As shown in yesterday’s Awoko publication, I returned to Pujehun last weekend with my Awoko colleague, Solomon Rogers, to make a small donation (three stethoscopes and a blood pressure tool) to the Pujehun Government Hospital. It’s a modest contribution, so I didn’t want to make a huge deal of it, but my colleagues and the people of Pujehun continually told me that the feeling behind the gift matters more than the size of the gift itself, so that’s the way I reflect on it now.
It all started when I went back to the states for a week to attend my friend’s wedding. During my return, I met up with two people whom I consider family: Chris and Cheryl Antony, the parents of my childhood friend, Christina. The Antony’s helped me prepare for my internship this summer, both literally – they supplied me with a complete first aid kit – and internally, by showing me tremendous moral support and love (as they have always done for as long as I’ve known them).
When I told them about my short visit to the provinces, one of the first things I talked about was the government hospital and how one nurse told me that they only had one stethoscope to share between three or four wards.
“Can you imagine?” I said, “A stethoscope; one of the most basic tools in medicine, and they only have one to go around.” Chris, who works in the medical field in the states, then simply replied, “I can get you a bunch of stethoscopes as soon as tomorrow, if you like.”
“Any little that you can help out with is something I’m sure they’ll appreciate,” Cheryl added.
I was a bit taken back by their quick response and offer, though I shouldn’t have been: Chris and Cheryl are two of the most generous people I’ve ever met, and these are the moments that make me feel blessed to be close friends with them.
I accepted their gesture with gratitude and picked up the package on the morning of my departure for Freetown. In addition to the promised stethoscopes, Chris even threw in a blood pressure tool with a nice case.
My return to Pujehun was an absolute delight. I love Freetown, but there’s nothing like spending a serene night in the provinces on a clear night. And as much as the people of Pujehun left a memorable impression on me during my first visit, it appeared that I had left an impression on them as well, which was a pleasant surprise. Upon arriving at the guest house where I stayed the last time, the guards warmly welcomed me, saying gleefully, “Ah! Mr. Yu! Welcome back!”
When Solomon and I went to the restaurant where we frequently ate during our first visit, the owner remembered us and the waitress came running outside, laughing and shouting, “Hey! You’re back!”
We later met up with the Paramount Chief, Alimamy Kai Kai, who also cordially welcomed us back to Pujehun and helped us reach Dr. Thomas Samba, the district medical officer. Dr. Samba offered to take the stethoscopes and BP tool to the hospital, but I told him that I would very much like to deliver the package myself.
When Dr. Samba and Solomon and I arrived at the hospital, Dr. Tom Sesay, the medical superintendent of the hospital and the man we interviewed for the feature story on the hospital a month ago, was holding a training workshop for the hospital nurses. We interrupted the workshop for a short period so I could officially make my donation, and I must admit; this was one of the more fulfilling experiences of my life. The hospital was very grateful for even the smallest of contributions. “The gift may be small, but the feelings that come with it are what we really appreciate,” Dr. Sesay said.
Before I came back to Pujehun, I thought of my contribution as something that I not only want to do, but something I should do, especially considering how badly the hospital is struggling and how easily I was able to obtain the tools.
In yesterday’s story Mr. Kai Kai said it was a meaningful contribution because it came from a journalist; but honestly, I wasn’t really back in Pujehun as a journalist. During our first visit, yes, Solomon and I came as journalists looking for stories on the situation of the developmental district. So even when he and I went on the air on Radio Wanjei to talk about our experience, I was wary about saying, “We’re here to help you,” because I didn’t want to raise any false hopes. But this time, I came back to Pujehun not as a reporter, but simply as a person wanting to give a small gift. And as small and modest as that gift was, just seeing the smiles on the faces of the nurses, doctors and the Paramount Chief made the whole experience more than worthwhile.
Special thanks go out to Chris and Cheryl Antony, who made it all possible: Your bottomless benevolence is felt in the hearts of many – none more so than in my own – even halfway across the world.
By Yu Nakayama