January 20, 2015 By Sheriff Mahmud Ismail
Many young Sierra Leoneans have been jolted by the awful human tragedy the Ebola outbreak has meted out on their compatriots. Thousands have died and thousands more continue to grapple with the harshness of the virus.
The humanitarian response has for most part focused on healing the infected, caring for survivors and preparing for post Ebola social and economic outcomes. This is understandable as containing the outbreak and its transmission is critical. However, the frontline health workers have had to make do with the “hazard pay” provided to them by the government. It is this gap in the public gratitude that “Power Women 232” is helping to address.
“The health workers are responsible for the many survivors; they risk their health and lives to save our compatriots- they therefore deserve our gratitude for such noble service”, said Fatima Sesay, a member of Power Women 232 team.
On Friday 16th January, 2015, the organization offered assorted food items to the men and women at the second Hastings Treatment Center. Fatima presented the items to the Matron, Lt Colonel Hannah Pratt saying, “This is just a token of our appreciation for the great work you continue to do here; you have saved lives and no amount of money in reward is enough for such an extraordinary national service”.
“When women have power, it generates much brighter light. This morning you have brightened up the treatment center”, said the Matron. I do not associated such poetic flare with soldiers- maybe it’s her medical background- but the matron’s energy metaphor was a true reflection of the beaming smiles that radiated on the faces of her colleagues. Doctors, nurses, laboratory technicians, and hygienists- were all there- relishing this not- too- common moment of public recognition.
Rashida Kallon, an hygienist said, “We are so happy; it’s truly motivational and it makes me feel really good”. Alpha Suma, another hygienist agrees, “Power women have shown us love and are appreciative of what we do here”.
“It’s so amazing that you see a vision, turn it into an idea and take action on it” said Yeniva Sisay-Sojbeh, President of Power Women 232. Yeniva told me that her organization is a social network of career women in different disciplines. “We saw the need for a social network of women and we elected to address it” she said. Yeniva went on to explain the objectives and activities of Power Women 232. “We focus on leadership and the advancement of the Sierra Leonean woman and we engage in community service”. She further explained that Ebola struck just when they were rolling out their community service initiative. “So we acceded to the call of the needy and making such gestures of recognition for exemplary service”. Power Women’s community service didn’t start at this treatment center. “We started in August 2014 in Kailahun, then to Kenema, Lunsar, Jui and Hastings 1. We have served the old at the St George’s Home, and the young at the ‘Cap Anamor orphanage”, said the President.
From the treatment center at Hastings in the Western Area, Power Women 232 proceeded, to the Port Loko Treatment Center in the North on 17th January, 2015, to extend their gesture to other frontline health workers.
This humanitarian work didn’t start with a lot of money, said Nicky Spencer-Coker, another member of the Power Women. “We started off with a supermarket drive asking shoppers to donate whatever little- cash or kind. We collected sardines, milk, Ovaltine etc. But as people saw our work, more support has flowed in”.
Yeniva confirmed; I am overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity Sierra Leoneans have shown towards this course”, she said “Now we have received funding from the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), which shows that our work is creating the desired impact in the communities we support.
OSIWA’s Program coordinator, Nancy Sesay who travelled with the team explained that although her organization is a foundation that supports government and NGOs, they decided to help because of the ramifications of the outbreak. “We are actually not in charity work, but the Ebola virus has come with its own special challenges so we thought we could help through organizations like “Power Women 232”.
Authorities say the epidemic is burning itself out and Sierra Leone may be heading out of the woods. On 16th January, 2015, the country registered only 6 new cases, the lowest since June, 2014. But as Sierra Leone beats back this insurgency, the battle marks of this villain of a virus would linger on.
Therefore, organizations like Power Women 232 deserve more support to carry out their work, and it is but fitting that other organizations and institutions emulate the footsteps of OSIWA to help Power Women 323 continue putting smiles on the faces of the victims as well as their defenders.