It’s good to be back in Sierra Leone where Seven Hills Global Outreach, (SHGO) our international affiliate of Seven Hills Foundation, has been working since 2010. Our SHGO team for this trip includes Peter Demko from our Seven Hills Advancement Office, Isaac Croteau who works at Stetson School, and one of my stellar students from Clark University, and Carmen Wise who is making her second trip with SHGO. The team safely arrived last evening after a long flight from Boston to Freetown, Sierra Leone. After spending the night in Freetown, early this morning we began our day with a driving tour of the city markets, followed by a sobering walk through the largest slum. The slum is home to over 15,000 people embedded within the regional dump where refuse is collected every day. The dump alone is 75 acres in size with tiny shacks, children, along with pigs and goats. It was hard for members of my SHGO team to be faced with such a stark and horrifying reality on the first morning of our stay in this otherwise beautiful country. We then began our 4 hour drive from Freetown to BO, Sierra Leone - home of the work we have been doing in partnership with Zion Ministries since 2010. Along with our partners, Pastors Michael & Cynthia Kanu who founded Zion Ministries, we have been able to build 2 primary schools which today serve over 500 children; a medical clinic and birthing center in the rural bush area outside the village of Bandawa serving over 15,000 men, women, and children; clean water wells and toilets in 18 of the 26 remote villages we serve; and administer a microloan fund for the poorest women to help lift them out of abject poverty.
This afternoon we visited Gila Hospital in BO and met with the leadership there who are assisting in establishing the first (and only) dental clinic for the rural poor in this area of Sierra Leone. After months of waiting, the dental equipment will arrive at our Bandawa campus from Germany on January 10. This is a cause for incredible celebration for all of the villages under our care. The pictures attached to this blog depict our team and some of the experiences we shared in our journey to BO. Tomorrow, January 5, our real work begins as we travel to the Bandawa medical & school campus developed by SHGO and Zion Ministries, and then set out on foot to many of the remote villages to review the efforts to construct 4 new hand dug wells and village toilets. Over the years the Zion-SHGO medical team on the ground have confirmed that in each village where we place a new clean water well and a village toilet we reduce child mortality by approximately 80%. When children drink animal and human waste polluted water, the rate of child death diarrhea and dehydration goes up exponentially. Through the simple acts of building one clean water well and a latrine in each village we, through the generosity of our ‘Running for Clean Water’ church & mosque donors of Garland, Texas, have saved hundreds of lives. Follow this blog for an update tomorrow with a review of our first full day at our Bandawa campus and rural village encounters. Pastor Kanu has told me that many village chiefs are anxiously awaiting our arrival in their respective villages. We do this work at SHGO in 8 poor countries for two simple reasons. First, over a third of our 4000 Seven Hills employees are first generation immigrants from the countries we work and I’ve always wanted our work to be a small demonstration of the respect and gratitude that all of us at Seven Hills have for our employees. People ask me frequently, “Why do you go through such effort and trouble in difficult places?”, and my answer has always been the same; “It is in honor of our employees; and, if not us, then who?” The second reason is equally simple to me; it’s because it’s the right thing to do. To help uplift children and women out of incredible depths of poverty reflects the very ideals and values of Seven Hills. It’s who we are and is embedded within our DNA and our work.
Our efforts at SHGO, funded largely by specific donors, is a living testament to all the good work done by our Seven Hills employees in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. I want to end this first post by thanking the families and loved ones of our team on this journey; Carmen, Peter, and Isaac. Thank you for trusting me to take them on this journey with a promise to return them safely back to Massachusetts on January 12, after the second leg of our trip to Kenya and our orphanage partners there. More updates tomorrow! In the meantime, take a look at the photos of today’s travels taken by Peter Demko. All my best, Dr. David A. Jordan