-face. My first night in-country was capped off with a Star beer and dinner alongside most of the U.S. and Sierra Leonian Healey International staff.
Our first two days, packed with visits to medical facilities, the ICC, and our warehouse, was very surreal. I’ve been creating fundraisers to support Christ the King Hospital, Sullivan Clinic, St. Anthony’s Clinic, and others for months, but to drive through the surrounding slums and step into their respective compounds gave me a new understanding of the impact of these facilities. The communities were visibly impoverished. Each visit was miles from the nearest city clinic. We turned off newly paved tarmac roads onto uneven dirt roads, packing anywhere from five to seven of us into a vehicle. We bounced around in the back seat, trying not to elbow each other accidentally. As we neared the compounds, each scene was almost identical—mothers hanging damp clothes on a clothesline, children with ripped shirts and no shoes playing soccer, and others sitting in the shade to trying to escape the humid Sierra Leone heat. I was told, but I couldn’t imagine, that many of these communities were much worse in years past.
Each of the healthcare workers I’d spoken with echoed the same sentiment. The communities surrounding have seen only positive growth since having a clinic or hospital to care for its people. Sister Josephine (another face I had seen on our monthly WhatsApp meetings but did not have the pleasure of meeting in person until my trip) was our eyes and ears on the ground. She regularly visits each of the clinics and hospitals we support, ensuring that our medical supply and medicine donations are at the very least useful. I understood Sister Josephine’s dedication to the success of these facilities immediately. Good health can uplift a community.
Day three was the first day I was able to spend with the dedicated volunteers and staff on the Tzu Chi Foundation team. It was also the first day I got to see Charles in action. I was in awe of how intelligently he articulated himself and always, always put the needs of the Sierra Leonian people first. The most challenging and rewarding day was the following day spent doing distributions in Culvert. In collaboration with the Partnership for Humanity organizations (my team at HealeyIRF, Caritas, Tzu Chi, and Lanyi), we distributed blankets and clothes to victims of the August floodings in Culvert. After about seven hours of baking under the sun, dedicated volunteers finished handing out bags even after the sun had set, lit only by the glow of truck headlights.
I got to spend my final day at St. Mary’s-Fatima ICC in River #2 (yes, there’s a River #1). Sisters Agatha and Bernadette shower all 27 children at the home with love, and you can see it all around the compound. In the food they eat, the discipline they have with school and chores, the optimism they have for the future, and the pure joy they share through dance and laughter. Each of these children had lived lives of hardship before coming to the home, many of them orphaned by Ebola, and yet all of them radiated positivity.
St. Mary’s-Fatima ICC, there was a St. Mary’s home for children. Established after the civil war, St. Mary’s
was born out of the efforts and compassion of Father Peter. When I had the opportunity
to speak with three former residents of St. Mary’s, I was not at all shocked by
the love and admiration they each had for Father Peter. That became a common
theme throughout the trip. In the small communities I interacted with, Father
Peter was a superstar. Those close to him would joke and call him, “Mister
Mayor.” For those who have never had the
pleasure of meeting him, it’s hard to pin down his boundless empathy, charisma,
and uncanny ability to find the humor in almost all situations—not to mention
his tastefully cheeky jokes.
As I crossed the bay on a ferry to the airport, I felt overwhelmed with hope about the future of the country. Many of the people I encountered had endured so much adversity, only to overcome it tenfold, driven to give back to their communities. No matter where I went, I felt welcome. Gratitude is the only word that can sum up the feeling of being in Sierra Leone. I thought of the children at the ICC who declared their dream careers to be in service of the people and Ishmael from Culvert, who found the inspiration volunteer with the Partnership for Humanity through the loss of his brother in one of the floods this past August.
The sky turned shades of red and pink as my plane ascended into Sierra Leonian skies. Less than an hour later, I was watching the moon rise over Liberia. Already, I felt a longing to return to Salone.
Over a year ago, we shared the story of Mustapha with you, our supporters. At a fragile eight months old, Mustapha was diagnosed with biliary atresia, a deadly liver disease that required a transplant. There were no hospitals in West Africa that could undertake this life-saving procedure.
The HealeyIRF team jumped into action and reached out to various children’s hospitals in the area, in hopes that someone would help precious Mustapha.
“We called the University of Pennsylvania, the Children’s Hospital, St. Jude, all of them—nobody would take him unless he lived here so he could have follow-up treatment,” Executive Director Ben Parra recalled, “We found out there was a hospital in India that could do the transplant, but they told us it would cost $30,000. We didn’t have the money to cover it.”
Despite encountering difficulties in the beginning, this story has a happy ending.
You, our compassionate supporters, helped us to raise $45,000 for Mustapha’s surgery. In June of 2018, Mustapha’s mother, Christiphine, donated part of her liver to save her child’s life. After a successful surgery, Mustapha and his family stayed in India temporarily to ensure a healthy recovery.
With a huge thank you to those who support and continue to support the efforts of Healey International Relief Foundation, Mustapha is now happy, healthy and home.