Chad Bryan, Gleaner Writer
The tale of Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts student Alie Simiji Marrah is a poignant one, fraught with devastating recollections of the deaths of family members and close friends during the 1990 civil war which ravaged his native country, Sierra Leone, and of which he was unfortunately a part.
Notwithstanding these harrowing experiences, Marrah has managed to make use of his musical talents, but desperately seeks the help of corporate Jamaica in funding the treatment of a hearing condition known as tinnitus, which he is scheduled to undergo in Belgium on November 8. The treatment will cost approximately US$10,000 (approximately J$900,000) and takes into account other expenses such as visa, transport, room and other miscellaneous costs.
According to senior medical officer at the Kingston Public Hospital, Patrick Bhoorasingh: "Tinnitus is an intractable condition. It is a ringing, a high-pitched ringing, swishing or other type of noise that appears to originate in the ear, as if something is wrong with the person's hearing mechanism. It can also originate in the brain."
On rare occasions, this condition can represent a serious health condition for an individual.
Marrah, who spent two years in prison in Trinidad and Tobago before arriving in Jamaica and meeting Clover Graham, the now deceased university lecturer, attorney-at-law and United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) honorary liaison in Jamaica, with whom he developed a close relationship, recalls developing the ailment almost two years ago.
In his thick accent, he explained: "It started in November. It started on the left. It is truly worse and it sounded like a cricket sound. I went to the school nurse and she prescribed some medication for me but it became worse. I can't hear now because it has spread to the left side."
hearing aid doesn't help
He further stated that he has been to a hospital and was given a hearing aid, but the device, which amplifies sound waves, compounded the situation. He noted that nothing done locally seemed to help.
It was then he said his relationship with Graham blossomed to the point where he began referring to her as 'mom'. Graham worked alongside UNHCR deputy director for refugees in Washington and the Caribbean, Dr Buti Kale, to garner help locally and internationally for Marrah's condition. Graham helped with the preparation of letters seeking sponsorship from local entities, some to no avail. Eventually, she discovered the University of Antwerp in Belgium which had knowledge of his condition and ways of dealing with it. Correspondence began and doctors agreed to help but then tragedy struck and Graham was killed.
Marrah now relies more on his college and Christiana Cunningham, also of the college, for help and support.
Cunningham said that whenever Marrah is anxious or stressed, his hearing condition becomes worsened, which makes it difficult for him to focus, learn and play the music which he enjoys.
Marrah has performed at Redbones, the University of Technology, Edna Manley and elsewhere. He has also spoken to prisoners at Tower Street about his life in Sierra Leone.
Donations can be made to the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts, NCB account number 211-448-482 at 2 Oxford Road or by calling Christiana Cunningham at 920-7400 or the college at 754-8830.