By Matt Sosna
On October 27, 2011 I had the opportunity as the second Banyan teammate to join the journey to Egbe Hospital in Nigeria. Departing from Ft. Lauderdale, I’m sure that airport security raised an eyebrow or two when they realized one of the bags contained a brand new chainsaw in addition to other unrelated items like peanut butter, a timing light and ten laptop computers. During our layover in Frankfurt, we met with the rest of the team. Most of the additions came from Canada and one from Texas. Finally, we boarded the next plane to Abuja, Nigeria. Upon our arrival, it was obvious that our team of eleven “oweebos”, the nickname for white people in Nigeria, stuck out like a sore thumb. I don’t know if it was that, or the fact we had twenty-two fifty pound bags, eleven carry on bags, and eleven personal items, but Nigerian Customs was intent on checking each bag one by one. Fortunately just as they unzipped the first duffel bag, Dominic, the head of immigration in Nigeria and personal friend of Jason (one of the team members), showed up. He instructed the officials to allow us to continue without inspection. After meeting with our driver Enoch, we began the forty minute bus ride to the Baptist Guest House in Abuja.
The next day, one of the two vans broke down. Luckily this happened in the driveway of the guest house and we were all able to cram into one van. Roughly eight hours of swerving and bumping later, we arrived at the Egbe Hospital compound. We were greeted by what seemed to be every member of the surrounding community in a parade-like fashion. It was also nice to finally meet Mark and Abbey, the resident volunteers. Everyone was so excited to see us and the next few days consisted of nothing but warm welcomes, introductions and celebrations at the local churches.
Once we got to work, my goal was to inventory the equipment, service all of the engines and repair anything within my abilities. One of the main problems with maintaining and repairing anything in Nigeria is the lack of parts. At one point, I had to make a head gasket from a cardboard box. Temporarily repairing a leaky water pipe required strips of motorcycle inner tubes and hose clamps. At Banyan I am used to having plenty of supplies and resources, in Egbe I had to get creative. Understanding and seeing the absence of resources in Nigeria first hand will definitely help me when choosing supplies to load into the containers we send.
My time in Egbe wasn’t all work and no play. The highlight of the trip for me was mountain biking for a couple hours with Mark. It was my first time riding with clipless pedals so it got pretty interesting at times. We also went hiking on a few mountains that border the compound. The landscape and view of the town was beautiful.
When the time came to prepare for our return trip, I felt like I wasn’t finished. Although I was able to get all the broken equipment running, there was so much more to do. My experience at Egbe Hospital was eye opening. It really highlighted the things we take for granted in our day to day life, like good roads, supplies and clean water. The trip definitely had a positive impact on the residents of Egbe and myself. I hope I will have the opportunity to return and continue to help out with this project in the future. Now I understand when Don says a two week trip doesn’t feel like enough time.