Akouete Kouevi-Gou, RN, came to the U.S. 11 years ago pursuing a profession in which he could help others.
As a nurse at Chicago’s Advocate Trinity Hospital, Kouevi-Gou does that every day. But his goodwill is much more far-reaching.
Kouevi-Gou, his brother Sam, who also works as an RN at Trinity, and several other family members now residing in the U.S., set out with a plan in 2008 to build a medical clinic in their native country of Togo, located between Ghana and Benin in western Africa.
Healthcare is scarce around Sivame, their home village. Akouete and Sam estimate about 5,000 people live in Sivame and another 5,000 live in areas around the village. Thus, the clinic could serve nearly 10,000 people and greatly improve their chances of living healthier lives, even by providing some of the most basic healthcare services.
“It means a lot to me,” Akouete said. “My passion is to make a difference. It will be a pleasure for this to become a reality.”
Akouete and Sam said the walls of the clinic are finished and all that is left is putting a roof on the building. They hope their project will be finished in March.
“It will mean a lot to them,” Akouete said. “This village has been there for 350 years. The day they put down the first brick, I was rejoicing. A lot of people are dying every day from small things. Farmers will incur injuries and have nothing to help them, so they die from those injuries.”One of the most recent photos sent from Togo shows the clinic is now ready for a roof.
The brothers receive photos from people in Togo updating the clinic’s construction progress and were proud when the latest picture showed that the building was ready for a roof.
“We are pleased to do the project,” Sam said. “They need the healthcare attention. We can’t just let people die. Some babies are born. Women have miscarriages. We need to make a difference in people’s lives. We thank God, who let us in this country, and we are trying to do something for them.”
People in and around Sivame must walk or bicycle a few miles to receive care. The brothers said a clinic much closer will make a huge difference. Akouete, 34, has worked as a nurse at Trinity since 2008, the year he finished his nursing degree at Chicago State University. Sam, 31, graduated with his nursing degree from Quincy (Ill.) University.
Akouete, Sam and their relatives started the project by setting aside $50 every month to go toward construction.
While there may not always be a physician at the clinic, Akouete said staffing it with a nurse, a physician’s assistant or a midwife would be a dramatic change for the people there. Basic essentials such as vaccinations and antibiotics can be administered, and the clinic will provide a cleaner, safer place for women to give birth.
The Kouevi-Gous have received grants from Germany and assistance from a Methodist church in Ireland for the building. Most of the funds collected — which currently total about $17,000 have come from family members. The brothers said they eventually will need $76,000 to fund the entire project.
They have been working with the African Ministry of Health to find workers to staff the clinic when it is completed.
Michelle Gaskill, RN, MSN, MHA, Trinity’s vice president of nursing and clinical operations, said hospital administrators were delighted to provide essentials to the clinic, such as beds and computers as the needs in Togo were eye-opening. “We believe in supporting community here, but even more rewarding is to go beyond those boundaries and help other countries,” Gaskill said.
Akouete and Sam are grateful for the assistance and hardly can wait for the day the clinic is opened. “Once it’s finished, we will be traveling to see how we can help at the clinic,” Akouete said. •
Joe Stevenson is a freelance writer.
TO DONATE to the clinic project in Sivame, Togo, call Andrea Pocius, Advocate Trinity Hospital’s public affairs and marketing specialist, at 773-967-5019 for information.