Koidu Town-Home of the Blood Diamonds

Koidu is the chief city in the district of Kono, in the far eastern area of Sierra Leone. It is home to the mining industry, mostly diamonds and gold. Kono is famous as the site for the documentary movie “Blood Diamonds”. Money from the sale of the diamonds have funded many a war, including Sierra Leone’s own Rebel War of the 1990’s. But others have profited as well, hence much blood has been shed because of wealth generated by these gems.

Diamond Mining in Koidu

Diamond Mining in Koidu

But Koidu and the Kono district is also home to another group of “Gems”, loyal dedicated Seventh-day Adventists who have a burden for their fellow man. This last June the men’s group of the Koidu SDA Church got together and brainstormed. “What can we do for the church and the community? More specifically, how can we impact their health and well-being?”

Our guest house in Koidu.  It was really nice.  Great birding spot too.

Our guest house in Koidu. It was really nice. Great birding spot too.

It so happens that the health and temperance leader of the church, one Boko-Lincoln, is a pharmacist and has his own store. He has been in the community since 1967, so is very well known. As is common here in this country of limited medical resources, he operates a simple clinic out of his pharmacy. So he evaluates and treats patients according to his knowledge level.

Before we get too self-righteous about a pharmacist practicing medicine I must point out that it is a lot better for him to be using the medical knowledge he has to help the overburdened local doctors and nurses, rather than for people to access the health care from the traditional healers. Reference my last post where I described pulling leaves out of my patient’s abdomen, the herbs the traditional healers used to treat Sahr’s perforated ulcer.

Greetings from the Koidu Church

Greetings from the Koidu Church

Bekki reading off the results of the offering competition between the men and women (guys won by about 2,000 leones, 38 cents)

Bekki reading off the results of the offering competition between the men and women (guys won by about 2,000 leones, 38 cents)

So it was that Boko-Lincoln suggested that they open a small pharmacy in the church, and sell the medications on a cost-recovery basis. The goal was not to make a profit, but to make good quality medications available and affordable to the local church first then the local population. Now it is possible to buy pretty much all these drugs at the local market, but the problem is you have no idea what you are buying. Is it really penicillin? Maybe. Maybe not. Who knows, and who cares, except for the family of the patient who just died because they bought and took bogus medications. You get the point.

Koidu Church and their dispensary table with BP cuff, thermometer, and meds

Koidu Church and their dispensary table with BP cuff, thermometer, and meds

The rest of the church was excited about this new health care initiative. I should also point out that as Health and Temperance leader, Boko-Lincoln is not idle, he gives a weekly health talk at church as well as leading out in this small dispensary. Soon the day came to unveil the dispensary. The church invited our mission president, Pastor Daniel Sandy, to attend.

At the grand unveiling ceremony with Pastor Sandy being the keynote speaker, it came up that they would really like to have an Adventist Health System Clinic in their area. Pastor Sandy told me about it as we traveled to the US together for the TAASLA campmeeting. The whole concept fits in very well with our vision to transform the health of all people in Sierra Leone. So as soon as I returned we began contacting the leadership in Kono District. A meeting was set up for Friday and Sabbath, September 9 and 10.

It was a long 5 hour drive over some horrendous roads (well they don’t actually qualify as roads, wide advanced motocross trails is more like it). But we spent a delightful Friday evening hearing what they are doing to evangelize and help the people who live in their community. We worshipped together on Sabbath morning and in the afternoon visited the churches 5 acre property, as well as an unfinished building that would work well for a clinic. We finished the visit with a meeting with the Parma Chief, the top chief in the area.

Meeting with the Parma Chief (on my right) and the other village leaders.

Meeting with the Parma Chief (on my right) and the other village leaders.

The first two criteria any community has to meet in order for us to consider them as an AHS clinic site are:

There has to be a need. We are not going to open a clinic next door to another health facility, be it government or private. There are so many areas without health care, we need to focus on them first.

And, two, there has to be strong community support, not just the church, but the community as a whole. Koidu meets both these qualifications. The nearest health facility is several miles away over very difficult roads. And based on the meetings we had with the church people and the community leaders there is very strong support.

But there is a third criteria. We want to know how the Adventist church community and health care community plan to use the clinic to follow the vision of AHS, to improve the physical, spiritual, mental and social well-being of their communities. These clinics are first and foremost a way to improve the spiritual and physical health of their people. Secondary is an income stream, uh OK, reality is it is probably further down the list.

The unfinished clinic building

The unfinished clinic building

Inside the building

Inside the building

They are well on their way to demonstrating a strong affirmative on all three points.
We really don’t know where this will go. The building needs finished and then Adventist healthcare workers need to be recruited. But the great news is that it is God’s work, when He is ready for AHS-Koidu Clinic to open, it will open. We just have to be prepared to march through the door when He opens it.

Mining is still active in Kono District. I don’t know how the profits are used, but it would not surprise me if there are still a few blood diamonds. But for us it really is irrelevant. What matters is there are people who need health care and they need Jesus.

Bekki practicing carrying wood on her head.  Put that woman to work!!

Bekki practicing carrying wood on her head. Put that woman to work!!

For those of you who are new to our blog please look around at the other pages, the “About” page tells a bit of who we are and our background, the “Definitions” page explains some terms that are used that some of you may not be familiar with, such as GC or AHI. The “Timeline” gives an idea of where we will be throughout the year, and the “Video” page has a video Bekki made of Koza Hospital as well as the videos she has made of Moundou, and now we are adding videos of Sierra Leone. Watch a real Ebola survivor tell his story. Watch our community health officer explain why the staff agreed to work in the Ebola Red Zone even after they lost 2 staff members to Ebola. There is also the Surgical Pictures Page, but be forewarned, it has some very graphic pictures, so if you don’t like blood and guts, stay away from that page. On the Projects and Donations pages you can find the projects we are working on and how to donate to the project that touches your heart. Finally, if you like our blog and want to receive each new post directly to your e-mail, please sign up with your e-mail in the subscribe box. It doesn’t cost anything, there is no commitment, it just makes it easier to follow us.

We welcome volunteers.

-Scott Gardner

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