FY2 Dr Mikey Bryant is in Sierra Leone with healthcare charity Mercy Ships. He has been volunteering in a children’s clinic for a year in a country where one in five children don’t live to see their 5th birthday. In this regular column he gives us an update on his experience.
I’ve taken a couple of days out of clinic work this week to spend a bit of time at an information sharing and planning meeting with some of the major government and organisational people in Sierra Leone. The talks are largely inspiring and enthusiastic, and it is great to realise that our small hospital is part of a much larger movement all over the country.
Some of the discussions about the progress on reducing HIV transmission are very motivational, and I make a mental note to take some of the ideas back to our hospital, particularly the thoughts on involving local staff more in the counselling process.
Unfortunately, the breaks in between the talks are far from encouraging. I find myself accosted by a wild-eyed lady with hair that looks like it got caught up in an electrical explosion at a chemical dye factory, who spends the entire coffee break waxing lyrical about her pet project. She has clearly justflown in from the UK, her pressured, frantic speech is a clear give-away. I am almost envious of her child-like wonder at a country which I have loved and hated equally at times.
When I ask her about what it is she actually does, the conversation runs something like this:
“So tell me about your organisation.” I ask, doing my best to sound like a keen development worker looking for a networking opportunity the way a toddler hunts down a chocolate biscuit.
Her eyebrows shoot up like a high-pressured geyser, “We have a sustainable programme of community health empowerment!” None the wiser, I ask, “How does that work?”
The woman’s tone doesn’t drop at all as she replies with fierce energy, “I am facilitating a locally-led programme of stakeholders who are working in resource-poor settings to ensure health-equity”.
Still baffled as to what is actually going on here, I ask who the stakeholders are. The answer is as oblique as a politician on question time.
“They are grassroots small-holders in a range of public-private partnerships, dedicated to community-sensitisation using collaborative healthcare outcome programmes. My role has been to ensure that the inclusive growth generated through this leads to post- 2015 capacity-building!”