Monday, December 29, 2008

A "Man of the Year" who has helped Liberia

This morning we introduce you to Mike Cambria, who was nominated as the Rochester, Massachusetts Man of The Year by the newspaper the Standard Times.

After working in education and politics, Cambria began volunteer work for a group called Mission to Liberia. Standard Times writer Don Cuddy explains how the nominee got his start in helping the group.

His Liberian effort began with a chance meeting in 2005 and a request for his help in shipping used clothing and shoes to the beleaguered population.

Mr. Cambra, who was in the export business, had contacts in shipping worldwide. A 40-foot container filled with donated items duly made its way to Africa. But that was merely the beginning of his involvement.

Mr. Cambra was so impressed by the efforts of Liberian refugee Joseph Deranamie to help those left behind that he, too, became completely immersed in the relief operation.

Today, he is chairman of the board of the nonprofit Mission to Liberia, which, with support from a number of communities in Massachusetts, has succeeded in building a health clinic in the town of Duazohn. But much more remains to be done, Mr. Cambra said.

"The greatest need is for health care professionals, so we took a trip to the University of Liberia School of Pharmacy and Medicine. It's just four walls and a blackboard. They have no electricity, no water, no books, no lab equipment."

Mission to Liberia has now focused on three primary objectives, he said. First, it offers direct aid to the local people in the form of clothing, medicine and much-needed items like mosquito nets.

Secondly, it plans to further expand the clinic and its programs to offer living space for medical professionals and to provide educational outreach to the local population on such important health care issues as hygiene, malaria prevention and AIDS.

Mission to Liberia also hopes to supply the university school with a fully equipped teaching lab, including textbooks and microscopes, stethoscopes and other instruments.

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