In late 2022 Healey International Relief Foundation (HealeyIRF) was awarded a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) American Schools and Hospitals Abroad (ASHA) grant to support its work in Sierra Leone. The ASHA program works to strengthen local capacity and to increase mutual understanding between the U.S. and other countries by funding projects at schools, libraries, and hospitals that exemplify U.S. values.
Innovate Your Future
Partnering with Caritas Freetown, HealeyIRF is using the funding to implement the Innovate Your Future Project. The project focuses on reaching at-risk youth in Sierra Leone and demonstrating to them how the values of teamwork, science, and innovation can help solve economic and healthcare challenges. Sierra Leone has a predominately young population with nearly 25% of the population between the ages of 10-19.
To support the program Universal Anesthesia Machines (UAM) are being purchased and placed at four faith-based hospitals throughout Sierra Leone. The UAM was selected for the project as it was specifically designed to address obstacles many hospitals face in Sierra Leone such as intermittent electricity supply and lack of medical oxygen. Workshops and site visits will show the youth how this equipment is saving lives and improving health outcomes in their communities. Through these program efforts and other planned activities the project aims to empower program participants to take control of their own futures.
In February the program got underway with the delivery of UAMs to Holy Spirit Hospital in Makeni and Christ the King Hospital in Waterloo. On hand to turn over the UAM at Holy Spirit Hospital were Benjamin Parra, HealeyIRF Executive Director, Josephine Garnem, HealeyIRF Board Member, and Ishmeal Alfred Charles, HealeyIRF Country Manager. Dr. Patrick Turay, Medical Director at Holy Spirit, accepted the UAM and said, “We are very happy to be a part of the Innovate Your Future Project. We look forward to hosting the program participants and showing them the value of this equipment in their community. I hope we can inspire them to look at the field of science and technology and health care.”
Community Leaders and Youth Attend Ceremonies
Attending the ceremony were many leaders from the community and adolescents who will be participating in the program. Mamusu a 15-year old program participant in Makeni said, “I am interested in becoming a lab tech, I love the things I have learned today and it inspires me more to study science.”
A similar ceremony was held at Christ the King Hospital in Waterloo. “The ASHA grant is a significant milestone for our work in Sierra Leone,” remarked Mr. Parra, “The UAMs will not only provide a needed resource to the health facilities we support, but our partner Caritas Freetown has long worked with at-risk youth, and this will help enhance their project efforts in this critical area.”
Long Lasting Impact
Additional UAMs will be delivered to other locations in Sierra Leone to support the Innovate Your Future Project. Although the Innovate Your Future Project is set to span two years, its impact on the youth and communities, though a greater understanding of shared values, will endure for a long time.