In 2015, volunteers from the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation made their first trip to Sierra Leone to offer relief through the Ebola outbreaks that crippled West Africa from 2014-2016. The World Health Organization suggests the severity of the fatal disease’s spread was compounded by a crippled public health system, a shortage of healthcare workers, and background interference from other epidemics including malaria and cholera, among others.
Tzu Chi volunteers returned in 2016 to assess how communities were getting along after the outbreak was declared contained. We documented the moving stories we encountered in our video series, The Forgotten: Sierra Leone Post-Ebola.
Then in 2017, mudslides, too, added another blow for families struggling deeply with poverty in Regent, just outside the capital of Freetown. Yet, time and time again, the people of Sierra Leone showed us they were determined to overcome the obstacles in our video series, From the Mud: Sierra Leona Keeps Rising.
Slowly but surely, members of the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, namely those from Tzu Chi USA, have returned to Sierra Leone this spring to help ease resolve some of these long-standing burdens and help some of the most vulnerable in the country stand strong.
This is being done in several ways.
Setting the Stage for Better Care for Women
In partnership with Caritas Freetown (the National Office of Caritas Sierra Leone), the Healey International Relief Foundation, and the Lanyi Foundation, the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation financed the renovation of a women’s terminal care ward at the Connaught Hospital in Freetown, Sierra Leone.
At its inauguration on April 12, 2019, Dr. Kisito Doah, Hospital Care Manager at Connaught Hospital, shared how touched he was that Tzu Chi offered to bring new life into the facilities’ worst wing.
Remodeled to offer maximum functionality and comfort for female patients and medical staff, the new ward has nurses from across the hospital now “scrambling to actually be placed into this ward,” says Ishmeal Alfred Charles, Healey’s Sierra Leone Country Manager.
The work included installing a brand new electrical system, new metal beds for patients and overnight staff, electric fans for each patient bed, repainted walls with six feet of easy-to-clean tiles, handrails for the outside corridor, a new nurse’s table, and two televisions.
Nurse Hawa Bangura says the renovation is a huge help for her, her teammates, and the patients they will be treating in Ward 9.
The new wing was inaugurated with a grand opening ceremony, which included a prayer by the Archbishop of Freetown, Reverend Father Edward Tamba Charles. In attendance, too, were members of all partner organizations, including Father Peter Konteh, Executive Director of Caritas Sierra Leone.
Beyond making waves in public health, there was more to be done.
Relieving Hunger and Supporting Education Across Sensitive Populations
On April 13, Tzu Chi volunteers visited orphanages on the outskirts of Freetown, including the Manahaim House and the Rosaleneh House of Hope. The former was founded by Madame Melrose Hawa Kamara (whose own case of polio left her unable to walk) and currently serves children with physical and mental disabilities. The latter serves children with physical disabilities and also runs a school now accommodating nearly 270 students.
To help ease food insecurity and fight malnutrition, Tzu Chi volunteers brought boxes containing 100 bottles of multigrain powder to the Manahaim House and 920 bottles of the same to Rosaleneh. They were accompanied once again by Caritas Freetown and the Healey International Relief Foundation.
To support Rosaleneh students’ education, too, Tzu Chi volunteers also donated 120 notebooks for children to use for schoolwork.
Both visits brought cheer to the students and staff, including Madame Kamara at the Manahaim House.
Follow our progress as we do more to uplift the vibrant and resilient people of Sierra Leone.