Children’s Health Shows Improvement in Sierra Leone

02/18/11

Tanya Spoon sat in a cluster of teenage boys from the Children of the Nations (COTN) Children’s Village in Sierra Leone. One of them was 17-year-old Amidu Jalloh, who joined his brothers in asking Tanya questions about their health, their bodies, and the difficulties of teenage life. Tanya isn’t new to this experience—she’s an Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner (ARNP) and spent ten years as a nurse for the public school system in Kitsap County, Washington. This wasn’t new for Amidu either—he and the other boys have talked with Tanya before; this was her third visit to Sierra Leone and Amidu knew he could trust her with sensitive questions. “They have an amazing trust in us to feel like they can ask us questions that they might not ask to anyone else,” Tanya says. “Because I’ve been there three times, they know me and they know what to expect and feel safe. That was a huge blessing to me, that these kids would trust me to ask me these questions. It was a great conversation.”

In 2008, Tanya made her first trip to Sierra Leone. She did physical exams on the children in our Children’s Village and helped the medical clinic nurses keep records on their health and growth. Since then, she’s returned to do an annual physical on the children every year, bringing a team of medical professionals each year to help with the process. Tanya also ventures out into the surrounding villages to care for adults and children in need. “We [give away] free medical [care] for anyone who has a sick kid or any adult that’s sick,” Tanya says. “It’s a great opportunity for us to go out into a village and see the malnourished kids and see what COTN needs to do.”

The team saw more than 500 patients and though that’s a lot, Tanya was encouraged. “I’ve been to these villages three years in a row, and these kids are way less sick than they were before,” she says. “It’s an amazing difference this year even compared to last year.”

She saw that difference in Amidu and his siblings at the Children’s Village as well. The first year she did the physicals, Tanya found some children suffering from various health issues. “This year, none,” she says. “I think it’s the food and the physicals that they are getting. I think we’re being able to watch them get better and better.”

It’s not only physical health, but emotional, mental, and spiritual, too—areas that COTN focuses on in caring for children. For those like Amidu, who are going through the changes of being a teenager, Tanya is thrilled to help make their life a little bit easier. “What a blessing it is for me to be able to go back year after year and watch these kids grow up,” she says.

Sponsor a child like Amidu or help children in Africa who are part of COTN’s Children’s Village in Sierra Leone.