Friday, December 15, 2006

Pikin Bizness

«What’s the use of money if you can’t do good things with it,» asks Sierra Leonean businessman Adonis Abboud behind his characteristic smile and loud necktie. Abboud, a well-known personality in bustling Freetown, is owner of the local DSTV cable franchise as well as the private radio station, Capital Radio, which revolutionizing the airwaves with West Africa’s first traffic and weather reports. With a head for business and a heart for Sierra Leone’s children, Aboud has forged a new ethic into local commerce.

«Ask yourself this: if you had a hundred dollars less and helped save a child, would you be any worse off?» That’s the key to Pikin Bizness, Adonis’s greatest contribution to his adopted country – he immigrated from Lebanon 30 years ago. Pikin Bizness, or children’s affairs in the local kreo dialect is the non-profit organisation Aboud founded to save Sierra Leone’s chronically ill or orphaned children.

Polio, malaria, tuberculosis, leprosy, you name it, and Abboud’s outfit is making contributions.

Pikin Bizness is funded by local donations, benefit functions, and gifts-in-kind from local businesses, such as Yazbek Travel agency which has shared travel costs with SN Brussels in bringing three children with heart disease to Belgium and France for emergency heart operations.

In 2005 Pikin Bizness joined forces with the socially-conscious advertising agency AnglophoneMedia, which operates in Paris, Dakar, and Boston. Its first project was to find help for six year old Abubacar Jalloh, the Freetown boy born with a hole in his heart and who had six months to live. A local newspaper article in The Exclusive ran a short story and AnglophoneMedia picked it up. Soon, ministers and ambassadors were all saying «something must be done.»

An Aviation without Borders volunteer escorted the frail Abubakar on the SN Brussels flight to Brussels with connecting service to Paris and Aboud’s Pikin Bizness providing support. The boy arrived just hours in time for a life-saving operation at the Hospital Necker by Mecenat Cardique’s famed Dr. Francine Leca, who has operated on over 1000 children from around the world.

«One at a time,» that’s how we save them, commented Aboud. Pikin Bizness and AnglophoneMedia now have a list of 150 children in urgent need of heart surgury. The social scene following the civil war in Sierra Leone is constantly improving, but the country still does not have a single sonogram machine, and German-trained Dr. Olu Black is the country’s only cardiologist.

Five year old Zogie Ighobor was the second child to be saved with the help of the Pikin Bizness/AnglophoneMedia network, operated on in September at the European Georges Pompidou Hospital for acute pulmonary stenosis in association with the dynamic La Chaine de l’Espoir, directed by the celebrated humanitarian Dr. Alain Deloche and Professor Daniel Sidi.

A seven year old orphan named Linda, the third Sierra Leonean to benefit from Abboud’s advocacy, returned to Freetown in November with a repaired heart valve, and according to Pikin Bizness a two year old also with a life-threatening hole in his heart is next in line to be flown to Europe.

«Saving a child is the greatest means of restoring hope to an entire country,» commented Zogie’s relieved mom, Mary, who works at the UN court in Freetown.

When little Abubacar Jalloh arrived at Longy Airport in Sierra Leone he was greeted as a local hero. Aside from a new lease on life, apparently during his six weeks of recovery in a retreat near Versailles, Abubacar even managed to learn French!

Courtesy of David Applefield