Take a moment and try to imagine living under the following conditions:
· Your country has just survived a devastating civil war which has killed over 50,000.
· 50% of the population is malnourished
· Half of the children who die under the age of 5 die due to malnourishment
· 71% of the population do not have access to basic sanitation
· 75% of the population live on $2.00 per day or less
· A Doctor visit cost the equivalent of 25 days of work
· Life expectancy is 37 years for females and 40 years for males.
· Infant mortality rate is 165 per 1,000 births
· There is an average of 3 doctors per 100,000 people
· $7 per person per year is spent on healthcare
The shocking statistics go on and on. This is the environment that the vast majority of Sierra Leone families live in.
The United Nations ranks Sierra Leone at or near the bottom of life expectancy, education and economic development. Due to the civil war and now the continued political unrest in the region in and around Sierra Leone, the United Nations has had a permanent peace keeping contingent in place.
Striving to meet basic health care needs is where we find our own Geneva Anthony. She and her husband have taken on the plight of the people of Sierra Leone. If you have spoken with Geneva you know she is a quiet woman of dignity to the point almost of shyness. I can see from my personal experience that it has taken much for her to stand in front of people and begin the long and difficult effort to bring basic health care to the desperate people her family left behind when they came to this country.
Geneva and her small, dedicated group of board directors and advisors have already accomplished the impossible. They have just about completed construction of a small, three story health care clinic in the capital city of Freetown. “It is registered as Salone Health Care Services, a nonprofit corporation with a mission to provide quality health care to all Sierra Leoneans regardless of their ability to pay for service.” Now comes the task of supplying equipment, medical supplies and, most critically, medical personnel to turn this building into an operating clinic.
I was personally honored to be invited by Geneva to attend the first fundraising event on Friday, August 7that Lombaro’s in Randolph. Geneva asked that I sit at the head table and that the Rotary Club of New Bedford be recognized as attending the event. To say the least I was deeply honored by her request and gratified to see all the men and women from Sierra Leone who attended this event, many in native clothes.
America has opened its arms to these men and women and have provided safe haven and opportunity to raise their families, educate them and their children and now, to give back to those left behind in their devastated homeland.
I gave Geneva a promise as I left the event that I would research what Rotary can do for the Salone Health Care Center in Freetown, Sierra Leone and will not forget what I saw and heard on a warm and beautiful Friday evening in our precious America.
As I drove home I kept thinking about something one of the speakers said, “I enjoyed my meal this evening but there was so much on my plate I could not finish it. As the waitress took my plate away I could not help but think that in my country this leftover food would be fought over.”
Rotary Club of New Bedford