Mission of Mercy: Nigeria Part I

This is the village of Ajalli.
This is the village of Ajalli.
Stream where villagers bath and get water to wash clothes.
Stream where villagers bath and get water to wash clothes.

By now, you have probably heard of the Goodness and Mercy Foundation. For the last six years, volunteers have traveled to Ghana and Nigeria on weeklong medical missions. Just a few weeks ago, volunteers treated thousands of patients in Nigeria. WTOC video journalist Barry Lewis and I went with them on this amazing journey.

We will never forget the people who live in the Ajalli village. They work very hard, but since there is no industry, there are not any opportunities for them to live above a certain level of poverty. In spite of the tough conditions, they are very friendly, appreciative and have a strong faith in God.

On the one paved road in the village, you'll see the post office, police department, and market area. This is what we would consider downtown or Main Street in Ajalli. The village is nestled in the mountains and there are many steep hills surrounded by breathtaking views of palm trees and lush vegetation. The clay roads are rough with many ruts from where other vehicles have gotten bogged down. Many of the homes are also made of clay.

One family invited us in to get a closer look at their cottage. Inside it was surprisingly cool on the very hot day. The kitchen is outside behind the house. We watched as the lady of the house prepared fu fu, a starch that is a main staple in their diet. Villagers get their drinking water from wells with electric pumps called bore holes. Sometimes people walk miles to find the nearest one. Because it can be so far, they use that water for drinking and cooking, not bathing.

There is no public tap water in the homes. They rely on six streams in the village for everything else. "People come here in the morning hours to have their baths, fetch water for household use, " explained Nkem Okereke, a Nigerian mission volunteer.

Most of the homes don't have any electricity and even if they can save enough money to pay to get connected to the power company, there are only a few hours a day the company provides power. 15,000 villagers live here and work hard as farmers and traders. Since there is no industry, there is no opportunity to make a living wage and there is no kind of government assistance, so what they don't make they must do without.

"Most people in the villages here don't make $2 a day. Most of them eat probably $1 a day in terms of their meals. As a matter of fact, some people in these villages don't eat three meals a day. The conditions here are very harsh and I feel sorry for them," said Dr. Eugene Nwosu, founder of the Goodness & Mercy Foundation. He should know. He grew up here and still has family living in the village.

Most of the villagers survive because they have family members who work in the cities or in other countries who send them money to help make ends meet. "If they can't feed themselves very well, how can they provide health care? It's simple, there is no health care here. You are on your own and unfortunately most people can't afford it so they go without it. They just live by grace," added Dr. Nwosu.

If there is ever a real emergency and villagers have to see a doctor, they must pay before they are treated.

"Most of the hospitals here don't have the supplies, so they have to tell you what you need. So if you are going to need antibiotics and pain killers, they will give you a list of the medications you need and you have to send somebody to go buy them from the pharmacy. If they need blood, then you have to find blood. Sometimes if there is no blood you have to get relatives to donate blood for you. This is the way it is in most third world countries," said Dr. Nwosu.

But the Goodness and Mercy Foundation knows in their small way they come to change that as they unload their boxes and set up the clinic. " They have a lot of self pride. They want us to come they want us to help them. They want to better their conditions," added Dr. Connie Cooper.

"Every year it is like a pilgrimage here coming to get medical care," said Dr. Nwosu.

Tuesday on The News at 6, we'll take you inside the medical mission and show you the specialized care the villagers get when the Goodness and Mercy Foundation comes to town. The volunteers from right here in Savannah worked very long hours bringing medical care to people who have no where else to turn.

Reported by: Dawn Baker, dbaker@wtoc.com