A Little Bit of Alma in Sierra Leone

The opening of the Makankisa Child Care Center adds yet another chapter to Alma College’s work in Sierra Leone.

The ribbon-cutting for the Makankisa Child Care Centre in Sierra Leone. The ribbon-cutting for the Makankisa Child Care Centre in Sierra Leone.A new chapter in Alma College’s long-standing relationship with the West African nation of Sierra Leone launched in summer 2018 when the Makankisa Child Care Center officially opened its doors in the village of Yele.

The children’s center provides residential housing for 20 children orphaned by the Ebola Outbreak of 2014. The newly constructed facility provides opportunities for the youth to learn a trade, go to school, receive medical assistance and more.

To understand its significance to Alma College, you need to flip a few pages back to chapter one.

Ten years ago, Sierra Leone Chief Surgeon Dr. ABD (Abdulai Bundu Daniel Sesay) visited the Alma community to share his experience working and living in a poverty-stricken country. Derick “Sandy” Hulme, Alma College political science professor and Model United Nations faculty advisor, was one of many who spent time with Dr. ABD.

Jack Montgomery Jack MontgomeryAt the time, Sierra Leone had 95 doctors to care for 6 million people. There was only one other doctor at Magbenteh Community Hospital, where Dr. ABD helped serve 30,000 patients a year. It was clear to Hulme that this was an opportunity for students in the Posey Global Leadership Fellows Program, an initiative that fully funds student experiences that help mold the next generation of globally oriented leaders.

An Amazing Impact

In 2010, Alma College finalized arrangements for students in the Posey-Global program to serve at the Magbenteh hospital, creating a pipeline of students who have spent time in Sierra Leone year after year. Forty-two students have served there to date.

When Sierra Leone was hit with the Ebola crisis in 2014, Alma College felt the impact. The hospital closed for nine months, and 15 members of the hospital staff died, leaving children as orphans. The streak of Alma College students traveling to Sierra Leone ended momentarily, but the conversations about helping the country never stopped.

“In the spring of 2015, Model UN decided it was time to do something,” says Hulme. “We talk about trying to change the world, so this was our chance to make a great impact.”

Children wear Alma College t-shirts as they celebrate the opening of the children's centre. Children wear Alma College t-shirts as they celebrate the opening of the children's center.The West African Ebola virus epidemic was the most widespread outbreak of Ebola virus disease in history—causing major loss of life and socioeconomic disruption in the region. With the goal of starting a children’s center, the Model UN team developed a crowdfunding site. The students raised close to $10,000 and contributed another $10,000 themselves. This momentum piqued the interest of others in the community, including Footprints Missions, the Alma-St. Louis Rotary Club and Rotary International. Since the initiative first launched, over $130,000 has been raised for the construction of the facility.

“Model UN has done a lot of amazing things, but I am most proud of this,” says Hulme. “Sierra Leone was already the third poorest country in the world, and then Ebola set the country back another 50 years.”

Giving Children a Fulfilled Life

The Makankisa Child Care Center provides housing and support for many children and a new opportunity for more Alma College students to make a direct impact. Three Alma College students, Danny Lynch ’20, Jack Montgomery ’20 and Destiny Herbers ’21, got a first-hand look at the impact after visiting Sierra Leone in June 2018.

Lynch had the opportunity to give a presentation at the grand opening of the children’s center.

“It was awesome to speak on behalf of the Alma community,” says Lynch. “It was also unique because it was my first time giving a presentation with a translator.”

Daniel Lynch with his young students. Daniel Lynch with his young students.
Montgomery believes this new opportunity will give hope to many in Sierra Leone.

“The children’s center is a safe place where children affected by the Ebola crisis have access to the education they need to succeed in the future,” says Montgomery. “These kids will go on to accomplish amazing things because of the care they are now receiving.”

The summer of 2019 will be the first time Posey-Global students will be able to volunteer directly at the children’s center, teaching the residents skills that will improve their overall quality of life.

“The Makankisa Child Care Center gives children a fulfilled life,” says Herbers. “It’s exciting that the work of Alma College has made this possible.”

On Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018, beginning at noon, there will be a fundraiser at the Alma Church of God His Place Center where members of the community will have the chance to learn more about the Makankisa Child Care Center and how they can sponsor a child or help keep the momentum of Alma’s relationship with Sierra Leone thriving.

Story published on November 01, 2018