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Teacher creates one-off piece of art to help save the lives of mothers and babies in poverty-stricken Sierra Leone

PUBLISHED: 17:29 17 July 2017 | UPDATED: 19:57 17 July 2017

Artist Julie Bolus has provided an illustration for the national #DrawingBreath fundraising campaign to save lives of newborn babies and their mothers in Sierra Leone. Picture: SONYA DUNCAN

Artist Julie Bolus has provided an illustration for the national #DrawingBreath fundraising campaign to save lives of newborn babies and their mothers in Sierra Leone. Picture: SONYA DUNCAN

ARCHANT EASTERN DAILY PRESS (01603) 772434

Art created by a Norfolk teacher is being used to raise money to save the lives of mothers and babies in one of the world’s poorest countries.

The illustration created by artist Julie Bolus for the national #DrawingBreath fundraising campaign to save lives of newborn babies and their mothers in Sierra Leone. Picture: SONYA DUNCAN The illustration created by artist Julie Bolus for the national #DrawingBreath fundraising campaign to save lives of newborn babies and their mothers in Sierra Leone. Picture: SONYA DUNCAN

Illustrator Julie Bolus, 46, from Russell Terrace in Trowse who teaches graphic illustration at Gorleston’s East Norfolk Sixth Form College, has provided a drawing for the new campaign #DrawingBreath led by Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) to help poor communities in Sierra Leone.

Money raised this spring will go towards new equipment and the training of community health officers within the west African country to help reduce maternal mortality during childbirth and save more babies.

Ms Bolus, who has a 16-year-old son and spent the first 12 years of her life in Nairobi, Kenya, created a digital image based on the work of VSO community health officer Andrew Sesay who helps 200 mothers a month in Sierra Leone’s Makeni district.

She also featured a VSO doctor and a mother whose baby was safely delivered by Mr Sesay.

Andrew Sesay, a community health officer working for Voluntary Service Overseas in Sierra Leone, who helps care for expectant mothers, delivers babies and children in the community. He is pictured with Mbalu Kamara and her son Andrew, who was named after Mr Sesay. The health worker helped with the child's safe delivery. Picture: PETER CATON/VSO Andrew Sesay, a community health officer working for Voluntary Service Overseas in Sierra Leone, who helps care for expectant mothers, delivers babies and children in the community. He is pictured with Mbalu Kamara and her son Andrew, who was named after Mr Sesay. The health worker helped with the child's safe delivery. Picture: PETER CATON/VSO

Ms Bolus said: “I’m interested in documenting hidden stories, people and places that are not brought to light. I have a strong link with Africa and the campaign is something I’m really passionate about.

“It is important to bring to light the wonderful things that are going on in these poor countries.

“Having a child myself, I know that when you give birth the first breath of a baby is so important.”

Before moving to East Norfolk Sixth Form College, the teacher and Norwich University of the Arts graduate worked as an art teacher at the Magunda Senior Secondary School in northern Botswana from 1999 until 2003.

She added she had a yearning to return to Africa and meet Mr Sesay who works 24/7 across rural communities as a GP looking after mothers before, during and after birth.

He has to do some deliveries via torchlight.

“I’m in awe of someone who gives up their time to do something so hard. It must be upsetting,” she added.

Ms Bolus said that because of the Ebola virus outbreak in 2014, which killed hundreds of people across west Africa, health workers in Sierra Leone had died from the disease and many mothers did not want to travel to hospitals to give birth.

To donate visit www.vsointernational.org/draw

What the campaign money will go towards

All money raised through the #DrawingBreath online VSO fundraising campaign will go towards the following items:

■Solar lights which cost £50 each. Many healthcare centres lack electricity making deliveries at night difficult.

■An hour’s training which costs £16. The training will help share life-saving skills and knowledge across Sierra Leone.

■A pulse-oximeter which costs £33. This piece of equipment helps medics monitor the amount of oxygen in the bloodstream.

■A blood pressure cuff which costs £25.50. This helps detect any changes in blood pressure that could indicate the potentially dangerous condition in expectant mothers, pre-eclampsia.

VSO has provided maternal and newborn care in Sierra Leone for 50 years.

During the Ebola outbreak, as women stayed away from hospitals, VSO-trained volunteers to help women give birth safely in their communities.

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