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"It takes a village to raise a child" and Monica Westin, a former registered nurse and flight attendant, who hopes that the village of Port can help another small village in Ghana called Odumese. Monica is on a personal quest to raise funds and asks for our help because the children there are in such great need. She believes that all children should have hope and that "to whom much is given, much is required." Her childhood dream while growing up in Sweden was to work in Africa . Upon the death of her physician husband in 1991, Monica channeled her energies and grief by starting a clinic and preschool in Ghana through connections her sister had with a medical group. She began the village's medical clinic and preschool. This enabled her to educate mothers, provide first-aid and offer basic AIDS awareness. Monica loved the work but it was overwhelming for one person. In 1998, she joined with the founders of the John William Montessori School in Kumasi, a short distance away from Odumese. She established a first-aid clinic for the school which expanded from 20 to 400 students in three years. Recently the clinic was named "Monica's Clinic" in recognition of her work. At least one baby is named after her with the parent's hope that the child will have a better life. Some of the women who need the clinic's services start walking at 3 a.m. to reach it.

Monica Westin holds an African child who was named after her.

However, as Monica stresses, the work in Africa is not about her but about the children. She emphasizes that the villagers only want a chance at a viable future and basic educational opportunities. They also need health care. They essentially have nothing. Odumese is a village that exports pineapples and workers brought in often exploit young village girls, some as young as 11 or 12. There is no plumbing or electricity there and some parents will praise their daughters for their help in improving the fortunes of the family. Monica would like to create a "safe haven" for youngsters. While the extreme poverty might not be stamped out through these efforts, a refuge would make the situation for these African children a little brighter. Educating the children about AIDS prevention might help stem the disease though there aren't any testing facilities in the village. Toward these goals, Monica has established a nonprofit organziation called Project World of Hope that is authorized by the United Nations through WAFUNIF - The World Association of United Nations Interns & Fellows. She was appointed senior adviser to this group in January. Although she misses running the clinic in Africa, she feels it's more productive for her to remain here while two Swiss volunteers manage in her absence.

Monica's immediate goal is to raise $50,000 to finish the basic work she started in Odumese and although she is loathe to ask people directly for cash contributions, has begun fund-raising efforts. Her love of sewing inspired her to design a fabric tote bag that she is personally sewing and selling for $25. She is also in the midst of publishing a book of poetry and a CD written by African youngsters who attend the clinic. These should be ready in May. For anyone interested in the bag, book or CD, or in helping her sew, please contact Project World of Hope, POB 277 Shore Road Port Washington, NY 11050. Perhaps some organizations in the schools and churches can help Monica in this effort. Her own three children all of whom are grown now, have greatly supported her. She calls them "wonderful." Even though Odumese is worlds away from Port, her life was changed by helping these people. To paraphrase Henry Cabot Lodge, such attempts by a group to help another, might not get you into heaven but will certainly prevent you from going to hell. The pediatric AIDS unit at North Shore Hospital where Monica's husband had worked, held a clothing drive and donated educational material under the direction of social worker Judy Aiges, another Port resident.

One person can make a difference and Monica's destiny has not been one of chance, but of choice. We can choose a small part of ours as well.


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