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!
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.
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 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...
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!
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 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.
Power Up Gambia and Sulayman Junkung General Hospital were very fortunate to receive a dozen bright LED lights from Independence LED in Radnor, PA to try out at the hospital http://www.independenceled.com/. The Gambia is very eager to promote energy efficiency, especially in lighting. With high energy costs based on import fuel oil, reducing the need for energy or the “energy load,” can do a great deal to further Gambian energy independence. For us, energy efficiency simply means our solar power systems, and especially our batteries, will run longer and perform better. We have helped switch the hospitals over to florescent and compact florescent lights, but even better than compact fluorescents are LED lights. For the equivalent amount of light, an incandescent bulb will use up 60 watts of electricity, while a compact florescent will use up 15 watts. Compare that to an LED, which for the equivalent amount of light will use up 8 watts, has no mercury in it, and will last 5 to 8 times as long before needing to be replaced. Small wonder we are excited about working with Independence LED on this project to put LED lights in our project sites!
Mr. Badgie, the hospital CEO, brought 12 of Independence LED’s lights back with him when he was visiting the USA last August in order to test them in actual conditions at the hospital. I went around the hospital to check on the lights, and interviewed the nursing staff as to their opinions of the new lights. The staff was unanimously positive. The outpatient clinic staff said the new LED lights were much brighter than the florescent lights they had before, and the old florescent bulbs kept burning out and needing to be replaced. The LED lights have been no problem, even though they keep these 4 LED lights on all evening and all night long for incoming emergencies and for security.
The Laboratory Director was very enthusiastic. He actually moved his desk to be directly under the light, so that when he worked on finishing his paperwork at night he would have a bright clean light to work under. He wanted to know how soon we could get more LED lights for them, because he was so happy with them and wanted to replace all of the lights in the lab and lab offices with them.
The maternity nursing staff was similarly enthusiastic. They also liked how bright the lights were, and the fact that since the lights were installed they have not had to call maintenance to replace burnt out florescent bulbs. They pointed out a young ‘LED light” baby who arrived late at night with ample light for delivery – something the midwives were very happy about. They did ask for more LED lights as well, but also wondered if the bright lights could be turned down at night on the ward to allow the patients to sleep. I emailed Charlie Szoradi of Independence LED, and he noted the LED lights are dimmable – a perfect solution.
I look forward to talking with Charlie more once I get back to the United States. So far, our biggest problem with our solar power systems is in the energy storage area - specifically batteries. They age quickly in this heat and under the heavy electrical loads of the hospital. If we can reduce that load, we can prolong the life of the batteries. For us, LED lights may help our projects to a very bright future!
Leland and I were back in Banjul to present two Solar Suitcases to the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare for use in clinics up the the more remote areas of The Gambia. These suitcases are designed and built by another US nonprofit - We Care Solar. We have partnered with them to bring the Solar Suitcases to The Gambia.
The tour group Gambia Experience, ( http://www.gambia.co.uk)based in the UK have been extremely helpful in this project. They have arranged to have any extra baggage fees waived for the suitcases when we travel through them, and this time around they even donated funds to sponsor a solar suitcase to a clinic! PUG also received a generous donation from a retired surgeon who use to work in Botswana. I met him at the Philadelphia Rotary Club while giving a presentation. He noted how he would have really loved to have had something like the solar suitcase when he was in Botswana!
We are working on this project through the Ministry of Health, because they are better able to prioritize which clinics should receive the suitcases first. Leland and I met the Minister of Health, Mr. Bala Jahumpa, right after he had done a tour of all 78 health facilities in the country, and so he had a good grasp of current conditions in each clinic. They want to prioritize placement of the solar suitcases in locations that are difficult to access, but have a high patient load. So these two suitcases will be placed in the Yorobawol Health Center in Upper River Region, and the Sami Karantaba Health Center in Central River Region.
The Ministry arranged press coverage for our presentation, and so now when I meet people they immediately say " oh, you are the person I saw on TV with the solar suitcases!" It’s great - except I didn't see it myself. We were up in Bansang again when it aired and I had no TV to watch! It was great that Jackie Swain of Juniata College was also able to join us. Jackie is one of the group of American students from Juniata College, Moravian College and Susquehanna University who are studying this semester at the University of The Gambia. Juniata College has been a longtime supporter of Power Up Gambia, and is raising funds this semester to sponsor their own solar suitcase to a clinic.
Hopefully, we will be sending out 2 more solar suitcases with the next round of volunteers! If you are interested in learning more about the solar suitcase project, jump over to our project page ( http://www.powerupgambia.org/projects/solar-suitcase-health-clinic-project ) If you or your organization is interested in sponsoring a solar suitcase for a clinic in The Gambia we would love to hear from you. Everyone I meet in The Gambia who has heard of this project is very excited about it. Working conditions for health care is so difficult in the remote rural clinics. The simple step of providing lights and communication to nurses and community health care workers is a big boost for these often overlooked, but very important, health care facilities.
It is always impressive how busy Bansang Hospital is. It is a Monday morning, and the place is bustling. Because there are few large health facilities in this area, Bansang Hospital sees a large number of patients. Some come in to the outpatient clinic for simple things. There was a boy getting a couple of stitches and a bandage for a cut on his head, next to an older women being seen with a bad cough. Outside the clinic there was a long line of patients sitting on benches waiting to be seen.
But Bansang Hospital also handles patients who stay on the wards for a long time. I took this photo of Yeng, who is a paraplegic. With a sweet and gentle smile, she greeted me and gave me permission to take her photograph for my blog. Yeng lives with her parents, but they are poor. So when her mother, father and siblings leave to work for the day Yeng is left alone on her bed. Recently, she developed bed sores which quickly became badly infected. Brought into Bansang Hospital for the infections, weak and poorly nourished, she will need to stay here for a prolonged stay. In addition to receiving treatment for her infected bed sores, the hospital will feed her, give her vitamins and help her build up her strength.
This is not uncommon at Bansang Hospital. Some patients need to stay for a long time and they are not turned away if they cannot pay. The more I stay at Bansang Hospital, the more I see the seriousness of the health needs they try to meet with limited resources. Anita Smith and her charity in the UK, Bansang Hospital Appeal, has been working here for 21 years now. They have done a huge amount of work here and we are pleased to be helping out both the Hospital and Anita Smith herself, who I find to be a truly inspirational person.