Megan Hesketh, 17, has a heart of gold when it comes to helping others.
As a home school student and college student she packs a heavy load. She takes many English and history courses along with working in the tutor center as a writing consultant.
But she is still able to make time for those less fortunate.
“There’s the whole cliché of it making me feel good to help, which is true. But really it’s so much more,” Hesketh said.
Hesketh became involved after her dad David Hesketh’s trip to Sierra Leone in Africa.
A family friend was talking with him about his visit to Sierra Leone and after chatting for a while he felt he needed to go to help these people.
“So he went even though he hated going overseas and hadn’t been on a plane in forever,” Hesketh said.
When he arrived in Sierra Leone he helped by building schools and even patching a few of the wells in the village that had been broken for two years.
With his help on a few of the wells turned into a huge project of trying to repair more wells that had been damaged because of the war.
Hesketh got involved at 14 and has been doing it for three years now.
She now helps her dad with his nonprofit organization called CWEL which stands for Clean Water Equals Life.
The nonprofit organization emphasizes clean water, education, health care and women’s rights.
“I’m in charge of empowerment of women mostly and within that we work with the women leaders within the village to teach them about their worth in society,” Hesketh said.
Hesketh told the story of a woman in a village named Ramatu. She had been hit in the head with a tree branch and for 10 years fungus had been growing in her face.
However, because of her distorted face, she was considered cursed and she hardly left her hut.
“With the help of a bunch of amazing circumstances and people, we were able to get her into anti-fungal treatment. When the fungus was dead, we were able to get her on board Mercy Ship for an operation,” Hesketh said.
She is now healthy, strong, and speaking out. She travels to other villages to tell her story and to tell people about Jesus.
She recently, told her story in front of a village and a woman who was considered cursed in that village came up to talk to her. Because of Ramatu’s message, this woman has now had an operation to remove the tumor that was her “curse.”
According to Hesketh, many women don’t realize they have a worth or rights. She also shared that many of the people in this country don’t even have an education because of the war.
Hesketh also talked about a 10-year-old girl that they were trying to get out the country on a medical visa.
The reason for this is because Sierra Leone doesn’t allow adoptions. However, the U.S. denied her visa.
“I just want to be able to help as many people as possible,” Hesketh said.
Hesketh plans to finish her associates of arts degree in the spring and then plans on applying for Mercy Ship in fall 2012, which will be docked in Guinea-Conakry one of Sierra Leones neighboring countries.
According to Mercy Ship website, Mercy Ship is an international charity that was founded in 1978. Mercy Ships currently are the largest non-governmental hospital ships in the world.
They are able to provide free health care, community development projects, community health education, mental health programs, agriculture projects, and palliative care for terminally ill patients. These ships focus mainly on the countries in West Africa
“Even though I will probably be doing mostly grunt work on the ship this would be a great opportunity and I have always wanted to do this,” Hesketh said.
She even said she toured, one when she was in Sierra Leone.
“It was incredible to see the sheer enormity of the ship. And how many people were working on board from all over the world,” Hesketh said.
This ship is not just for medical purposes but it also serves others, which really encouraged Hesketh because she could help in other ways without needing any medical training.
“It’s like a floating city with even a school onboard,” Hesketh said.
Hesketh would also like to make Sierra Leone her new residency one day because that is truly where her heart is.
“Only being able to be over there for a month is just not long enough,” Hesketh said.
If she is unable to live there she would like to live in Liberia instead. But she really is hoping to be on the Mercy Ship.
“My dad really loves the idea that I’m involved. The two of us are able to work on projects together and are able to discuss Africa,” Hesketh said. “My mum on the other hand has gone to Sierra Leone as well. She fully supports my decision but she fears for my safety living there. She is supportive of the Mercy Ship idea because it is well organized and has good security.”
The last time Hesketh visited Sierra Leone she could tell she made an impact on others around her by the way they recognized her in their village.
“One of the village elders joked that I was half American and half Sierra Leone,” Hesketh said.
By this she simply meant that he was describing her love for Sierra Leone as being an important part of her life.
She was born American, and will always be American, but she has also “adopted” Sierra Leone as part of her life.
“I won’t and can’t forget about Sierra Leone or the people there,” Hesketh said.
Sierra Leone will always hold a special place in Hesketh’s heart and they will always welcome her with open arms.
“When the plane lands at the crazy airport with its one grassy runway, there’s even a crashed plane on the side of the runway, I feel like I’m home,” Hesketh said.
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