Clark University students make a difference in Sierra Leone

By Ashley Millette

In early January 10 Clark University students headed to Sierra Leone, Africa, on a trip that would prove to be a once in a lifetime opportunity. Accompanied by David Jordan, the CEO of the Seven Hills Foundation, and several of his employees, the group departed for Sierra Leone on January 7 and stayed for 11 days. While there, they partnered with Fresh Hope Ministries and volunteered at two orphanages, a women’s health clinic, and other centers designed to aid youth and women.

Sierra Leone, one of the smaller countries in Africa, also has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world. One in five women will die while giving birth and one in four children will die before their fifth birthday. Fortunately, many organizations are trying to build clinics in remote villages where otherwise no health care would be available.

Amelia Angevine, one of the Clark students who travelled to Sierra Leone, described one of the remote clinics her team visited; “The clinic was two miles in the woods and had a straw thatched roof and tarp floor. It was so simple but it runs so well.” Many woman and children would go to the clinic to for malaria medication and testing.

While many clinics are being built in remote areas, the region surrounding Bo, Sierra Leone, the country’s second largest city, still suffers from a lack of health care. Within the region there are approximately two million people, two hospitals, one in which patients are required to pay for their treatment, and one OBGYN. Because many people live in poverty, they are unable to pay for treatment at the government-run hospital and often overflow the free hospital run by Doctors Without Borders. “It’s frustrating,” says Ms. Angevine. “You can see such a need, but health care is just not there. It’s not seen as a necessary human right.” Luckily, organizations like Seven Hills are taking the initiative to improve the way of life in Sierra Leone.

The Seven Hills Foundation first involved Clark students in its quest to improve the quality of life in other countries last March when CEO David Jordan took a group on a trip to practice social entrepreneurship. Dr. Jordan, who teaches a social entrepreneurship course at Clark University, said that he got idea to take groups abroad from a student. “We would talk about issues around the world and the challenges we face in terms of poverty, global environmental issues, mortality rates, and women’s issues. One of my students said, ‘You tell us about this stuff, why can’t you take us there?’ It just sort of hit me.” To Dr. Jordan, the most important thing to do is educate. “We need to see the issues the world is facing. We participated in trying to understand how these poor people making less than a dollar a day can live. They have no material goods, no money or fancy houses.”

Yet, even without these material possessions, both Ms. Angevine and Dr. Jordan cited the Sierra Leone people as some of the happiest they’ve ever encountered. “In the U.S. we live in a bubble; the littlest things bother you. Sierra Leone was an eye-opener, the people live on $1.00 a day, I go to lunch and spend $10.00,” says Amelia. “It showed that we take our lives for granted; our bad day is nothing compared to someone’s bad day in Sierra Leone. The women were so strong and have faith that things will get better.”

In a letter she wrote reflecting upon her trip, Amelia went on to say, “”When I left Sierra Leone, I left a piece of my heart there as well. I fell in love with this country filled with beautiful, hospitable, strong people. I connected with other human beings, other women and children, who are living life at the exact same moment as I am but in completely different circumstances.”

Along with their hopes to help reform health care in Sierra Leone, the Clark/Seven Hills team is hoping to help the people in another way as well. Working with Fresh Hope Ministries, the team hopes to start a bakery to help feed the orphans and stimulate the local economy. Dr. Jordan explained that the goal of the bakery will be to provide orphans with bread and baked goods and to sell the excess in the local market place. Any profits made will then go back to help support the orphans. All of the bakery employees will be local woman which will provide many needed jobs.

“The goal of social entrepreneurship is to create a small business with social benefits,” says Dr. Jordan. “The Clark students are working on this as part of the university experience.” Dr. Jordan explained that, partnered with Global Outreach Health Services (a part of Seven Hills), the students will help create and run the bakery. While the project will aid Clark students in preparing for their careers after college, the ultimate goal is to provide social change in Sierra Leone. “We need to at least be aware of what is going on in the rest of our planet so we can appreciate what people are living through,” says Dr. Jordan. “Sierra Leone is just the beginning.”

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