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Phebian Abdulai

Phebian Abdulai did not have to go back to Sierra Leone. She was lucky enough to be resettled in the United States after she fled her native country as it was torn apart by a bloody civil war. Abdulai spent years in a Gambian refugee camp with her husband and children before they were selected to move to Buffalo in 2001. She became a nurse and came to work at the Jericho Road Community Health Center on the West Side.

But she felt a calling – to return to Sierra Leone to follow in her mother’s footsteps. Her late mother had been a midwife and had always implored her to come back to her hometown of Koidu to help her people. Abdulai shared her dream with Dr. Myron Glick, the founder of Jericho Road. After years of planning, construction began on a clinic. It would provide primary care and would assist women in births in a region that desperately lacks even the most basic medical care.

Then last spring, Sierra Leone was among the worst hit by the deadly Ebola virus. The clinic was never intended to be a place that could deal with such a contagious disease. Abdulai could have left, but instead she insisted on going forward with the plans for the Adama Martha Memorial Community Health Center. Earlier this year, the clinic, built by local townspeople, finally opened its doors. It is not an Ebola treatment center, but strict protocols and equipment were put in place in case someone with Ebola symptoms comes in for care.

Glick reported that the clinic is now averaging 50 people per day and two healthy babies have been born there already.

“Phebian – she’s a really courageous person,” Glick said. “She survived the civil war, which was a horrible time. … She barely escaped with her life. I think she really felt God saved her for a reason.”

Abdulai, 50, told The News that her inspiration all along was her mother. “What is driving me to actually do that is the value that was instilled in me by my mother,” she said. “My mother was a lady who had passion to help in the face of trouble, in the face of hard times.”

– Maki Becker