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After learning about the Ebola crisis, Usifu Bangura, pledged to return to Africa to take water filters, discover other ways to help his home country and find his mother.

TOMMY MARTINO, Missoulian

Usifu Bangura returned from his native Sierra Leone earlier this year with plans to launch a nonprofit to help the small west African country.

Bangura, who reunited with his mother on the trip, will close out the year having met his goal to set up an official nonprofit called The Bangura Project, an organization designed to start addressing the needs of people in the Kambia region where he conducted a needs assessment.

"The most important thing I want is the help of the people of Missoula to get this off the ground, and I know they've been really helpful in the past," Bangura said in a recent interview. "This would be really meaningful to me and to the people of Sierra Leone."

In 2004, Bangura's mom gave him up for adoption in Sierra Leone because she couldn't give him the best life in the war-torn country. Eventually, Bangura landed in Montana, but when he learned about the Ebola crisis overseas, he pledged go back to help.

Now, The Bangura Project is registered in the United States, and Bangura, who works for Jackson Contractor Group, is sharing its mission and hoping to raise $8,000 for one of its first projects. The Hellgate High School graduate will take large water filters to Africa, continuing the work he began on his first trip to Sierra Leone in the spring.

Bangura became interested in providing clean water there because he remembered how far his mother used to walk to find potable water. According to a synopsis of the pilot project (online with this story), The Bangura Project is focusing its initial work on water access and purification because data from the assessment showed the need is great.

"In the Kambia district of Sierra Leone, it is primarily (almost entirely) the women who bear the burden of collecting water that must be transported over a long distance from the water resource location to their households," reads the synopsis.

"They are tasked with carrying heavy buckets of water over these long distances, which puts strain on their bodies and depletes much needed energy to complete the rest of their daily tasks."

Bangura aims to provide "hippo water rollers," containers that can roll over different terrain carrying 24 gallons of water, to the small district, home to some 50 people. The rollers carry five times as much water as a person could transport in one trip, they cost $295 each, and they last five to seven years with no upkeep, according to the synopsis.

"These water rollers would allow women to transport a much greater quantity of water at a time to their homes, saving them additional physical labor and time that instead can be spent on other things such as contributing to the village and economic growth of the village."

Children, who would otherwise be helping haul water, can focus on education.

The water in the Kambia district isn't drinkable without purification, and The Bangura Project also has a goal to provide a water filtration system for roughly $150.

"With both of these products being used together, the people of Kambia could see a drastic transformation in the way their time is spent and the quality of their drinking water," said the project synopsis.

Partnerships are an important element of The Bangura Project. Bangura said the ministry of health in Sierra Leone is interested in working with him, and he's looking for a partner, possibly a University of Montana student, to help him with data analysis on his next trip, planned for May 2017.

He's particularly grateful for the help of Philanthropy Northwest, which held a conference in Missoula, Axiom IT Solutions, and Dennis and Angela Lind. For more information and a pledge form, go to The Bangura Project website and the PDFs posted online with this story.

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