When Project C.U.R.E. decides to help a country by donating medical supplies, medical expertise and lifesaving health education to a country, they do so with a dedicated partner or two in-country who have made it clear they are in it for the long haul to see that everything donated is put to good use to foster the on-going infrastructure and sustainability that country needs.
They found such a partner in Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) in Redemption in Action (RIA), a nondenominational organization that aims to serve as a bridge that brings lasting changes in local healthcare for rural clinics and communities. Over several years, RIA helped to deliver five Project C.U.R.E. containers. Their passionate leader Abraham Bah is growing RIA into the hope for his people.
Abraham is a native of the Ivory Coast and emigrated to England in his twenties, but maintains his love of his native country and desire to help it flourish amid the poverty and internal conflict. With a midwife for a mother, he understands more than most people the unmet medical needs. Now a successful entrepreneur in the UK, he was searching for the best way to help his country and found it when he met up with Project C.U.R.E. volunteers Johnny and Ricki Hein at a bible conference in 2016. They convinced Abraham to go with them to the Project C.U.R.E. headquarters to see for himself the great work that was being done. When he saw the warehouse, he knew his dreams for his country could become a reality.
Since then, several containers of much needed medical equipment have been dispatched to clinics in Côte d’Ivoire and in March 2019, the first C.U.R.E. clinic with doctors and nurses was conducted there, scheduled to coincide with the delivery of another container.
This year, another container is being shipped and another C.U.R.E. clinic was held in Côte d’Ivoire. This time, Project C.U.R.E.’s medical team had seven volunteers: an RN, an EMT, two nurse practitioners, a doula, a medical coder, and a needs assessor. They partnered with a local doctor and midwives, as well as 14 volunteers assisting with registration, translation, and reading glasses exams.
Grace Kistner has been volunteering with Project C.U.R.E. since 2015 and was on both the 2019 and the 2020 trips to Côte d’Ivoire. As a nurse, she has led fifteen trips to different countries in between working thirteen-week contracts as a travel nurse based in Los Angeles. “The first trip to the Ivory Coast last year was to an isolated rural village. When we pulled in, everyone in the village turned out, clapping and celebrating. They were so glad to see us. Most patients we see have never seen a doctor or even had their blood pressure taken.”
She finds that the lack of education is amazing. Their pop-up clinics teach people so much about how to preserve their health. Kistner says we take so much of that information for granted. Most people don’t know if they have a chronic disease. They know nothing about hand hygiene, ventilation for cooking fires, getting clean water and how contagious diseases spread among family members. She has been impressed with Abraham and the well-thought out goals he has for his country and his alliance with Project C.U.R.E.
There are several tenets of Project C.U.R.E.’s involvement with these countries. They don’t use the supplies in the containers for the clinics. Instead they bring portable kits with them that contain a variety of things, such as wound care supplies, reading glasses and sunglasses, kits for kids that contain supplies mothers need to keep their children healthy, and a variety of over-the-counter medications. They also don’t just ship a container. They follow up with education and clinic visits and make sure the equipment is being used properly.
Says Kistner, “On this trip, we were able to get 100 menstrual kits with reusable panti-liners and panties in bright colors and then did health education with girls and women on how to manage their menstrual periods and remove the stigma. Without this education, girls would stay home from school and women from work during their periods. We started out with a handful of school age girls. The next day, they came back with 50 of their friends and we used up all of our supplies, but could teach them and their mothers how to make their own supplies and launder them.”
Another volunteer on the trip was Stephanie Davis, a semi-retired fundraiser and medical social worker who has been doing needs assessment trips for Project C.U.R.E. since 2012. She was so impressed with RIA and Abraham Bah that she joined their board of directors nine months ago. “RIA has done a great job deepening their ability to work with us and strengthen their on-going infrastructure. I wanted to be part of that.”
On this trip, she brought the Kits for Kids given to parents to take care of their children. The Denver people brought the medical kits. She feels community education is the most important part of what they do, although they also treated over 350 people in three days. “We saw many children with fungal infections in their eyes. Teaching parents to administer preventive treatment can save those children from going blind.”
Reading glasses exams were performed and the proper strengths were provided, as well as sunglasses. Dental exams highlighted teeth issues that needed treating. Prenatal and newborn education was also a big part of the trip. The leading ailments treated were pain, vision problems, GI issues and infections. Teaching is one thing; making sure patients understand what they are told is sometimes another, so health education always has a “teach-back component” where patients explain back to the volunteer what they were told to make sure they understood it correctly.
Abraham has great hopes for the future of his country. “Through our partnership with Project Cure we envision to scale up over the next three years to getting three containers every year with two or three CURE Clinics. One full cargo load can equip at least two of the most underserved rural family health care facilities. That would do a lot to realize our goal of bringing change on the local level one village at a time.”
He explains that RIA’s participatory approach, like Project C.U.R.E., is unique in that they work with local stakeholders like churches and local authorities to solve problems for more affordable, accessible and sustainable basic healthcare for rural communities.
Project C.U.R.E. will continue to work with RIA and Abraham to strengthen his country’s infrastructure and sustainable health care, following their lead and remaining sensitive to the cultural issues of the Ivory Coast. If you would like to be part of this effort, contact us.
Call-out section: “Project C.U.R.E. dispatches teams of medical and non-medical professionals to provide public health education, direct care, treatment and training. Last fiscal year, 2018-2019, Project C.U.R.E. served 12,293 patients through the help of 190 volunteer medical and non-medical professionals in our C.U.R.E. Clinics and Training program in 13 countries. Working with global partners who have received C.U.R.E. Cargo shipments, C.U.R.E. Clinics focus on strengthening the healthcare system by supporting partners’ existing efforts. Participants work alongside in-country professionals to provide life-sustaining medical care to those in need and make a real difference for individuals and communities in the developing world.”