Local caring with global connections
Though they were born decades apart and on different continents, Patti Riebold and Felix Daubige have at least one thing in common — both were raised by families that taught the importance of compassion.
“I grew up watching my parents help people they don’t even know,” said Daubige, describing his upbringing in the West African nation of Guinea. He said they would freely take in travelers looking for a place to stay.
Riebold, an American born near the start of World War II, said she remembers her family feeding hobos at their backdoor.
“I was always taught that you helped your brother and sister,” she said. “Doesn’t matter what their skin color is or where they are, just help them and you’ll become far richer because of it.”
Those values continued into their adult lives as well; Riebold is executive director of local charitable organization the Connecting Connection, while Daubige started a foundation to help people in his native land.
Now the humanitarians are combining their resources to send donated medical supplies to Guinea, a country rocked by poverty and internal conflict. The first shipment of goods is scheduled to leave this month.
Daubige, a businessman who travels to Guinea frequently, has seen firsthand the poor conditions of the clinics there. He said they are more of a place to catch a disease than be treated for one.
“They have good doctors and nurses,” Riebold said, “but they have nothing to work with but a Band-Aid.”
Of particular importance is hospital beds, Daubige said. The country has wood to make frames, but mattresses are hard to come by.
As luck would have it, Three Links Care Center in Northfield, Minnesota, was throwing out several mattresses and agreed to donate them to the cause, he said. They will be part of the first major shipment to Guinea along with examination tables and other supplies.
Who you know
Getting to this point is all thanks to connections, Riebold said, commenting on the appropriateness of the Connecting Connection name.
The partnership started with Daubige’s cousin, independent film producer Paul Thea, whom Riebold met about a year ago at a church gathering in Red Wing. Thea told her about the idea of sending supplies to Guinea and later introduced her to Daubige.
Thea said he goes to West Africa to shoot documentaries and, like Daubige, is able to talk to the people there and identify what they need.
“If you don’t see it, it’s hard to realize how it is,” Thea said about his efforts to document life in Guinea through photography and film.
Riebold said his work has had an impact on her, especially a photo of a physical therapist with only basic equipment for treating patients.
“That one just got me,” she said. “Here’s this man with the knowledge and the ability to do wonders, and all he has are some poles in the ground.”
Getting the supplies across the ocean — and making sure they go to the people in need — is a team process.
Riebold, who has experience shipping humanitarian aid through the U.S. Agency for International Development, was able to use her connections to arrange delivery. Daubige and Thea will then use their contacts in Guinea to distribute the items.
Sending aid to Africa has been a dream of Riebold’s for a while, but she said it was difficult to get started without knowing people like Daubige and Thea.
The cousins, who have been in the U.S. for more than a decade, said they likewise were looking for someone to help take their donating work to the next level.
“We have a good life, better than what they have (in Guinea),” Thea said. “So if we can help any kind of way to bring back to our community, that’s a big pleasure for us.”
“Bottom line here is we want to help others,” Daubige added.
Anyone interested in helping with the Guinea project or other local and global programs the Connecting Connection is involved in, visit www.connectingconnection.org.