Travels to Salone – Part 1

Part 1 of the April 2019 Trip Update

A quote by comedian Amy Poehler aptly sums up our most recent project visit to Sierra Leone, “find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.”

Visiting the hospitals and clinics we support, spending time with the young orphans at River #2, and hours in the car with our Sierra Leone partners made for a productive, inspiring, and always fun trip.

Western Area Health Facilities Providing Care to Women & Children

Nearing its two-year anniversary, Christ the King Hospital in Waterloo, continues to provide much-needed health services to women and children.  Waterloo is 22 miles east of Freetown and is the capital of the Western Area Rural.  The population is over 48,000 and is one of the fastest growing areas outside of Freetown. 

During our visit a young father had brought his son in for a post-natal exam.  The facility tracks height and weight and provides nutrition counselling to ensure that children do not become malnourished.  The nutrition program is developed around items that families can buy at the local market and therefore are more likely to be able to afford and follow.

At Monsignor Daniel Sullivan Clinic (MDSC) in Newton, we stopped by to deliver a new laptop and to discuss health data results from 2018.  Health Administrator Josephine Amara has been working with all facilities we support in the western area to collect patient attendance and disease data.  This will help us better understand the health needs of the community.   During 2018, MDSC had nearly 4,500 patient visits and 69% of those were women.

No trip to Sierra Leone is complete without a short visit to one of its beautiful beaches.  Near Waterloo & Newton, is Tokeh Beach. It is described as a “slice of paradise.”  And, it indeed was!  We only had time for a quick bite of dinner and then were on our way, but we found ourselves daydreaming about Tokeh Beach for the rest of the trip!

Stay tuned for Part 2 next month. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to be the first to see new blog posts.

A Transformational Leader

This month, we’d like to take a moment to highlight one of our most inspirational stars, Sister Okechi Bernardine Njoku.  Sister Okechi is one of the few mental health professionals in Sierra Leone and is the Director of Holy Rosary Sisters Counselling and Peace Center in Bo.

One of the first sisters to sign up to participate in the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation program to advance the education and professional development of sisters in Sierra Leone, Sister Okechi chose to study at Divine Mercy University in Virginia. In November 2018, she graduated with a degree in psychology.  

In discussing her decision to participate in the program Sister Okechi told us, “I enrolled in the Divine Mercy University program because I felt I needed more knowledge to understand the human person, human joys and suffering to facilitate his or her growth and flourishing. [The University] equipped me with sufficient insights to identify and handle human sufferings in a more professional way.” 

She continued, “After my graduation, I began to treat my workers as well as those with whom I have contact with more respect, dignity, empathy, understanding and unconditional love.  I have become more gentle and compassionate to those who suffer. Above all, I emerged out of my studies as a transformational leader who desires to transform others’ lives.” 

Sister Okechi is now sharing her knowledge and building up the capacity of mental health workers in Sierra Leone, noting “I am engaged in teaching psychology to candidates who are interested in becoming counselors.”

Her day-to-day counselling responsibilities are still a priority and she is kept very busy with individual clients.  In her counselling she seeks to empower her patients so they have the ability to write their own story and that, despite hardship, they are “redeemable.”  Sister Okechi also holds workshops on stress management and addressing the “defense mechanisms that humans employ to run away from difficult situations.”

And if that isn’t enough, Sister Okechi has written a book, “Domestic Violence: A Guide for Survivors,” which she uses to help victims of domestic violence while conducting workshops. 

HealeyIRF is very honored to have been able to support Sister Okechi in her studies. It is through the hard work of individuals, like Sister Okechi, that the delivery of mental health services will improve in Sierra Leone and that those who need them will be able to access them.

Thanks a million times for your sponsorship.  – Okechi Njioku

The Renovation of Ward 9

Ward 9 of Connaught Hospital was dilapidated. Nurses would fan patients by hand to keep them cool. It was one of the busiest wings in the hospital, and yet it was in the worst condition.

Put into action by Caritas Freetown, the renovation of Ward 9 was a joint effort by The Partnership for Humanity consisting of the Healey International Relief Foundation along with Tzu Chi Foundation, and Lanyi Foundation.

Dr. Kisito Doah, Hospital Care Manager at Connaught, expressed his gratitude for the Partnership for Humanity’s work, “They wanted to do something for Connaught… They came to Ward 9. They chose it even though it was really in a very, very bad state. And for us, it’s really special.”

The ward was fully renovated with new paint, tiling, beds, nurse’s station, an electrical system, handrails, and even two televisions.

On April 12, 2019, the Partnership for Humanity handed over the newly renovated Ward 9 to Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Health and Sanitation 

Stars from St. Mary’s

 It began very simply. Father Peter Konteh heard a cry outside his parish door. Upon opening the door, he saw a small child wrapped in a blanket staring up into his eyes.

“I was very surprised at what I found on my doorstep,” reflected Father Peter, “but in the middle of all the horrors of the war my heart was so moved by that innocent little baby.”

Father Peter began caring for this child and over time more children were being left at the parish in Bo. After consulting with the Archdiocese of Freetown, Father Peter was given permission to build the St. Mary’s Home for Children.

“This was an evil time in our country’s history, but these brave and innocent children have overcome, and they give me such hope for the future, not only for Sierra Leone, but the world,” said Father Konteh, “They are shining brightly.”

 Established in 1999 during the civil war by Father Peter Konteh, St. Mary’s Home for Children became a haven for children left abandoned or orphaned during this brutal and deadly war. At St. Mary’s, HealeyIRF built a water well, sanitation facilities, perimeter fencing, volleyball court, and a library to support the health and welfare of the children. Father Konteh was later called to serve in Freetown and had to leave Bo, but his impact on the children is still evident today. Many of you have been supporters of these efforts since our inception and are well aware of our work in Bo. We know you will enjoy hearing where some of these children are today. For those who are recent supporters of our work to help Ebola orphans, know that we seek to ensure that these children grow to be success stories just like the children from St. Mary’s.

Mariama Jalloh

Mariama Jalloh, pictured left, is living in Freetown and recently received her diploma in Pharmacology. She is now entering the University of Sierra Leone to study towards a Bachelor in Science for Medicine. Of Father Peter she says, “He has really helped to change my life.” Her twin sister Asanatu, who was also at St. Mary’s, is studying at Freetown Teachers College.

Francis and Joseph

Francis and Joseph, who are brothers, are with Father Peter at St. Edwards Compound in Kingtom. Both are excelling in their education. Francis, pictured right, is in his first year at the Institute of Public Administration Management at the University of Sierra Leone studying Banking and Finance. Joseph is in his last year of secondary school.

Mariama Fullah

HealeyIRF Program Manager Megan Smith was delighted when she ran into Mariama Fullah during her 2017 trip to Sierra Leone. “2012 was my first trip to Sierra Leone and first time to meet the children at St. Mary’s. Mariama was seven and took hold of my hand from the moment we arrived. So happy, smiling non-stop, and introducing me to all her friends,” recalled Megan. “She shared a candy treat with me and I have never forgotten that moment. She had lost everything but still wanted to share what she had with me. Seeing her this year, there was that same smile from the same little girl who back in 2012 took my hand and my heart forever.”

Father Peter and HealeyIRF are now working together to rebuild the lives of children orphaned by Ebola. 

“Like the children nurtured at St. Mary’s,” stated Father Peter, “we will work also to develop these children to live positive lives and make the world a better place. They too will shine brightly.”

How Mosquito Nets Can Save Lives

This Thursday, April 25th, is World Malaria Day.  Malaria is one of, if not the most, commonly diagnosed and treated diseases in Sierra Leone. In fact, 4 out of 10 hospital consultations are due to malaria infection. Bed nets are crucial when it comes to efforts to #PreventMalaria. Here’s a few ways mosquito nets save lives:

Mosquitoes typically bite late at night, between 10PM and 2AM. The best way to prevent mosquito-spread diseases is to protect where you sleep.

Bed nets are the cheapest and easiest form of preventing malaria. Many affected areas are extremely impoverished and often rely on aid from non-profits like the Healey International Relief Foundation. We can provide mosquito nets at a low cost and easily distribute them. No expensive shipping, training, or medication required. Nets typically last for only a couple years, which means we can replace them easily too.

Nets protect the most vulnerable. Almost 20% of child mortality rates in Sierra Leone are caused by malaria. Not only that, pregnant women infected with malaria are especially at risk of death, miscarriage, premature delivery, stillbirth, and low birth weight. Sleeping under a net can help to save these lives.

Send a mosquito net to someone in need using our Amazon Charity list here: https://amzn.to/2I2vljn