Vickie Remoe Institute of Digital Communications

Sierra Leoneans in the DMV: Meet The Air Force Veteran On A Life Saving Mission


Meet Emma Sombo Banya: A Beacon of Hope and Healing

Location: Virginia

Current Occupation: 
Nurse Anesthetist
Your Organization:
Saving Lives Initiatives. The organization is what I would love to highlight with this submission.

How long have you lived in the DMV area and what brought you here?

Emma Banya: On and off since 1992. Was Active duty military and moved away transiently. Family is what brought me and keeps me in the DMV.

Briefly introduce yourself. 

Emma: Born and raised in Freetown. Lived in Juba Hill. Attended St Joseph’s Secondary School (Convent). I deployed to Afghanistan for 8 months in the US Air Force (a scary and rewarding experience).


Share your professional or entrepreneurial journey.

Emma: Saving Lives Initiative( SLI) is a non-profit organization started by 3 Sierra Leoneans in 2016 to supplement surgical care in Sierra Leone. After Ebola, we lost a lot of healthcare workers, especially in the provinces. Many mission groups focus on medical issues ( diabetes, high blood pressure, etc). Surgical services are generally overlooked, and there is a need for access to safe anesthesia and surgery in Sierra Leone. SLI does surgical missions to Sierra Leone 1-2 times a year, and we provide FREE surgeries for underserved communities. The surgeries are an avenue to accomplish our primary mission: to KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER to Sierra Leonean healthcare workers. We provide didactic and hands-on training to the local surgeons. We have also sponsored some Sierra Leone surgeons to come to the US and shadow our volunteer surgeons. Our work is important because educating and empowering healthcare workers is the only way to ensure safe, sustainable healthcare for Sierra Leoneans. In healthcare, continuing education that includes evidence-based practice is critical so that providers’ skills do not erode. There is no mandate for continuing education as part of licensure maintenance. We have also introduced laparoscopic surgeries in the country. We introduced it in 2017 and could only perform 2 surgeries because of logistics and supply issues. In 2023, we performed 10 laparoscopic gynecological surgeries.  We have donated medical supplies and medications to government hospitals in all the regions. We provided Basic Life support training and certification to the first responders ( Sierra Leone Police).


Tell us what keeps you going when times get tough.

Emma: Gratitude is what keeps me going in tough times. I realize that I am blessed in so many ways. I fully understand that so many Sierra Leoneans are back home with the same gifts and talents( if not more) as me. Somehow, by the grace of God, I was born into a family that could afford to provide a means for me to maximize my potential. I thrive in the USA, while others back home barely survive. This is the catalyst that keeps me going and pushes me to continue to serve my community with my gift even in tough times. My favorite quote is by Muhammed Ali. “ Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”


How do you stay connected to your Sierra Leonean roots while in the DMV area?

Emma: I travel to Sierra Leone for mission trips and am involved in my alumni association.


What impact or contributions do you hope to make or have made within the Sierra Leonean community or beyond? 

Emma: Myself and SLI want to improve healthcare for all Sierra Leoneans, not just Freetownians. We have made mission trips to Kabala, Kenema, Bo, and Freetown. We hope to touch the entire country shortly. We want to continue promoting minimally invasive innovative techniques with enhanced recovery so that citizens can recover with less risk of infection and complications and get back to their productive lives expeditiously.


What do you love the most about being Sierra Leonean in the DMV?

Emma: The kindness and generosity of the people. We are open to understanding and embracing differences, especially with religion. Religion is divided in most other countries, but Sierra Leone’s religious tolerance surpasses anything I have ever seen. Now, politics is still a work in progress(lol).


What advice would you give other Sierra Leonean professionals, entrepreneurs, or community leaders in the DMV area?

Emma: Get involved and do your part. Don’t wait for the government. Healthcare is crucial and the foundation of everything. It can affect us all. This is evident by so many stories of Sierra Leoneans who live in the DMV and who lost their lives to preventable and treatable conditions while vacationing in Sierra Leone. Prioritize healthcare in Sierra Leone. We can all do our part in one way or another.


What DMV-based civic, ethnic, or community organizations do you belong to?

Emma: Saving Lives Initiatives and St Joseph Secondary School Alumnae


What new project, initiative, or goal are you working on that you would like to highlight to others in the DMV?

Emma: My goal is to continue promoting optimal health care in Sierra Leone through Saving Lives initiatives and similar organizations. I hope we will share resources and support each other.


How can we strengthen the Sierra Leonean community in the DMV area?

Emma: Multidisciplinary Collaboration and partnership to improve Sierra Leone.


What is your favorite Sierra Leonean-owned business or brand in the DMV? 

Emma: Malik Jalloh-Jamboria is the founder of Saving Lives Initiatives. He lives in Maryland. He is one of the most selfless people I know. He has invested so much in improving healthcare in Sierra Leone. He is very humble and a behind-the-scenes kind of guy. He has grit and patience. Embarking on missions to Sierra Leone is one of my most stressful things. The mindset of the people is frustrating, and I have seen Malik consistently calm under pressure-packed situations, which has a calming effect on all around him.

 Click here to find out more about Saving Lives Intiatives

About #SaloneDMV

#SaloneDMV is a digital Make Sierra Leone Famous campaign. SaloneDMV amplifies leaders, entrepreneurs, and professionals in Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia (DMV), also known as the heart of the Sierra Leonean community in the United States. Campaign Sponsor – Drizilik Live in Concert at Howard Theatre in DC on July 6. CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS TO THE BIGGEST NIGHT FOR SIERRA LEONE MUSIC IN THE DMV. 

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