In conjunction with the Drexel University WeServe program and the Drexel University School of Public Health, we will be traveling to Gambia (West Africa) this summer to do work on a number of public health projects related to maternal and child health, HIV/AIDS prevention & education, and chronic disease management.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Building, Bridging, & Bonding

Last week the L.O.V.E. Abroad team separated. Tomi and Idris accompanied Shirin and Dr. Allen on their first trekking endeavor. They left early in the morning to meet Mr. Badgie, CEO of Sulayman Junkung General Hospital. While touring SJGH they were introduced to the hospital procedures and operations, as well as visited the medical school where past WeServe participants set up the virtual library for e-learning and other telecommunication. Shirin and Dr. Allen also saw the library that was implemented by the first WeServe participants. After the hospital tour, the group went trekking in Kanilai. Dr. Allen was taken back by the many idle machines that could have been used by the trekking staff. When Tomi and Idris asked both Shirin and Dr. Allen about their overall thoughts of their experience, they responded by saying they were astounded by the staffs resourcefulness. It was nice for the L.O.V.E. members to see their Drexel colleagues experience similar situations that they had been accustomed to!

The second half of the L.O.V.E. team  (Greg, Lauren, and Tosin) assisted Dr. Marquez in a meeting with The University of The Gambia (UTG). The whole UTG administration team, press, and faculty was in attendance including the Gambia newspaper, the Daily Observer. The L.O.V.E. team was amazed to find out that Dr. Marquez had previously taught many of the faculty and administration that now run the University including the head of the public health department. The purpose of the meeting was to sign a memorandum of understanding to strengthen the relationship with the Drexel University’s partnership with the University of The Gambia. The event was so important to the Gambian community, it was a featured section in The Observer (a popular local newspaper) where some of the L.O.V.E. team members were pictured at the signing ceremony.

The meeting led to a collaboration dinner to introduce all participating university’s including the University of Iowa, Drexel University, and University of The Gambia. During this dinner, the L.O.V.E. Abroad team was able to mingle with other students from Iowa and South Dakota and hear about their experiences and work within the Gambia. The whole team, as well as the entire Drexel faculty, was able to share their purpose and goals in working with the University of The Gambia.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Drexel Arrives in The Gambia

Sunday afternoon, L.O.V.E. Abroad greeted Dr. Marquez, the Director of Global Health Intiatives and Shirin Karsan, the director of the Drexel WeServe Program.  They also had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Fred Allen, professor in the Biomedical Engineering department at Drexel, and his wife, Dr. Lynne Edwards of Ursinus College. The team was very excited to see some friendly and familiar faces and welcome them to The Gambia. Much needed snacks were given to the team as their previous supply had run out weeks ago.  Dr. Marquez quickly noticed that the members of the group had gotten a lot of sun while being out in the village.  A weeks worth of planned meetings and cultural activities was also a part of the highly anticipated meeting and they were very excited to see us all and hear how things were going.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Vaccine Vials and Syringes in the Hallway...we are currently working with some of the hosptial staff on ways to manage such clinical waste appropriately

Tosin, during our assessment of the pharmacy.

Tosin helping Dr. Camara with an extraction in the dental clinic.

Group meeting with Matthew, one of the head nurses in the outpatient department.

The girls with the staff from the dental and eye clinics.

One of the 8 trekking sites that the hospital visits to provided care to children under 5 and administer vaccines.

Tosin and Lauren at the Somita Clinic, helping Kalilu, a public health worker, administer vaccinations.

The team, rocking our Drexel polos.

Tomi, helping Dr. Camara in the dental clinic.


Heading into the trip Tomi, Tosin, and Idris solely focused on implementing an electronic medical record system. However, due to the needs of the community and hospital alike, their projects were altered where they are now taking a systematic approach on improving the efficiency of health services. Likewise, Greg, who envisioned tracking the prevelance of HIV and malaria amongst the individual villages the hospital serves, has found that there are inadequate statistical measures in place to do so. Therefore, his project has shifted into helping the medical record department to track common diseases' incidence and prevelance per respective village through developing an excel statistical modeling platform. Lauren has been working primarily with the public health officers trekking team, assisting with immunization record keeping and birth registrations for children under 5.  Originally she planned to focus on maternal mental health and the factors influencing that, as well as its implications on childhood development.  However, since then her focus has shifted to a general assessment of maternal and child health services offered by the hospital with regards to efficiency, quality, and satisfaction.  Additionally, she has been working to promote health education among village women on a number of MCH topics and exploring the cultural factors in the Gambia that influence maternal and child health.

While working on our respective projects, we have also delved into other pressing issues that impact the hospital.  Approached by Hassan, a nursing student with Junkung, we learned that the hospital is inadequately disposing  both clinical and non-clinical waste. In Hassan's situational analysis, he specifically noted the lack of waste bins,inefficient dumping/ incineration site, and poor cohesiveness amongst environmental safety staff to collect waste from respective wards. After our meeting, we visited the make-shift dumping site behind the hospital which resembled a messy graveyard scattered with smold-ering used syringes, broken glass vials, and other indiscernible garbage. In the days to follow, as requested by Hassan,we brainstormed ideas on how to address this important issue.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Week 3

Rain, Rain, Go Away!! The rainy season is here in the Gambia and so is Malaria season! The L.O.V. E crew experienced their first torrential downpour of this season. Rains so loud you cant hear yourself think, and thunder so long that it seems like an echo. Although the rain may seem like it's bit of a hindrance from their work, it has made a significant difference in cooling down the climate! The L.O.V. E team often catches themselves just listening and watching the rain come down in what seems like buckets! The rain has also increased the L.O.V. E team's "family time" in the house, allowing them to watch movies, Oprah, play "UNO", and just talk about a numerous amount of topics. One of the first battles they have experienced with the rain is, its aftermath. The army of bugs and animals trying to come in and escape has been nothing less of a battle between man versus insects! Tomi, Lauren, and Tosin had an insecticide war with some peculiar flying ant-worm things! Thankfully, man won this fight and they figured out a way to prevent these insects from invading the house. Meanwhile Greg and Idris have been on Promtherin duty, spraying down the perimeter of their home in order to keep bugs OUT! The rain has had its good and bad effects, but one thing is for sure...they definitely did not bring enough OFF!!

After the last rain storm, the L.O.V. E crew went down to the river with their guide Sanna. It was about a 30-minute hike from SJGH hospital. On the way, the crew walked through villages, saw, colorful insects, and observed the nature that guided their way to the Gambian River. They noticed how close they were to the river by the sudden appearance of green grass that accompanied their journey. Idris and Tomi noticed a weird and slow movement across the shore, and after taking a closer look, noticed a ton of hermit crabs and regular crabs moving together! One thing the crew couldn't help but notice was how deserted and abandoned the river was. Deteriorated boats bordered the perimeter and dead fish and crabs were being washed upon the shore in handfuls. After they reached their destination Sanna explained how people use the river to travel, swim and to fish. It was cool to see the place where a lot of Gambians go to provide for their families and use as recreation.

After the L.O.V.E crew's weekly meeting with Mr. Badgie, they all came to the consensus that it would be a good idea to visit other local hospitals. This would help the team assess and compare the functionality of how other hospital systems work.  It was decided that they would visit 2 hospitals in Sara Kunda and the Royal Victoria hospital in Banjul. The L.O.V.E team plans on touring and observing these hospitals for two days to just gain a better understanding of how the healthcare system in Gambia works.  


The L.O.V.E Abroad team experienced their first Gambian market. It was a hot and humid Saturday afternoon and the L.O.V.E team was very excited to start haggling and purchasing souvenirs for their loved ones and supporters. Upon entering, they were engulfed by the immediate atmosphere of the market. It didn't take much to notice that the 5 of them were foreigners and the vendors were very very happy to see new customers in their "off" season. Idris wasted no time finding a shop of African clothes owned by a vivacious Gambian woman. Idris and Tomi immediately began showcasing their haggling skills in order to buy a few of her products for reasonable prices.

Meanwhile, Tosin ran into another merchant who went by the name "Mama Africa". She was lively and very eager to see someone interested in her jewelry. Shortly after meeting Mama Africa, she referred to Tosin as her daughter and made it her duty to make sure Tosin met all of her friends and visited their shops as well. Something that stood out to Tosin was that Mama Africa kept saying "we are all family, we help each other out.” Although all of the vendors were ultimately competing for customers, there was still a sense of community. 

After cautiously assessing the market (like a true statistician), Greg entered a vendors shop in order to buy a few trinkets. He displayed a very calm and cool demeanor while talking down the price of his souvenirs. Greg was able talk down the vendor of what he wanted to very reasonable prices, and he was very pleased with his performance.

Mama Africa saw Tomi and realized that Tosin was her sister and immediately made them meet her sister Nay. She quickly took it upon herself to guide them through the market and “take care of her daughters”. Mama Africa noticed Tomi and Greg talking to one another and inquired to Tomi if Greg was her husband! Tomi replied, “No” and laughed it off with a good sense of humor.

Meanwhile, the sea of vendors had submerged Lauren from the moment the L.O.V.E team walked in, and she had moved to the opposite side of the market. Lauren was pulled into many different shops by the ecstatic vendors and she ended up buying a few goodies from her new friends.

 After the L.O.V.E team was finished shopping (to the dismay of the vendors) they felt a sense of friendship with the different vendors they had encountered. They reassured them that they would undoubtedly be back to buy more souvenirs. This was definitely an experience of a lifetime!! MARKET MANIA!!

Sunday, June 24, 2012


Thursday was the first day we split up. Tomi and Idris went to the kombos (downtown Banjul) with the hospital team. They initially thought it was going to be a straight trip there and back, but were quickly introduced to the common practice of providing rides into town for the locals. Tomi was asked to help one of the passengers by holding their baby the entire way. This all-day event included picking up medicine for the hospital, purchasing food for the canteen, and a manhunt for fans for our home. After a long hunt and a lot of haggling, they got the fans! After returning, they were welcomed by no electricity, so we played the card game "UNO" with  neighbors by lantern light for a few hours until the light came back on and we could finally use the new fans!

Tosin spent the afternoon at the dental clinic with Dr. Camara. It was very busy and fast paced. The dental clinic has one machine that is used just like the machine in the States. Unfortunately, it was broken due to the light problems so she was forced to use tools manually. It was really amazing for Tosin to see how the machine being broken did not stop or dishearten the doctor. She got to assist with the pulling of the left lower quadrant premolar. The patients tooth was rotting and was becoming infected. She showed Tosin how to locally anesthetize patients' gums to pull teeth without pain. Tosin also helped with just regular teeth cleaning. When Tosin asked Dr. Camara what would make her job easier, she responded by saying she is running low on basic supplies like toothbrushes,toothpaste, floss, and mouthwash. This is an easy enough wish to grant. Hopefully Love Abroad supporters can do something to help! 

Lauren went with the team of public health officers to issue birth certificates to parents in nearby villages. While in the villages, Lauren assisted the UNICEF officers as they determined the eligibility of those wanting to receive these certificates. In the Gambia, obtaining a birth certificate for children is important to receiving general services from the government.  This was a day long process because there were several villages in each district to be visited and each village had at least 10 children to be registered.  The people were very welcoming and thankful; they provided lunch for the team and snacks of groundnuts (peanuts) and mangos.  This is an important and ongoing project that will benefit lives of Gambian children and their families.

Greg and Tosin visited the HIV clinic With the supervisor Agie Bintou. They spoke with her about what it's like running an HIV campaign in Gambia. Greg asked her a number of questions about what would help her job easier. She responded by saying that a major issue for her is that information is always changing and being updated and because of this its hard for her to stay current with the information. She said she wishes there was a system that she could go on that would continuously update about any HIV information so she can stay current. They also talked about HIV stigmas in Gambia and how that affects treatment. Agie had a lot of great ideas about HIV interventions and campaigns. Her only deterrent was her resources. We are hoping to help her out any way we can!

Saturday, June 23, 2012


Week 1 has come to an end and we all now have Gambian names! The hospital dentist, Dr. Camara, named Greg (Mustapha) and Tosin (Khaddy). Our neighbor and friend, Kutubo named Tomi (Fatima) and Lauren (Mariama). Idris was named (Alieu) by one of the UNICEF Public Health officers during some rounds.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Live from Gambia

We arrived into The Gambia Monday night and were abruptly introduced into the fast-pace hustle and bustle flow of a Gambian airport. We were soon surrounded by a number of taxi drivers and vendors trying to help us find our destination. After about 20 minutes of unease and slight worry, we finally found Mr. Kebba Badgie, CEO of the Sulayman Junkung General Hospital (SJGH). He introduced us to one of the hospital drivers, Mr. Ibrahim Tall who drove us to the Leybato Hotel where we spent the night. In the morning Mr. Tall took us to the market in Banjul. There we stocked up on water, food, phones, and other house needs.

Our first day we were caught off guard as we entered our three bedroom flat on the SJGH grounds. As we began to acclimate to our very modest living environment, we encountered a number of unforeseen impediments that catalyzed our bonding process. It began with the heat. Not your regular run of the mill, sunbathe on the beach, water ice from Rita’s heat, but the unforgiving, hot yoga type of heat that keeps you sweating like 711 (24/7). That was just the tip of the iceberg. No power, infestation of creatures, and most importantly NO RUNNING WATER soon followed.

Feeling exhausted and fed up from the night before, Mr. Badgie turned our spirits around and reminded us why we were here. His wise words accompanied by a kick of an ice cold soda provided the encouragement, excitement, and inspiration that will propel us forward on this 6-week journey.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Philly ->Newark ->Brussels->Gambia


We made it to Banjul, Gambia safely! Follow our twitter as we give updates on our journey (@loveabroad5). We'll continue to update as internet allows!

Saturday, June 9, 2012


We want to thank all of you who have been visiting this blog, expressing words of encouragement, and donating! Because of you, we have raised the funds needed to spread LOVE in The Gambia. Please continue to follow us on this blog, our twitter (@loveabroad5), and our Instagram (@loveabroad5). Again, THANK YOU!

Monday, April 30, 2012


Your tokens of support adds one more piece to the puzzle. Thank you for helping us #spreadLOVEabroad

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Early Childhood Development

Worldwide, more than 10 million children under age 5 die every year.  Many of these children die of malnutrition due to a lack of access to the nutrition that is necessary for their growing minds and bodies.  The vast majority of children and pregnant women in the Gambia are iodine deficient, which causes severe health and developmental problems.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Diabetes in The Gambia

In the industrialized countries diabetes is regarded as a common disease which, thanks to the well-structured health system can be successfully treated, Africa is facing a diabetes epidemic. According to information provided by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), in some parts of Africa up to 30% of the population has disturbed glucose tolerance. At the same time insulin is not available to the majority of people affected with diabetes, as the African health care system uses the largest part of the funds for fighting AIDS and malaria.


Saturday, March 10, 2012

Child and Maternal Health Issues

Bacterial infections and childbirth-related pelvic damage are especially common in women in rural Gambia. Fewer than HALF of the women with symptoms seek care, often because of anxiety and lack of knowledge.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Who You Are Supporting - Greg

Hey all! My name is Greg Bond and I hail from Baltimore, Maryland. I attended University of Maryland, College Park for my undergraduate degree where I studied Kinesiology. Here at Drexel, I am pursuing a Masters of Public Health with a concentration in Epidemiology.

Sparking my interest in the public health field was my trip to Kenya in 2010 where I conducted HIV/AIDS testing and counseling. I'd like to not only continue but also expand on this work in The Gambia. While in The Gambia, I want to research how people view HIV/AIDS, the stigma associated with the virus, accessibility of HIV/AIDS drugs, testing methods, and the effectiveness of education materials. Thanks for your interest in our endeavor!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Who You Are Supporting - Lauren

Hi everyone!  My name is Lauren Forbes and I’m from Portland, Oregon.  I recently graduated from Oregon State University with a B.S in biology and now I'm at Drexel University pursuing a Masters in Public Health with a concentration in Community Health and Prevention.   I’m also a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.  

I’ll be going to the Gambia because there is a critical need for public health outreach in the region, and as public health students, we have a unique opportunity to assist in meeting that need.  Maternal and Child Health, cross-cultural medicine and community development are the areas that I am most interested in and plan to focus on.  While in the Gambia, I’ll be working with the community health outreach sector, looking at the status of maternal mental health and early childhood development.  Through my work there, I hope to help contribute to the effectiveness and sustainability of MCH programs in the region.  This experience will not only be an invaluable growth opportunity for me personally and professionally, but it will also provide support for public health in the Gambia and facilitate lasting partnerships in the country.

To everyone who has supported us thus far, whether it was through a monetary donation or simply a word of encouragement, each and every one of you has helped to make this possible!  Thank you for your support!

Who You Are Supporting - Idris

Hey Guys!

I'm Idris Robinson from cheese steak capital of the world, Philadelphia, PA. I graduated from Virginia State University where I received my BS in Health Education. Currently I am a first-year Masters of Public Health student at Drexel University concentrating in Health Management and Policy. Among other things, I am a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated. Being a part of the oldest and most prestigious Black Greek Letter Organization, positioned me to experience firsthand several disparities that so many underserved populations are facing each day.

I am interested in doing my Community Based Masters Project in the Gambia. I will be focusing on promoting diabetes care and prevention and to help those affected by diabetes with medications and equipment which are hard to access in the Gambia. My objectives are (1) to provide resources such as medications, equipment, blood glucose meters, as well as providing information on a diabetic diet, blood glucose monitoring etc, and (2) to empower people to have control of their disease i.e through education and involving primary healthcare professionals and to make people aware of diabetes and provide counseling.

I feel very privileged to participate in this pioneer cohort for Drexel's global health expansion program. Most importantly, I am appreciative in advance for all of you are reading this that found it not robbery to support LOVE Abroad.

Thanks! 06


Many women, babies, and children die because of inadequate health care. In Gambia, over two-thirds of the deaths that occur take place during labor or shortly after delivery.

The infant mortality rate is estimated at 84 in 1000 live births. 60% of which is attributed to malaria, diarrheal diseases, malnutrition, neonatal sepsis and acute respiratory tract infections.

The maternal mortality ratio is 1 in 32 live births. The majority of which are due to sepsis, hemorrhage and eclampsia.

Who You Are Supporting!? -- Tosin

Hi yall!! My name is Tosin Seriki, I come from the great state of Texas! I graduated from the University of Missouri with a BA in Biology. I am part of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.; which helped stimulate my drive to serve all of mankind. I heard about the weServe program through the Global Health Initiative at Drexel. When I heard about the opportunity to go abroad and help start public health programs in Gambia, I was so motivated to be a part of it. My concentration is Health Management and Policy and I want to help manage a screening program for expecting mothers, while in Gambia. I am so excited to have been granted this once in a lifetime opportunity, and it would mean so much to me and my classmates if you would help support us! Thank you so much for your time! xoxox