We have returned again from a very challenging trip to Sierra Leone. One thing we’ve definitely learned over the years is that there is one constant in Sierra Leone: CHANGE. We’re constantly dealing with new situations with the government, the workers, the facilities, and all kinds of things out of our control, but it is extremely important to be able to adapt and roll with all these changes in order to stay focused on our number one goal of taking care of all the patients in such great need.
Of course, this would not be possible without the continued generosity we receive from all of our supporters. There are many of you, and we are humbled by all contributions big and small, but we want to send a special thank you to the Idea Foundation, founded by Jennifer Seaborn and Betty Seaborn, for their very generous donation of medical supplies through Medisend of Dallas. The Idea Foundation sponsored an ENTIRE container of medical supplies and had this shipped to Sierra Leone so we might continue helping the people of Sierra Leone.
We have also been very fortunate to add a highly experienced Sierra Leonean Doctor to our staff – Dr. Augustine Mannah. Dr. Mannah has a vast background in surgical management of a multitude of problems in patients in Sierra Leone, and we feel this expertise will help catapult our goal of training Sierra Leoneans to sustainability. Welcome Dr. Mannah. His primary role will be General Surgery once we get our own hospital up and running. He will join Dr. Phillip Koroma who has been with us for 4 years now and we hope to add more doctors as they are trained.
Additionally, we had two Canadian Nurses from Calgary join us this trip, Marnie Shields and Amanda Chenuz, along with medical student Megan Januska from Chicago, Illinois. These young ladies were very helpful in the care of the many patients and hopefully will be returning to assist in the near future. Isaac VanBebber, a longtime family friend with vast overseas experience, was a surprise guest a few months ago, as she has decided to spend some fulltime volunteer work with WAFF and is our latest “boots on the ground” in Sierra Leone. She has already proved to be extremely helpful in her Administrative duties, and her dedication to making the program as efficient and organized as possible is very much appreciated. As we all know, getting the most out of the resources we have is of the utmost importance, and Isaac is helping significantly with that. Our Sierra Leonean Staff continues to do a remarkable job and remains very eager to learn how to continually improve the quality of care for the people of Sierra Leone.
As for the patients and the care itself, we continue to face great challenges in caring for the Obstetrical Fistula patients due to the multitude of problems associated with the lack of good facilities and trained personnel. However, despite the challenges, we are very pleased that we are still sending a lot of happy women home dry after coming in leaking urine and feces down their legs. We continue to have many stories we could tell about the hardships these women have gone through, but hopefully the main focus will be the fresh start they have gotten and their new chance at living a normal life without these physical ailments.
We were able to purchase and take a portable Ultrasound unit and 2 doptones this trip, and this helped tremendously in diagnosing conditions in their early stages. These are very simple things we take for granted in the U.S. but are incredibly rare in places like Sierra Leone where they can add so much to the inadequate care currently available. We continue to assist in the Obstetrical and Gynecological care at the Bo Government Hospital and with this synergism we will make a difference.
Finally, we are very excited about a new fund raising effort that will be launched in a few weeks. Shawn Graft and Leila Janah have spent hundreds of hours working on this project called Samahope, and hopefully this will facilitate and expedite our goal of providing the quality of care these people deserve. Shawn had visited and helped us a couple of years ago in Sierra Leone and have remained very active in our program. Leila has a long list of overseas accomplishments, and she visited Sierra Leone about two years ago and has been working on helping our program ever since. Be sure and look Samahope.org up, and we will keep you posted as it goes live – we’re very excited about it.
We will be returning again in a few weeks, and thanks to all of you that continue to support our program, enabling us to help many more people.
Darius R. Maggi M.D.
West Africa Fistula Foundation