This month’s testimonial outlines Kia, Freedom Tree’s director and Canadian Labour and Delivery Nurse, who has been involved with Freedom Tree since its humble beginnings. Read below to see our interview with this powerful and impactful woman!
What’s your role in freedom tree and made you get involved in this way?
I am currently a director on the board of Freedom Tree. I have been on the board from the very beginning stages of Freedom Tree, as I already had a huge love for the nation and the people of Sierra Leone. This love for Sierra Leone first started in June of 2004 when I had just graduated from nursing school. I had the opportunity to go on a medical missions trip with a small group of doctors and nurses from Canada and the USA. This trip actually changed the course of my life, as it confirmed to me the area of nursing that I wanted to specialize in, which was Labor and delivery. I had travelled and volunteered in many countries prior to Sierra Leone, but I felt a special love and connection with the Sierra Leonean people and I knew for sure that I would be back many times.
I met Omotara Johnson, founder of Freedom Tree, in 2000. We soon became the best of friends and even roommates. We travelled to Sierra Leone several times together and we knew there was a special partnership forming between the local leaders and us. We used to talk and dream about changing the world and really making a sustainable difference. I feel so honored and privileged to be apart of this people movement called Freedom Tree because I truly see real change happening!
What changes have you seen/heard of in SL as a result of the work FT has done? What do you hope to see for the future?
Wow, where to start! Lives are really being impacted! Fewer women are dying in childbirth in the initial six villages that we have been working in, local people are really excited about this work and mindsets are beginning to change regarding woman dying in childbirth (not just accepting this as the norm). Men are starting to realize that this is not just a woman’s issue, but also an entire community issue. We have seen very positive changes in the communities where we have built birthing clinics and /or schools. There was a significant impact during the Ebola crisis, where many NGOs left, Freedom Tree stayed – many lives were saved in that time. I believe wholeheartedly that the impact that FT is having is largely due to the healthy partnership with local Sierra Leoneans. We are not pushing our own North American Agenda but truly seeking to empower people to identify issues in their own communities, take ownership, and seek to come up with local sustainable solutions.
In the future I hope to see Freedom Tree working in every village in Sierra Leone and continuing to see drastic changes to the maternal and infant mortality rates.
What is your most distinct memory in working with FT?
One of my most distinct memories was being in a very rural village doing a medical clinic. There were hundreds of people waiting to see the doctor and/or midwife. We had several stations in the clinic and I was part of the team doing “health education”. Through translators we managed to get the information from English, to Creole, to Mende. We covered basic topics such as nutrition, hand washing, healthy pregnancy and birth, warning sings in pregnancy and birth, Infant CPR/safety, and breastfeeding. The woman were very engaged and interactive and very thankful for the information. I had always wanted to make a greater impact than just what I could personally do and by teaching people how to care for themselves and prevent illness/death; I realized the impact was much greater.
I was struck at that moment, that education had to be a key element of everything we did going forward. This is why I love that one of our “Five Pillars” is Education.
What elements of your personal or professional life have changed after being involved with FT’s initiatives?
I have been forever changed by the time I have spent working with the people of Sierra Leone. I look at life very differently as a result of being involved with Freedom Tree. It is a place where I can give of my time and talents and resources and really see a tangible impact happening.
As I mentioned above, going to Sierra Leone initially was a huge factor in why I chose to be a Labor and Delivery Nurse. I have been nursing in this area for 11 plus years now and I continue to be passionate about seeing healthy moms, babies and families both in Canada and Sierra Leone.
Stay tuned for new testimonials each month, highlighting the “People Movement” that is in motion with Freedom Tree! Want to join the movement? Contact Us