Imagine with me for a moment that you are from a small nation in West Africa with a population of 4.5 million people. It happens to be the 3rd poorest nation in the world, with an average life-expectancy of 45 years and an unemployment rate of 85%. There are only 51 doctors to serve the entire population and, due to the paucity of healthcare infrastructure, only 10% of communities even have access to medical facilities. An average community populated by 70,000 people has access to only 4 public toilets and 4 water taps.
Now imagine having the opportunity to study in the United States while family members continue to face these grime realities. There are regular phone calls from home that some common, treatable disease has taken a cousin, a neighbor, a father. These calls were my motivation to launch Refuge Place International (RFPI) with some college mates and instructors. RFPI was officially set up in January 2010 with the objective of building a clinic to reduce the frequency of these preventive deaths. The clinic would be built in my neighborhood, a poor peri-urban community called Chicken Soup Factory. It is in the Lower Johnsonville district of Monrovia, Liberia.
The land for the clinic was acquired over several months of incremental payments. Construction began in February 2010 with local laborers and masons who were hired from the community. Friends in Liberia and in the USA contributed, but 90% of the initial support came from personal savings and income obtained through night work at hospitals. Needless to say, construction was a slow and painful process.
The trust and support for the work increase following the visit of the project site by one of our board members, Rachel Lewis. She did an assessment and an audit and reported that the project was in capable hands. The local community was made to join the project when I returned to Liberia in 2013. Construction quickly picked up and the reality of having their own health clinic transformed the community.