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From Westchester To West Africa: Ossining Mattresses Help Mothers In Ghana

Karen Noreika
Karen Noreika Photo Credit: Provided
Michelle Konadu
Michelle Konadu Photo Credit: Provided
Some of the 45 mattresses from Mariandale that are destined for Ghana.
Some of the 45 mattresses from Mariandale that are destined for Ghana. Photo Credit: Provided
Some of the Mariandale mattresses destined for West Africa.
Some of the Mariandale mattresses destined for West Africa. Photo Credit: Provided

When Karen Noreika was faced with the task of disposing 45 mattresses from Mariandale Retreat and Conference Center in Ossining, she knew that she didn’t want them to go into a dumpster. Previously used for overnight retreats, the mattresses were in good condition, but were being replaced due to renovations at the center.

So, Noreika, who works as an administrative assistant at Mariandale, went out on a limb. She posted an ad on Craigslist offering the mattresses to anyone who was able to pick them up.

What happened next surprised her.

Soon after posting the ad, she received an email from Michelle Konadu who lives in New York City. In addition to owning an e-commerce site that sells African goods made by African artisans (all fair-trade and globally responsible), Ms. Konadu also volunteers with Making Our Name One, a home for expectant mothers in Ghana. Konadu, who is of Ghanaian descent, became involved with the project through a friend’s cousin who is a founding member. Her interest piqued when, two years ago, she brought bibs, swaddle cloths and tote bags to a hospital in Accra, Ghana.

During her visit, she saw teen moms who had been kicked out of their homes, women who lived too far from hospitals to get adequate medical care, and women who weren’t able to pay the hospital bills after birthing and therefore couldn’t leave the hospital with their babies.

Konadu wanted to help in a long-term way. Making Our Name One is currently working on installing electricity, getting access to running water and fully furnishing its space; when Ms. Konadu saw the ad for mattresses, she thought it was a perfect fit.

“It’s really difficult to furnish seventeen rooms,” Konadu said. “I kid you not, [the Mariandale ad on Craigslist] was probably the first or second post that I saw; the rest is history.”

She reached out and picked up ten mattresses as a start. Now, Konadu is working on raising the funds to ship the mattresses to Ghana. She hopes for the mattresses to arrive in Ghana in June, and for Making Our Name One to be fully open and functioning by 2018.

Altogether, Konadu says that working with Making Our Name One has been a “gratifying experience” that is close to her heart.

“Where a lot of these women are, it could easily be me,” Konadu said. “Knowing that the little bit I can do is a lot for someone, that’s why I do it. Any need of my fellow Ghanaian is a need of mine.”

As for Mariandale's Noreika, the outcome couldn’t have been better.

“I’m excited that the mattresses are going to a useful purpose,” Noreika said. “The idea that they can be comfort for expectant mothers gives me a lot of joy and hope. It ties in perfectly with our social justice focus at Mariandale and with the mission of the Dominican Sisters of Hope."

For more details about the charity organizations, click here , or here.

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