Quick Trip to Sierra Leone

By Rachael Watson

I wish I could bring you all to a clinic. There’s nothing like it. It’s my happy place.

My trip to visit our work in Sierra Leone was cut short by the CV-19 pandemic, but I was able to pack a lot into a few short days.  Since 2011 we have partnered with Project Peanut Butter in Sierra Leone, first to help complete the factory in the capital of Freetown, and later in supporting the clinic programs in the remote Pujehon district.

At the factory, there is typically a team of 14 local full-time staff and up to 10 additional team members working to produce RUTF and other nutrition products used for malnutrition research projects. On the Friday we visited, the core team was onsite working on upgrades to the factory and planning production for the next research study.  They are an amazing team!

Sunday we traveled the five hours to Pujehon. Staying in the solar powered office/volunteer house put us in the middle of the action, which started at 7am Monday morning.  The local clinic team loaded up the supplies and we headed out to the Bandajuma clinic. There were 24 children enrolled in the program at various stages of recovery. (It typically takes 2-3 months on RUTF for a full recovery from Severe Acute Malnutrition). We had 11 new children enrolled– which is a bit high for this time of year– but we were prepared with enough RUTF for everyone.

It might seem odd that a malnutrition clinic is my happy place, but it’s the place where a life and death problem is solved, with something as simple as an enriched peanut butter paste (RUTF). There is a lot of science that has gone into developing RUTF, and it takes a lot of work to produce it in Freetown, set up the clinics in Pujehon, train the nurses and organize and distribute the supplies.

But during those hours in the clinic – in the same moments my heart is shredded looking into the eyes of child on the brink of starvation – I’m overwhelmed with gratitude that there is a solution. A solution that’s available right there, in that place and moment, which is literally the difference between life and death for that child.

This is why the clinic is my happy place. It doesn’t matter that there’s no reprieve from the heat, or that I almost got peed on a few times when taking the measurements. Nothing else matters much when you’re a part of saving a child’s life.

I only wish I could better convey the experience in the clinic to everyone who has so generously supported us over the years. Your gifts have saved thousands of lives. In a world where lots of things seem to be going wrong, you’re a vital part of something that’s actually going right.  “Thank you” will never sufficiently express my gratitude, or that of the thousands of mothers whose children are alive today because of you. Your contribution is truly invaluable!

With gratitude beyond words,

Rachael

 


 
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