Dear Friends and Supporters,
It has been another great year for MOH, despite the Covid-19 crisis. In fact, our ability to help our community in Sierra Leone was one of the best things about it.
We provided 80 hand-washing stations, which include spigots, lids, catch basins, soap and pictorial educational posters for the villagers who can’t read, as well as teaching them a hand-washing song!
So far, there has been no Covid in Ngolahun, as people spend most of their days out of doors, and their remote location isolates them from much contact with sources of infection. They did suffer greatly from Ebola, however, so these precautions are well taken.
The year 2020 brought valuable new sources of support and expertise. Dr. Johanna Halfon, an OB/GYN with the Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons Global Health Department, who has worked extensively in clinical and medical education in collaboration with academic institutions in Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and Ghana, will be acting as our advisor for the hospital project and health care delivery. She brings amazing expertise to the MOH team. Our project will be listed as an official project on the Columbia Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons website, increasing our visibility and outreach.
To our great delight, a group newly formed at Harvard to aid alumni with charity endeavors, Class Act HRX8 (comprising all classes ending in “8”) is sponsoring us as their flagship project. Risa had the prescience to graduate in 1978, so we are under their umbrella. They have a vast network of talented alumni from which we are already benefitting.
We are in the process of partnering with Marie Stopes Clinic, a UK-based women’s reproductive health care organization. MOH is proud to be able to donate 200 Ipsilon IUD’s, patented by Dr. Samuel Soichet and supplied to us by board member Antonella Sturniolo. These IUD’s are uniquely suited for communities like Ngolahun, as they are chemical-free and removable by their users. In return, Marie Stopes will send outreach teams to our clinic there to provide women’s health services.
OUR KENEMA RESTAURANT OPENED ON DECEMBER 20th!
We are extremely excited and only wish we could have been there for Isata’s excellent cooking. It’s doing well, getting great reviews, and the laundry will open next. We sent environmentally friendly laundry strips, with some needed car parts, as we did not want to create a plastic waste disposal problem there. After the laundry comes the woodworking shop and internet cafe, which will provide skills training, good jobs, and an income stream for the hospital.
Our generous and much-loved donor, Jodi Shorin Hirsch, the winner of this year’s Miracle Helper’s Award, enabled the construction of a guest house for doctors and nurses near the planned hospital in Ngolahun, which is crucial to bringing medical services there regularly. It will be known as Jodi’s Villa, in her memory. We mourn her untimely passing.
Thanks to a pledge by another incredible donor, David Miller, of the Harvard team, we will sponsor medical visits to the village once a month, starting in January. These two-day pop-up clinics will be staffed by local doctors, nurses, and laboratory technicians. The villagers specifically asked for this, so it is gratifying, indeed crucial, for us to be able to provide, in keeping with our model of community-led development.
The villagers also requested tools, which we sent. We sponsored the construction of a community tool shed, from which villagers can borrow the tools for their own use. We look forward to bringing you details of their projects.
Because of your generosity, we now have five paid staff members, seen at right in the new office/conference room, in Sierra Leone. This enables us to meet the Sierra Leone’s government requirements for NGO’s, as well as to finally compensate people who worked as volunteers for us for over a year.
Increasing the level of expertise for our employees in Sierra Leone, we are also providing a scholarship, donated by Mike Gysek, to Musa Gangha, our Country Director, so he can earn a post-BS Certificate in Public Health. Starting in January, our beloved Nurse Margaret, the mainstay of our clinic, will be studying midwifery on a MOH scholarship provided by Jane Martin, who is also sponsoring two other scholarships for a nurse and a Community Health Officer (equivalent to a GP), to be awarded this spring.
At the time of our last newsletter, we were preparing to ship a container filled with items for the center in Kenema. The Odierno Law Firm (winner of last year’s Miracle Helper’s award) donated the shipping, furniture for our offices there, AND the container, which is now resting in Kenema and will someday be part of our hospital. The Bennardo family generously donated high-quality building materials, and we think the office is quite elegant!
The Saslow family at Smithhaven Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram donated a truck. Getting it on board the container was quite an adventure, as it had to be backed into a container already two thirds filled with breakable materials, six inches higher than the flatbed truck it was on, and the driver then barely had room to climb out through the window!
The truck has already proved invaluable in transporting Covid washing stations and building materials, as well as supplies for the restaurant. Brad Hammond donated a generator, and the Matt Guerreiro and Christine Moore Charitable Fund also gave an extremely generous contribution. Our heartfelt gratitude to all of them, and to all our donors too numerous to name.
While this was an exciting year, we realize that we are at a turning point in our path forward. To sign Memoranda of Understanding with the Sierra Leone government, outlining the phases of building the hospital, we must be sure that we have the resources to complete what we are committing to do. We are asking for contributions which will go directly to the building of the hospital. Our goal for Phase 1, the initial building of a 10-bed maternity hospital, is to raise $150,000. This will enable the physical hospital to be constructed, although it will still need to be equipped and furnished. Any amount you can give to help us reach this next target will be greatly appreciated.
We have already made a difference in the lives of the villagers of Ngolahun. The refurbished clinic, guest house, tool shed, fruit trees, latrines, wells and washing stations have all contributed to a feeling of empowerment, both on their part, and ours! To be able to act so simply and have so much impact is a gift. We invite you to join us on this journey.
The Miracle of Help Board:
- Risa Gold, MD, DLFAPA
- Ms. Stefanie Soichet
- Ms. Antonella Soichet
- Mr. Mark Jacobi
- Ms. Patti Moss Vernam
- Nancy Lippman Israeli, MD, FAAP
- Mr. Richard Stein
- Mr. Jon Hess
PS. Don’t forget to use our website portal to shop at Amazon Smile! Or to begin shopping, go to the Amazon Smile page and choose us as your charity. Then start from Amazon Smile every time, and we receive a small percentage of each purchase. Thank you!