Thank you from Sawdah

We were thrilled to receive this today from Deb LaFavre, a Peace Corps volunteer working in Gambia. It is stories like this that keep us doing what we do.

Dear Tim, Mike Illions, Bebe, Mike Carson, and Dr. Barry:

Here she is!

For those of you who never met her, here is Sawdah Darboe from The Gambia.

The first photo is of Sawdah around 6 months old when diagnosed with hydrocephalus.

The next two photos are Sawdah, post surgery, back in the Gambia (from Guinea) looking healthy and content.

Sawdah’s Story:

Back in March of this year, I was a Peace Corps Volunteer living in the village of Kaur, The Gambia and working as a teacher trainer in Kaur Upper Basic School (or Middle School).  Sawdah’s father, Baba, is the middle school science teacher. One day Baba pulled me aside and told me about his little girl, Sawdah.  Her doctors told him that The Gambia did not have the medical know how or facilities to treat Sawdah, and that Senegal was his best bet for medical attention.

However, as is the case with many Africans, logistics and finances stood in the way. I had never heard the term “hydrocephalus” before and I told him to meet me and my laptop after school and we would research all we could about this condition, the prognosis, and how to reach for assistance.

With limited and unreliable internet in Kaur, I asked my friend Stacie (in the US) if she could help us find support for Sawdah.  On April 1st, 2012, she received a thoughtful and hopeful email from Mike Illions at HydrocephalusKids.org.

Soon after, Tim Erickson from CURE International steps up. Tim requested that we email any and all medical paperwork, diagnoses, or CT scans that we have and he would forward to their “partners in Guinea”.

Enter, American Friends of Guinea (AFG). ….Bebe, Mike, Dr. Barry.   You are Saudah’s Angels!!

You provided the resources, facilities and hope and now we had to secure the funding to make it happen.

I told Baba to take out a loan. Find the money somehow, without delay, and get Sawdah to Conakry right now!  I assured him that I would assist him financially but to give me some time as I appeal to family and friends for donations.  (I was told by Peace Corps that there was nothing they could do or donate. I was on my own.)

I emailed Sawdah’s story and photo back home. I emphasized the urgency and set a three week deadline for donations. I would like say I was astounded by the outpouring of sympathy and generosity of my family and friends but I expected nothing less. What did surprise me were the donations from people I don’t even know who had been forwarded my email through friends of friends. We collected close to $2000! The majority of which was needed by the Darboe family to finance a journey which took over a month and a half. AFG had informed us in advance that Sawdah would need to be in Guinea for a minimum of 30 days, which included pre-op testing and diagnosis, surgery, and post-op recovery. Sawdah was breastfeeding so Mom had to go. But it is not wise, nor safe, for her to go alone, so Baba had to accompany [them]. The Darboes needed money for land travel from Gambia to Guinea as well as food and lodging. This also meant that Baba, sole income provider, would be out of work for over a month. AFG generously covered the cost of surgery, food and lodging for Sawdah.

Bebe and Dr. Barry kept me informed on Sawdah’s status and progress while she was in Guinea. I spoke to Baba a couple times while he was in Guinea. He was so thankful and overwhelmed with the generosity and opportunities which were bestowed upon him. In the Gambia, he had no resources, no support, no hope. In Guinea, he was surrounded by peoples just like him. They met and spoke to others affected by hydrocephalus. They went to classes and support groups to learn how to care for Sawdah and deal with issues that may arise. In the US, this level of support is taken for granted. Baba had never been exposed to such a community of comfort.

Sawdah is home now.  She is happy, healthy, and just had her 1st birthday. The photo above says it all.

The amazing part of this story is the compassion, professionalism and efficiency with which all of you operate. Too often organizations are too focused on a project or a cause and can not devote their time or resources to an individual cry for help.  Selflessly, all of you collaborated to help this little girl in a remote African village without stipulations or[ contingency].

I am back in the US now and my friend Stacie and I still shake our heads in amazement at the strength and faith that Baba had in us, all of us, that with only a couple days notice he would pack his wife and daughter up, take all the money that he and his family had, and travel across West Africa to the unknown, driven by the promises of strangers and a father’s unwavering hope and determination for a long, healthy life for his daughter.

So from me, Stacie, and the Darboe family, a humongous Thank You to all of you! For everything you have done and everything that you do!!

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  • AFG needs your help! We depend on contributions from foundations, companies and individuals to continue our work in Guinea.

    Our primary goal is to assist hospitals and health centers in Guinea who care for the welfare of the Guinean population. We do this by providing medical aid, improving and upgrading existing infrastructure in health facilities and implementing disease prevention and treatment programs.

    We also aim to improve the overall quality of life of the population by supporting and promoting economic growth and technical development.

    You can make a difference!