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Huntington goes global

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donate: (From left) UB Global director Jeff Bleijerveld, UB Global assistant directorMichelle Harris, Huntington Rotary treasurerRich Beaver and Huntington Rotary Club presidentCindy Krumanaker stand with the $4,000 check the club donated.
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NURSE: A Mattru Hospital nurse during a recent mission trip by UB Global to check in on the progress. UB Global works with a team of Americans and Sierra Leoneans in hopes of having the hospital run independently one day. The projects supported by the Huntington Rotary Club help bring profit into the hospital.
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SURGERY: Before a solar energy project was completed in 2018, surgeons at Mattru hospital had to worry about their generator running out of fuel during surgery. Now, the Huntington Rotary Club and UB Global are partnering to buy meters that will store excess electricity, which will be sold for profit to help pay salaries.

by Andrew Maciejewski

amaciejewski@h-ponline.com

When war broke out in Mattru, a city in Sierra Leone, the $10,000 investment by the Huntington Rotary Club in 1980 to build a pediatric unit at Mattru Hospital was nearly lost.

“The hospital was basically gutted,” Mattru Hospital project coordinator Michelle Harris said. “Rebels took it over. It struggled to get back up on its feet.”

When it was finally taking steps in the right direction, Ebola struck in 2014, but the community was not alone. Leaders in Huntington were there, through the good and the bad.

For nearly 40 years, the Huntington community has made a significant impact on the lives of people living in Sierra Leone.

Before the Huntington Rotary Club partnered with UB Global, the international arm of the United Brethren in Christ headquartered here in Huntington, the city of Mattru in Sierra Leone didn’t have power, clean water or modern medical care. Sickness and disease riddled the community.

Before UB Global and the Huntington Rotary Club stepped in, Sierra Leone had one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, and malaria was commonplace.

Now, Harris, who is assistant director at UB Global, said the numbers are getting better and better, thanks to local efforts.

The first donation in 1980 was just the beginning.

In 2016, rotarians donated $4,000 toward the completion of a water packaging plant that brings revenue into the hospital, and recently in 2019, the club donated another $4,000 toward the purchase of meters that will allow the hospital to sell electricity from their new solar power field.

“This is all about increasing sustainability so that the hospital can serve the community,” Harris said. “The medical system was developing a lot in the ’90s, but then with the war happening, you know, war tears everything apart. It doesn’t get fixed in a year or two. It takes a long time.”

Local rotarian Jim Hoffman knows all about the long-standing partnership, and he said the club’s donation, which was a third of the total funds, will bring the hospital anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000 per month.

“It’s great to have this kind of a relationship with Africa from here in Huntington, which is unusual, but also the fact that we have an ongoing relationship – it’s almost as if Mattru Hospital is a part of us.”

Before the solar project was completed in January 2018, Harris said the medical staff had to run out and find diesel fuel to keep the generator running so that they wouldn’t lose power during surgery.

Now, the hospital has a constant supply of clean energy, and it generates enough energy to sell the excess, using the meters purchased by the Huntington Rotary Club.

“It’s exciting because it’s punching a hole in the black hole, providing electricity to those that can afford it and have a need for it,” Hoffman said.

“The meters were absolutely necessary to the whole running of the project,” Harris added.

The nearly $1,000 generated each month by the water packaging plant and $2,000 from the solar energy field goes toward paying the medical staff salaries.

“Sometimes we didn’t have the money on hand, so people had to wait to get their salaries,” Harris said. “But now, there is stability.”

With the added stability, Harris said she’s seen Huntington’s efforts make a difference, inside and outside of the hospital, especially since the community knows the Huntington Rotary Club has their backs.

“The moral is a lot higher at the hospital, and people are just really thankful for the help,” Harris said. “The club has been tremendous through their long-term relationship with the hospital and community.”

For those that want to get involved in the project, visit ubglobal.org for more information.