A busy week for our interns at Sulayman Junkung Hospital!
Dear Power Up Gambia Friends,
As one of the three fortunate interns chosen to work at the Sulayman Junkung General Hospital conjointly with Power Up Gambia to, I feel that the doors to learning, creating and enacting positive change have opened for me here, and I am sure my colleagues feel the same. Every morning is an inspiration—I walk past the beautiful solar panels which help power the day-to-day operations of a hospital community cohesively working towards a healthier Gambia, and we have you to thank for all your hard work in making this renewable energy source possible.
The living situation is wonderful here. The food is delicious and flavorful—for lunch, we often eat a tasty short-grain Gambian rice topped with vegetables such as peppers, onions, cassava, and an okra and sorrel blend, accompanied by fish, chicken or beef. Little light pollution and distraction from TV, internet and phones makes it easy to focus on connection with nature and getting to know the faces around me. Just recently, I learned how to brew a strong, sweet green tea called attaya, poured repeatedly in glasses to create froth, as a group of friends chat. Outside of work, there are endless possibilities for activities: I ate countless mangos, haggled with a stubborn taxi driver, swam in the salt water river, cooked a rice dish called Bennachin, attended a Jola circumcision festival as well as a naming ceremony, chatted with a radio station manager in French, made a makeshift broom using dried brush from the field behind the hospital, and met many, many friends.
I am pleased to write that the staff and families are incredibly genuine and amicable. Each individual person, like the Gambian weather, exudes a constant warmth, making my work and travel experience at the hospital all the more enjoyable. In my first week, like a curious, babbling baby waving at every new person in sight, I tried to greet everyone I passed with the common Arabic greeting “Salaam alaikum” and a handshake or hand-clasped gesture. These words of peace always prompted the traditional response and would even evolve into conversations about the day or the weather, while older, non-English-speaking Gambians would simply clasp both my hands, smiling with amusement as I attempted to repeat the Mandinka or Jola phrases they taught me. Sometimes a simple roadside greeting developed into friendly discourse as we spoke about our hobbies, families, and what we love about our jobs.
And what is there not to love about my job? As I walk past calm cream-colored walls and cool, shaded walkways lined with patients and their families, I am filled with pride to work in a hospital that has grown since its humble beginnings to become a medical and teaching facility serving more than 100,000 local residents and held up as a model of hospital development and management. Surrounded by positive people who are enthusiastic to work with me and exchange ideas, truly in the spirit of CEO Mr. Kebba Badgie’s emphasis on the Jola word “battiyab” or fellowship, I look forward to interacting with my coworkers every day.
Last week, I worked with Edrissa and other staff at the Medical Records department in order to familiarize myself with the system and look for ways it could be improved. The staff members are knowledgeable and efficient, but the fact that most out-patient and other data are stored in paper logs makes it more difficult for the different departments to work as a single cohesive unit. Hospital administrators are looking into implementing a computerized medical data entry and retrieval network that will allow for better compilation of patient information and inter-departmental interfacing. Moreover, I worked with patient numbers to generate graphs and charts displaying trends over time, outcomes, and annual occurrences of various diseases. This raw data contains so much potential for forays into a better understanding of at-risk populations for certain diseases—for instance, the occurrence of Acute Respiratory Infection (ARI) might be particularly high for certain groups of females because of the time spent exposed to smoke while cooking with charcoal burners, so it might be useful to process these numbers and formulate a plan of action and education to lower the disease prevalence in these communities. I hope to work more with the Records staff to teach them about computer charting and statistical methods so that they might begin further systematic research. I would also like to develop a website for the hospital so that a certain public record can be available online for those who would like information about the hospital’s history and vision, its directory and contact information, as well as updates on its ongoing projects.
On Monday, June 10th, I began working with Ibrima, a nurse specializing in midwifery, at the Reproductive and Children’s Health department, where I helped record information about pregnant mothers, as well as performed basic medical assessment in antenatal care such as taking their blood pressure (I am glad my EMT certification came in handy) and estimating their gestation period by measuring the height of their fundus. I also traveled with a team of about 8 other hospital staff in a day-long trekking expedition to Besse, approximately 20 minutes from the hospital. Once we arrived at the satellite health facility, we proceeded to give women the same antenatal check-ups and care that we provided at the hospital. This whole experience has been amazing not only because of the opportunity to have patient contact, but also because we provide much-needed accessible care and education to the furthest reaches of the local rural community through these monthly clinics. I also sat in on a health education program with Arielle at the Bwiam radio station, hosted by staff from SJGH, and we hope to be more vocal in our participation during next week’s radio program.
Sulayman Junkung General Hospital has made leaps and bounds of progress through the efforts of its staff, sponsors and friends, yet there is still so much potential for growth and improvement. Medical wards are in need of renovation, many professionals would be able to give more targeted treatments if they had better technological toolkits, and the infrastructure for quick inter-departmental communication is lacking. This realization struck me full force when Ibrima and I were seeing a pregnant patient for her antenatal check-up and another one staggered in, clutching her knees, clearly beginning labor. One look at the baby’s progress showed that his head was already visible, so Ibrima called a nurse in the Labor Ward on his cell phone for assistance, but could not reach her. We immediately flanked the patient from either side and steadily made our way to the Labor Ward, several meters away. The patient arrived on time so that appropriate tools and staff were available to help with the rest of the labor process, but this experience showed me that limitations in hospital communication—such as being restricted to cell phones or even less—can be life-threatening in case of emergencies. Keeping records, monitoring solar panels, transferring patients, trekking to other sites, and giving radio health talks also rely on the central tenet of communication. How to improve it and therefore build on the hospital’s goals for battiyab is tantamount to strengthening the delivery of healthcare and the spirit of community here in The Gambia overall.
Three cheers for Bansang Hospital and for Bansang Hospital Appeal!
The rebuilding of the Children’s Ward at Bansang Hospital is almost done! When Leland and I visited the hospital in March the Children’s Ward was in the middle of a massive reconstruction. Heavy rains the summer before along with blocked drainage from a major storm drain pipe had resulted in settling and cracking of some of the support walls to the ward. In making plans for rebuilding those walls, the decision was made to upgrade the ward with new windows and tile, improved electrical wiring and improvement of the sinks and toilets. Leland and I worked with Dembo (Chief of Maintenance at the hospital), Dennis (the construction manager for Bansang Hospital Appeal) and Mr. Morrow (the contractor) to decide how to extend the lighting and critical care electrical sockets on the ward to better utilize the solar power system that powers the Children’s ward.
What a mess a major reconstruction project can make! The children had to be moved to the surgical recovery ward during the project, and the contractor was in a rush to finish all the work before the rainy season began again in June. Sounds like they made it just in time – some preliminary rainstorms have started in Bansang, and they are getting ready to move the children back into the ward this week. Hats off to the hard workers at Bansang Hospital and to the tireless efforts of Anita Smith and her group The Bansang Hospital Appeal!
Univ. of Penn International Interns are on their way!
Three University of Pennsylvania students will be winging their way to The Gambia later this week to do a summer internship at Sulayman Junkung General Hospital with Mr. Kebba Badgie. When Mr. Badgie last visited the United States, we met with Cara Bonnington of the Penn Global International Internship Program to see if there would be a good fit between the IIP program and the Sulayman Junkung General Hospital. We worked together to develop a Hospital Adminstrative Staff internship and we were thrilled when 3 Penn students were accepted into the program and placed at Sulayman Junkung Hospital! Arielle, Janice and Tina will be working on various aspects of hospital administration and management. They will be working at the hospital for 8 weeks and we wish them well on their internships!
(oh - and this photo is just a background shot of "Life in The Gambia" - this is the Gambian and Senegalese fishing fleet out of Bakau, The Gambia)
Power Up Gambia Art!
Our Executive Director Lynn McConville was visiting in her home town of Yellow Springs, Ohio last weekend and gave a talk about Power Up Gambia at the Yellow Springs Senior Citizens Center. Her talented friend from childhood, Dan Schiff, surprised her with a great sketch he made during her talk. Thanks Danny!
Nice Article in the Philadelphia Tribune
A friend of one of our board members came to the Power Up Gambia Benefit last week and was inspired to write a great article for the Philadelphia Tribune about Power Up Gambia! Mr. Linn Washington Jr., Executive Editor at the Philadelphia Tribune came to our event on the invitation of board member Richelle Todd-Yamoah. He had a chance to learn about what Power Up Gambia is working to achieve in The Gambia and also spoke with board member Dr. Shannon Marquez about her extensive experience working in the health care sector in The Gambia. He was also able to talk with Mr. Baboucarr Jallow, Deputy Chief of Mission for the Gambian Embassy in Washington DC, who travelled up from Washington just to show the Embassy's support for the work we do.
Check out Mr. Washington's article online, and like and share it on Facebook to help spread the word! http://www.phillytrib.com/newsarticles/item/9172-power-up-gambia-promotes-water,-electricity-projects.html
If you missed our Spring Benefit and want to be sure to get an ivitation for the next event, make sure you are on our mailing list! We had such a good time, we are thinking about hosting a similar one in Wilmington this fall for all of our friends and supporters there.
Lifting Hearts, Powering Hopes Debriefing
We hope you had a nice Mother's Day--if you know anything about us, it's how Mother's Day is our favorite day of the year.
Last Wednesday, we had an awesome night at the Friends Center, with our first annual spring benefit at the Friends Center. Our guests raised over $5,000, beating our goal, to support our work at hospitals and clinics in The Gambia.
If you're like us and want to re-live the glory, check out pictures of the event on our Facebook page.
After enjoying a Meet 'n' Greet Happy Hour with PUG Board and Team members at Tir Na Nog, PUG guests were greeted at the Friends Center by a large spread of Gambian delicacies and desserts, as well as the beautiful sounds of Arielle Clynes' violin. Arielle is the new President of our Undergraduate Chapter at Penn, succeeding Sarah Evans. Sarah left some pretty big shoes to fill, but we know Arielle's up to the task.
Our board and team members floated around the room, engaging with guests to answer their questions and tell them our story. Catherine Griffin of PUG's Board was our M.C. for the evening, and she kicked off a mobile fundraising drive with a $50 donation of her own. Within minutes, PUG's supporters donated more than $1,000! Dr. Shannon Marquez, a longtime PUG friend and public health scholar at Drexel University, then took the podium to give our guests a snapshot of the challenges and opportunities in Gambian healthcare. Then it was time for our story, ably told by a presentation created by Catherine Griffin. By the end of the video, we were more than halfway to our goal of $5,000.
A surprise guest really ramped things up then. Baboucarr Jallow of the Gambian Embassy flew up from Washington to give us his perspective on Gambian health care. He thanked PUG for its work and announced his own donation to our hospital projects.
As our fundraising thermometer ticked towards $5,000, we announced the winners of our raffle prizes, which included some pretty sweet gift cards and a lot of beer (c'mon, we are mostly students anyway). Finally, a quick check of our mobile fundraising challenge and...we did it! A great end to a great evening!
We want to thank the Friends Center for hosting, as well as the various local businesses that sponsored the event. Most of all, we want to thank our amazing guests for all their support. As a friendly reminder, if you attended and used the mobile option to make your pledge, you must click the link in the text message you receieved in order to fulfill that contribution. If you have had any issues so far, please shoot us an e-mail at email@example.com.
We did it!
We want to thank all of you for coming to our benefit last night, which was an incredible success! Thanks to your support, more than $5,000 was pledged to help support our projects in The Gambia, particularly Bansang Hospital.
An important reminder: If you were unable to do so last night, remember to click the link in the text message to fulfill your contribution. And, if you did not use the mobile texting tool last night, remember that you are always free to visit our website to make your donation.
Thanks so much for showing your support! Full report with pictures and deets to follow...
Let the Countdown Commence
We're only 3 days away from our spring benefit at the Friends Center on 15th and Cherry in Philadelphia. If you haven't already, remember to RSVP and feel free to join us at our pre-event Happy Hour, starting at 4, at Tir Na Nog on 16th and Arch!
Less than 2 Weeks Away!
We're less than 2 weeks away from our big Spring Benefit at the Friends Center in Philadephia! Come join us as we raise money to fund our work at Gambian hospitals! RSVP here.
The UTG signed an MOU with our friends at Drexel University
The University of The Gambia recently signed a revised Memorandum of Understanding with Saint Mary's College of Maryland during an official ceremony held on the College campus attended by the Gambian Ambassador H.E Alieu Ngum, the Deputy Chief of Mission, Mr. Baboucarr Jallow and Mrs. Fatoumatta Ayo Sidibeh, Cultural Attache.
The first MoU between Saint Mary's College and the University of The Gambia was signed in 2008. The revised agreement affirms the expansion of educational, professional, intercultural activities and projects among students and staff of both institutions.
A six member delegation from the UTG led by the Vice Chancellor, Professor Muhammadou M.O Kah arrived at Saint Mary's College on 1st April, 2013 and met with students, staff, and faculty in the days leading up to the signing of the MOU on 3rd April, 2013.
Members of the delegation, include Dr. Omar Jah Jr, Ag. Deputy Vice Chancellor, Administration and Finance, Dr Pierre Gomez, Acting Dean, School of Arts and Sciences, Mr Momodou Lamin Tarro, Acting Registrar, Ms. Isatou Njie, Chief Librarian and Mr. Alieu Mass Kah, Finance Manager.
According to a media dispatch from the UTG, the delegation had fruitful discussions with their counterparts and exchanged ideas on international best practices.
In his remarks during the ceremony, Professor Bill Roberts, Director of the PEACE Programme recounted his days as a Peace Corp Volunteer in The Gambia in 1979 and the positive values he learnt from that experience. According to him the lessons he learnt in The Gambia helped him to be considerate, hospitable and generous.
In his remarks, the Saint Mary's College President/Vice Chancellor, Joseph Urgo thanked the University of The Gambia delegation for being responsive to the initiatives Saint Mary's College has brought to the University of The Gambia, which he said, "have benefitted students tremendously".
In his remarks, the Vice Chancellor/President of the University of The Gambia, Professor Muhammadou M.O Kah, described the signing ceremony as "historic" adding that "it is a very important dimension that the two institutions are nurturing and stressed that this is the way higher education is going to evolve.
He added: "We value this great collaboration and partnership with St Mary's College; it is one of our deepest, strongest and most appreciated collaborations."
In his remarks, The Gambia's Ambassador to the USA, His Excellency, Mr. Alieu Ngum, thanked Saint Mary's College for the collaboration and partnership adding that both institutions stand to gain in diverse ways.
It could be recalled that the first MoU between Saint Mary's College and the University of The Gambia in 2008, derived from the Saint Mary's College Promoting Educational and Cultural Exchange (PEACE) Programme in The Gambia.
The PEACE programme , which is an exchange programme for students and faculty of both institutions, has grown steadily since its inception in 1996 under the direction of Professor Bill Roberts.
After the signing ceremony at Saint Mary's College of Maryland, the Vice Chancellor/President, Professor Muhammadou M.O Kah and delegation travelled to Philadelphia for a meeting with officials of Drexel University.
The delegation arrived at Philadelphia on 3rd April, 2013 and on Thursday 4th April, 2013 held series of meetings with some Faculty and staff as well as the Provost of Drexel University. The meetings covered key areas on Faculty/Staff and student exchanges, collaborative research, joint course/programme delivery, internships, short-term staff development, online course delivery and curriculum development.
On 5th April, 2013, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed in the Conference Hall of the President of Drexel University. The Vice Chancellor of UTG, Professor Muhammadou M.O Kah signed on behalf of The University of The Gambia while the President of Drexel University, Professor John Anderson Fry signed on behalf of Drexel University. In attendance at the signing ceremony were the Gambia's Ambassador to the USA, His Excellency Alieu Ngum, The Gambia's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, His Excellency Ambassador Tommy and Mrs. Fatoumata Ayo Sidibeh, Cultural Attache at the Gambian Embassy.
In her remarks, Professor Shannon P. Marquez, Director of Global Public Health Initiatives at Drexel University, gave an overview of the collaboration and partnership between the two institutions citing her visit to the Gambia last summer which resulted in the signing of an informal MoU with UTG. She expressed the hope that the collaboration in student and faculty exchange as well as the Power Up Gambia Project, which has so far provided solar energy for Sulayman Junkung General Hospital in Bwiam and Bansang Hospital, will be consolidated and given a new lease of life. Professor Shannon lauded the high degree of internet connectivity in The Gambia and expressed optimism for positive collaboration in Public Health and Medicine. By the same token, Professor Shannon expressed hope that the now UTG acquired MRC Field Station at Farafenni, where numerous cutting edge researches have been conducted, could serve as a regional hub for public health.
In his remarks during the ceremony, the Vice Chancellor of the University of The Gambia, Professor Muhammadou M.O. Kah, conveyed warm greetings from the Chancellor of the UTG to the Drexel University community and informed the audience of the Chancellor's unalloyed support towards the development of higher education in The Gambia. He further highlighted the useful discussions he had with the faculty and Deans as well as the possibilities explored for faculty and student exchange, curriculum design/development and staff development. Professor Kah expressed hope of a fruitful collaboration and partnership as UTG and the Drexel University Global Public Health Initiative have submitted funding proposals to the NIH and the USAID.
In his remarks, The Gambia's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, His Excellency Ambassador Tommy paid glowing tribute to the Chancellor of the UTG for the numerous strides taken since 1994 in the development of education in The Gambia. He pointed out that the Science, Technology and Innovation Policy being finalized at MoHERST is a step in the right direction. In his words, "It is not just the signing of the MoU but how to strategize and make it applicable." He urged the two institutions to explore research possibilities on Malaria which is still a daunting challenge to eradicate. According to him, herbs exist in West Africa such as Atymecin which could be experimented on in finding a cure for the dreaded malaria parasite.
He expressed readiness to mobilize international partners to join forces with Power Up Gambia Project in increasing the energy resources of The Gambia.
In his remarks, the Gambia's Ambassador to the USA, His Excellency, Mr. Alieu Ngum, lauded the visit of the Vice Chancellor accompanied by senior officials of the University. He said the discussions and signing of the MoU with Drexel University holds a lot of promise in building the teaching and research capacity of UTG for its science, engineering and medical faculties.
He pointed out that he was quite impressed with the enthusiastic response of Drexel University to the areas for cooperation presented by the Vice Chancellor. He added that both institutions stand to benefit and expand their horizons for providing university education. Ambassador Ngum looked forward to the implementation of the MoU to the satisfaction of both institutions.
Read the original article at allAfrica.com.
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