Saturday, November 21, 2009

World Hello Day...

November 21st is World Hello Day.

The objective: to say HELLO to ten people

Background: initiated by McCormacks in 1973 in response to the conflict between Egypt and Israel.

Philosophy: by greeting others, people (including world leaders) should realize that one should use communication rather than force to settle conflicts.

So, go and enjoy world hello day!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Universal Children's Day...

Yeah! It’s Children’s Day. A day set aside to celebrate children and promote their welfare!

In December of 1954 the General Assembly first recommended that all countries institute a Universal Children's Day, to be observed as a day of worldwide fraternity and understanding between children. The chosen date in most countries is the 20th of November. This date marks the day on which the Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, in 1959, and the Convention of the Rights of the Child, in 1989. (see: for more information)

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child has been signed or ratified by more countries than any other international treaty. The Convention addresses the rights of children and youth under the age of 18. It recognizes their basic human rights and gives them additional rights to protect them from harm. The Convention’s 54 articles cover everything from a child’s right to be free from exploitation, to the right to his or her own opinion and the right to education, health care, and economic opportunity. (See: for more information)

So, take some time today to celebrate children. Unfortunately there are children today who are being trafficked. Children who are dying of preventable diseases. Children fighting in wars. Children who cannot afford to go to school. And children forced into labor. Let us hope for a brighter future for ALL children.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

World Toilet Day...

19 November is World Toilet Day – yes, I know it sounds funny but it is true. World Toilet Day is a day to celebrate the importance of sanitation and raise awareness for the 2.5 billion people (nearly half of the world's population) who don't have access to toilets and proper sanitation.

Here are the staggering facts according to

  • 2.5 billion people worldwide are without access to proper sanitation, which risks their health, strips their dignity, and kills 1.8 million people, mostly children, a year.
  • Diarrheal diseases kill five times as many children in the developing world as HIV/AIDS. That's 5,000 children DYING EVERY SINGLE DAY.
  • Not only that, but the disease kills more children than either malaria or AIDS, stunts growth, and forces millions - adults and children alike - to spend weeks at a time off work or school, which hits both a country's economy and its citizens' chances of a better future.
  • Lack of sanitation is the world's biggest cause of infection.
  • One gram of feces can contain 10 million viruses, one million bacteria, 1,000 parasite cysts and 100 parasite eggs.
  • Safe disposal of children's feces leads to a reduction of nearly 40% in childhood diarrhea.

Enough reasons to focus on the importance of proper sanitation…

Monday, November 16, 2009

Devastated father...

There is a man in Freetown who I have known for sometime, since November 2006 to be exact. I’ll call him Kargbo. The day I met him was the day he came to the clinic with a one-month old boy. The child was not his own; it was his brother’s child but due to a severe cleft lip and palate deformity, the child had been disowned by his family. In Sierra Leone children with such deformities are shunned. The mother is blamed and told it is because of things she did during her pregnancy, like stepping over a gutter or going to the river at night, etc. And many believe that the child is bewitched, a ‘devil-child’ as they say. Kargbo, however, was convinced that this was not a devil-child but a ‘mortal man’ like every other child and decided to travel to Freetown with the child to find help.

That is when Kargbo showed up at the clinic with this tiny, hungry little boy. Being single and needing to work to make ends meet, Kargbo could not take in this child. So, not only did he want us to help with this child’s deformity but he also wanted us to take the child in. Thankfully we were in touch with someone working at an orphanage in town and we managed to arrange for the child to be taken in by them later that same day. While sorting out the paper work, we satisfied the little boy’s tummy with some milk, provided him with some clothes and laid him down in a laundry basket to sleep. I was happy to be able to be a witness in handing over this child to the orphanage staff.

Over the new few months I was able to arrange a cleft lip repair for this little boy on the ship. And a year later, around the same time he was adopted by a pastor and his wife, he underwent cleft palate surgery. Kargbo was so happy to hear that the child had been adopted and was thrilled to see pictures of the child after his successful operations.

Two years after after our first meeting, Kargbo again showed up at the clinic with a child. This child was a girl, but had the same defect that the little boy had. And again, had been disowned by her family. Having seen the change in the little boy’s life, Kargbo was determined to take care of this little girl. He wanted to be her daddy and provide her with a home. He took great pride in looking after his daughter and came to the clinic with her for check-ups, bought her the formula she needed, came with her when she was sick, etc. He was excited to hear that we would try to schedule a surgery for her. However, unfortunately, the ship’s plans changed and surgery was not possible in the near future. But Kargbo did not lose hope. He even went to other organizations and expats asking for help- for surgery for his daughter. This did cause some confusion as the little girl ended up on multiple potential surgical lists, but Kargbo meant well.

Prior to leaving Sierra Leone I made sure to see Kargbo and his daughter one last time. This meeting took place mid-June. And although Kargbo had been a bit ill, his daughter was thriving and doing well. She did have a heart murmur, but this had been looked into and was not causing her any trouble. I was hopeful she would do well and be operated on within a year or two.

Just the other day I again received news about this little girl. You see, currently there is a team in Sierra Leone to do cleft repairs and so a contact I have went out to find this little girl (who had also been on his list) to fit her in to the surgery schedule. Unfortunately when he went to Kargbo’s house he was told that the little girl died a week earlier, a week prior to her first birthday. And just a week before hearing she would be able to have surgery. It was heartbreaking to hear this news, another child in Sierra Leone that did not make it. And of course I can only imagine how devastated Kargbo is, his little girl, gone. How I wish I could see him and let him know that he has done so much for this little girl. Yes, she died, and that is terrible but maybe, just maybe, Kargbo would be comforted in knowing that she died knowing she was loved by her father. He gave her something no one else did – love.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Facebook in Africa...

Facebook. What would I have done without it? Well, I suppose for the first 2 years in Sierra Leone I did not even know about facebook but once I discovered it, I was hooked. No, honestly, as much as it can be a time waster, it is definitely an excellent way to stay in touch with friends and family, especially when so far away. One of the fun attributes is of course the status updates, which were sometimes a little out of the ordinary when I lived in Salone…

Sandra Lako…

Is cross checking the dispensary medication control book, 100 tablets of this and 60 tablets of that - 'missing'. My least favorite bit of the job: cross-checking!

Had 2 interviews with national doctors today - 1 went very well, the other was okay. Let's just say that spending 1/4 of your interview on your cell phone does not give a very good impression.

Is ready to start treating children after sorting out some ‘line’ issues with parents outside the gate.

Had a sad start to the week. [One of the patients died while waiting in line outside the gate]

Does not like sneaking out at midnight with a flashlight, cell phone and panic button to explore strange noises on our compound. Don’t we have guards?

Swam in the ocean, lazied around in the lagoon and hiked through the jungle today.

Just got back from an almost 12 hour clinic day- 46 patients today- many very sick ones today!

Loves that we have electricity on a Saturday. How long will it last?

Finally got the red dust washed out of her hair after a road trip upcountry

Just finished making a giant paper Christmas tree to take out to an orphanage tomorrow...

Had a glorious shower- excellent water pressure for a change - I didn't have to kneel down to wash my hair!

Loved talking to her niece for her 4th b-day but was sad when her 1st question was “are you coming for my birthday from Africa too?” & I had to tell her “no”.

Had an exciting day: 65+ patients, 1 snake & a fumigated office due to almost exploding car!!!

Sent a 3 year old weighing 7.9kg to the feeding center today...

Is celebrating Friday with fine dark chocolate with an intense taste of mint

Is upset that a child she referred to children's hospital yesterday died because they couldn't see the doctor cause they did not have money at hand to register!

~ Act Justly. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly. micah 6:8 ~