EMI's CEO, Jim Hall
It's been a tough last few weeks for EMI. Our CEO, Jim Hall, had to step down a couple weeks ago after learning that his melanoma cancer (diagnosed in Sept 2010) had come back and spread to a number of spots and organs. We were all heartbroken to learn this news, as Jim had been given an all clear just this past August. Jim is a great leader whose relational style and steady demeanor have been a huge blessing to our organization for the past 3 years. Jim was a big factor in Alisha's and my decision to stay on with EMI after returning from Uganda. Jim is feeling pretty poorly these last few weeks because of the cancer, so please join us in praying for Jim and his wife Nancy, and all of EMI as we deal with this tough situation. They have traveled to Florida for the Thanksgiving holiday to be near family, and it's possible they may stay on to pursue doing treatment there.
The Sierra Leone hospital assessment project report is completed, bound and in the hands of the ministry. My intern, Mike Corsetto (a UC Davis grad!), did a great job in helping get the report out the door over a month early! Mercy Ships has already expressed their gratitude for the team's work and will be presenting the report at a number of health care conferences in West Africa in the coming weeks. It could potentially be a significant new avenue for EMI as more healthcare ministries find out about us and our ability to mobilize engineers to come assess and make recommendations for the many struggling hospitals in the region.
Horn of Africa Drought and Famine
Something else that's been occupying my time the past few months has been the drought and famine in East Africa. The biggest humanitarian crisis in the world right now is the drought-induced famine going on right now in Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Ethiopia, where 12 million people are being affected by a severe lack of food and water due to consecutive record-dry rainy seasons there.
I have been coordinating with some of EMI's Disaster Response partners (CRWRC and Food for the Hungry) to mobilize 5 volunteer engineers to the region to work on such projects as rainwater collection programs and water source rehabilitation. My job has been to coordinate and track our volunteers during their mobilization. Anytime there are desperate people, the situation can be volatile. Tribal rivalries fighting over water and food can get violent, and a couple of our volunteers had to be evacuated in once instance due to the breakdown in security in one area.
All EMI volunteers have now returned home for the time being, though the impact of their work is still be realized in the area as water sources are being restored to provide desperately needed supply to the people in the region.
Well, if I would have posted this last week, I would have told you about my upcoming trip to Guinea to do the next round of assessments for Mercy Ships at the two government hospitals in the capital city of Conakry. But last Thursday evening, just hours after purchasing the team's airfare, I received notice from Mercy Ships that they were having concerns about the upcoming elections in Guinea that were now being postponed until around the time our trip was scheduled in early February. So, I spent the next hour contacting the our travel agent's emergency agent and was able to cancel the tickets for a small fee. Had this change in plans not come when it did, it could have cost the team hundreds of dollars each to make the change.
So, after a lengthy discussion with the Mercy Ships off-ship program directors, we decided to change the trip back to Sierra Leone to assess the three rural hospitals scattered around the country. This trip had been scheduled for our May/June trip cycle, but we felt it was best to switch given the unrest in Guinea. So, back to Sierra Leone I go come February! I'm excited to see more of the country - especially after just having read the book "A Long Way gone", which was written by a former child soldier about his experience in the civil war there that ended in 2002. If you are at all interested in West Africa, or in learning more about the atrosity of turning children into soldiers that is happening more and more all over sub-saharan Africa, I highly recommend this book. As a warning, it's not for the faint of heart!
Home and school
Alisha and the boys are off school this week for Thanksgiving break. Soccer season just ended for the boys so we are happy to have our lives back! We have really struggled with how to push back against the culture of busy-ness back in the States. We really miss the slower lifestyle we lived in Uganda, yet we're finding it's very difficult to try to mimic that lifestyle here. Just having the boys do 1 activity makes our life seem like a rat race - we had 7 practices and 3-4 games per week, with soccer on 6 out of 7 days of the week. And that's just one activity - most of the boy's friends are doing 2+ sports at a time. Of course, it's great for the boys to play a sport, but it comes at the price of having any kind of regular family time together. We're still trying to figure that one out.
Alisha's work is going well - she's teaching 5th grade once again. She does miss the lower grades sometimes, but is content where God's placed her for the time being. With Brodie in 5th grade at the school (in a different class), it's been a real blessing having her in the position she's in. She gets to be Brodie's history teacher too.