“The rewards of my volunteer work in Sierra Leone are priceless,” said Tom Johnson. Tom’s original mission in Sierra Leone was as a volunteer in the Peace Corps during 1989-1991, when he was working with farmers on tree crops and beekeeping projects.
The civil war that ravaged the country until 2001 reached Tom’s region 6 months after he completed his tour of duty. This war was known as the “blood-diamond war” because it was mostly funded by illicitly smuggled diamonds. It was identified by the United Nations as the most brutal war of the 1990’s. It saw the maiming and killing of thousands of people. Tom returned at the end of the war in December 2001, to help a friend restore his beekeeping project. He found a country whose farming and educational system had been disrupted and whose already weak medical infrastructure had been mostly destroyed. When Tom saw the great need for medical assistance, he began to facilitate health care and surgeries with a local physician. As a faithful parishioner of the Assumption Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Morristown, NJ, Tom enlisted the help of the pastor to raise money and fund his passion for helping the people of Sierra Leone. Thus, Africa Surgery was born, a not-for-profit organization, incorporated in the State of New Jersey, registered with the Federal Government as a 501 (c) 3 in February 2007. It’s hard to believe that in a country with six-million people there are only a handful of orthopedic surgeons. Most of the money that Tom raises funds spinal surgeries for many people, especially children. The country’s preventive medical infrastructure had deteriorated leaving people vulnerable to polio and tuberculosis among other illnesses and maladies. If left untreated, tuberculosis often invades the spine causing Pott’s disease (painful fractures of the spine), often resulting in paralysis and ultimately death. The funding pays for: transportation to the FOCOS Hospital in the neighboring country of Ghana, hospital stays, necessary treatment to restore patients to health with post surgical care. These procedures enjoy a very high success rate. Africa Surgery has also been getting assistance for many people in need of care and surgeries other than spinal at medical facilities in Sierra Leone. Some of these conditions are: treatment of club feet, debilitating hernias, various OBGYN maladies, and eye surgeries, including cataracts, at the Baptist Eye Hospital. Hundreds of people have been the recipients of Africa Surgery’s collaborative efforts with the Holy Spirit Hospital of Makeni and other medical facilities. Some of the surgical treatments include conditions such as cleft lip and palate, burns and other contractions, bone fracture, infections, tumors and growths.