“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. There were about 52 Sierra Leonean doctors for a country of over six million people. The country’s preventive medical infrastructure had deteriorated leaving people vulnerable to polio until its eradication around 2003. Crippling clubfeet, debilitating hernias, various OBGYN maladies, and eye ailments, including cataracts, were and are still an accepted norm. 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. Hundreds of people each year 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 hernias, appendicitis, OBGYN issues including c-section delivery-births, cleft lip and palate, burns and other contractions, bone fracture, infections, tumors and growths. Medical treatments include malaria, typhoid, stomach ulcer, blood pressure control and more.