When I was two years old my parents moved onboard the M/V Anastasis, a hospital ship run by the organization Mercy Ships, that provided relief and medical services to communities in developing countries. The greatest advantage of growing up on the ship was the opportunity to see so much of the world. Needless to say, my childhood was unique.
As a teenager on the ship we were able to participate in the community health programs. One day we went to the village of Macumba in Sierra Leone to provide assistance during a measles outbreak. Two children died that day and it made a huge impact on me. It was then that I decided to pursue medicine with the desire to one day go back to Africa.
After obtaining my medical degree and diploma in tropical medicine and hygiene I went to Freetown, Sierra Leone in March 2005 to set up a pediatric outpatient clinic in Aberdeen, an area of town where pediatric services were not available. The clinic was very successful with 14,000 children registered and busy clinic days with 50-60 patients by the time I handed the clinic over in 2009. Thankfully the clinic is still open to this day.
In June 2010 I returned as a volunteer to Sierra Leone as Medical Coordinator for Welbodi Partnership at the Ola During Children's Hospital in Freetown. I worked closely with this hospital in the past, having referred many sick children there from the outpatient clinic in Aberdeen, often wishing that the accessibility and quality of care was better. It was exciting to know that I would play a role in improving the quality of care given at the hospital. After the initial two years, I took on the role of Senior Technical Advisor, and was involved with various quality improvement projects, guideline development, working towards establishing a postgraduate training programme in paediatrics (including accreditation of the hospital through the West African College of Physicians) and other capacity building activities. I was also responsible for larger projects such as setting up a digital x-ray department in the hospital! This was one of my all time favorite projects. It was a busy and challenging time to find my way within the government system.
In 2014 I took on the role as Country Director for Welbodi Partnership. Little did I know that I was about to embark on a very challenging mission: leading the organization through the biggest Ebola outbreak in the world. With the team dwindling in size, a temporary evacuation, the number of Ebola cases on the rise, less patients going to the hospital out of fear and thus dying of non-Ebola illnesses, there was a lot that needed to be done. I was in the right place at the right time and was able to work with the Ministry, CDC, WHO and other partners to introduce Infection Prevention and Control programs across the country. Welbodi was able to champion this program at three hospitals, which I believe built confidence in both health care workers and patients and led to better utilization of healthcare services. I slowly built the team from 2 to about 20 people and expanded our scope of work to include improvements in pediatric and maternity care. It was tiring, stretching, challenging and some of it was rewarding. Overall it was a good experience and I learnt a lot, but mid-2016 I knew it was time to move on and I resigned from the CD position. (See It's time to start blogging again…) This was a difficult decision, especially since I know there is still so much that needs to be done to improve ODCH and child health in general in Sierra Leone.
So, here I am. In Freetown. In transition. Waiting for what's next. Praying for a job I can pour my heart into, combining my love for children, longing to make a difference in child health in Sierra Leone, fighting for justice, being a voice for those who cannot speak up, using my medical knowledge and skills and reflecting God’s love.
"He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8.