It’s been one week since I returned from the Israel Idonije Foundation’s (TeamIIF) annual humanitarian trip to Africa, and I’m still on cloud nine. Absolutely everything about the trip — from start to finish — was amazing. This year, after many years of visiting and serving in my home country of Nigeria, TeamIIF had the opportunity to forge a new partnership in a new place: The village of Kobedi, a farming community of approximately 1,700 people in the Sunyani West District of Ghana. The name Kobedi means, “Go and come again to eat,” which references the community’s generous hospitality. Our 2013 mission team included two members of TeamIIF, five doctors and nurses from Integris Health, a nonprofit corporation and Oklahoma’s largest health system, and three board members from MAP International, a global organization that promotes the health of people living in the world’s poorest communities. Upon our arrival in Kobedi, our group of 10 was greeted with tremendous love and appreciation in a wonderful welcome ceremony.
During our stay, we provided a three-day medical clinic, where our doctors treated hundreds of villagers for a variety of diseases including yaws (a tropical infection of the skin, bones and joints caused by bacteria), malaria, intestinal parasitic infections, ringworm and high blood pressure. Eighty percent of the children seen had malaria. We ran out of supplies a few times, but we were able to restock through our local relationships.
We also ran a three-day youth empowerment sports camp for school children ages 8-19. Besides being fun, the sports program provides encouragement, recognition, self-awareness and confidence for tomorrow’s community leaders. We trained local teachers and volunteers about the program, its purpose and how to run it, and the teachers are excited to implement it as a new way to motivate their students. Dominic, a local director, took over the program after we left, so I know it will continue to grow.
I was excited to see MAP International’s Total Health Village (THV) model in action in Tumiamayenko, a small village nearby. MAP works with local communities to craft development plans unique to the community’s needs. The community itself decides what needs to be done to transform its condition in a way that’s sustainable and promotes its physical, emotional, economic, social, environmental and spiritual well-being.
On our last day, we made a quick visit to Tumiamayenko to see its successes. It is now a “Malaria-Free Zone” — the village’s water source was converted to a pumped well to reduce intestinal diseases, 100 percent of its children are immunized and it now has a prosperous microeconomic system. This thriving community has many other goals it continues to achieve and work toward.
Despite these successes, our team reflected nightly on the great needs of all of the people in West Africa: medicine, doctors, basic school supplies, clean water, food, shoes, clothes — the list is endless. Where to begin? Where to focus? I believe that if each of us does what we can with what we have, we’ll make a difference one community at a time.
I can hardly wait to go back next year to see the growth and progress in Kobedi. Until then, memories of the kids’ smiles and laughter while we played games, enjoyed the 10 pounds of gummy bears (a favorite of mine) I brought for them and discussed their likes, dislikes and talents will be close to my heart.
Learn more about the Israel Idonije Foundation at Israelidonije.org, @TeamIIF, or follow us on Facebook. Israel Idonije has donated his fee for this column to the Israel Idonije Foundation.