Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORT)

I was an Education Peace Corps Volunteer in Sierra Leone from 1984-1986, assigned to Rogbesseh in Tonkolili District in the Northern Province....not too far from Masanga Leprosy Hospital and Magburaka. I was hoping to be the Great White Hope Teacher...I'm not sure how much impact I made as a Primary Workshop Coordinator, teaching English, Maths, and Science...but if I made any impact at all, it might have been with a Health concept that Volunteers were taught for their OWN survival...

One day during the middle of my 2-year service I was taking a walk through the village, just to casually see and speak (in Krio or in my limited Temne) with my neighbors. As I happened upon one family's afternoon outdoor kitchen scene, one young mother came crying to me with her listless infant, begging, "Duya, Mariatu Sankoh! Duya, I beg! Help me now wit me baby! E wan die!" In an exchange of mixed Krio and Temne I discerned that the baby was dehydrated from vomiting and "runny-belly." I at first made disclaimers of being a TEACHER, not a nurse or doctor! She continued to implore me to help her and her very sick child. All I could think of was the treatment that Peace Corps Training had taught us a year before: Oral Rehydration Therapy, aka ORT.

I proceeded to explain to her the recipe of BOILED clean water in a clean litre jug, 1 "stopper" (soda pop bottle cap) of salt, 2-4 (? 25 years later, I can't quite remember the proportions now...?) stoppers of sugar, and juice from one squeezed orange. (Today, this concoction might be known as Gatorade!) I told her she must get the baby to drink the entire litre bottle over the course of the day, and continue the dosage every day until the baby got better...and to CONTINUE to ALWAYS use CLEAN, boiled water to feed herself and all of her family. I left, hoping my limited "nursing/Health Volunteer" skills would be of some use.

About 2-3 days later, the young mother came to find me in my village home to thank me and "bless" me for "saving" her child. I was overwhelmed and happy that it helped this family. It may not have been English or Maths...but maybe I DID "teach" this family some "Science."

I don't know if my college education and teaching degree ever helped advance Sierra Leone...but I am grateful for the one time I knew I made a difference.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Countdown to Weekly Contest Deadline!

“Sunset at the Railroad” by PCV Nicholas Baylor Hall. Namibia, 2011.