Sat. Jul 2nd, 2022

WOODBURY—The Denan Project, founded six years ago by a group of Woodbury residents to bring free medical aid to a remote, poverty-stricken part of Ethiopia, has received a $20,000 grant from The Macauley Foundation.

The Connecticut-based foundation awards grants to charitable organizations that, as it says, “exemplify compassion for humankind and are committed to improving lives the world over.”

Denan is in Ethiopia’s Ogaden region, located along the border of Somalia. The Ogaden has a population of more than 4.5 million people. Plagued by horrific poverty, war, famine, disease, and a recurring drought, the region has little in the way of infrastructure (electricity, roads, running water, programs of formal education). Daily temperatures often top 120 degrees. The situation of the area’s agro-pastoral people is grave.

One bright spot in the Ogaden is The Denan Project’s hospital, built with funds raised by Woodbury residents. It began as a small clinic in a two-room abandoned building, with a tiny Ethiopian medical staff bringing free medical care to the people of Denan, to a displaced-persons camp nearby, and eventually to people coming in from surrounding towns. Now, with the support of thousands of donors, that little clinic is a 29-room hospital with a trained, indigenous staff of more than 40 people. In six years, it has served more than 85,000 patients for free.

The funds raised by The Denan Project’s volunteers provide not only free medical care but also potable water, agricultural training, education, the establishment of cottage industries, and other critical services for the people of Denan and the surrounding villages. Working with regional government and nongovernmental agencies, the group’s ultimate goal is to make specific communities self-reliant by developing and implementing long-term, sustainable solutions.

The Macauley grant will be used to buy tons of a life-saving supplemental meal called Plumpy’ Nut, which will be distributed by the Denan hospital to malnourished and anemic women and children. Formulated for African tastes with a peanut base and fortified with milk, minerals, and vitamins, Plumpy’ Nut has been called a miracle product. Dick Young, president and founder of The Denan Project, said: “We have seen this amazing supplement save a child’s life in just a few short days!”

Funds raised by Woodbury volunteers, including students and faculty from Nonnewaug High School as well as area Rotary groups, have helped the hospital add more medical services. It now administers vaccinations, treats inpatients and outpatients with TB, and offers health-education and supplemental-feeding programs. It has a maternity ward as well as programs on prenatal and well-baby care. Its ultrasound equipment and fully equipped laboratory can spot problem pregnancies; trained medical staff then work to prevent those pregnancies from resulting in a death or deaths. The hospital has been able to significantly lower the mortality rate in the Denan area.

The Denan Project raises funds for other services, such as an ongoing campaign against female genital mutilation, as well as for work on a water pipeline that will bring in precious potable water, supplementing deliveries by a water tanker bought by the group. With money from donors, it has trained farmers in raising drought-resistant crops, sent teachers from the local elementary school to get necessary upgrade training, and paid for top students, both boys and girls, to go to the regional capital for high school. “In fact,” says Dick Young, “a donor can give just $600 and send one child for one year to the regional high school, with the hope of eventually seeing that child lift himself or herself out of grinding poverty. Quite a few donors have committed to doing that!”

By Rasaas