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Laila Veronika Jonassen Ignites Change at Ghana Orphanage

September 29, 2014

After working in Nigeria and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, the continent of Africa held a special place in the heart of Bristow Senior Technician Sikorsky S-92, Laila Veronika Jonassen. She enjoyed her time there and fell in love with the culture. When she returned home from her African travels, she knew she wanted to return to the continent as a volunteer.

In 2011, Jonassen made the necessary arrangements to volunteer at an orphanage in Ghana with her seven-year-old son Elias. Upon her arrival, she was astonished by the conditions in which the children were living. The roof leaked when it rained, and the interior of the roof was full of fungus and water damage. It was a struggle to provide food for the children, and there was no kitchen, so the host family prepared meals in their home and carried it to the orphanage. Four bunk beds were shared among 24 children. Their uniforms were in very bad condition and medicine was only available sporadically when donations funded it. While the conditions of the orphanage were dismal, the children needed it, because, otherwise, they would live on the street.

Seeing the conditions of the orphanage inspired Jonassen to roll up her sleeves and do what she could to help. Each morning, she helped the children get ready for the day, and while the older children were at school, she played with the younger children and helped carry water from the well.

“My goal is also to visit the children every year and continue to supply donations so they can be fed, send them to school, and give them all they need to have a respectful life in their orphanage.”

In addition to the time and effort she devoted to the children, Jonassen started collecting donations with the goal of improving the children’s lives in the current orphanage while building a new orphanage and well. Her friends and colleagues have donated $12,000 so far, and the funds are being put to good use. The roof has been repaired, and a kitchen is in the process of being built in the current orphanage – complete with all the necessary equipment, furniture and dishes. Each student has two uniforms, health insurance has been provided for each child for a year, a necessary medical procedure for one of the children has been arranged, school fees have been paid for the next year, and school supplies have been provided. Also a new orphanage is on the horizon – a plot of land has been purchased and construction is underway.

In addition to providing for the children, the donations are improving the community, as the projects are providing work for the locals. Jonassen ensures that everything they need is purchased from the local community.

“My goal is also to visit the children every year and continue to supply donations so they can be fed, send them to school, and give them all they need to have a respectful life in their orphanage,” said Jonassen. “I am lucky to have a lot of friends who want to travel down with me and help build this orphanage, so hopefully by a couple of years, we will all go down and help finish.”

During her time in Ghana, Jonassen had the opportunity to get to know the children and see improvements within them as changes are made.