Princeton Involvement in the Kono District
Dr. Mohammed Barrie, a native Sierra Leonean doctor, and Dr. Dan Kelley ’03 found a health clinic in the Kono District with the mission of providing free health care to amputee survivors of the nation’s civil war. Located six hours drive on pothole filled roads east of the capital city of Freetown, the clinic is directly in the heart of the diamond mining region of the country that was home to some of the worst atrocities of the war. The clinic has become the heart of Wellbody Alliance (http://wellbodyalliance.org/), an NGO founded by the two doctors to carry out their mission of providing healthcare to the most vulnerable in the Kono community.
A group of Princeton students travel to Sierra Leone in August to investigate possible projects that would be able to further the mission of the Wellbody Alliance (WA) clinic. They set their sites on providing the clinic with a sustainable source of electricity, which they plan to develop through a solar energy project. The trip offers a chance to gather a wealth of data about the clinic and surrounding community and make a number of valuable contacts in both Kono and Freetown. The clinic, like most of the country, has only sporadic and expensive access to electricity. There is no electrical power grid in the region, so all power must be supplied by a portable gasoline-powered generator which the clinic can only afford to run for an hour or two per day. The generator allows them to power a few lights at night and charge a laptop or cell phone, but is not sufficient to operate a fully functional medical facility. However, WA has plans for the clinic that involve the creation of a well-equipped lab with modernized equipment to test blood for malaria and other diseases, an improved maturity and pre-natal care section including an ultrasound machine, which had already been donated, and a modernized OpenMRS medical record system. All of these upgrades are contingent on having a reliable, cheap source of electricity.
The Beacon Solar Energy Project for Sierra Leone is formed. The group of students who had travelled to Sierra Leone the previous summer plan an implementation trip to install a photovoltaic system capable of meeting all of the clinic’s immediate power needs. During the summer of 2010, four students travel to Kono to install the solar panel system that was designed by a team of undergraduate and graduate students at Princeton with the help of Simon Williams of Energy for Opportunity (EFO). After a three week installation period, the system began running and proving power to fully light the clinic at night, run a vaccine refrigerator, power oxygen tanks, and run an ultrasound machine.
Engineers Without Borders: Sierra Leone Project
Successful involvement with the WA clinic, combined with the many needs in the area, leads to the formation of a Sierra Leone project within the Princeton Chapter of Engineers Without Borders. Much of the year is spent strengthening contacts in the country, identifying community needs and researching possible multi-year project ideas to address them, and developing contacts with professional mentors who can offer their expertise.
A pre-assessment trip to Kono took place in August 2012.
An assessment trip to Dorma took place in August 2013.
Due to the outbreak of Ebola, the Sierra Leone Program was forced to be discontinued.