“Clean drinking water facility in Sierra Leone needs support”: Dr. Michelle Strongfields speaks in Philly

On Friday, November 7th, 2008, Dr. Michelle Strongfields spoke at a benefit for the All African People’s Development and Empowerment Project at the Dhyana Yoga Center in Olde City in Philadelphia, PA. This benefit was co-sponsored by Uhuru Solidarity Movement as a part of a campaign which people can join to build solidarity with AAPDEP. Dr Strongfields, a Cuban-trained African doctor living in West Philadelphia, reported on her recent work building AAPDEP programs in Sierra Leone addressing the epidemic of infant mortality due to unclean drinking water.

AAPDEP is an African-led organization of the Uhuru Movement established to engage in development projects to transform the dire conditions imposed on African communities worldwide by making use of the vast technical expertise of Africans everywhere. Among other current initiatives, AAPDEP is building a rainwater harvesting and community healthcare facility, as well as a community fishing project in Oloshoro, Sierra Leone, and sponsoring a borehole (pressurized well) for irrigation of a 25-acre section of farmland of the Ujamma Youth Farming Project (UYFP) in Gweru, Zimbabwe.

Dr. Strongfields’ presentation exposed that while Africa is the most mineral-rich continent on the planet, centuries of brutal assault by Europeans and the U.S. though the slave trade, colonialism and now neo-colonial plunder, has left the vast majority of African people in a state of starvation, without food, clean water, adequate shelter or health care. Unlike charity programs which don’t change the cause of the problems, AAPDEP is providing leadership to African people to transform these conditions and to regain power over their lives and resources. AAPDEP’s programs are “from the people, to the people”, hearing the needs of the community, then focusing the resources available to create solutions led by African people themselves.

Dr. Strongfields began her presentation by showing a picture of Baby Alusine, who the AAPDEP team helped get access to the very limited local health care available in Oloshoro. Severely dehydrated, Baby Alusine ultimately was one of the 15 babies who died in the short time Dr. Strongfields was in Sierra Leone. This death was not only a tragedy for Baby Alusine’s parents and his twin sister, but also for African people as a whole, since he represents “the future of Africa and African people”, the next generation of teachers, health care workers and leaders. It is estimated that every year 3.4 million people die as a result of water related diseases. This is the single leading cause of death world wide, the majority being children under five years old.

Dr. Strongfields also described the productive organizing work, which created a leadership structure and committees in meetings involving hundreds of local participants. In brainstorming sessions, the community was able to identify basic needs for creating their own solutions. The people resolved to create a facility to harvest and purify rain water as a reliable source of clean drinking water. This facility will also house a rehydration station for local children suffering from diarrhea due to water contaminated by bacteria and parasites, which is often deadly in Africa. Plans were made to get the construction materials, basic medical equipment and supplies of salt and sugar for the rehydration solution, and recruit health care workers to staff the center.

To make these plans a reality, Dr Strongfields stated, required resources, and the people attending the benefit responded. AAPDEP received enthusiastic financial support from the First Friday crowd. In addition, the Dhyana Yoga studio provided the space for the benefit and set an inspiring example by opening up the resources of health and fitness enjoyed by the white community to benefit African people’s struggle for sustainability through self-determination.

The benefit continues with an on line auction of items from African Art to original paintings, jewelry, and gift certificates from local Center City businesses. Bids for these many exciting items are being taken online for the next 2 weeks at the AAPDEP website – www.developmentforafrica.org.

There will also be another event benefiting AAPDEP at Dhyana Yoga – a three hour workshop on Kundalini yoga on Sunday, November 23rd. For more information, contact the Uhuru Solidarity Movement local office at (215) 387-0919

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