Sierra Leone - Parts IV and V of V

The EMI team

(More pictures at end)

Monday Sept 12:
It felt like a typical Monday morning on the ship this morning. The weekend is mostly off for people on the ship (from my estimation), so things were pretty low key. But Monday morning, by 6:45am the dining area was bustling with people with a very ‘back to work’ atmosphere. For our team of course, we worked through the weekend so the only difference was breakfast started at 6:30am instead of 7:30am.
The report is coming along really well - we may come back to the office 90% done. That would be great, and would allow intern Mike to work on a number of other projects for other project leaders who have a backlog of open projects. For me, it would allow me to get an early start on recruiting for my February trip as well as work on a few other small projects I would like to get to.
This afternoon, intern Mike and I took a ride into town with our Mercy Ships host Dulce, who is Honduran (though she sounds and seems as American as we are). She has been here for a year and a half and hosts all the visiting teams. She is very outgoing and has made our time here very fun.
Anyway, we went to town to meet with a local ministry whom our CEO Jim Hall led a trip for a year and a half ago. They have almost built Phase I of the project so we had hoped to make it out to the project site to see some pictures. Unfortunately, the day we were going to go it was really stormy weather out so they had to cancel. So instead, we went to their office downtown to meet with their construction manager. It was a good chance to connect with a past ministry and get some good feedback from them as to what we did well and what pitfalls they encountered. We’re trying to do this more – connecting with other ministries (past or future) to learn how we can do what we do better or to better select future projects by meeting the ministry in country ahead of time.
At night, everyone worked on wrapping up their report sections and powerpoint presentation. This could be a very different type of presentation, as there is the potential for a lot of people to be there. They have opened it up to everyone on the ship, so who knows who will come. Either way, this represents an entirely new direction for this ministry so interest is very high with the leadership. I am very glad that we have such a well qualified and experienced team to answer questions from a bunch of doctors!

Tuesday Sept 13:

Presentation day! It’s what we work up to the entire time we’re here, so naturally the team was excited and a little nervous all day as we made final tweaks and edits to the presentation. We also did a complete mock run-through of it, which I had never done before on a trip. It was really helpful as we then all critiqued each other and did more fine tuning.
At 6:30pm, we all gathered in the room, and by 7pm around 50 people had come into the auditorium for the presentation. Overall, the presentation was really well received. The 50 people who showed up were people who didn’t have anything to do with the on-shore programs dept., which was encouraging that people from across the many departments of Mercy Ships were taking interest in this new direction of work.
But our presentation was also a bit sobering, as the precursor to any work to be done on these hospital sites is something that is extremely difficult to do: developing a maintenance and operations program to sustain the existing facilities. Right now, if something breaks or isn’t working, either nothing is done about it or an insufficient fix is fashioned.
A sad example of this happened today. The power at the children’s hospital was operating in single phase (instead of three phase), which means the power was only coming through one line. This results in a brown out, or low power. The problem was in the panel as the connection from the city was too weak to supply full power. So the maintenance worker wanted to shove his screwdriver into the connection to give it a better contact. This actually could work, however it also is extremely dangerous and could have killed him and the 4 people standing next to him.
Well, unfortunately, while all of this was going on, the hospital wasn’t receiving enough power to operate its equipment. Two small children who were on respirator machines passed away because of the brown out. Stories like that are maddening and unbelievably tragic. But unfortunately, it is an everyday occurrence. The estimate we were told is that about 4 children die everyday at the hospital, and typically the reason they die is a very preventable or treatable reason.
For our team, this has made our work seem like it has very real life consequences, but it also has driven us into deeper questions about the huge obstacles there will be for our work to have an impact. We can design a pretty system that looks good in a presentation and feel really good about ourselves, but if we don’t step back and think through the more difficult issues we will have little chance of making an impact.
The deeper, difficult issues on this trip have to do with the maintenance at the hospitals. The maintenance staff don’t seem to fully grasp the vision of their role in providing healthcare at the hospital. There doesn’t seem to be a connection for them (by our estimation) between them keeping the septic system up and running so sewage doesn’t back up on the site and the overall quality of healthcare being provided. Or, when the power goes out, they don’t seem to be connecting the dots that they are now more important in the lives of some patients than their doctors are.
But the reality is, the maintenance people at hospitals are critical to the overall success of the hospital. So right now, as raw sewage spills out on the hospital grounds the hospital’s ability to provide healthcare is being undermined. These are some of the issues we’ve been discussing – How do we change the culture in the maintenance departments at these hospitals? How do we encourage a training/mentoring program? How do we get them the tools they need to do their work? It’s made for some great conversations this week amongst our team, and ultimately will lead to our assessment report being much more practical and useful for the ministry.

Part V of V

Wednesday Sept 14:

Today was our closing day, and we decided to go to the most popular beach in Sierra Leone – ‘River No. 2’. It’s a spot on the Atlantic Ocean where a River enters into the ocean directly, without any kind of widening at the end. The beach along the ocean just north of the river is pristine white sand.
However, about 10 minutes after we arrived, the skies opened up and it rained pretty much the rest of the day. A bunch of the team went swimming in the warm ocean water anyways – everyone but Joe and I actually got in and swam. So what was to be a full day with dinner afterwards ended up being a half day at the beach with us returning to the ship for dinner. It was still fun, and we got to do some souvenir shopping at the beach before leaving.
After dinner, we had our closing team meeting, where we have everyone share their high/low points, something God taught them while they were here, and then any prayer requests they have going back. Then, we take turns sharing encouraging observations we’ve made or things we’ve noticed about the person one person volunteers to pray for that person before we move on to the next person. One by one, we let everyone share.
This meeting is always a favorite for EMI volunteers as they get to share and hear feedback from other team members, as well as to give feedback to others. This one was no different as we have had such good team unity and bonding. Tomorrow begins the long trek home. From the time we leave the ship until I get home is scheduled to be about 40 hours – yikes! But having Alisha and the boys there waiting for me at the airport is all the motivation I’ll need to get through – I miss them a ton and can’t wait to be back home again with them!

Travel Sept 15-16:

What can be said about 40 hours of traveling on airplanes? It was long and brutal but in the end all worth it to see Alisha and the boys! We did head into town during our layover in Brussels, which was fun. I know very little about Belgium, other than waffles! So, when we were in town, we stopped in and ordered Belgian waffles, so I've got that box checked. It was fun, but honestly, I think Eggo waffles are better. Please don't tell Belgium I said so. :)

Intern Mike and I with the Contractor for a previous EMI design project.

This humongous 'Cotton Tree' downtown is highly revered in Sierra Leone. It is the symbol of freedom for the city of Freetown. According to legend, back in 1792, when the first African American freed slaves were returned to this region, they met at a large tree and had a feast of thanksgiving for their new freedom.

The water in the swimming pool on the ship is kept very low to keep it from splashing out when the ship rocks back and forth from the sea.

Joe presenting his structural findings.

A pretty large crowd (about 50) showed up for our presentation.

The team arriving at the beach - it was really nice, with fine white sand...but the rains were soon to follow after our arrival.

River No. 2 beach is a beautiful spot.

My first time touching the Atlantic Ocean.

River No. 2 - what a romantic name for such a beautiful river. ;)

The team enjoying our only local meal of the trip - Barracuda with Rice. It was pretty good!

Joe was mezmorized to sleep by the peaceful playing of Dan's Irish flute!

Pouring rain all day made the dirt roads on the trip home a lot more treacherous than the trip there.

The rainy streets of suburban Freetown.

We thought we had car trouble in one of the vehicles, but it turns out the warning light was just malfunctioning. But a group of engineers hovering over a car is a scary situation to be in. Joe thought it was the spritzer falve. Geoff insisted it was the capacitor.


Anonymous said…
Would it have been possible to cantilever the spritzer valve?
5Crawfords said…
Yes, but then you'd need to swap out the capacitor for a flux capacitor.

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