This is an article written by Selma Kalousek, a wonderful journalist we met in Somaliland, who although she doesn’t give credit to herself, she was on a 3 month sabbatical as a volunteer at the Edna Adan Hospital.
Selma’s husband is Ian Fisher the New York Time Chief Correspondent for Jerusalem who met Edna 10 years ago and wrote an article about her and stayed in touch ever since, Selma a photo journalist was so impressed with the stories of Edna she decided to take a 3 month sabbatical as a volunteer at Edna’s hospital.
He Came He Saw He Fell in Love
After returning home to West Sussex from his first trip to Somaliland for his company, Anglo Somaliland Resources Ltd (ASR), Ian Fenwick told his wife Kim that he’d met an extraordinary woman.
“You’d think a statement like that would get you in trouble with your wife,” Mr. Fenwick, who enjoys a good laugh, said jokingly.
A year later, that extraordinary woman, Dr.Edna Adan Ismail, was a guest at Ian and Kim Fenwick’s home in England, prompting Kim to jump right onto the Edna fan club bandwagon.
“When Edna came to our house in the UK she inspired me so much I haven’t thought of anything else since but how to help,” Kim said.
Two years later, Ian and Kim Fenwick, along with a friend, Gillian (Gilly) Myers, arrived in Hargeisa, Somaliland, with several oversized suitcases packed to the seams with toys, medical supplies, soccer balls (plus air pumps), plush animals, games, diapers, baby blankets, and newborn and children’s clothes.
“The community back home has been ridiculously generous,” Kim Fenwick said of her hometown of Storrington while sorting through the donated goods that even included large rolls of white cotton fabric put to good use immediately, to be sewn into crisp tiny mattress covers for babies in the neo-natal unit of the Edna Adan University hospital (EAUH).
The suitcases of gifts were a prelude to a mammoth donation, a container filled with valuable hospital equipment from Ashford and Saint Peter’s Hospital in London, shipped from the UK to Somaliland that arrived shortly after in the port of Berbera.
Rather than disposing of the electronic surgical beds, stretchers, mattresses, wheelchairs, crutches and much more, Ian worked out with the hospital that the used but still valuable goods, still in excellent condition and valued at some $200,000, to be shipped to Somaliland and donated to Edna’s hospital plus a few other pre-selected public health venues. While the shipment has arrived in Somaliland, the distribution of the equipment awaits clearance from local authorities.
The Somaliland diaspora community in London covered the $3,500 shipping cost of the container, while Anglo Somaliland Resources Ltd covered all additional costs.
It all began with a conversation about Edna between Ian and his lifelong friend John Blackburn who works at the hospital.
“John looked Edna up on the Internet and, like everyone else, was captivated. John, in turn, told the hospital’s Chief Nurse Heather Caudle and the Hospital Chief Executive Suzanne Rankin about Edna,” Ian explains.
Susan invited Edna to visit the hospital’s maternity ward.
“When the two met, they took to one another instantly, united by their passion for maternity and infant healthcare,” Ian said.
Ashford and Saint Peter’s generous support and donations continue. Ian is in the process of negotiating an official twinning partnership between the Ashford and St Peters Hospital and The Edna Adan University Hospital. And he has organized another shipment of medical equipment that will include two new ultrasound machines that Ian and Anglo Somaliland Resources had spontaneously decided to donate based on the needs he saw on his last visit here.
Now back to that fated moment, when Ian Fenwick met Edna Adan Ismail for the first time.
Ian the entrepreneur begins to recount the story with a frank admission: “My main interests in Somaliland are business.”
Without skipping a beat Ian, the private person, says: “However, thanks to my fortunate meeting with Edna, my eyes and heart have been opened to the needs of the people, particularly the babies and the children.”
“While getting a personal tour of her hospital, I became an emotional hostage with Edna being my captor.”
Ian pauses for a moment, perhaps wondering whether he’s being a bit too candid.
“When I’m here, my head is focused on business, but my heart is always open to helping the children,” he concludes.
As the university hospital grows in its mission and size – the brand new Edna Adan University building will open shortly after March 9, the 15th anniversary of the hospital’s founding – and as the number of patients grows, so does its need for additional equipment.
For example, on a recent day, EAUH Senior Doctor Shukri Mohamed Dahir, performed four hydrocephalus surgeries on infants all under the age of 12 months. Three out of the four travelled to the hospital from neighbouring Somalia and the fourth from a village eight hours away by car.
Ian and Kim Fenwicks’ enthusiasm and generosity of spirit are infectious. To fill their suitcases with baby clothes, toys, and more, they paid regular visits to the local Oxfam Shop where they befriended volunteer Gilly Myers.
Gilly and the Fenwicks got talking. Gilly has long been interested in the impact of female genital mutilation (FGM) on women’s health, from the brutal and often unhygienic procedure itself, performed on girls as young as four, to complications during childbirth that can cause serious damage to both mother and newborn.
The Fenwicks told Gilly about Edna.
“Edna was such an inspiration and having researched what she had already achieved, I was eager to get involved. I felt that my donation would be in good hands,” said Gilly on her first day visiting the hospital.
Besides getting a tour of the EAUH, from the birthing room to the neonatal ward to the outpatient department, the three friends also visited a remote village clinic where a sole community midwife, an Edna Adan school of midwifery graduate, takes care of 19 village; a school for children with special needs; and the Somali Family Health Association (SOFA), a local NGO that educates women about FGM and maternal health while also providing basic medical services like ultrasounds to expecting mothers.
This gave the visitors a taste of all the many local NGO’s and organizations Edna partners with in her tireless cause to improve the living conditions of women in particular and the population of Somaliland in general.