Water is a Life Saver

Water, a priced commodity in many parts of Sierra Leone. So when we accomplished our goals – with all the partners involved, for us that is an ACHIEVEMENT worth celebrating.


WaterSalone (1)


Me with the trophy of the day – a water pump in the middle of the village that is accessed by everybody.  It was necessary for me to have my photo taken with it then but now I am not sure if I would still do the same. This was in 2006 in Bo.


WaterSalone (2)


Well, to make our work believable we have to show the people that the pump actually pumps out water and the water is clean.

You see I am like a “circus animal” in my cage being watch by the patrons who paid big money to watch me get water from the pump and see what happens next … 


WaterSalone (3)


I am actually drinking it and showing the people  that the water was safe for drinking, cooking and of course for bathing and washing clothes.

This achievement has made the life of the villagers and the neighbors easy. Instead of walking miles to get only a few buckets of water, they can just go to the water pump, fall in line and go back home in time to prepare the meals for the day, clean the house, the children and the clothes (not necessarily in that order). Most children can go to school instead of going far and wide looking for water — it is a life saver!  

Water is most important in the fight against the spread of Ebola now and having no clean water puts a community in danger from not only viruses but other pathogens that are easily preventable if only there are clean water available for the villages around Sierra Leone and other countries in similar situations.

Education is still the key but if they can only imagine water it also doesn’t work – it has to be there available – water I mean, to make educating the community about water, sanitation and hygiene  more realistic

For the organization that made this happen, it’s always a good undertaking to give the people exactly what they need not what the donors need because it makes it more inclusive, practical and reasonable and of course cost-effective.

So yes, this is my way of saying, development that works for the people, it’s how we measure our achievements – when lives are changed for the better.


Weekly photo challenge – Achievement


On Being Human in the Face of the Ebola Crisis

In between job hunting (goes with the season Awwooo…), advising local organizations and reviewing proposals, I keep in touch with friends in ground zero of the Ebola crisis. I’ve received mixed news and happy to say that some of them are good news which you need in times like this but there are sad news as well.

A couple working in Liberia was sent back to the their home country before the crisis exploded in August while my doctor friend who I thought was in one of the emergency hospital in Freetown is now in Niger but told me one of his German colleague caught the virus and is being treated back in his country. Not so good news of death in the family of local staffs and community worker being caught in riots are told to me by my friend, and local staffs asking for interventions from outside and being afraid for their lives, being hospital workers themselves are posted in my fb account. 

In times of crisis you will see the resilience of the people especially the local people, I should know because I am from the Philippines. But I cannot compare the problem of the Ebola crisis in countries in West Africa in mine. The problem is no laughing matter, you cannot joke about it, its serious and people are dropping dead like flies. I made lifetime friends in Sierra Leone, they give me updates and now a very dear friend is working there with one of the many international organization since the early part  of this year and was caught in all what is happening on the ground.

My friend is now out of the country, that is why she was able to write longer letter to me and she’s in Europe after  being marooned in Sierra Leone for 13 weeks, she’s  doing self-quarantine because her family refused to have her home unless she do that. She has to hold the fort in the capital Freetown and keep the work going by giving information to those that are still not affected hoping to stop the spread of the virus in those villages while the boss was out looking for more support.

Education, giving correct practical information is the key in preventing the spread of Ebola in the bush and not many can read as you go deeper in the villages so you have to be creative in doing that, and I think those organizations have done great work to spread the word and contain the spread of the virus. But still the problem is dire and help is very slow to come.

We’re still not frontline, no medical work for XX but trying our best with the social mobilization work ie the messages to try and decrease the number of patients in the first place.  We’re struggling as we still don’t have funding yet ..  It’s frustrating still in that you want to do more and now, but we’re trying very hard. 

The problem on the ground is big and it has potential to get bigger (and even explode) if they will not contain the virus. Though I have to say, Senegal and Nigeria was able to contain the virus from spreading and that gives us hope that it’s possible to arrest the spread of the virus and save a lot of people from being infected.

Frustrating also, is the stigma received by the people going in and out of West Africa (or Africa for that matter). It is very sad, because at this age and time and with the internet connectivity, there should be no ignorant people in the world. We should all be very discerning with how we act and react. Ignorance can kill. It is best to know the facts first and understand what’s happening on the ground before you label people or throw invective at them.

Let me help set the pace with Finding Patient Zero which gives you insight on how it all began and with the Don’t Touch Rule will show you how the virus is affecting the very young and the family as a whole. That should encourage you to read some more.

In my line of work, we always fight against stigma and discrimination of people with disability, its a very tedious work, which should not be if only people would accept that we are all the same with different abilities Now, the same cold shoulders, back talk and harsh words are thrown to people that had given their time to help — no fair!  Worst is that if those discriminating words are from your family, friends and community your grew up in does that.

A few issues with my family, I can’t see them unless I’ve done a 1 month self quarantine, hence the reason I am in Belgium for a week by myself!!  I am not a risk as I haven’t been in contact with any sick people / bodies but there’s a lot of fear and stigma about.  

There’s no escaping on this unless we decide to act differently. We, outside the ground zero should practice more compassion, be more understanding and empathize with those people. Better yet, we offer short prayers that the crises ebb and life return to normal for those affected and say prayers of thanks that you’re better and hope for the best for others.

In fact I am experiencing the stigma thing first hand after all these years of talking about it in the disability work.  Lessons to be learned all over the place.

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A Happy Resolution : It Was All In The Mind

Was Abdul faking it?

Why did I say that?  — you have to read When It Hurts to know …

When I was assessing Abdul he had some moments where he was relaxed and very talkative (not to me but to the other staff). He had attracted onlookers with his shouting when I was touching his back.

Privacy of patient was 0 when I first arrived so imagine there are people - those relatives of the sick, hanging by the door and windows of the clinic to see this brown lady in action, until I introduced curtains. 

At first I tried to touch him with different materials including tissue — he was shouting in pain. Then suspecting he’s faking it I was telling him “does it hurt here?” and he would wail and say “Yes.” even though I was not actually touching him, while my staffs were looking at me doing nothing. 

Did it several times and always get the painful yes answer. The crying had stopped but still the grimace and the shouts were there. 

Day 2 and after … 

I told their case worker I need to work with him and try different methods to relieve the pain and teach him ways to at least not aggravate the pain. I asked them to bring him everyday to see if we can have results.

By day 2 I know that it is not so much as faking.

The pain was real and I saw that it’s not something I know I can resolve alone or even attempt to give reasons to because it was over my capacity.

The case was more psychological than physical that’s for sure.

The trauma experienced by Abdul and the continued reminder of that trauma by living in the camp manifested in painful back that only he can relieve if he can process it psychologically and the result can be seen in the resolution of his physical problem.

That was my conclusion.

I kept it to myself at first, thinking my staff  would not understand it. I also decided to consult with colleagues in other medical field and see what they think of my case before I go on explaining my theory. But I was wrong, my staff also suspected the same but did not say anything, which I think was because they needed someone to confirm their own findings and move on.

I  offered some solution that I thought might work if the patient would cooperate.

mapped the pain and the triggers so he’s aware of them

suggested alternative postural changes and activity modification to avoid triggering the pain.

massage on the back if he can tolerate it to relax the muscle (which was a big risk because of the pain) so I asked his wife to do it (she came on some days)

exercises — any movement of the joints above and below the injury can help relieve tightness and may offer relief in other parts of the body. I tried to make Abdul do some trunk exercises — he tried and when done very very slow did not trigger much of the pain

I asked Adama to observe not just his reaction to pain but to also observe the manner of movement – did it increase, decrease or no change, how many times he cry or shout or curse, how crease his face is when doing the exercise etc. The pain was hard to measure – when I asked Abdul the first time, he was saying 10/10, that hasn’t change until he stopped coming. But other tell-tale signs showed otherwise.

He was doing the exercises and told us (by the wife) that he agrees to have his back rubbed and shoulder massaged from time to time when at home.

He smiles more.

He was enjoying the attention and happy to show that he’s cooperative with us because he gets a lot of compliment.

He likes the excursion.

Life in the camp can be tough. Every family depended on each other and on the camp management. You’re literally in an open-prison because they are still alien in a foreign country – they don’t feel they belong.

The camp was a constant reminder of the ordeal they had to endure to escape being killed in Liberia. It was also a reminder that they are not from Sierra Leone because they live apart from the community. So I can understand that a lot of physical problems and complaints they have are from the psychological stresses they endure everyday and no one should blame them.

It’s as real as being hit by a car.

Observing him in all the activities we’ve done, the more he comes back to the clinic and do more routine movements the more he looked relaxed.

When I consulted with friends, we had common consensus that taking his mind away from the trigger of the pain will help him relax, which was exactly what the exercises and massage did to him. Plus my staffs are good story tellers they can take your worries away with their stories (I am fascinated with their voodoo stories), he eventually was able to understand his situation.

Month after month he came back to the clinic. He had shown progress but he still had that straight posture like being pulled from above. But he was less shouting, and eventually he stopped shouting, he learned to manage his reactions. He even smiled from time to time which was a good sign.

Abdul was candidate for medical repatriation sponsored by UNHCR backed by all the medical records he had. I think he was able to obtain approval and was repatriated for further treatment overseas. He would eventually be relocated with his family and start a new life. But I haven’t heard from him after that brief encounter.

If the relocation to another country brings a new promise to him – a good life, free with his family all his physical problem would go.

He can start over.

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