OSHKOSH, Wis. (WFRV) – It was all by chance that Elizabeth Geniesse took a six-month internship in Jos, Nigeria, as a student at Moody Bible Institute. One internship opportunity fell through the cracks, and she jumped on the opportunity in the city of 900,000 instead.
“I fell in love with the people and the culture and I’m just really excited to go back,” she said.
This time she will not be going alone, as her husband Martin, 21-month-old son Ethan, 4-month-old daughter Felicity, brother-in-law Patrick, and sister-in-law Erin will be joining her on the 6,000-mile trip.
“Getting to serve a population that doesn’t have all the amenities and worldly things we have here in America, that really has a special place in my heart and my wife’s heart,” Martin said. “We want to serve the community and show them how God loves, so we’re hoping to bring that to Jos, Nigeria.”
The family will leave on Oct. 1 and stay for 12 days as they volunteer in clinics, hospitals, and orphanages in partnership with Back2Back Ministries and Carry Them Ministries. Elizabeth is a board member for Carry Them Ministries, a non-profit based in Nigeria that focuses on new mothers and nursing babies.
Through clinics and donations, the organization provides supplies to help new mothers build up their supply of breastmilk, which is a necessity in Nigeria, Elizabeth said, as formula costs five to six times the median salary of a Nigerian.
“It’s just not sustainable, they’re not able to afford formula,” she said. “They often end up really sick, severely malnourished because they’re not getting the calories that they need, either from breastmilk or formula, which is what brings them into our clinic.”
According to the National Institute of Health, Nigeria has the second highest maternal death rate in the world behind India.
“One in 22 women in Nigeria die during childbirth, and one in 12 babies die before their 28th day of life,” Elizabeth said. “The medical care there is not anything compared to the medical care we have here.”
The retired EMT and certified lactation consultant has a history of helping others, as does Martin, a paramedic, Erin, a phlebotomist, and Patrick, a paramedic-to-be. Elizabeth worked with women and children who were victims of sex trafficking during her internship.
“Just working with women coming out of sex trafficking it’s a lot of trauma, a lot of hurt, a lot of pain,” she said.
The difficult line of work was also a familiar one for Elizabeth.
“I had a really close friend in high school and she unfortunately got caught in sex trafficking,” Elizabeth said. “That was really heartbreaking for me because she was my best friend at the time. And I pray for her all the time. I don’t actually know where she is to this day, I haven’t heard from her since.”
“When I realized just how easy it is for that to happen, I think is when I really felt like, ‘okay, I want to do something about this and make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else.”
Elizabeth said that she is also just as passionate about the importance of breastmilk, being a mother of an underweight but now healthy baby. She hopes that she and Felicity can demonstrate the importance of breastfeeding on the trip.
“That can be a great example to the women that I’m serving to bring our story and our testimony of our kids of, ‘this is how it works for us, and this is what we’re doing and you can too,’” she said.
Hand pumps, haakaas, bottles, nursing bras, milk storage bags baby onesies, and sleepers are the supplies that are most needed to be donated. Monetary donations can also be made to the family’s GoFundMe.