On May 5, 2020, Michael Conteh joined the membership of the Magnolia Rotary Club (via Zoom) for a discussion of the club's project in Sierra Leone. Pictured above is Michael Conteh.
Real Provencher started off the discussion by providing the history of the Sierra Leone project from the start until where we are now specifically to bring Michael up to date on what our club has done. Real then showed a slide from the Sierra Leone government that showed an update on the number of COVID-19 cases in Sierra Leone (see below):
Real then showed everyone a photo of the headline "Rotary International in COVID-19 Response Sensitization" in a local Sierra Leone newspaper (see below):
Real then showed a slide showing a local news story about the work Rotary is doing in Sierra Leone (see below):
Real then showed a video of a Rotary trained group in Sierra Leone that is going around showing people in various villages how to wash their hands to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 Virus. If you wish to see this video, please contact Real Provencher (as it can't posted here).
Real also spoke about another project that Sierra Leone leaders have started in response to the COVID-19 Virus. They have found that face masks can be made for about $0.35 a piece. This group has already collected about $300 for the purchase of these masks to be given out to locals in COVID-19 hot spots.
Michael Conteh then spoke to the group and explained that although he was born in the United States, his parents are from Sierra Leone and were lucky enough to attend U.S. Colleges and later become naturalized citizens of the United States. Although neither of his parents were missionaries, Michael indicated that they were influenced by missionaries before coming to the United States and both he and his parents believe in the power of prayer. Michael then explained that he is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) in Houston, TX. He specializes in behavior analysis and also works with Autism patients.
Michael then explained that Sierra Leone has about 7 million people who are made up of many different nationalities, languages, religions and cultures. As a result, they went through a civil war in the 1990's as well as a large Ebola outbreak. Therefore, they are still recovering from those issues today and many of the things we take for granted here in the United States simply do not exist in Sierra Leone. An example Michael gave is running water. In some cases, the nearest available water is two or more hours away and it is mostly not sanitary water either. As his mother explained to him, in many cases the water source is a stream or river that is also located close to sanitation plants.
Michael then explained that most of the help that people in Sierra Leone get is from people from other countries. He said much of that help comes from organizations like the Rotary where individuals like our club members decide to help people in problem areas of the world. Michael then thanked our club for helping that part of the world that is close to his heart since it is where his parents came from. Michael also explained that many of the people in Sierra Leone do not understand the link between germs and disease. Therefore, our help with a project that helps educate those people about these dangers as well as how to wash their hands really has a significant impact on the people of Sierra Leone and that maybe we in the United States don't really recognize how great the impact really is on them.
Michael then told everyone that people all over the world pray for help when troubles come and that is also the case with people in Sierra Leone. What members of our club may not realize is that our actions to send them help are also the answers to many of their prayers. Michael pointed out that taking a stand to help out someone is an action and it is that active part of helping that he finds fascinating. He also pointed out that Sierra Leone is not the only helping project our club has ever done and that given all the Rotary Clubs in the world and all their projects, so many people in the world have been impacted by the Rotary membership and it is awesome to think about the overall impact that Rotary has made in the world. Michael than thanked everyone again for all the good works they do and told everyone to never stop helping someone who is less fortunate.
A photo of those in attendance at this meeting can be seen below: