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Non-profit leads volunteer mission in Sierra Leone

As co-founder of World Missions Possible, Roxane Richter often invokes a quote by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

‘Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in healthcare is the most shocking and inhumane.’

That statement sums up what the non-profit organization has been doing since 2001.

The group takes the philosophy of bringing service to the right place at the right time to heart, and often in the direst circumstances. Sierra Leone, West Africa is that place right now.

With an already fragile political, social and health-care infrastructure, the Ebola outbreak has created a well of need from outside resources and organizations like World Missions Possible.

“For us, we would really like people to realize what’s going on on the ground over there, how we’re helping and how the public can help,” Richter said.

Sierra Leone is approximately 5,465 miles from the relative stability of the El Camino Rd. offices of World Missions Possible, where Richter serves as the WMP president, but it’s all about reaching beyond borders.

WMP has already sent Houston area doctors to the troubled region on their behalf: Dr. Thomas Flowers of Clear Lake Regional Hospital, Dr. Jason Guhkool of Elite Care in Webster, and Dr. Dan Kelly, a Houston-based infectious disease specialist. All three have led medical teams to Kono, Sierra Leone to help train and assist health workers at WMP partner, Wellbodi Clinic.

“The health care system there was way behind before Ebola ever happened,” said Dr. Kelly, who also serves as WMP medical director. “Things that are common place over there are things that haven’t been since in the United States in 75 years.”

Like performing cesarean sections without local anesthesia, or a medical staff that leaves at 7 p.m.

“It’s primitive,” Dr. Kelly said. “Since Ebola happened, they’ve been completely overwhelmed.”

The volunteer teams have brought medical care to over 4,000 patients in under-served areas of remote West African villages, many of which have never received health care. World Missions Possible also donated the only working x-ray machine and two ultra sound units to Kono to serve thousands of people.

There is no cure for Ebola at this time and this month, a third U.S. doctor has reportedly contracted the disease.

World Mission Possible has led medical teams throughout 16 countries in 13 years.

“For the past seven years, we’ve focused on West Africa due to the incredible needs they have in their health care system and infrastructure, which is very poor,” Richter said.

The mission began in an amputee clinic in the aftermath of conflict and civil war, with tens of thousands of amputees, including women and children, needing care.

But with the Ebola outbreak, World Missions Possible has shifted its focus on providing equipment, such as masks, disposal gowns, and eye-goggles to protect overwhelmed health care providers.

“Aside from donating equipment, the most important thing we do is providing the training at a very high level to health providers (in West Africa) on how to use that equipment,” Richter said. “Things on the ground are beyond horrific and I think it’s going to get much worse before it gets better.”

Dr. Kelly believes the Ebola outbreak has been made worse by political instability.

“Whatever resources they do have is really difficult for them to use to create a better life for themselves,” he said.

Working in Sierra Leone has given Kelly a sense of gratitude and a greater sense of faith and service.

“Just coming back and having drinking water you can trust, the simple things - it just makes you really appreciate that,” he said. “I’m a Christian and God cares about taking care of downtrodden people. That’s what we are trying to do.”

Richter, a graduate of the University of Houston-Clear Lake, is a EMT who worked with the American Red Cross Disaster Health Services serving in triage in post-Hurricane Katrina EMS in 2005; she understands urgent care and need.

The organization recently hosted a charity golf tournament in Sugarland. It is events like this that keeps WMP on the map and in action, Richter said.

While funding is essential to the business of World Mission Possible, volunteers are the heart.

“If you read the reports of what is happening with Ebola, people are frightened, terrified and are suffering,” she said. “If you feel moved in some way to help way, there is always some way that you can help.”

What kind of person does it take to make that commitment?

“Compassion,” she said. “They have to be solely motivated by compassion toward other people’s suffering.”

Read the original article on the Houston Chronicle.

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