Monthly Archives: September 2016

The Dream Team

Today was our first full day at the Aberdeen Women’s Clinic in Freetown. The breadth and calibre of work here is overwhelming, but the gamut of circumstances that puts these women and girls in such precarious positions is equally infuriating.

For example, we met 28 girls, aged 12 – 17, who are pregnant, many as a result of being quarantined during the Ebola crisis and the majority through abuse. Added to this, almost all the girls were orphaned as a consequence of the epidemic.

Known as the Dream Team, these teenagers are taught how to take care of themselves, about personal hygiene, nutrition, prenatal care and post-natal care. How do you become a parent when you have barely had one yourself?

A Dream Team lesson with Aminata.jpgAmi %26 a fistula patient.jpgAmi %26 Panny meet The Dream Team.jpgAs we grow up.jpgAWC young patients.jpgDare to Believe.jpgDream Team baby 1.jpgDream Team craft class 2.jpgDream Team dare to believe.jpgDream Team mother %26 baby.jpgGirl in green.jpgMembers of The Dream Team.jpgYoung fistula patients %26 dream team.jpg

The project manager, another Aminata, was worthy of an Academy Award. The vitality, enthusiasm, and aspiration she instilled in these youngsters, who have more than enough reason to disengage in life, appeared awestruck. They told stories through song, shared their personal experiences to reduce isolation, and talked about their dreams.

Towards the end, they had a 15-minute nap to dream about the future they might one day have as a lawyer, a doctor, a teacher or a midwife, and that being a teenage mother was not the end of everything for them. It may sound clichéd but if these beliefs enable these girls to lift themselves out of abject poverty, then dreaming must surely be the best medicine in the world.

Posted in Dignity, Marginalised People, Uncategorized

The Aminata Maternal Foundation in Sierra Leone

Nine years ago, I could never have conceived travelling to Freetown in Sierra Leone with Aminata Conteh-Biger.

With us are the Aminata Maternal Foundation Chair Penny Gerstle and SBS Dateline journalist and filmmaker Amos Roberts, who is filming a documentary about Aminata and the foundation, which is due to air in Australia in mid-November.

The Aminata Maternal Foundation was launched at a small party in North Sydney on October 15th. Maternal mortality in Sierra Leone is among the worst in the world. A woman in this tiny West-African country is four times more likely to die in childbirth than a woman in Afghanistan.

Yesterday, we had the privilege of meeting Freedom from Fistula Foundation staff member Lois Boyle, who oversees the funding of the Aberdeen Women’s Clinic in the Sierra Leonean capital. Our first project will be to fund a project through the centre to support a group of teenagers who are pregnant, many as a result of being quarantined during the Ebola crisis.

The clinic delivers over two hundred babies a month, attends to 12,000 children a year in the outpatient clinic and perform 1,000 fistula operations. The clinic has a well-earned reputation for managing obstructive labour. The cost of surgery would be a whopping $900, so the service would be out of reach for 99 percent of women. The Aberdeen Women’s Clinic provide the surgery free.


Our visit has two purposes.

The first is the film the documentary. Much of it is related to Aminata’s background as a former refugee from Sierra Leone. Aminata was resettled to Australia by UNHCR after she had been captured by rebels during the civil war and kept as a slave wife.

Today, Aminata and her husband Antoine have two young children Sarafina, 4 and Matisse, 3. It was due to complications during Sarafina’s birth that prompted Aminata to act. Both she and Sarafina nearly lost their lives and had Aminata given birth in Sierra Leone both she and Sarafina would have likely died.

We are also here to meet some of the women who have suffered complications during pregnancy, birthing or post-birthing and to learn about the reality of the situation here and what practical support we can provide to help reduce maternal mortality.


Posted in Dignity, Marginalised People, Uncategorized