NORMAN — A Norman humanitarian organization working to help people deep in the African bush finally received its container full of supplies and equipment this week after a series of difficulties with Ivory Coast authorities and transportation.
This weekend, the 1040 Initiative, or 1040i, is wrapping up four weeks of work and using the supplies for a school in the village of Niamion in the north part of Ivory Coast in Africa, far away from major cities. They will be there until Monday.
The container, which shipped last November, was stuck in customs for unknown reasons throughout the first phase of 1040i's trip, during which a medical team from across the United States treated wounds, performed surgeries and healed infections in the village of Doropo and surrounding areas.
1040i had filled the container with medical supplies and equipment, food, prefabricated supplies, welding materials, trusses, steel and school supplies.
For the second phase of the trip, a construction team is working to put a roof on a school, and to paint it, stock it with school items and provide backpacks for the 300 children who attend it. A wound care team is also on the ground treating patients for infections, wounds, worms and general illnesses in area villages.
“Sometimes we are healing with a Band-Aid, but sometimes the best type of healing is a smile,” wrote 1040i team members in a blog post online at 1040i.org.
A frustrated Mike Cousineau, 1040i's founder, who lives in Norman but is currently serving in Africa, wrote in an email to The Oklahoman that getting the container out of customs in Abidjan and transporting it to the interior of the country ended up costing 1040i about $25,000.
That figure included storage fees and transportation costs, and 1040i had to contract with other groups in the area to help get it released. Transporting the container on the 17-hour trip to where the team was working hit another delay from authorities in Bondoukou about halfway there, Cousineau wrote.
“Coming from the developed world, it seems inconceivable that a developing nation would hinder the release of a humanitarian container that would cost the country zero but would bring medical relief to multitudes in the poorest and most undeveloped area of the country,” he wrote.
“The type of care that 1040i is providing should be an encouragement to the highest level. This type of treatment we have sustained gives no evidence of this.”
Cousineau noted that the container arrived midweek with many of its boxes and plastic totes open and broken, but the supplies were still put to good use.
“We are re-evaluating our impact in the region and what we can do to get the attention of the authorities in Abidjan to understand the blessing 1040i is to the region,” Cousineau wrote.
Despite the difficulties, the information sent from Africa through 1040i through blog posts and Cousineau has remained positive about all they've been able to accomplish.
In an email relayed from Sabrina Yaw, 1040i's administrator, who returned home to Norman after the first phase, the organization noted that more than 300 students will soon be able to attend school safely, with a chance at an education and a better future.