By Lincoln D. Ninneh (YES 2013-2014, Liberia, placed with AFS-USA in Nolensville, TN)
For the last three years, I have been active in diabetes education through the initiative I founded, Teach for Healthy Lives (T4HL). T4HL is a team of passionate, dedicated young healthcare leaders with a strong desire for service. Our goal is to create healthy communities everywhere. We work in a very small region of Liberia, but diabetes care and education in the country is still extremely poor. Currently, diabetes treatment is only available in three of Liberia’s fifteen counties, leaving people in the remaining counties poorly informed and without care. With poor road infrastructure, travel to other counties for treatment can be difficult and expensive. We strive for a Liberia with extensive diabetes care services and clinics in every town and city. And we want to help lead the process.
As we’ve learned and grown in the last three years, the T4HL team has come to realize that our diabetes education services are not entirely inclusive of all people in the communities in which we work. People living with disabilities are particularly in need of services, as there is an evidence-based connection between diabetes and disability.
In December 2020, we implemented the project Diabetes and Disability, with funding and support from the YES Alumni Grants program. Through this project, we were able to extend diabetes education to people living with disabilities for the first time. The main events took place in Kakata and Gbarnga and provided an opportunity for 86 people with disabilities to understand how diabetes can affect the body and cause disability. The goal was to give participants the knowledge to protect themselves against the disease and prevent further disability and health issues.
After the project, many participants shared the knowledge that they gained during the workshops. One participant noted, “I really had no clue how diabetes could be such a threat to us living with disabilities. Now I know that diabetes is something more. I wish that all people like me could hear this and take precautions.”
We are grateful to God for His presence in our lives and in the work we do. We also extend our profound thanks to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, for their sponsorship of the YES Program and the YES Alumni Grant program. We are deeply grateful for the persistent support and mentorship from the Diabetes Clinic at the Ganta United Methodist Hospital. Our appreciation also goes to iEARN-Liberia for their guidance to YES alumni like me and for their hard work on the YES program in Liberia. We also appreciate the YES alumni who offered their help when we needed them during major project activities.
Lastly, I am thankful for my project team and passionate volunteers at T4HL. Their passion, diligence, and persistence in serving their communities will be remembered forever. In 2021, we hope to continue to make health promotion more inclusive.