Building Hope with Maria Regina Foundation
The Maria Regina Foundation (MRF) is a non-proﬁt organization that delivers health services to the most vulnerable and poorest segments of Africa and Alabama. They also provide educational opportunities to children and adolescents.
To better understand the goal of the MRF, its founder Dr. Francisca MgBodile, Assistant Professor Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, describes its history:
I was born and raised in a remote village of Abor in the eastern part of Nigeria. I moved to the United States as an adult, after completing medical school in Africa. My life improved upon coming to the United States, but I never forgot my experiences in Africa. From my own life, I knew all about the importance of a good education. Also, I knew about the poor health situation in Abor and the whole continent of Africa. Visits to my village in the past years have increasingly opened my eyes to the great need for more help. During a trip in 2008, I visited local schools and health clinics. The children in the villages are eager to learn, even though their parents are struggling to send them to school for a bright future. Poverty, ill health, and lack of basic medical care are some of the struggles families deal with each day. Personally, I feel that part of the solution is helping individuals. However, I sincerely believe that it is better to launch a community based approach to ensure self-sufficiency and to foster independence. Empowering people toward independence makes more sense and is more sustainable than tackling problems individually. My family has been helping individuals since 2003, when we started “Mission Africa.” We have provided scholarships to grade school children, medications to elderly villagers who came to our house, and clothing and food to poor families for Christmas. From these beginnings, one person at a time, I have developed a network of people sharing my desire to assist in a more comprehensive and community-based manner. Thus, the Maria Regina Foundation was formed in December 2008.
With the brief yet poignant history of the MRF, Dr. Mgbodile established a solid mission that is dedicated to mobilizing resources to empower poor communities in Africa. Education and improved access to health care services are critical in empowering people to escape the cycle of poverty and become independent.
Last year 2009, marked the foundation’s first project, raising funds and other resources toward improving education and access to basic medical care. Funds raised by the foundation were used to provide, among other things, three weeks of free medical clinics in four villages in Enugu state of Nigeria: Abor, Ukana, Awhum, and Nsude. Services were provided using already existing church buildings, schools, and village squares. Activities featured include free medical screening, treatment of minor illnesses, and referrals for people experiencing more serious medical problems. Local doctors, nurses, medical students, and other non-profit organizations volunteered in providing those services.
The foundation’s first education project will include summer and fall education programs for children in grades K-6. The foundation’s focus will be on increasing children’s mastery of basic reading, writing, and math skills; raising student academic expectations and self-esteem; and empowering parents to develop effective mentoring relationships with their children.
For children and adolescents in grades 7-12, the focus will be on providing remedial instructions for students performing below grade level. This will help prepare these learners to take the West African Examination Certificate (WAEC) and increase the odds that they will pass it.
These projects highlight the foundation’s ultimate mission:
“We strive to serve communities by creating schools and bolstering existing ones. We provide basic medical and mental health services to less privileged undeserved communities.”