Growing up in United States, we tend to have the “glamorous and rich lifestyle”. We are known for having money, the best education and resources to suceed in life. That is why many immigrants come from all over the world and relocate to America for a better lifestyle and life-changing opportunities. Both of my parents immigrated from a small country in West Africa called Sierra Leone, home of the diamonds. My parents have always talked about how poor and corrupt the country, especially since they do not have many of the tools and resources we have here. Many people who are from Sierra Leones and other surrounding countries always send back tons of clothes and items for the less fortunate. Well, today I will tell you about how two cousins came together and establish a nonprofit organization to help and assist the public health of Sierra Leone.
Meet Nadia Jolloh-Bangura (L) and Rashida Kamara (R) , the founders of the Sierra Leone Mission Trip. Nadia Jalloh-Bangura is a Physician Assistant (PA) who holds a Bachelors of Scienxe Degree in Biology from Virginia Commonwealth University and a Masters Degree in Physician Assistant Studies from South University in Richmond, Virginia. Rashida Kamara is a Management Analyst [C] for the National Institute of Health (NIH) who holds a Bachelor of Science in Public Health Science from the University of Maryland College Park. Rashida has also earned a license as Certified Nursing Assistant through the State of Maryland.
Both ladies have a passion for increasing the access of quality healthcare in Sierra Leone. With experience working in the Emergency Department, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), Internal Medicine and Family Medicine, Nadia has completed more than 2000 clinical hours in a hospital and outpatient setting. Rashida has 4+ years of experience in the field of public health, clinical research and health administration. Prior to NINDS, she was a Research Program Coordinator at John Hopkins University School of Medicine where she helped oversee the submission of grant deliverables and assisted with the implementation of HIV and Hepatitis C testing in the Bayview Medical Center Emergency Department. She also completed the Office of Global Research (OGR) Fellowship Program at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).
During my trip to Sierra Leone, I have the chance to sit down with both ladies and gain more insight on their healthcare initiative. Checkout our discussion down below.
Q: What made you guys interested in starting the Sierra Leone Mission Project?
Rashida Kamara: In 2019 we both traveled back to Sierra leone our country of origin, to vacation and visit with family. While there we could not help but notice the poverty and deep need for medical attention many of the people of freetown were in need of. As you travel through the streets of Freetown it is impossible not to notice some of the physical ailments some of the citizens have. We were able to then visit one of the public hospitals, Connaught Hospital, which was lacking in many areas to say the least. Like many of the hospitals in Sierra Leone, there was no air conditioning, the resources were scarce, and staffing was not large enough to meet the needs. As we both stem from medical backgrounds we could not help but start to brainstorm just how we could be of help and give back to the people of Freetown.
Q: What was the mission and purpose of the project?
Nadia Jalloh-Bangura: The mission is to provide medical supplies and resources by partnering with public hospitals (PCMH, Connaught Hospital, Lakka Hospital) and nonprofit organizations located in Sierra Leone. The purpose of the project is to improve the quality of life of Sierra Leoneans. Prospectively, we plan to open a healthcare clinic in Sierra Leone to provide free medical services and resources to residents.
Q: How long did it take to execute this project and how did you all execute the project?
Rashida Kamara: It took about 9 months of planning to execute the project. The first step in a project was to find and partner with a hospital or non-profit organizations that provide free medical services in Sierra Leone. With the help of Janella Kamara, RN we were able to get in contact and partner with Dr. Sarah Conteh of King Harman Hospital. In March 2021, we launched a GofundMe, which was promoted heavily on Instagram. In July 2021, we planned a happy hour at Republic Garden in Silver Spring with the help of DJ Philo Flexx. As a result, we raised about $1-2k worth of donations through ticket sales. By August and September 2021, we raised a total of $6-7k through the Happy Hour, GofundMe Page, Apple Pay and CashApp donations.
Nadia Jalloh-Bangura: All donations went toward purchasing various medical supplies such as blood glucose machines, blood pressure machines, condoms, toothbrushes, toothpastes, bathroom commodes, vitamin supplements, medications (Tylenol and Advil), Enfamil Baby Formula, dopplers, intubation sets, surgical tools, compression socks, gloves, hand sanitizers and masks.
Rashida Kamara: By October 2021, we shipped all the supplies to Sierra Leone. When we arrived in December 2021, we were able to retrieve the supplies and distribute it to 2 orphanages located in Waterloo and St. Georges. Also with the help of Dr. Sarah Conteh of King Harman Hospital, Dr. Taylor-Williams of PCMH and Dr. Mariama Mahmoud of Lakka Hospital we were able to donate supplies to 2 of these hospitals. Q: What was the most challenging part about putting this project together?
Nadia Jalloh-Bangura: First and foremost it’s Africa you have to expect the unexpected! The most challenging part about putting this project together is time, support, and effective communication. When we first started the project, it was very difficult finding hospitals to partner with for the project. We received many contacts but only few people responded to us. Eventually, we were able to partner with Dr. Sarah Conteh of King Harman and Dr. Taylor-Williams of PCMH.
Rashida Kamara: Another challenging part about this project is support! When we first started the project and published it online we had a lot of support. Along the way, the project was losing momentum and we had to figure out ways to increase the support and donations. As a result, we decided to host a happy hour, which was extremely successful from attendance to promotion to donations.
Nadia Jalloh-Bangura: Another challenging part was shipping delays and flight cancellations. As a result, it was extremely hard to coordinate the screening given the delays in receiving the medical supplies so we had to postpone the actual screening.
Q: What was the best part about completing the project?
Rashida Kamara: The best part about completing the project is that we are giving back to a community that once raised our parents and grandparents that has a strong need for basic medical care and supplies.
Q: What do you all have planned next?
Nadia Jalloh-Bangura: We plan to continue the relationship with PCMH, King Harman Hospital and Lakka Hospital by donating medical supplies and conducting health care screenings. Thus, our next plan is to begin raising funds for the December 2022 Medical Mission Trip and organize a health screening/workshops. We plan to partner with Registered Nurses, Physicians, Dentists, Physician Assistants, Educators, etc. to conduct this screening. We are in the process of building a team because originally it was just us 2 planning everything. If you know anyone that would like to help please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Rashida Kamara: We are also planning to begin the process of becoming a registered Non-Profit Organization (NPO) in Sierra Leone and the United States of America. As an NPO, we hope to receive more medical donations from other NPO’s such as WHI, THET, and WHF which all provide medical care and supplies in Africa. Within the next 5 years, we hope to raise donations to purchase land to build a free medical clinic that would provide free medical supplies and resources to the people of Sierra Leone.
Q: How can individuals learn more information about the project and continue to support it?
Nadia Jalloh-Bangura: You can learn more about our project by following us on Instagram @ slhealthmissiontrip, emailing us @email@example.com or donating to our GoFundMe Page. We also accept donations of medical supplies. The full list can also be found on our socials! If you would like to be a part of the planning process for this year please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org . Please continue to support us by reposting us and sharing our mission with your friends and families. We will be launching a website and Facebook soon!
Check out more pictures down below from the Sierra Leone Mission Trip.