PAYNESVILLE, Montserrado – The Rotary Club of Monrovia, during the week of August 26th, welcomed Brian Jonson, President of the Rotary Club of Marlow. The highlight of the week was the commissioning of a medical-grade oxygen plant at the ELWA Hospital in Paynesville.
The Rotary Club of Monrovia dedicated the medical oxygen facility that was valued at nearly US$200,000 to the ELWA Hospital.
The project materialized through a partnership between the Rotary Club of Monrovia and the Rotary Club of Marlow, U.K. – a relationship established in 2014 during the height of the local Rotary response to the Ebola epidemic. The two clubs joined efforts to raise funds for the initiative and collaborated with ELWA Hospital as they sought to upgrade their medical infrastructure.
Speaking during the dedication program on August 31, 2019, at the ELWA Hospital Chapel in Paynesville, the past president of the Rotary Club of Monrovia, Victoria Cooper-Enchia, said the group made the donation as a response to identify needs in basic healthcare delivery. She further commented that during the Ebola epidemic, many people died from unrelated illnesses simply due to the lack of oxygen.
“This project is a permanent solution that will help us always remember,” Cooper-Enchia said. “We started this journey after Ebola in late 2015 and today it is being dedicated and set to serve its intended purpose.”
She noted that the oxygen plant has been piped to connect to the hospital building and will supply oxygen for surgical wards and emergency rooms. The plant will also be capable of supplying medical-grade oxygen-filled cylinders for other health facilities at a reasonable cost.
In early 2014, at the onset of the Ebola outbreak, the Rotary Club of Monrovia began its response efforts with a goal to help provide the Ministry of Health with gloves, starting with a donation of approximately 10,000 gloves. Past President Cooper-Enchia recounted that the unexpected escalation of the epidemic pushed the club to expand its outreach and do more in response to the ongoing need.
Outlining the club’s Ebola response activities during the crisis, she recalled an outpouring of support from Rotary clubs around the world, which allowed the club to import medical supplies and consumables for hospitals, make food and clothing donations to health workers and quarantined communities, mattress and hygiene supplies to health facilities and communities, at-home school lessons/activities distribution amongst others.
As news spread of the devastation caused by the epidemic, and because of the Rotary Club of Monrovia’s outreach efforts, Rotarians around the world responded – one of whom was Brian Jonson of the Rotary Club of Marlow, outside of London, U.K. A long-time member of Rotary himself, Jonson’s club was actively seeking partnerships with other clubs to implement life-changing projects in the spirit of the Rotary service, and the bond was established. “We wanted somebody, and you needed somebody,” Jonson noted.
“When we decided that we wanted to reach out, we tried many places in West Africa and the [Rotary Club of Monrovia] has shown that they were the partner we wanted,” he said.
Through the partnership between the two clubs, finances were raised through individual and corporate donations, roadside fundraising campaigns in the U.K. and matching funds through the global Rotary Foundation.
Jonson noted that he was particularly pleased to know that the plant would not only supply the ELWA Hospital but that its impact would reach other communities.
Wilson Idahor, the current president of the Rotary Club of Monrovia, thanked the Marlow club and its members for their partnership on the project.
He said the oxygen plant would “benefit this hospital and other hospitals and clinics, if not all.”
Jason Troxell, who serves as the CEO of ELWA Hospital, also used the opportunity to thank the groups for choosing the ELWA Hospital for their project. He said the project was worth celebrating because it would impact the lives of their patients and those at other health facilities in need of medical grade oxygen.
The ceremony was also attended by Liberia’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Francis Kateh, who extended his appreciation to the Rotary clubs for their continuing contributions toward the health sector. Dr. Kateh said the oxygen plant would end up saving many lives in the future.
“For this country to exist, people have to live, and this gesture will help in that light,” he said.
The oxygen plant is one of several health-focused programs the Rotary Club of Monrovia has supported since the end of the Ebola epidemic. Another Ebola legacy initiative is an academic scholarship program with the Mother Patern College of Health Sciences supporting aspiring healthcare workers pursuing nursing, physician’s assistant and laboratory technology degrees at the Associate and Bachelor level.
Currently, in its third year, the Rotary Club of Monrovia witnessed 19 of its scholarship recipients graduating at the school’s pinning and award ceremony. This saw the scholarship program successfully graduate 30 students over the three-year cycle, all of whom maintained high academic standards and demonstrated their commitment to community service in their respective areas, core requirements of the scholarship program.
The school’s graduating student with the highest GPA was proudly a scholarship recipient, and previous graduates are currently working in county health teams in Gbarpolu, Grand Bassa, and River Cess, while others have moved into training health workers at private facilities or faith-based health institutions.
“We knew that after the [Ebola epidemic], we were just coming from war, and rebuilding a team of health workers, and Ebola took almost 200 of our health workers,” Cooper-Enchia explained the motivation behind the club’s support to the program. “We wanted to try to at least put these health workers back into the system and we knew it takes time and resource investments to train health workers.”
“This is a life and death business,” Cooper-Enchia said. “You can do without a lot of things; but when it comes to life and death, you want to make sure your responders are trained. You don’t just need a doctor – you need a nurse, lab technicians, and others for an effective healthcare delivery system to function.”
The Club is actively seeking additional funds to continue to offer more scholarships, with the program currently the largest scholarship initiative at the Mother Patern College of Health Sciences.
One of the graduates, Patrick Fayiah, thanked the clubs for investing in them. He promised to do all he can to uphold the oath he took to protect and put lives above all.
The Rotary Club of Monrovia is the first of three Rotary Clubs in Liberia. It was chartered by Rotary International on January 24, 1964. Rotary is an organization of 1.2 million business and professional persons united worldwide who provide humanitarian service, encourage high ethical standards in all vocations and help build goodwill and peace in the world.
This article was sponsored by the Rotary Club of Monrovia. Featured photo by Mafanta Kromah