Monday, December 31, 2012

Highs and lows of 2012...

I can't believe it's the 31st of December already. In some ways it feels like 2012 has flown by, in other ways it seems like it has been a long year with many ups and downs. Overall, it has been a good year. I have great memories and have been blessed to meet some amazing people. Sadly, a number of good friends left Sierra Leone in 2012 and they are missed a lot. That's the hardest - so many comings and goings. 

2012 highs: 
  • Multiple trips to Namina's village
  • Beach time with friends
  • Long weekend at Turtle islands
  • Helping with a workshop at Kenema Hospital
  • Hiking up Sugarloaf (finally!)
  • ETAT training at the Children's hospital
  • Investing in a car (a loan) to help a friend get closer to his dreams
  • An MRE feast with John, Katy and Suzanne
  • Two trips to Guinea
  • Birthday trip to Guma Valley Dam
  • Visiting the Africa Mercy 
  • A 4 day trip to a friend's village in Guinea
  • Sunday afternoon walks on Lumley beach
  • Peaceful presidential elections (and sneaking out)
  • Thanksgiving dinner (and prep) with friends
  • Attending a conference in Accra, Ghana
  • Slow but steady progress at the Children's Hospital
  • Working on the x-ray project - a huge challenge but also fun
  • Snow for Christmas and sledding
  • Seeing friends and family in the UK, Netherlands and USA
2012 lows:
Fortunately the highs exceed the lows by far. The biggest low was probably my less than 100% health, which made me a bit miserable at times. However, it could have been so much worse so I can't really complain. My Nigeria trip was also not on my highlight list. It was a very difficult time - a lonely time and extremely busy and tiring and at times a little scary. Failing the primary exam for the West African college was a definite low - although the pass rate is very poor, I was hopeful and disappointed. A trying time. Another low was the number of children with hydrocephalus that passed away after their operations - made me feel a little guilty and helpless. Relationships have been a challenge at times too. I am sure that all of these lows are making me into a better person. 

I am thankful for 2012 - the good times and the not so good times. God has been faithful and I will continue to trust that His ways are better than mine! I'm looking forward to a great 2013.


Last chance to give in 2012...

31 December 2012. The year is drawing to a close. And that means that this is your last opportunity to donate money towards the x-ray project this year. Please help us improve the only government run Children's Hospital in Sierra Leone. The money donated will go directly to the x-ray project. We're getting closer to our goal, can you help us reach it?

If you are from the UK (or elsewhere outside of the USA) and would like to make a tax deductible donation you can at:

If you are from the USA and would like to make a tax deductible donation you can at: JustGive. (make sure program says: welbodi partnership and you can dedicate the money to the x-ray project.

2012 is almost over, but you can still make a difference. Help us help others. 

Thank you for all of you support in 2012. We are looking forward to an amazing 2013.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

3 days left in 2012...

I can't believe there are only 3 days left in 2012! That also means, only 3 days left to GIVE this year. Does anyone want to help provide x-ray equipment to the only Children's hospital in Sierra Leone? Donate a little to bring about BIG change. Go to:

Thank you on behalf of the children in Sierra Leone, the Welbodi Partnership and the Children's Hospital.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas eve in Colorado...

Greetings from Colorado. I am spending the holidays with my brother and his family. It's a nice break and fun too. It's Christmas eve and we just returned from a Christmas Eve service. A moment to stop and think a bit more about the meaning of Christmas. Right now it is already Christmas in the Netherlands and Sierra Leone. There's still a Christmas eve to go here. I am blessed to be with family. And also blessed with the fun gift of snow on Christmas eve. We'll be waking up to a white Christmas tomorrow. I would love to wish all of my friends/family a lovely Christmas! 

Accessorize this Christmas…

Did you buy amazing accessories to go with your Christmas outfit this year?

We are still hoping to buy the needed accessories so that we can bring a brand new digital x-ray to the Children’s Hospital in style. We need your help as many accessories are still needed such as: lead aprons and gloves, thyroid collars and protective eyewear, lead blockers, table pad and positioning blocks. Can you contribute a little more towards accessories this year?

It’s easy: go to and donate what you can for this great cause.

This Christmas you can help the Children’s hospital in Sierra Leone by helping us make an x-ray department a reality!

To read our holiday appeal go to:

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Stocking stuffers for the x-ray project...

Imagine that you are setting up a new x-ray department in a hospital that has not done x-rays in the past 8 years. Visualize what the department might look like. Yes, that’s right, it is rather empty. We are hoping that you can help us change that.

As you know we are raising money for a brand new digital x-ray machine, which in itself is a very big and exciting gift for the Children’s hospital. Along with a big gift at Christmas time come the little gifts, the stocking stuffers. Can you help us raise money for the smaller items that are needed to run this facility in the New Year? 

Money donated will go towards the overall x-ray project, which includes the purchase of the following smaller items:

Lead aprons (USD 200), Gloves (USD 160), Thyroid collars (USD 75), Protective eyewear (USD 165), Various markers (USD 10), Positioning block set (USD 270), Table pad (USD 110), Lead blockers (USD 50) and more.

Donate here: Your help is greatly appreciated.

Friday, December 21, 2012

A Welbodi holiday Appeal...

Dear Friends and Supporters,

All of us at the Welbodi Partnership would like to wish you and your family good health and happiness during this festive season, and to thank you for helping us share this good fortune with the children we serve.

2012 is coming to a close and we would also like to close the gap and raise the remaining funds we need to fully fund our project to establish a functioning x-ray department at the Ola During Children’s Hospital (ODCH). As you may recall, very sick children must now travel miles across Freetown – through traffic and crowds and the overwhelming hustle-and-bustle of this busy urban area – just to get an x-ray to diagnose their condition. This taxing journey is an unacceptable burden for tiny bodies already weakened by illness, and it causes dangerous delays in diagnosis and treatment. The very sickest children often cannot make the trip at all.

With your help, we can ensure that by this time next year, patients at ODCH and the neighboring maternity hospital will have access to life-saving on-site x-ray facilities.

Dr. Anne Nesbitt, a Welbodi volunteer supported by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, recently made the trip to get an x-ray with young Alhaji and his mother (seen in picture above). The trek across town left Alhaji feeling even more unwell than he was before, and it took him several days to recover. We would like to share their story in order to show the importance of this project and how with your help, we can make a difference.
"18-month-old Alhaji has septic arthritis of his shoulder. We had no option but to walk with Alhaji being carried on the back of his mum to Connaught Hospital, several obstacle-strewn miles across Freetown. Within 50 yards of ODCH, my phone was stolen. Half-way along Fourah Bay Road, Alhaji's mum's flip flops broke, so we had to buy new ones before we could continue. We negotiated the mayhem of Sani Abacha Street and finally got a taxi the last half mile to Connaught.

On the way back, no taxi would agree to take us to the East End, so we trekked back through short cuts. At one point, traffic was heavy on Sani Abacha, and our leap to avoid a lorry resulted in the demolition of a stack of margarine cartons and a stiff lecture (to me) from the market ladies. The journey back took an hour."

On a regular basis, families with children much sicker than Alhaji make this journey for x-rays, delaying diagnosis and putting their health and safety at risk. This is clearly untenable, and the sooner we can establish an in-house ODCH x-ray service, the better. Can you give a little toward this effort?

Thank you again for all your support this year.

Warmest holiday wishes,
The Welbodi Team

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Latest plans for X-ray: getting closer...

I realize it is high time for another x-ray project update. The great news is that with your help, we have managed to secure almost 70% of the funds for the entire x-ray project. THANK YOU!

As you can imagine, this is a huge projects with many different aspects to it such as equipment, infrastructure, installation, training, human resources, radiation protection approval etc.  Inevitably this means we need to raise a substantial amount of money. With your help, I know we can do this.

Unfortunately we recently heard that the building currently designated for radiology is scheduled to be demolished and rebuilt in February 2013. This is likely to take 18 – 24 months to complete meaning we need to find a ‘temporary’ place to install and operate the x-ray machine. Due to a shortage of rooms available within the hospital, we plan to use a container as a temporary x-ray department. Fortunately we found a company that is specialized in modifying containers for this purpose and also the company installing the machine is willing to re-install the equipment in the new building, once it has been completed. Honestly, this has been a challenge but it is a challenge that we and the hospital can fortunately overcome. So, although this change of plans has delayed our project a bit and has led to an increase in the budget, we are well on our way to making the x-ray facility a reality. We are hopeful that by April 2013 this department will be up and running.

Can you help us raise the remaining funds needed for this very important project?

Join us. Help us improve healthcare for the children of Sierra Leone. And help us get a step closer to obtaining accreditation for the Children's hospital as a training institution.

Donate at:

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Tragic loss of a 1-week old...

Within 5 days of each other two newborns with cleft lips and palates were admitted to the Children’s hospital. You have followed the story of one of them. Let me tell you a bit more about the other one.

A week ago I was called by an obstetrician that he delivered a girl with a cleft lip and palate by C-Section. I told him I would see the family first thing Monday morning. However, that morning there were no relatives around and I didn't want to break the news to the mother (on the maternity ward) without a support structure around her. You see, she had not yet seen her child and no one had mentioned the defect to her. Finally on Wednesday, the father and aunty came while I was at the hospital. I talked to them first. They had seen the child right after birth and already accepted the child as theirs. The next step was to tell the mother. She is only 16 and this is her first child. Obviously, she was heartbroken. It was a difficult conversation but we tried to encourage her. I saw her again on Thursday on the maternity ward. She smiled and I sat with her for ten minutes. We talked. She was still unsure. 

On Friday, I met with the first family, with the little boy who was almost rejected. I had taken them to the Special Care to weigh the little boy. It just so happened that the 16-year-old mom was also in the Special Care unit. So, the moms had the opportunity to meet and, for about 30 minutes, we all sat there and talked. The little baby boy and the little baby girl, both with cleft lips and palates, were there, side by side. One already accepted by his parents, the other one still waiting for acceptance from his mom. I was hoping that this would bring her one step closer.

A few hours later, the family told me that the little girl had been discharged. I asked them to come back on Monday to see me. The other family was also due to come back. These children need good follow-up.

However, today, this little girl’s father called me. He had clearly accepted his daughter and sounded very concerned. She had a fever. I told them to go back to the hospital, which they did. He then called me to say they hadn't been seen yet. I told them exactly what to do. A few hours later he called me and said that she was being treated. Sadly, at 22:30 this evening my phone rang again. It was her father and right away I knew what he was going to tell me. His little girl died only minutes earlier. He is heartbroken. The mother is in shock. Tragic. A very young couple trying to accept a child into their lives with a very stigmatized defect, only to lose her a week later. My heart breaks for this family. I am at a loss for words. I still hope to see them on Monday and pray that I can offer some kind of encouragement and hope to them.

Little boy with cleft lip/palate returns...

I am pleased to say that I saw the cleft lip and palate baby again on Thursday, a week after he was discharged. Mom, dad and baby were doing well. I was so proud of the parents. It was amazing to watch the dad help the mom prepare the formula and observe the mom feeding her son with so much love and patience. A miracle.

During the week that this family was at home, another child with a cleft lip and palate was born at the hospital. A little girl. Instead of experiencing the joy of a healthy baby, another family was in shock and confused. Another opportunity for me to talk to them about the condition, the acceptance of the child, the support they needed to give each other. I saw the opportunity to connect the two families. I was not sure if that would work. In the end it did, but it wasn't straight forward and somewhat happened by chance. I had hope. Hope that this child would be accepted as well, and hope that she would thrive. Things turned out differently than I had hoped... 

Acid bug attack...

It is acid bug season in Freetown. A number of my friends have had acid bug lesions over the past few weeks and I thought I was happy to escape them once again. For 7 ½ years I have not encountered an acid bug attack. Those days are over.  One of the little beetles got me this time. The beetle does not bite or sting but when it is crushed against the skin it releases a toxin. The result is itching, burning and redness 12-48 hours. Well, call it a classic case. For the past 2 days I had a burning sensation around my eye. I could feel it, but I couldn’t see any irritation. I thought it was strange, until I woke up this morning and saw that it was red and slightly irritated. I knew right away that it was an acid bug bite. Fortunately it is not severe and I’m sure it will heal without any problems over the next few days. The worst thing now is that I have seen two of the little creatures in the last hour while sitting at my table and one of them just crawled into my backpack!

Monday, December 03, 2012

Acceptance of a little boy...

“A little boy arrived at the hospital yesterday, only a few hours old. Already he was unwanted. Born with a cleft lip and palate he is seen as a 'devil child'. Mom & child are admitted and I am praying mom grows to love her son over the next few days. I brought in the mom of a former cleft patient today in the hopes of bringing some encouragement.”  - from my Facebook status 6 days ago

The good news is, at the age of 4 days, this little boy went home - with his parents. While he was in hospital I went to the special care baby unit every day to talk to his mother, check on the baby, and show mom pictures of her baby boy. We talked, she cried, we sat in silence, I put my hand on her shoulder, I showed her pictures. I think that by the end of the 4 days she was over the initial shock. She gained confidence in feeding her child and was assured that an operation would be possible.

The parents’ biggest fear of course was the rejection and verbal abuse they would face when returning to their community. I can’t say I blame them. This is a very realistic fear. There are so many absurd ideas surrounding children born with cleft lips and palates it is unbelievable. It could literally lead to the family being shunned and thrown out of their community. When they left my office on Thursday I could tell that they were ready to face their community. I am sure they were still worried, but the smiles on their faces gave me a glimmer of hope that they have accepted this little baby boy as their son. My hope is that the parents will be surrounded by people who care. People who can encourage and support them. People who can see past the outward appearance and see that this child has a lot of potential. I can only hope that this little 1 week old is snuggled up in his mother’s arms right now. And I pray that when I see them on Thursday they will be positive and full of hope. And, of course, that my little friend is thriving.  

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Sunday Snaps...

"Snap me, snap me" the children call out as I walk past them on the road. Snap is the Krio word for photograph - so "snap me" simply means, "take a photo of me". I am posting a few snaps today from my wait for the Sea Coach Express on the Lungi side when I returned from Ghana as well as the beautiful sunset on Thanksgiving night.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Giving Tuesday...

Today is “Giving Tuesday”. An official day for giving.

December is just around the corner and with Christmas less than a month away the giving season has begun. For most people in the developed world, this is a season of giving and receiving. For the average person in Sierra Leone it remains a time of survival.

On Tuesday, November 27th, 2012 people all over the world are helping launch the first “Giving Tuesday” ever. The idea is simple. Individuals, families, friends, businesses, organizations, communities all join in acts of giving. Let’s join in and do the same.

Many of us live comfortable lives and have a little (or a lot) to spare. I encourage you to give today; to help those in great need. It can be a financial donation, time volunteering, a helping hand or giving of other resources.

If you want to help those with few resources and limited access to the basic necessities such as food, water, education and healthcare in the developing world, there are numerous charities and organizations out there. I happen to work for one of those organizations, called Welbodi Partnership, in a busy 200-bed Children’s hospital in downtown Freetown, Sierra Leone. One of the things we are lacking is an x-ray department. If you would like to give to this project today please do so on our x-ray appeal justgiving page.

Give more, spend better and splurge smarter. Encourage others to give today.

Sierra Leone elections: President Koroma's speech...

Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma’s speech delivered at his swearing-in at the State House on November 23, 2012. The speech was made shortly after it was announced by the National Electoral Commission that Ernest Bai Koroma was elected to a second term in office.

“Honorable Speaker of the House, my lady, the Chief Justice, members of the diplomatic and consular core, fellow Sierra Leoneans, by the grace of God, I have again been elected as your president. The people have spoken. And their collective will has prevailed. I give praise and thanks to the almighty god for the great honor bestowed upon me to lead this great nation for a second time.”

“This is a win for every Sierra Leonean. And I thank Sierra Leoneans for bringing about this victory for the land that we love. Sierra Leoneans displayed maturity, patience, and tolerance during the elections. These are enduring Sierra Leonean values. And we must continue to display them to sustain our peace, our democracy, and our development.”

“We deeply appreciate the commitment of the National Electoral Commission, the Political Party Registration Commission, and the security forces. Through the Constitution of this country, and the sacred tenants of democracy, peace and security. We also applaud the many other state agencies, domestic and international monitors, civil society groups, and the media, for their positive contributions to ensuring credible, transparent, and peaceful elections in the country.”

“My fellow Sierra Leoneans, you have given me and my party – the All People’s Congress – the mandate to govern our country for the next five years. You endorsed the achievements we made with the Agenda for Change, and asked us to continue on with the Agenda for Prosperity. This is my new contract with you.”

“We will focus on creating jobs for the youths and on training our youths to seize the immense employment opportunities we are creating in the construction, mining, agriculture, and other sectors.”

“We will continue with the infrastructure development programs. We will continue to attract investment. We will continue to fight corruption. We will continue to protect and promote the rights of every woman, every man, youth, child, journalist, and civil society activist. The time for politics is over. The moment for continuing the transformation has come. This is the time for all of us to embrace each other. In the name of Mama Sierra Leone, let all APC supporters embrace every SLPP [Sierra Leone People's Party] supporter and supporters of other political parties. I am inviting the leadership of the SLPP and other political parties to join the leadership of the APC in moving this country forward.”

“The job at hand requires the goodwill and positive energy of the membership of all political parties. Fellow Sierra Leoneans, democracy respects divisions. Good governance transcends divisions. I will make sure that the fruits of the Agenda for Prosperity are equality-distributed in every district and every region of the country. Our creation of jobs will be for the youths all over the country. Our focus on skills for employment will be for the youths of every political party. We will construct roads in every region, continue to bring electricity to every district, develop agriculture in every chiefdom, and provide free healthcare for mothers and children in every village. The work starts today.”

“We know Sierra Leoneans everywhere are celebrating this victory. But let us celebrate within the law. Let us celebrate with grace, tolerance, and goodwill, that must be the cornerstone of the job at hand. Let us, as we celebrate, be mindful that work starts today. And every Sierra Leonean, from all political parties, regions, ethnic groups, age, and religion, is central to our Agenda for Prosperity. We must therefore embrace each other as we march forward with action, bravery, commitment, discipline, empathy, and fortitude. I assure you all that with tenacity of purpose and with [inaudible] courage and determination, we will sustain our peace, democracy, and development. The future beckons with high hopes for a prosperous Sierra Leone, who’s sons and daughters will live together in peace, harmony, and enjoy the abundant fruits of our labor.”

“God bless you all.”

Thanks to @tlupick for the transcript.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Sierra Leone elections: Official results...

At around 18:25 hrs the official presidential election results were announced:

     1 314 881
          22 863
             8 273
             6 144
          28 944
          12 993
        837 517
             5 069
             5 044

In exercise of the powers conferred on the Returning Officer by section 52 of the Public Elections Act, 2012, I hereby certify that 1,314,881 valid votes were cast in favour of the candidate ERNEST BAI KOROMA at that election:

AND ERNEST BAI KOROMA therefore received 58.7% of valid votes cast in the election
ERNEST BAI KOROMA has been duly elected president of the Republic of Sierra Leone at the Presidential election of 2012.

Any citizen of Sierra Leone may challenge the validity of the election of the president by petition to the Supreme Court of Sierra Leone, within seven days after the declaration of the presidential results.

Dr. Christiana Thorpe
Chief Electoral Commissioner/Chairperson
National Returning Officer

Sierra Leone elections: Christiana live...

18:20 hours: At this moment I am sitting on the balcony with my colleague, listening to the radio. We were told the election results would be announced at 17:30 hrs. It's now 18:21 hrs and we are listening to Christiana Thorpe. 

She is about to make the announcement.

More soon.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Sierra Leone elections: Official update...

At 8 pm there was an official announcement on the radio made by Dr Christiana Thorpe. The announcement had to do with NEC's response to various allegations by two political parties, rather than an announcement of the final election results. For more details on the allegations, read the pdf version here: UPDATE ON ELECTION RESULTS TALLYING AT REGIONAL TALLY CENTERS,(PDF VERSION)

There was an update on the election results and tallying at regional tally centers, which was as follows: The Commission hereby wishes to inform the general public that 99% of all polling stations results have now being received at the Regional Tally Centers in Kenema, Makeni, Bo and Freetown. Out of the 9,493 polling stations, 90% of (8,544) polling station results have been processed. The Remaining 10% of polling station results have been quarantined and may require opening of affected ballot boxes and recount of the ballot papers.

Sierra Leone elections: Waiting for results...

The rumor going around this afternoon was that the presidential election results would be announced at 5 pm today. Then 6 pm. Then 7 pm. It is now 7:36 pm and nothing has been announced. Ugh. And I was supposed to go out tonight. Not sure if I should still go with a small chance they may still announce results, or stay put and be 100% safe. I wish they would officially announce when they will officially announce the results. This could go on for days. The problem is, I think that if they do announce it in the evening, they would probably enforce a curfew as well, in which case I wouldn't want to be stuck out. Oh elections. I shouldn't complain. As long as everything stays peaceful, I should be happy. Soon it will all be over and life will carry on as usual. Please pray for peace and that the two main parties will be gracious and that they will accept the results. Stay tuned...

Monday, November 19, 2012

SL elections: Yes, I snuck out...

Yes, I snuck out on Saturday November 17th, 2012, the day of the presidential elections in Sierra Leone. My colleague and I assessed the situation and deemed it safe to leave the compound and walk 5 minutes up the road to the polling station. The village was interesting. There were about 50 people gathered around the big tree chatting. It was the only place we could see vendors selling cucumbers, fruit, fish and groundnuts. They had obviously planned their site well. And then there were a couple of voting stations with about 30 people waiting in line to vote. It looked orderly and there was a good atmosphere. I saw one of the guys I know from our area and he said hi. He showed me his dyed finger, proving that he voted, as well as his 'clipped' voters ID card. Everyone was given 4 ballots: one for presidential, one for parliamentary, one for local council chair/mayor and one for local council councillor. The voters told me it was pretty straight forward. There were a couple of police officers around and now and then a vehicle would drive up with 'national observers' in them. What was remarkable was that no one was wearing the colors of the two main political parties - there was no red or green in sight! Apparently it had been announced the previous day that people were not to go and vote wearing party colors. Going down towards the other end of the road we were surprised at how quiet it was. I have never seen the roundabout and streets surrounding it so empty. It looked like a ghost town.

Sierra Leone elections: Tallying process...

On Monday 19th November 2012, the Chief Electoral Commissioner and National Returning Officer made an on the spot visit to Regional Tally Centers in Bo, Kenema and Makeni to monitor ongoing tallying of elections results by courtesy of UNIPSIL.Since the commencement of the result tallying process on the night of Saturday 17th November 2012, the exercise has been conducted on a 24 hour basis by three sets of data center staff on three shifts of eight hours each. Political Parties, National Elections Watch (NEW), other national and international observers that were accredited are observing the process.

Out of a total of 9,493 polling stations 7,175 polling station results (75%) are now being processed.

Eastern Region
The Eastern Region has a total of 1,985 polling stations. Results for 1,511 have been received and are now being processed.

Northern Region
The Northern Region has a total of   3,302 polling stations. Results for 2,055 stations are now being processed.

Southern Region
The Southern Region has a total of 1,908 polling stations Results for 1,402 polling stations are now being processed.

Western Region 
Out of a total of  2,298 polling stations, results for  2,207  are now being processed.
Two Political Parties, All Peoples Congress and Sierra Leone Peoples Party agents have been in attendance to observe the tallying process.

Based on the progress of receipt and tallying of elections results in all regional tally centers, official declaration of elections results will commence within the next few days.

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