In Sierra Leone, one out of eight mothers die during childbirth, and one out of six infants die before they celebrate their first birthday. Unsterile conditions, lack of education and access to proper prenatal care and supplies have done nothing to remedy the situation.
Next month, Selita Ebanks will travel to Sierra Leone to launch the BirthRight Healthcare Programme with Tiffany Pearsons, director and founder of Shine On Sierra Leone, a small charity that also focuses on improving literacy, computer skills, sustainable development and providing other opportunities for a better life.
In an interview with CayCompass.com, Ebanks explains how her work in the small West African nation, which suffered 11 years of civil war over diamond conflicts, began three years ago and compelled her to help the mothers and children in the ravaged Kono District.
“In 2007 I went to Sierra Leone with Elle magazine to do an advertorial and to learn more about non-conflict diamonds,” she says. “Tiffany Persons was there, and I auto-gravitated toward her. She invited us to visit her school ... and there, I held a baby with 12 fingers and 12 toes. That was the moment.”
“It’s one thing to be educated about something and another to do something about it,” she adds.
Since then, Ebanks has worked to raise funds for Shine On Sierra Leone, donating the $20,000 she earned from participating in Donald Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice to open a hospital that will offer free maternal and postnatal care. On November 20, the organization and its supporters will meet with Sierra Leone’s First Lady Sia Nyama Koroma, who has taken a public stance for women’s rights. They will also launch the Pilot Project, which will train traditional birthing assistants so that they can administer proper care to pregnant women.
To learn more about the program, visit shineonsierraleone.org.