Monday , August 11, 2014 - 10:42 AM
OGDEN -- Joan Effiong knows well the problems faced by people in Nigeria.
After all, she was raised there.
But having been adopted into the United States, becoming an American citizen and enjoying the benefits and wealth of society here, Effiong has been working to give something back to her home country.
Eight years ago, Effiong started a foundation, JENAR, that raises money to fund projects in Nigeria and to travel there to oversee projects as needed.
She and her husband, Richard Effioing, have traveled to Nigeria on several occasions to oversee projects funded by JENAR.
“We want to live as Jesus lived,” Joan Effiong said. “We want to serve the poor as he did. He was always surrounded by poor people he served.”
With no middle class in Nigeria, Joan Effiong said the medical needs of the many poor are overwhelming.
“If you have to choose between buying food and buying medication, which one do you do?” she said.
“They will stay home and try to manage their symptoms or turn to alternative medicine. They wait for a medical emergency and then go to a medical facility.”
But the woman said going to a overstretched medical facility as a poor person can be frustrating and non-effective.
“You can go and sit there all day from morning until night,” she said. “The doctors are overwhelmed. They don’t get to see you.”
The two plan a trip in October that will be a joint venture with the Efik National Association, Inc., which is an American organization with a goal of helping Nigerians.
“It all hinges on would it be safe?” she said about the planned trip, noting the outbreak of the Ebola virus there among other places.
She and other organizers will be keeping watch on news stories up until they have to make a decision about the trip.
She said she has big plans for the venture if the trip is possible.
The plans include continued work to sterilize and fix up an abandoned hospital so it can be used now as a follow-up clinic for those who visit doctors as provided by the mission and other services.
“We go on our medical mission and there is no follow-up,” Richard Effiong said. “We realize the follow-up is very necessary.”
The two said often medical care is compromised when patients do not have access to follow-up care. They believe such a facility will save lives.
Each time the two visit, they do all they can to help as many as possible but they said their limitations sometimes are frustrating.
“After two weeks, we still find people,” Richard said of those they run into who need medical care. “There is nothing you can do,” he said, noting the time restraints at the end of a trip. “It’s so highly emotional.”
But he said focusing on what actually is accomplished brings peace.
“There is always that good feeling,” he said.
And Joan Effiong said taking her children along on missions trips has proved valuable in teaching them to appreciate what they have in the United States.
“My kids looked at this with tears running down. They see how other people live their lives,” she said.
A number of donors have taken in Joan Effiong’s foundation over the years, including two churches.
Effiong’s own church, the First United Methodist Church, has helped her from the start.
Included in the efforts of the members there is a tradition of adopting one non-profit organization a month. Once a year, it is JENAR’s turn and Effiong said members give generously.
Members also help her organize her annual fundraiser, now in its fourth year.
But the facilities at First United Methodist Church aren’t as amenable as those of the First Presbyterian Church, which has adopted Effiong’s cause in allowing her to hold her fundraiser there in the gym.
This year’s fourth annual version of her fundraiser was held Saturday at the First Presbyterian Church, located at 880 28th Street and the public is invited.
For more information about JENAR, visit http://jenarfoundation.blogspot.com/.
You may reach JaNae Francis at 801-625-4228. Follow her on Twitter at JaNaeFrancisSE. Like her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SEJaNaeFrancis.
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