A Life Cut Short Makes Change Possible in Central African Republic

“Through oceans, through mountains, I am a soldier of love and not a thing in the world can stop me.” – 17-year-old Dillon Henry

A writer, philosopher, humanitarian, surfer, and conservationist, Dillon Henry is described as an unstoppable life force, a young man whose uncompromising love and spirit would fill a room and captivate all those around him. From defending human rights in Darfur to establishing a club at his school for ocean protection, Dillon followed his passions and his beliefs to be an advocate for the world and all its people. His compassion all-encompassing, Dillon’s infectious energy left lives changed and inspired near and far – even those who he never had a chance to meet.

One night during the summer before his senior year in high school, Dillon was killed in a car accident. He was only 17 years old. Dillon had just learned that he was in the top four percent of his class, an academic achievement that would greatly increase his chances of being accepted by his two dream schools – the University of California, Santa Barbara and Berkeley. The next day Dillon was to set off on a long-awaited surfing trip to Nicaragua with a close friend and two cousins.

Even though Dillon left the world with many dreams unrealized, his remarkable spirit continues to spark positive change today. In honor of the legacy that he left behind, his parents founded the Dillon Henry Foundation in order to create a community of individuals and organizations that work to improve the world. Charitable donations from the foundation support a variety of causes reflecting Dillon’s diverse interests, including the crisis in Darfur, Sudan.

Through his foundation, Dillon’s fight to improve the human condition in Darfur has not slowed. In partnership with Jewish World Watch (JWW), International Medical Corps recently completed the Dillon Henry Community Health Clinic, a facility that makes life-saving services available to not only victims of the Darfur conflict, but also those of the often forgotten crisis in Central African Republic. With the closest referral hospital 215 miles away, the Dillon Henry Community Health Clinic has brought medicines – and hope – to an otherwise isolated population.

After their village was attacked in May 2007, a group of 3,000 Darfurian refugees from south Darfur fled over 75 miles by foot to Sam Ouandja, a town in northeastern Central African Republic. With violence and instability ongoing, the people in Central African Republic mostly live in extreme poverty, unprotected by common law and unsupported by functional health services. With the support of the Dillon Henry Foundation, International Medical Corps identified a nearby health clinic in Ouadda Djalle that – if rehabilitated – could serve as a comprehensive health facility for an estimated 43,000 people in the surrounding area.

Prior to reconstruction, International Medical Corps found the clinic to be representative of the region’s instability and turmoil. Run by only one assistant nurse, its medicines and supplies were looted and facilities were partially destroyed from attacks. In its assessment of the surrounding area, International Medical Corps found the refugees and host populations extremely vulnerable to malnutrition and disease, as water, sanitation, food, and health care were limited, if not completely inexistent.

With the support of the Dillon Henry Foundation and JWW, International Medical Corps revitalized the clinic to bring strength and self-reliance to the people in and around Sam Ouandja. Now complete, the Dillon Henry Community Health Clinic provides basic health care services, as well as safe deliveries, surgical procedures, and pharmaceutical prescriptions. A passionate writer, Dillon once wrote: “Discover your passion, it will change your life and possibly someone else’s.” While his life was tragically cut short, Dillon’s passion lives on, making change possible for each person who walks through his clinic’s doors.

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