Liberia: United States Ambassador's Self-Help Fund Resuscitates Community Clinic in Paynesville

Paynesville — On Wednesday, May 12 was a day full of joy for the management of the 'Look to Jesus Medical and Laboratory Clinic'; a private health center in Paynesville during the visit of United States Ambassador Michael McCarthy.

The facility is a beneficiary of the Ambassador's Special Self-Help (SSH) Fund, a grassroots assistance program launched by the United States Government since 1964.

The SSH Fund allows the Ambassador to respond directly to requests from communities for small-scale, community-based development projects that promise to have immediate impact.

Speaking to reporters following a tour of the facility on Wednesday, Ambassador McCarthy said he was impressed with the level of work done at the center and pledged the U.S. Government's continued commitment to support community-driven initiatives.

He said the clinic was chosen because it met all of the criteria, especially the management's ability to raise US$11,000 all by itself before applying for the grant.

He said: "We are looking for direct assistance to community based organizations. What we really found inspiring here is the fact that she (the owner) raised US$11,000... We see our money as helping Liberians who are helping Liberians. We want to give them a little boost."

Speaking further, he said the Ambassador's SSH Fund has assisted community groups in Liberia to develop lasting, self-sustaining projects that benefit entire communities. These projects, he added, have contributed to agricultural modernization, economic development, improving sanitation, and empowering vulnerable populations including women, youth and persons with disabilities. Each year, the SSH Fund supports approximately 12 to 15 projects with the awarding of grants between US$1,000 to US$10,000.

Also speaking, the owner of the clinic, Madam Helen M. Bongay, flanked by her staff, thanked the U.S. Embassy for the support to the clinic. She said prior to the intervention, the clinic was closed down in 2018 due to the lack of funding.

However, with support from the Ambassador's SSH Fund, the management was able to refurbish and extend the facility by adding a delivery room, beds, mattresses and other essential materials.

72nd community is one of the densely populated areas in Paynesville. She said about 360 patients visit the clinic on a monthly basis, with at least 12 patients per day. But with the extension of the facility, she noted that the number of patients is expected to increase.

"We were not able to continue running this place because of financial problem. But we raised some money and with the funding from the Embassy, we are able to reopen. We are grateful and overjoyed for this enormous support," she said.

Funding Activities

According to the U.S. Embassy, the SSH Fund is specifically for development projects, including small scale construction projects (clinics, latrines, hand pumps), short-term skill development initiatives such as the provision of school furniture or textbooks. It also supports economic development projects that increase a community's financial resources for undertaking self-help projects on their own.

However, the Embassy noted that scholarships, workshop, seminars, athletic/recreational projects, political, religious and military activities or government support cannot be funded by the SSH Fund.

Selection criteria

To be selected for the SSH Fund, recipients should demonstrate a clear plan for sustainable activity or impact after the grant period, and beneficiaries should be able to contribute, the Embassy noted. In addition, the project should benefit the greatest number of people possible or has a significant community effect, the project should be completed within one year, and the recipient should have the expertise and be able to demonstrate the ability to perform the proposed activity.

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