When Liberian born Rotarian George Fomba proposed that Mawson Lakes Rotary assist a remote area of Liberia, the challenges were immediately apparent.
George spent 12 years in a refugee camp before migrating to Australia with his wife Veronica and their first child. On his return visits to Liberia, George was struck by the poverty and injustice in his homeland. He described seeing homelessness, poor health systems and limited opportunities for most citizens.
He also highlighted the good fortune of his young family and fellow Liberians who were able to migrate to Australia. George and the Adelaide based Liberian community voiced a strong desire to give back to both their country of origin and their adoptive country.
Mawson Lakes Rotary were looking for a challenge and so, under the leadership of President David Hunter, our club of 9 members began communications with the Foya District Health Committee. We learnt that Foya Town is 450 kilometres from the capital of Liberia near the border of Sierra Leone, situated in a largely agricultural district. The area has been heavily impacted by years of civil war and the ebola crisis and has many infrastructure challenges. There is a new government hospital but little equipment. The hospital has no power and local health workers cannot use the facility which could potentially service both the town and surrounding rural populations. Opening the hospital is critical to advancing health care in this border area.
We worked closely with Ben Johnson, Chair of the Liberian Australian Service Foundation Inc and Rotary Australia World Community Service (RAWCS) central region Donations in Kind Project to implement the project. We were also ably supported by a number individuals resident in Liberia.
Rotary District 9500 allocated $5000 from their Rotary Foundation District Designated Funds. Private donations and the club fundraising efforts raised the $20,000 required to ship the container to Liberia.
We joined forces with the Liberian Australian Service Foundation to conduct the Our Africa Meets Australia fundraiser which was supported by 160 members of the community and local businesses raising $4,000 toward the project.
Funds were used to cover purchase of a container, shipping and land transport costs, medical equipment, a generator, solar panel pack and several computer notebooks. Through Donations in Kind, hospital beds, mattresses, bedside cabinets, disability equipment and medical consumables were sourced and the Liberian Australian Service Foundation Inc supplied trailer loads of recycled clothing, toys and books.
10 tonnes of equipment packed in the 40 foot container left Donations in Kind on Friday 9 February 2018.
The container arrived in Foya Town on May 12 2018 and our dream became a reality. A handover ceremony was attended by local politician the Hon. Senator George Tengbeh, President of Gbanga Rotary Club Mr Rupert Surian, representatives of the county health team, the health committee, community leaders and local residents. In the words of Mr Moses Momolu, Clinical Coordinator of the Foya Hospital Project, "The arrival of the container in Foya district put smiles in the faces of the people in Foya".
Small clubs and committed individuals can have a go - Rotary Making a Difference!