Wellbody Heroes 9: Mani Kanda - Chief Security Guard

July 31 2015

Wellbody Hero of the Week:

Mani Kanda - Chief Security Guard

 

Seijiro Takahashi 

 

Introducing Mani:

Mani is a 45 year old from Kono District who is Wellbody Alliance's Chief Security Guard. He operates a small family farm with his wife and children in a village in Kono, and works at the Wellbody Clinic in the evenings. 

 

Mani Kanda - Wellbody's Chief Security Guard

 

Why his work is heroic:

Mani has been involved with Wellbody since its early days as a mobile clinic that served amputees in Sierra Leone. As a civil war amputee himself, Mani took up a leadership role within the local association of amputees, and helped to start a farm for Wellbody and to establish the very first building of the Wellbody Clinic in Kono. His contributions to Wellbody and Kono were recognized, and he was eventually hired as Wellbody's Chief Security Guard in January of 2014. Although Mani requested to speak in Krio during the interview, we ended up having a conversation in about equal parts English and Krio, with Edna (Wellbody's Partnerships Liasion and my correspondent in Kono) interpreting Mani's responses. Here's what he said!

 

Please tell me a bit about your background.

I am from Kono, and I'm a farmer – I have a small agricultural farm in my village. I am 45 years old, and during the war, they amputated me – you see (shows me his amputated right arm)?

I am married – I have one wife, who is also a farmer. I have two boys and one girl, aged 22 and 5 years, and 1 year and 3 months.

I have two brothers and one sister, and they're all in Kono. I see them every week and month, because they live in my village.

 

On my farm I raise rice, cocoa plants, coffee, and bananas. The cocoa plants and coffee are in separate patches. I dry and then sell the cocoa at the market. For the coffee beans, I parch dry the seeds over a fire, and pound them in a mortar. I make powder and make coffee from this powder. Coffee is also quite valuable to sell at the market.

 

The name “Mani” means the seventh-born boy.

 

Mani receives a work-related phone call.

 

Speaking with Edna (Wellbody's Partnerships Liaison and my interpreter):

We can list them (all of the names) if you want:

Sahr, Tamba, Aiah, Komba, Kai, Safea, Mani (from first-born to seventh-born). Those are the boys' names.

 

Mani returns to the conversation:

The girls' names are Sia, Kumba, Finda, Yei, Bondu, Fea (from first-born to sixth-born).

 

I never went to school, but when I went to the refugee land in 1998 in Guinea, I did adult education there, for just a little bit. I liked it, that's why I can speak English.

 

In Kono, before the war, life was fine, but...

I was fleeing to Guinea from Kono, and was captured by rebels during the trip, and my right arm was amputated by them. They left me lying there on the road, so some people picked me up and took me to Guinea, where I was treated. MSF (Doctors Without Borders) was in Guinea, between the Liberian and Sierra Leonean border. I spent three years in Guinea, then returned to Kono, where I restarted a small farm. I rehabilitated my plantation that I left when I fled to Guinea.

I returned to Kono in 2001, when I was 31 years old. With the help of my people, my wife, and my good friend, I rehabilitated my plantation. 

 

Mani gets another phone call.

 

Edna:

Can I send you pictures of my school, even though it doesn't have to do with Wellbody?

The school is for the children of single mothers, whose fathers had left them.

 

Mani returns: I'm back - your friend Mani is back. I will drink my cold water.

 

Mani drinks his cold water from a bottle.

Edna shows me the freezer where the water is kept.

 

How or why did you become involved with Wellbody Alliance?

It's a long story. In Koidu Town, I made an organization for amputees and the war-wounded. There were a lot of war-wounded individuals at that time. We started small farms – as an organization, we started a small cassava garden in 2004. From there, we sat down together, and agreed upon a certain amount to contribute to start a rice farm. We started to farm rice in 2006.

During that time, the government of Sierra Leone started distributing tractors. They gave us one tractor for our organization, so we plowed the farm. When it came time to harvest, we saw a small organization called Wellbody. Wellbody's mobile clinic visited the amputee camp, and asked us what we needed, so we said that we need medicine.

So, in 2006, Wellbody donated one million Leones to our organization to help harvest the rice farm – to pay the workers, since we the amputees couldn't harvest the rice ourselves.

Wellbody would visit once per month. At that time, they treated us on cost recovery – we didn't pay much. Two thousand leones for medicine – a whole lot of medicine – boku boku medicine.

 

After that, they asked if we could help find a small amount of land to build a clinic. We asked the local chief to provide the land that the Wellbody Clinic is now built upon.

So they built the clinic, a small one, with one building, and we started to get treatment there. The first name [of the clinic] was “Amputee Clinic.” At that time, others came and paid a little – small amounts of money – but the amputees did not pay ever. Even now, we still don't pay, and our dependents also don't pay.

So after that (after they built the clinic), I went back to my village and took care of my garden between 2010 and 2014. I was taking care of my cocoa and my coffee gardens. I was surprised when one early morning in 2014, when I was working on my garden, I received a call from Wellbody on the phone that they gave to me. I was asked if I wanted to work for Wellbody as a security guard.

 

So Wellbody recognizes the amputees. The amputees have been working alongside Wellbody.

We had fifty acres of farmland to farm palm kernels – to provide oil.

They already had planted twelve acres out of the fifty acres, which was started by Wellbody in 2009. I was the volunteer supervisor for the laborers at the farm. So when I went back home in 2010, they recognized me and called me, because of my good work as a volunteer (laughing).

So that's how I came to Wellbody to work.

I came here to Wellbody in January of 2014.

 

Why did they ask you to be a security guard?

They needed a person, because there was some theft, so Wellbody said we need security.

 

Please tell me about your experiences as Wellbody's Chief Security Guard.

What have been your biggest challenges? What were the biggest learning experiences?

There have been no problems – I now so like the work. I see Wellbody starting to grow.

I'm the Chief Security Guard – there are three other men working with me.

There have never been any thefts since we've started working, and every property is secure.

 

Have you learned anything on the job?

Yes, yes – I learned something from my colleague security guards from the Red Cross ETC (Ebola Treatment Center), which is very close to the Wellbody Clinic.

The senior security guard there told me, when you are on patrol and you notice a person or a thing, to never point the torch light at them until you are very sure that yes, this is a human being – capture that this is a person before pointing the light.

Once you are sure that it's a person, point the torch at them, right in the face. Then the suspect gets confused with the bright light in their eyes. If you point first without being sure, then they will run.

 

The second one, I have my mobile phone. When I'm on duty now, I have my security group around me. I take their numbers with me, so if I ever see something, I will call them and say, “Come, come!”

 

Mani Kanda - Wellbody's Chief Security Guard

 

Please describe to me a day in the life of Mani. What do you do on a typical work day, from start to finish?

I report to work by 6 ~ 7 PM. I'm on the night shift. I walk one mile from my home to the clinic. If I take an okada (motorbike), I must pay four thousand Leones for a roundtrip. That's expensive. When I come [to the clinic], I start to walk around, checking if the door is locked, if the gate is locked.

 

Then I look around the compound, checking for whatever is left outside with the other men. I distribute them to different points and remind them to put their phones on, so I can call them at any time, in case anything happens.

 

From 8 PM – 12 AM, I keep the guys moving from point to point. They move around the compound. I finish my shift at 5 ~ 6 AM.

 

That's a long time to be on duty.

Yes, long long.

 

A few days ago, somebody, a contractor, forgot a tool. So I took the tool and kept it safe.

 

That was nice of you.

It's a part of my job.

 

At 6 AM, I pray as a Christian at the Wellbody Clinic. I de pray for my life, and for Wellbody to grow.

I pray, and all of my life, I will measure into my prayer.

My life, and all night, that there were no problems for my children and my wife and my country Sierra Leone, and my district Kono – all this I measure into my prayer.

 

After I pray, I walk home.

Then I sleep. I wake up by 2 PM, and prepare myself, clean my compound at my house, and work on my farm.

 

02:00:00 PM

Wake up; clean compound of house; work on farm

06:00:00 ~ 07:00:00 PM

Arrive at Wellbody Clinic by foot

~ 07:00:00 – 08:00:00 PM

Check that door and gate are locked; walk around the compound with other security guards

08:00:00 PM – 12:00:00 AM

Security guards patrol the compound

05:00:00 ~ 06:00:00 AM

Finish shift; pray; go home and sleep

 

Edna and Mani ask me about my religion.

Are you a Christian?

 

I go to church, but I'm not sure.

What denomination?

 

Episcopalian.

You go to church, so then you should have decided in your mind.

 

Does your dad go? Do you ever pray?

 

Not really. Only when I'm ill.

(Laughs) There you go. Only when you're ill, you pray, "So God help me."

 

In your eyes, what is the purpose of a Wellbody Security Guard?

One - as a security guard, I'm taking care of and securing all of Wellbody's property, so I feel great because things are safe.

Two - people will benefit from treatment. We have a new building, a Delivery Center since I started work here.

 

Why is the presence of security important, in this context?

What makes security important? Thousands of people benefit from this clinic.

It's necessary to have security because the presence of security will help other people to not spoil or destroy the good things that Wellbody has on the land. Apart from the building, there are fruit trees. Street boys would enter the compound to pick fruit, but security is around, and they secure the compound.

There are mangos and avocado pears – everybody shares these fruits at the clinic.

 

What is the most rewarding part of your work?

My presence as a security guard is very good, because when things are intact the work will carry on, the Wellbody program will carry on.

If equipment inside the lab, the machines, the reagents are not secure or are stolen, people will not be looked after, and people won't be able to get tested, and at the pharmacy, people won't get medicines.

Because I'm here, people can come here and get their treatment. That's a very rewarding thing.

 

It involves a lot of sacrifice to be a security guard, because a place like Wellbody where we have a lot of valuable things, someone will want to come and take things by force. Sometimes the thief would harm you, or if they go away with whatever, they'll blame you and you'll lose your job. Security work is not easy at all. Mosquitos bite me, I don't get to sleep through the night, it's cold, et cetera.

 

What motivates you to do your work, despite it being a difficult profession?

I love my country, my land, and I want my people in Kono to get treatment at Wellbody.

 

What do you notice that's changed in Kono?

An example – Wellbody is here now. PIH (Partners In Health) is working side-by-side with Wellbody.

There's development at KGH with the involvement of Wellbody and PIH.

 

In your opinion, what does Kono need most right now?

Medicine, health, broadband, children – all these things we need in Kono. Medicine and education and good roads. My organization of amputees, we need help. Some of my amputee colleagues have no shelter. So we need help here.

 

What personal advice do you have for those who want to help individuals in Kono District?

If anyone comes to help Kono, from anywhere – come direct to Kono.

Ask any of the amputees, anyone here, and they will tell you that we can fight for a chance to help Kono. An example is Wellbody's farm.

For anybody who wants to help Kono, then come here. Come meet Kono people and the amputee organization.

 

What is your favorite thing about Kono?

I didn't admire anything here. But now I see small changes coming.

Kono is a marginalized place. Really. There are a lot of problems here. We have no good roads, no water, no university, et cetera, et cetera.

Because of the diamonds, a lot of foreigners came to take away Kono's wealth. There was nothing to admire here.

But now, I see a lot of foreigners here. There are people here – Wellbody and PIH came to Kono to help people and to give free treatment.

 

What do you enjoy doing for fun? What are your favorite activities?

When I go into my garden, I admire my plantation. When I go into my garden, I feel good. When I see my plants growing, and when I play with my plants, it makes me happy.

 

I also love football. Too much, yes. It encourages my life. When I see them (others) play football in the field, I exercise my body there (on the sidelines). I'm always around them.

 

What are your passions? What do you really care about?

My family, community, the amputee organization, for the government to help with community development. I want to see the community grow – that's why I am one man who stood firm for Wellbody to acquire this land. And today, I'm happy because many are benefiting from this clinic.

 

Mani Kanda - Wellbody's Chief Security Guard

 

What is something that most people don't know about you?

I have a good plan within myself that people don't know. One thing that I'm thinking of in my mind, is that Kono should have the BEST hospital in the country. And I am one man that thinks good about Kono. With all the diamonds and other minerals, Kono is zero. On top of all of the districts, Kono should be at the top for development.

 

What are three of your favorites?

1. According to the Bible, I love my fellow man. I care for other people.

2. Medical facilities, to care for the sick.

3. I like education. With no education, I would not be a security guard. If I were further educated, maybe I would've been a big man. My father died when I was a small boy. So I've missed my father for a long time. In 1991, I lost my mom [so I couldn't pursue an education].

 

Who is your own hero or heroes? How come you admire this person?

Dr. Barrie (Wellbody's co-founder). When Dan (Wellbody's co-founder) came to Sierra Leone, Dr. Barrie took him to Kono to find the amputees, so Dr. Barrie is my hero.

Before, we (the amputees) would go begging on the streets, but with Wellbody we are much more secure. Some of our own colleagues are sitting at home – even though they are capable of working, they are unemployed. So we need to create jobs for them.

 

What are your plans for the future? What are your goals? What do you most look forward to?

I would like Kono to be changed to a good place.

 

A final message for the readers of this blog.

What Wellbody has started needs to be buttressed.

When you (the reader) read this blog, I hope that it will encourage you to donate to sponsor the Wellbody program, so that the clinic will be changed to a hospital. We are getting people from the town bordering Guinea and Sierra Leone, who come here for treatment. A lot more people will come here.

 

I'm happy about this blog series. I'm happy for you (Seiji) because you chose to do this series, because from this series, people will learn a lot about Wellbody, Kono, and Sierra Leone, which will lead to development.

Don't forget about the amputees and Kono.

Please say hi to your dad and mom from me.

 

Thank you for sharing your story, Mani!