Nurses—Making a Difference in Global Health

Nurse Stories:  Reduce Child Mortality

The God's House International Story - Freetown, Sierra Leone

My name is Yvonne Washington Turay. I am a Family Nurse Practitioner and the Founder of an organization called God's House International. We are a grassroots, holistic healthcare group that provides services to individuals in the United States, Virgin Islands, and West Africa. Our major project is in Sierra Leone where we have provided health education, medical care, food clothing and more to thousands of Sierra Leoneans over the past ten years. We also are building a clinic facility/guest house, that will serve as out Outreach Facility as well as house our volunteers. Below is a short story about our work.

Sierra Leone is a small country located on the west coast of Africa. Currently, its population is approximately five million. In 2000, I had the opportunity to visit this country for the first time. My husband, Kandeh, who was born in Sierra Leone, gave me a first- hand introduction to his native land.

I arrived in Sierra Leone for the first time in March 2000. This was just a few months prior to the arrival of the UNAMSIL Forces. I was warned by many people not to go Sierra Leone. I was told that the “rebels would kill me.” Many people echoed “you’ll never come home.” Yet, I was determined that this was my destiny. My heart yearned for the opportunity to go to “Africa”, "The Motherland.” I was willing to risk my life. I didn’t care if I died. I just knew that this was the time that God had ordained for me to travel to the land of my heritage.

Prior to leaving, I copied my passport and gave it to my children and closest friends. I packed a few pieces of clothing in a suitcase and I also packed gifts that I was taking to my new relatives. In the spirit of service, I packed the tools of my trade, my stethoscope, blood pressure cuff, a large bottle of penicillin (I ordered from a mail in company), several large bottles of Tylenol and Motrin and my desire to serve in any capacity that I could. I had no idea of the devastation I would meet.

Upon our arrival, in Freetown National Airport (Lungi); I cried, bowed down and kissed the ground. “Amazing grace - I once was lost but now I was found.” There was an air of jubilation in my soul just being there. This jubilation quickly turned to sadness as I entered the city of Freetown. The burnt buildings, cars, filthy streets, graffiti and many people begging on the streets -- each with his or her own story of catastrophe. Many told of the rebel invasions. Children were torn away from their homes to become child soldiers. Young women taken captive and raped who ultimately gave birth to the children of their captors. This war was very brutal. Those who survived are blessed.

As I began to grasp the realization for my appearance in this place at this time, I asked my God, what he would have me to do in this place. He led me to the scripture in Matthews 25:35- 40 “…When I was hungry you gave Me food...... I was sick and you visited Me........."

I went door to door, seeking the lame, the sick and the spiritually impoverished. My husband and I gave all that we had with us, including the clothing off our backs. It was refreshing to see that even though the people had endured such harsh events, they still had joy. They were grateful for anything we could give, say or do. They cherished these gifts of medicine, food, and education that we, here in the western world, take for granted. I thank God He has allowed me to develop this ministry as I keep in mind that the suffering has not stopped. In a country that is still recovering from the devastation of this war, there are still many who do not have, cannot afford food or medical care or even attend school. The rates of infant and maternal mortality in Sierra Leone are amongst the highest in world. The health care system is in dire need of assistance as a whole.

God’s House is my passion. There is nothing that I do in my life that does not include this concept, “Our bodies are the temple of the living God; hence, each and every one of us is "God’s House". God’s House International….."Bridging the gaps medically, socially, culturally and economically at home and abroad.” This is our vision and we will stand by it now and forever.

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Yvonne Washington-Turay MSN, FNP-BC