Art & Healthcare?

Art & Health?

Are you inspired by art? In Sierra Leone art not only inspires but helps improve healthcare outcomes for women and children.

Sierra Leone has for decades had high maternal and infant mortality rates.  In addition, malnutrition is prevalent among young children.  Educating this population can be challenging as the literacy among females is very low.  According to the most recent Demographic and Health Survey,  women’s  literacy rate in Sierra Leone is 36%.

Creative response helps improve healthcare outcomes

However by painting pictures on the outside and inside of clinics, important health messages such as breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months or recommendations on the proper foods for getting essential vitamins to young children are being conveyed.

Pictured above is Father Peter Konteh, Executive Director Caritas-Freetown and Sister Josephine Amara, Health Coordinator Caritas-Freetown at Christ the King Hospital, the latest facility added to the Charity Health Network.  Christ the King Hospital is located outside Freetown in Waterloo, a former refugee site during Sierra Leone’s civil war in the 1990s.  The Waterloo community has welcomed this new facility, especially the antenatal, infant care, and nutrition services.

Painting depicts health message

Admiring the painting which depicts the needed proteins, fats, and vegetables that should be fed from 6-24 months, Sister Josephine commented, “It is a simple but effective way to provide the information necessary to improve health outcomes and is a practice used throughout the country.” 

HealeyIRF Program Manager Ishmael Charles added, “Pictures leave a lasting image in the mind.  Like movies, they last longer and aid comprehension.”

So not only is “a picture worth a thousand words” – a picture is also worth improved health outcomes!

Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.

Edgar Degas

A Young Child’s Wisdom

Salman Conteh, pictured right, was one of the first children admitted to the Newton Interim Care Center (ICC) when it opened during the Ebola crisis in 2014. Abandoned, alone, and scared she was found at the bustling Waterloo market and brought to the ICC.  Nothing was known about her, and she was too young to remember.  Efforts to track down any relatives were unsuccessful.

 Now three years later, still at the ICC in Newton, she dreams of becoming a nurse. Salman studies hard at the Better Way Primary School to achieve her goal.  We believe she was born sometime in 2010.

A recent school assignment called for the children to write an essay about anything they wished…their favorite food, friend, or their favorite time of year…whatever they liked.  Salman’s essay stood out as its message of gratitude and fortitude were remarkable for one so young and who has experienced such hardship in life. We felt it very appropriate for this Christmas season.


There was once a poor man living in a certain village who thought all was lost for him in the world so he decided to take off and hide from the world. On that day the man happen to have three ripe banana and he took them far away to the bush. He went and climb a tree and started eating his banana. Whiles eating he was busily talking to himself saying I cannot cope with life any more.  At that same time another man who was more poorer than him came and sat under the same tree and he was feeding from the fallen peals of the banana. He was not having any cloth on and he was using leafs to cover himself.

 The man who was sitting under the tree made an appeal to the man up the tree that since he was not returning to the village, he should please give him the cloth he is wearing so he can go to town and live his life like the other human beings.  The man up the tree looked down and saw the man whose condition was worse than him, so he said to himself, “God I thank you, I never knew that there is somebody I am far better than.” The end of the story.

That was the end of the story but Salman then wrote what this story meant to her –

  • Always respect the little you have at hand and seek for more.
  • Do not ever give up in life, strive till the end.
  • Life will never be rosy at all-time difficulty must come and you have to cope.

This Christmas season let us reflect on this young child’s wisdom. 

Gratitude turns what we have into enough.

–Melody Beattie

Video Blog – Flood & Mudslide Relief Efforts

Immediately Providing Care & Comfort

As the old saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”  This month we hope you will enjoy our video blog. In pictures and a few words it describes our efforts and those of our partners to help provide assistance to the victims of the devastating floods and mudslide in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Our in-country Director, Ishmeal Charles, simply calls it

“Love in action.”

Devastating mudslide kills hundreds in Freetown

Mudslide kills

“It is indeed a sad day in Freetown.”  These are the words of our in-country director, Ishmeal Charles, as he and others from Caritas-Freetown were on site to aid the survivors from a deadly mudslide that occurred early Monday morning, August 14th

Hundreds Killed –  Thousands Homeless

Local reports have the death toll from this horrific mudslide as high as 300 and nearly 3,000 families and children homeless.  These numbers are expected to rise in the coming days as rescue and recovery efforts continue. The BBC reports that many may have been asleep when the mudslide occurred and 60 children are possibly among the dead. 

Charles described the scene and his feelings,

The rain started since about 4am this morning.  Now we have seen so many people losing their lives and houses.

My pain, my agony and tears are all over all our faces.  So sad Sierra Leone is from one trouble to another.

Seeing so many people trying to protect their houses, old, young and children.  To sad to be real.

We are out here in the field.

The rainy season in Sierra Leone lasts from June to August, with heaviest rains in August.  The rains and inadequate drainage system often result in frequent flooding in Freetown during this time.  In 2015, 10 people were killed by the floods and thousands left homeless.

Rebuilding lives after the mudslide

Summarizing the situation Charles said, “It has never been this bad. I have lived here all my life, this is the worst I have ever seen in my lifetime.” He continued, “We are not able to describe well the terrible conditions.”

Click here to listen to Charles describe the situation.  The interview starts at 18:28.

In the days and weeks ahead we will be working with our in-country partner Caritas-Freetown to help those who are suffering from this tragedy rebuild their lives.  Please stay up-to-date on our efforts by following us on Facebook and Twitter.

Interfaith efforts produce lasting results

Interfaith Rice Distribution

The people of Sierra Leone have shown that religious differences do not need to create crises but rather religions can come together and help solve a countries crisis.

With a religious breakdown of approximately 70% Muslim and 30% Christian, Sierra Leone has twice in recent history shown the world how religions can work together.

Civil War

In 1991, a brutal decade long civil war began in Sierra Leone. The impact on the population was unimaginable. Women being raped, families displaced, and young boys forced to become child soldiers. Many were offered the choice of “short-sleeves” or “long-sleeves.” Accordingly either their hand was chopped off or their arm was cut off up to their elbow. Nearly 50,000 people lost their lives during the conflict and 27,000 became amputees.

In order to help bring this suffering to an end, in 1997 the Inter-Religious Council of Sierra Leone (IRCSL) was formed. HealeyIRF Advisor, Reverend Father Peter Konteh, was one of those religious leaders who helped establish the Council. The IRCSL was an integral part of the peace architecture.  It facilitated dialogue between the Government of Sierra Leone and the rebels of the Revolutionary United Front. In 2002, the civil war ended.  The cooperation, however, continued as interfaith groups worked to support those individuals impacted by the war.

Interfaith efforts help end Ebola crisis 

When Ebola came with a vengeance to Sierra Leone in 2014 the interfaith network sprang into action and began community outreach. In Sierra Leone, religious leaders are trusted and their advice followed. In particular, their outreach and social mobilization in their communities is credited with saving lives and helping bring the Ebola epidemic to an end.

Now after Ebola, interreligious cooperation and dialogue is a focus of our efforts to support Ebola survivors.

Recently a rice distribution on June 10th to Ebola survivors in Tower Hill again brought together interfaith groups. The Catholic Church, Islamic Community, Christian Pentecostal Church, and the Buddhist Community provided rice to 1,251 vulnerable individuals from all faiths.

As Father Peter said at this event, “All the world’s religions have one thing in common – love.”

Sierra Leone and its people continue to demonstrate that interfaith efforts, based on love, have lasting results.

Pictured above front row (L-R): Archbishop Edward T. Charles-Catholic Church, Apostle Dora Dumbuya-Christian Pentecostal Church, Sheik Fomba Swaray-Islamic Community.  Back row (L-R): Ishmeal Alfred Charles-HealeyIRF, Father Peter Konteh-Caritas-Freetown, Victor Ndanema-Lanyi Foundation, Steve Fomba-Tzu Chi Foundation, Ben Parra-HealeyIRF.


Getting along with one another isn’t meant to be difficult.

–Sally Fitzgibbons