Sierra Leone November 12 - 18
Sierra Leone, November 12 – 18 2018
Tuesday: The flight arrived at airport after dark, and we walked out of the airport to get tickets to the ferry. $40 per person to ride about 10 miles across to Freetown. We loaded in a bus who took us the short drive to the boat. Smooth ride on a somewhat small boat at night so it was pleasant. Meet by two drivers who took us to dinner where I had Chicken Shawarma and a coke. Then took a short drive to Barmoi hotel. Nick and I stayed in one room, all the others split into groups of 2.
Wednesday: Woke up early so we could run on the beach. Walked down a little unsure where to find it, but was no problem. The beach itself could be beautiful, but was covered with trash. Mostly just awful. Ran 2.5 miles Nick who was running better than me. Felt super-hot at the end. Walked back up the hill to the hotel and into the big gate with a guard. Got in a quick swim in the small pool there that felt great. A shower then held to breakfast. The restaurant Barmoi is next to the pool. Super spicy omelet that made me sweat :) It was tasty though and good coffee. The view of the ocean at the Barmoi is really very pretty, and the experience was quite nice.
The official day started with a visit the World Hope International organization in downtown Freetown. Meet the staff who did physical therapy on children with Cerebral Palsy. They treat 9000 patients in Freetown. Anna was the person from Britain who was the lead and she was trained at Oxford. She had about a staff of 9 that she had trained to do home visits around Freetown. Met Paul who was maybe 25 and such a good guy. He works with Anna giving treatment to the kids.
Had lunch the same place we had dinner when we arrived. Falafel and coke. Paul came with us. After lunch we divided up and Nick and I went with Abu and another volunteer to see two patients. Both around 4 years old. In extreme poverty even more so at the first house (tin shack) in a crowded neighborhood. The boy was an extreme case and they worked with him to get stronger. One just can’t imagine the situation. We are so filthy rich and spoiled it’s not funny. They also made a wood chair for him to sit in, but had to Velcro him in it.
Second one was a lady on a busy side neighborhood in a tiny house who had twins about 1 and another 3-4 year old with Cerebral Palsy. She joked he looked like me. The treatment was short and he cried a lot. She followed us back to the car and asked Nick to take the boy home. We got to hold her twins.
That evening we did the three hour drive to Makeni with Willow as our driver. Towns of urban sprawl on a highway built by China that was a toll road. Lots of really small businesses along the road for the first hour, then wide open bush with lots of Palm trees.
Dinner with Carrie Jo and Jeff then short drive to the guest house. Nick and I staying in one room, Alfy and Phil in another. Forgot my backpack so no contact case of tooth brush. Carrie Jo grew up here as an MK. Educated in the states as nurse. Been here since 2014. Her father was a teacher in Freetown then Makeni. Grew up here with the family. Worked here during Ebola crisis earlier. No one was allowed to touch anyone else for months. That was 2015 with the last case in January 2016. I think she said 11,200 died here from Ebola. Generally speaking they don’t shake hands even now, but they did with us.
Thursday: Woke and headed to Carry Jo and Jeff’s at 8. Good breakfast they headed to World Hope office in Makeni. Short tour and briefing of the day. Headed out to a Katherie village that had a partnership with Daybreak Community Church to meet the people. Crazy dirt road about 15 miles. Meet the kids singing in kindergarten. So fun to shake hands and hear them sing. The local pastor and leader gave us a tour. Had a well that you manually pump. Got a basket that a guy was weaving for 25000 or $3 U.S. just to donate. Nick paid for most of it. Saw the high school the church and the community center, drying floor, and meet some of the villagers.
Drove to another school closer to Makeni and greeted by the 1-2 graders like rock stars. So fun. Probably a 100 kids swarmed us. Then played volleyball with the older kids. Took pictures of the kids in class and had good fun with them showing them the pictures. Went to another school close by and also had a great greeting of the kids within the classroom.
Lunch at the place owned by a charity that puts on the marathon. Group from the United Kingdom. Ate a 10k burger and fries that was really good. What a great organization all proceeds from the race and restaurant go to help kids.
Drove back to World Hope and got a presentation on community health (WASH) group that digs the wells. Getting into the villages with equipment is a big job. Cost about $10,000 U.S. per well all in.
Another presentation on the CHAMPS team. Visits mothers that had a death of infants. About 12 percent die by age of 5. Hard thankless job with lots of stress. Trying to solve as best they can.
Mosque is across the street playing call to pray music 5 times a day. Plenty of churches and mosques here and apparently it is all well tolerated. Mostly they just see it as God with just different flavors. Not really educated about the differences. Came from North Africa.
Back to guest house to rest. Went to dinner at Carrie Jo’s and bought the giraffe wood carving for 150000 Leones. Rebecca did the negotiation for me. She is maybe 12 and Carry Jo and Jeff’s daughter.
Friday: Breakfast at 8 at Carry Jo’s and headed to Pele Wala with the drilling rig and two trucks. Took about 1 and half hours. First part was wide pavement but a couple a single lane sketchy bridges. Then hit the dirt road that got progressively worse. So ruff half way the 55 gallon drum fell off the drilling rig and they have to pick it up loaded with fuel and put it back on. Had to be super heavy. Without a good 4x4 you can forget making it to the village.
Soon as we arrived they were ready for us with all the younger children. Roughly 170 kids and another 15 to 20 adults. They sang to us in mostly English for 20 minutes plus. What a wonderful welcome. Overwhelming is putting it lightly. Later the adult leaders introduced themselves. Then we introduced ourselves. The whole thing lasted well over an hour. Then we all walked down to watch the drilling rig. They had some problems so after a while we walked back. Pele Wala is length wise along the dirt road so longer and narrow. Some grass/bamboo huts but mostly poor concrete homes. Had a primary school, but secondary schools is a 5 mile walk away. It also costs money to attend so most girls don’t even get the chance.
In general the kids were a bit reserved to us at first, then just the opposite. They swarmed us for the rest of the day. We all had lunch together, some kind of fish added to rice. The rice was fine and I had some broth that was spicy and tasty. They loved getting their picture taken and then seeing it on your phone. They also wanted to hold our hands or sit next to us all day. It was exhausting in the heat.
We finally headed out about 4 pm and they ran after the trucks for a good while. We stopped at another village that a church in the states is building a church for. It was really rough and they looked so poor. Met the pastor and the youth leader. Both were very friendly.
Dinner at the house and some light discussion for a couple of hours. This team gets along really well. Lots of good natured joking going on. I do my best to get in my share. Back to the guest house for a direly needed shower.
Saturday: breakfast at 8:45 then a drive into town to see the Women of Hope Ministry. They provide jobs and a place for handicap women to seek refuge. Very hard for the handicap women to exist otherwise. Place was really nice, I was impressed.
Next was being dropped off at the open air market downtown. What a tour de force of people, eclectic items, strange raw foods, mud, smells and sounds that words will never describe. The most intense was inside the building with the endless rows of fish, chicken feet and the most smell bazaar items anywhere. Something we just had to experience it to see life here in Makeni.
We then drove out to the health clinic in Gdendembu at the same location was a Bible College. The health clinic has a PA Samuel and a nurse of sorts. Mostly just a few beds and a doctor’s office. No equipment beyond 1 stethoscope. Probably next to no meds. To be honest it hurt my soul to see it. They did have 1 patient a girl who gave birth the day before to twins. They were all healthy and doing well. I’m sure they were taken care of, but if they had any real trouble they would have to call the 1 ambulance that World Hope provides for the whole region.
We then walked over to the Bible College and were pleasantly surprised at the library. Have a number of books and a decent study area. Met two teachers who spoke good English and seemed to have a wonderful heart for God. Took my picture with the librarian Stephen who explained how he was trained there by a librarian from the states. Had a book on librarianship that he used as his manual. He said they don’t have any new items since 2006, but he maintains everything. Had everything shelved in Dewey and a card catalog with Author, Title and Subject indexed. He was a very sincere man. He took his job very seriously. Did my best to encourage him.
Walked over to the college classroom and talked with the leader. Brett and Alfy had prayer with the students which was very moving.
We then drove to the hotel in town that had a pool. We ordered then Brett and I went for a swim. Cost 20000 Leones to swim each. Had to take a shower first to get in. The shower had to rather large grasshoppers we had to share with. Cracked me up. Pool was so so, but I got in a decent swim all things considered. Lunch took forever, but mine and Bruce’s came out first. Got chicken instead of the cheeseburgers we ordered, but who is counting. Ken ordered soup and it took roughly 1 1/2 to get it, then it was terrible. Oh well our expectations are all in line.
After the hotel it was back to Carrie Jo and Jeff’s. Had a long discussion with Phil on where to go from here with the partnership, and planning. Hopefully the 3 churches can keep informed and make good decisions together. This is something so different than normal that it could go really good, or really bad. Thinking the former not the later.
Sunday: Breakfast at 7:30 (coffee cake was top notch) then headed to Pele Wala for church. Same crazy path, but more mud puddles. Church was setup outside under a makeshift awning with chairs on the top level of the school sidewalk. They sang and clapped several longer songs with 3 lady’s both young and old. Two guys playing bongos were pretty good. Brett spoke and it was translated into creole, and Loco the local tribal language. We also sang a few hymns from the printed booklet, but they couldn’t read those and it was really just us singing. We were bad!
After the service Pastor Andrew spoke some further directly to them and they feed us lunch in the school room. Rice and some kind of goat meat stew to put on top. I skipped the stew. Asked Pastor Andrew what they really needed first, and he said a church building.
We all walked down to the drilling rig accompanied by all the kids holding our hands. Found out they hit water at 40 meters. Was installing the pipe to make it permanent. They also picked out a place for the church which was next to the well. After a short while we walked back to head home with kids holding our hands tightly. Got in the trucks and they ran behind us for a good way shouting goodbye.
Had a nice lunch at Carrie Jo’s with cookies for dessert. Just hung out for a couple hours then did the drive back to the airport around 2 hours away. Pretty quick trip compared to going via Freetown. Had dinner in the airport restaurant upstairs. Four of us had the “cheese burger and fries”, and all four of us agreed that was not beef. To be honest it was worst meal of the week. From now on we will skip the airport food.
Sierra Leone is actually a beautiful country, but very underdeveloped. The people could not have treated us any better. At no time did I feel unsafe, or unwelcome. In fact few are treated to such welcoming groups as we were. I only wish I was this popular at home.
As for Pele Wala itself, we have some serious work to do. I’m not one to want to do a half way job and call it good. What can we accomplish with this partnership is not yet written.
To Phil, Brett, Alfy, Bruce, Ken and Nick you all make a great team. Just a really fun and enjoyable group. I consider this chapter 1 of an interesting book …