A conversation with Jericho Road CHC and Hope Rising Together
Editor’s Note: This is the full version of the interview that appeared in On Mission Review in October 2021.
In most areas of the United States, a person only needs to turn on the tap to access clean water. In other places around the world, there are no indoor plumbing, public utilities, or water wells, and the nearest place to draw water is an open swamp or stream miles away. It is hard to comprehend that in our modern times, approximately 785 million people still do not have access to clean water, making this a global crisis.
Sub-Saharan countries in Africa are among the hardest hit areas on the planet. According to the CDC website, in Sierra Leone only two percent of the population has access to clean, readily available drinking water. Proper sanitation and access to clean water are intrinsically linked to health, as they significantly deter the spread of water-borne diseases like cholera, diarrhea, and typhoid.
Partnering healthcare with clean water is wonderful not just in concept but also in real life. Kingdom Come recently had the privilege to have a small role in one such partnership with Jericho Road CHC and Hope Rising Together (Let Them LOL) in Komao, Sierra Leone. We were able to catch up with Dr. Myron Glick and the team at Jericho Road Community Health Center, along with Kate Vacanti and her team with Hope Rising Together, to give us an inside look at the projects in Komao.
On Mission: Where is the village of Komao located and how did you become aware of the people living there?
Jericho Road CHC: Komao is located in eastern Sierra Leone, about an hour’s drive south of our original global location, Adama Martha Memorial Community Health Center, in Koidu. We actually started providing primary care services here several years ago, as part of the village outreach our team at AMMCHC does on a monthly basis. Komao was selected as a monthly outreach site because we were frequently seeing patients from this village at AMMCHC. They often had easily treatable illnesses that typically stem from lack of clean water and proper sanitation.
On Mission: What were your thoughts when you first visited Komao and what were the immediate needs evident during that visit?
Jericho Road CHC: When we began conducting monthly one-day clinics in Komao, we realized that the village really needed more consistent access to primary care, clean water wells, and better sanitation to holistically tackle the health needs there. This is the site of a former mining company. The company clearly did not take care of the local population. There are no sanitation systems or latrines. People are drinking and cooking with the same water that is also used for bathrooms, bathing, and washing clothes. Unsurprisingly, there are lots of preventable illnesses among both adults and children here, which could be easily managed with clean water access and appropriate latrines.
On Mission: Understanding that currently JRCHC has new projects in multiple countries, what drew you into praying about a new clinic in this particular village? Was this a decision that kept your team up at night in the process or just an easy yes?
Jericho Road CHC: This project was on our radar for years, I think as far back as 2017. We knew the people in Komao needed assistance but we had other projects going, as you mentioned. The time wasn’t right for us. But Phebian Abdulai, our medical director in Sierra Leone, kept up communication with the village leadership, and they eventually volunteered to give us both land and buildings that were left behind when the last mining company left the area. She started coming up with plans for how we could renovate those buildings and manage staffing between our other sites in Sierra Leone. It was inspiring to get behind her vision again. [Phebian came to the US as a refugee. After resettling in Buffalo, it was her sincere desire and vision to bring crucial healthcare to her home community in Kono that led to Jericho Road’s presence in Sierra Leone and the founding of the AMMCHC mentioned earlier.]
On Mission: How is the Komao clinic going and what led you to take on clean water wells for this village in addition to the clinic?
Jericho Road CHC: So far, everything is going very well. The local residents are very supportive of the clinic. We are already averaging 10 deliveries and 550 visits monthly. The need for clean water wells was so apparent. It didn’t make sense for us to set up a primary care clinic in Komao and not try to do something about the root cause of many of the illnesses we were seeing. We were already connected to let them LOL/Hope Rising through the Sierra Leone Alliance, so we were hopeful we wouldn’t have to figure out how to dig wells on our own! We have our sights set on getting some latrines dug and set up soon, too.
On Mission: Could you share a little bit about how Hope Rising/LOL started in Sierra Leone? How many clean water wells has Hope Rising drilled and how are they maintained?
Hope Rising Together (Let Them LOL): Hope Rising began in 2009 when we learned that nearly one billion people in our world didn’t have access to clean drinking water and that every day 4,000 children were dying from water related diseases. In the first six weeks of our existence, we raised enough funds to drill one well and sent a small group to Sierra Leone to see it drilled. That day, a bridge was built as two communities divided by 5,000 miles suddenly became connected under one truth: we’re better together. Today, Hope Rising has a 30-acre campus in the village of Mano with a school that serves 500 students, a children’s home and girls dormitory that houses 60 children, a Girl’s Empowerment program, sports program, agriculture program, Wonder Ministry Church, and other programs that allow us to empower whole life transformation in the lives of people we serve. To date, Hope Rising has drilled 140 wells and provides routine maintenance to 107 wells annually. Other area organizations have committed to maintaining the remaining 33 wells. When a well breaks, it is devastating and life-threatening for a community. Our water team visits wells to perform preventative maintenance on all pump components and assess water quality and pump volume. We also repair wells drilled by other organizations in the event they are left in disrepair. In some cases, we have drilled an entirely new well to ensure a village has this most vital resource.
On Mission: What were you doing when you got the word about Jericho Road’s desire to provide clean water wells in Komao, and what was your first reaction to the opportunity to partner with them on this project?
Hope Rising: When Jericho Road first shared about their needs in Komao, we did not hesitate to offer our assistance in devising a plan. Despite the significant operational and financial challenges our organization faced in 2020 with the global pandemic, we committed to finding donors to fund two of the wells while reaching out to The Chapel to fund the well at the clinic through the Sierra Leone Alliance. With Jericho Road’s commitment to finding donors for the remaining two wells, and knowing their mission and the impact of their work, we knew that our efforts to assist them with clean water would make a substantial impact on this region of the country.
On Mission: How does having clean water for the first time change a village?
Hope Rising: Having access to clean water completely transforms a village. There is the immediate impact of seeing a decrease in water-borne illnesses and an increase in the overall health of community members. The long-term impact is infinite. Women and children no longer have to spend the entire day traveling dangerous paths and roads to transport water from often-times contaminated sources. Children are able to attend school and receive their education, and community agriculture activities are able to adequately grow, providing better nutrition and basic resources for the community while creating economic growth opportunities for the future.
On Mission: Digging five water wells for one community is a huge undertaking! How is a project like this implemented and what is the current progress on the wells?
Hope Rising: The well digging process in Sierra Leone is very labor-intensive and time consuming. Once approval has been granted by tribal and community leaders, each well begins with area surveying and exploratory digging to determine soil context and water table depths. Once a successful core is taken, our team determines the type of well required. It will either be drilled or hand dug. A well can take anywhere from a couple weeks to a couple months to complete depending on the soil variables, water table complexities, and the weather. We have completed all five wells for Jericho Road and look forward to hearing about their impact.
On Mission: How would you describe this partnership with Hope Rising and how does it impact your work in this village?
Jericho Road CHC: Our partnership with Hope Rising was critically important in getting the clean water project done. Jericho Road does not have any expertise with drilling wells, so partnering with a like-minded organization in Sierra Leone who has expertise in well drilling was incredibly helpful.
On Mission: How does a partnership like this one shape your efforts in Sierra Leone?
Hope Rising: Our partnership with Jericho Road provides us the opportunity to support other like-minded organizations working in different parts of the country with the vital resource of clean water while supporting our efforts with a shared knowledge and networking base within the healthcare field. Working together, we can create sustainable solutions for the health and life challenges that our people face, and help the people of Sierra Leone embrace a better future.
On Mission: What do you see as success with these wells? Will you be looking for future partnership opportunities together?
Jericho Road CHC: Providing clean water to villages, which previously did not have a reliable source of clean water, is huge. It empowers local folks to live more healthy lives. It allows children, especially girls, to be able to go to school instead of working all day transporting water. Clean water prevents illnesses and ultimately saves lives. Jericho Road would love to partner again in the future with Hope Rising and others to bring clean water to other communities we serve.
Hope Rising: When a community lacks the most basic and vital resource, all other development efforts are hindered. By providing fresh water to these villages, it’s our hope to see the work of Jericho Road not only positively impact these villages, but see transformation in the surrounding communities and region. If our support with providing clean water helps Jericho Road overcome the hurdles they’ve faced in providing basic holistic health care to this community, then that is a big success. We would welcome future opportunities like this with Jericho Road as well as with other like-minded organizations working to serve the people of Sierra Leone.