From groundbreaking to the laying of its foundation, to seeing cinderblock walls rise to support a pitched frame and the steel roof that would cover it, Westville and some New Haven supporters have cheered every stage of construction of a new health clinic located more than 5,000 miles away — one which they helped make happen.
Now there’s more work to do.
By American standards, the life-saving health clinic built in Ejemekwuru, Imo State, Nigeria, was not expensive; $30,000, or about the cost of constructing a two-car garage. Completed on Jan.y 12, 2016 under the auspices of Marycare Inc., originally a New Haven-based 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, the clinic has had a profound and ongoing impact on the isolated and under-served region.
Marycare, Inc., was founded in 1986 by the late Anne Bates of New Haven and her father, the late G. Wallace Bates. After a lifetime of humanitarian and spiritual service, Anne Bates passed away in 2016. The work of work of the organization has continued under the leadership of its president, Rev. Emmanuel Ihemedu PhD (Called Fr. Emmanuel), former assistant pastor of Saints Aedan & Brendan Parish in New Haven, and current pastor of St. Justin-St. Michael Parish in Hartford.
The vision and need for a health clinic was presented to Westville parishioners after they offered a send-off gift to Fr. Emmanuel upon his reassignment from Westville to Hartford Parishes several years ago. Fr. Emmanuel’s desire to save lives informed his request to appreciative parishioners to help build a health clinic in his hometown of Ejemekwuru, where infant mortality rates soared and preventable waterborne diseases were claiming lives every day — including the life of his own sister.
A “Village to Village” fundraiser held in 2009 in Westville, by a group of St. Aedan parishioners and friends in support of Marycare and its overseas programs, has come full circle over the last nine years. The organization’s mission which seeks to “break the vicious cycle of poverty in communities that are isolated and marginalized because of their ethnic and socio-economic origins through programs of education, infrastructure improvements, agriculture and economic development” continues to be realized with the Marycare Health Clinic as a centerpiece of the mission.
Fr. Emmanuel, who visited the clinic last December for three weeks to oversee Marycare projects in Ejemekwuru and to reconnect with his family, recently reminded supporters and the charitably-minded that the work, and mission, is not finished: “The Marycare Health Center is only a building if we cannot fund the staffing and medical supplies to treat the sick, educate moms-to-be, and dispense nutritional advice,” he said in a newsletter.
While in Ejemekwuru, Fr. Emmanuel also visited Marycare’s Skill Acquisition Program, which supports training for workers in woodworking, motor mechanics, and other skilled jobs along with providing essential tools for the respective trades.
In a recent press statement, Fr. Emmanuel noted the persistent challenges that face the impoverished, most often, through no fault of their own: “Many people in the isolated district of Ejemekwuru are poor, not because of their moral failure; they are poor because they inherited generational poverty. This is what Warren Buffet meant when he said that being poor or rich is often a function of an ‘Ovarian Lottery.’”
To be sure, the Marycare Health Clinic has achieved an impressive record of health care service in its short existence, registering over 3,000 patients, more than 700 of whom are children. Treated diseases have included diabetes, hypertension, peptic ulcer disease, malaria, typhoid, stroke, inflammatory and respiratory diseases along with myriad infections that threaten quality of life. Antenatal care has been provided with one reported delivery.
An upcoming fundraiser dubbed “It takes a Village to Help a Village Fundraiser,” will help Marycare address the pervasive issues of poor health and poverty in Ejemekwuru and surrounding areas. The event, open to the public, will be held at St Thomas More’s Joseph Golden Center (Center Hall) at 268 Park St., Friday, April 13, from 5:30 —9:00 PM, and continues a Marycare fundraising tradition with entertainment, cocktails, art, indigenous crafts, and a silent auction. Event guest speaker will be Dr. Linda Kelly, retired president of the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving.
In advance of Marycare’s annual fundraiser, Fr. Emmanuel created a donation campaign page on Facebook to urge continued support for the health clinic, especially for those unable to attend the fundraising event. “No matter the amount, do not look down on your donation … If you think that your donation is only a drop in the bucket and that it won’t make any difference, you are wrong. That we can’t help everyone does not mean we should help no one. Remember, buckets are filled with tiny drops. ... I am appealing to the best part of you as a child of humanity to continue to help us sustain our projects as we provide medical supplies, and staff for the Health Center.”