This past September we had the chance to send a team to Sierra Leone for our first focused medical trip. We were thrilled to successfully complete our goal of assessing the 21 children living full-time at the Hope’s Rising house, and the 200+ kids who are part of our school sponsorship program.It was an exciting trip on many levels—first and foremost, just the fact that we were finally able to go was hugely thrilling. We had hoped to send this team a year ago, but due to the ongoing repercussions of the Ebola crises it was put off for months leaving us watching for an open window and opportunity when we’d be allowed to reschedule.
(Our Medical Trip team from left to right: Kelly Woodward, Haidi Kerr, Meagan O'Brien, Kim Southern, Paul Kerr, Jeff McGregor)
But more than that it was exciting to see change—tangible, physical and emotional change in the lives of the children. Less illness, increased weight and height measurements, healthier skin and bigger smiles, all due to clean drinking water, regular checkups and more consistent nutrition (1 meal a day for our school/village sponsorship kids and 3 meals a day for the Hope’s Rising kids).
The team spent several days connecting with both the kids and the LOL staff who are on the ground in Mano Town (where our sponsorship program and the Hope's Rising home are located). In addition to medical exams the team worked on sponsorship letters with the children and watched as many of the older boys were preparing to take their exams to get into senior secondary school (our equivalent of high-school), an exciting and new opportunity for many of these boys and their families.
(From Left to Right: Andrew, Esther, Paul, Heidi, Meagan, Kim, Kelly, Jeff, Sidicki)
They were also able to meet, connect with and help train Esther (2nd from left in photo), the local nurse who has been recently hired to care for the Hope's Rising kids and our sponsored school children on a regular basis
The kids at Hope Rising are eating well, which has been a significant factor in their improved health outcomes. They eat lots of eggs, especially for breakfast thanks to the poultry project implemented earlier this year-- our 350 chickens started producing eggs in August, helping us to round out our food program (that's a lot of eggs!). All of the school kids enjoy their daily break for lunch, which typically consists of rice and beans, and our Hope’s Rising kids are also offered dinner, usually meat (fish), fruit (papaya) and vegetables (cucumbers).
Our six-person team managed close to 250 assessments over the course of just a few days—talk about teamwork! These baseline assessments checked for general overall health, tests for some common illnesses and height and weight checks to help us track the progress of better diet and health practices. We were incredibly encouraged by what we saw!
Here are a few words from Paul Kerr, our lead medical doctor from Ontario (who has been to Sierra Leone 5 times with LOL):
“There was a marked difference in the kids overall health! We’ve seen height and weight increase for a lot of them (a fact that would not be surprising for kids here, but that is incredibly significant for these kids in Sierra Leone). Their energy levels are higher and their overall general health has significantly improved. Even in the few months since bringing them into care we can see how proper nutrition makes a difference.”
Paul also said that the trips to Sierra Leone have become less traumatic, “When we first went in to some of these towns,” he said, “it was just devastating. The number of kids and people sick was so significant. We are now seeing marked improvements in these towns in terms of less illness and better health. It’s really encouraging!”
Going forward, Paul hopes to orchestrate two medical trips a year to continue assessments of the children, and to help with ongoing training and instruction to the nurses and personnel there. Overall, we are thrilled with the outcomes so far and look forward to continuing to watch the children grow.
These visible changes would not be possible without your support and donations. Several years ago, when we arrived in Mano Town for the first time the incidences of serious illness, disease and overall poor health due to poor water quality were staggering. Health assessements at the time showed illness, often incredibly serious, in close to 50% of the children in a given town without a well. Today, with clean water, that number is less than 5% and, while our focus through the sponsorship programs has been on the children, the wells are changing the health and well being of entire families in the 70+ towns we have drilled wells in!
So, thank you, thank you, thank you!
We hope to see many of you at the 2015 Water Gala on November 14th. Tickets are still available by visiting watergala.com.