Thursday, 18 December 2014

Waterloo Ebola Treatment Centre


There has been a slight change of plan for the Adventist Hospital in Waterloo. After the quarantine period it was decided that the hospital would be reopened as an Ebola holding centre, but this has now changed. The hospital is no longer going to be a holding centre for Ebola - it is going to operate as a treatment centre for Ebola.
 
A holding centre is where suspected Ebola patients are taken to be tested, if they test positive for Ebola they are then transferred to a treatment centre.
 
The Doctor and staff that I spoke to at the hospital are pleased with this decision as they feel that a treatment centre is a safer environment than a holding centre for staff.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Leaving Salone


I've returned to the UK to spend Christmas with my husband, but I almost missed the flight.........

I didn't consider this form of transport!
I decided to drive around to the airport - I didn't want to spend hours at the airport so that ruled out the water-taxi, and I didn't fancy getting the ferry because there are reports of a lot of Ebola in the area around the ferry.....so driving around via Port Loko seemed the best choice. I'd driven around to the airport when I flew to the UK in September, so I didn't foresee any problems.

The day didn't get off to a good start, my car broke down......but that was ok - I arranged to rent a car. I got just past Waterloo and the car I'd hired broke down too! We eventually got the car going again and continued with the journey.......running a bit behind time, but still with plenty of time to catch the flight.
We got through the first couple of checkpoints with no problems at all - just a quick temperature check and we were allowed on our way. At the third check point I was asked for my pass.......I'd never been asked for a pass before so I wasn't expecting this. I explained that I didn't know a pass was required and that I was on the way to the airport to get a flight and in the end they let me carry on..........the same thing happened at the next 4 checkpoints - with the added problem that it was now after 5pm and the checkpoints close after 5pm and no-one is allowed to pass........oh dear! I was very fortunate that after explaining my plight at each checkpoint I was allowed to continue my journey after temperature checks.


Temperature 35.8 - OK to fly!
What with the breakdown and the extra time it took me to get through the checkpoints I got to the check-in desk at the airport just as it was closing - another 5 minutes and they wouldn't have accepted me on the flight.

At the airport there was an Ebola form to fill and another temperature check to see if I would be accepted onto the flight.

I was given a form to fill in on the flight that I had to hand in when I got to the UK - but first I had to transit through Brussels and Munich. Once on the flight I was given a form to fill in and hand in in Brussels. As we disembarked the plane people were waiting to take the forms and take our temperatures again.

The flight to Munich was uneventful, and there were no further checks when we landed in Munich.

On arrival in London I was to make myself known to Border Control - they were waiting just after passport control with a list of passengers they were expecting from Ebola affected countries.......so some reason my name was not on the list. I told them where I had came from and was taken to an interview room for a quick interview, hand my form in and another temperature check. I was told to check my temperature twice daily for 21 days and told that I didn't need to restrict my movement.

So, as far as checking and information goes it's improved a lot since September......except that unless people make themselves knows to border control there are no checks......it would have been easy to walk straight past them
Ebola Assessment Form
Ebola Information




Sunday, 7 December 2014

Ebola Story - Ibrahim S

This article is written by a young man I know about how he feels about Ebola. I think he has a real talent for the written word......

MY EBOLA STORY
By Ibrahim S

"I may say boring, yes it is boring. But on the other hand it is affecting me greatly. How can I listen to teaching on the radio? That's silly. I don't go to the beach no more, don't move in crowds no more, and most of all don't go to school.

Can't say no more, but for some time, it has been six months since I left school and I'm eager to go back to school. I only have thee more months to end my senior secondary school career and I want to enjoy these three months with my friends.

The death rate aggravates me, I sometimes agitate over it asking myself when will this end. some others don't want Ebola to end but it really pissed me off. I'm even afraid to go to church because I don't trust anyone. But all the same I thank God for the life.

I don't attend lessons, not because of the Ebola but the fees are flying upwards and I'd rather study at home than pay that sum of money.

Staying at home is really agonizing but I don't have an option other than to stay at home.

If I am asked to summarise this whole situation I will start by blaming the people for not.......believing, and the government for not responding fast. It's because of their carelessness that people are suffering today. All they do care about is the money and nothing else, I'm just tired. All I do pray for is to see the end part of this big pain and loss in our country.

Depart from us. I want to return to school and have fun with my friends for the last time in my school uniform. I want to play football and hang out with my friends, go to the cinema and have fun with pals but I'm missing all this because of Ebola. I hate this virus, just hope it all ends soon.

In Jesus name Amen"

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Ebola Story - Mohamed K

This article was written by a student I know who was due to sit his end of junior secondary school examinations (BECE) this year. (I love the final line of his atrticle).

EBOLA IN SIERRA LEONE, WEST AFRICA
By Mohamed

"Ebola came to Sierra Leone at around May fifth to the tenth, 2014.

It came in through Kalihun district, another part of Sierra Leone. The outbreak came into Sierra Leone seven months ago and it has killed about one thousand one hundred and above people in Sierra Leone.

And it came to the capital city Freetown a couple of months ago, which I could not remember.

But when it came to the capital Freetown it finally affect me in a way that I fail to fight against Ebola me myself alone. Because it affect me against my education because I should have been through with my Basic Education Certificate Education (B.E.C.E.).

But we only thank God for the West Africa Examinations Council (W.A.E.C.) for bringing us the teaching programme on our radios which keeps us busy all the time in our studies. Never mind that not each and everyone can afford radio in our various communities.

The public health infrastructure in Sierra Leone is being severely strained as the outbreak to Sierra Leone grows.

How Ebola Affect in Sierra Leone
Symptoms = vomiting, bleeding, fever, headache, joint pain etc

Ebola leads to the loss of our doctors and nurses all in the name of Ebola.

May God save our beloved country Sierra Leone"

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Ebola Story - Abu K

This article was written by one of the students who regularly hang out in my office:

WHERE EBOLA STARTED AND HOW IT AFFECTS MY LIFE
By Abu

"First the headline, the Ebola virus was first discovered in 1976 when an outbreak of the Ebola haemorrhagic fever occurred in Zaire and another later in the same year in Sudan. Each outbreak had about 300 victims, but did not spread much larger than that because of the remoteness of the areas in which they occurred. The Zaire Ebola virus has one of the highest fatality rates of any pathogenic virus affecting humans.

On the 25th March the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported that the Guinea Ministry Of Heath had reported an outbreak of the Ebola virus in four (4)  of their southern districts, there were also suspected cases in the neighbouring countries Sierra Leone and Liberia.

In March 2014 when the outbreak started in Sierra Leone it first stated in one (1) district called Kailahun District. During that time when the disease enter in to the country people did not believe in the disease because there are so many information about the disease. Some were saying the disease is not real, they are taking the influence that the government of the nation is finding somewhere to raise money, some are taking the disease as politics, others are saying  the disease is from cows not rom human beings.

In August and September when high rate of deaths started occurring 70% of Sierra Leoneans believed and 30% still did not believe, some were saying during these months we were experiencing a disease called cholera and typhoid fever that was the main reason why some were not believing in the Ebola virus. The signs shown for Ebola virus is similar to the signs of cholera and typhoid fever. During the same month the government of Sierra Leone, UNICEF WHO and some other organisations in Sierra Leone and the world came together to fight against the Ebola virus.

Really, the Ebola outbreak has made things difficult in our country Sierra Leone. The disease has made business places, and companies not to function well and even affect educational  institutions like schools and universities. The education background in our country is not too good as compared to the olden days, the virus has stopped children going to school, like me, I'm supposed to be now at SSS4, I should have been now preparing to sit my WASSCE examinations.

Thank God my life is still existing, lets pray that the Ebola virus will leave our country Sierra Leone and the world as a whole."

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Ebola Story - Ibrahim B

I asked some students to write an article or story about Ebola and how it affected them and their country, it could be factual or fictional, statistical or about life. With their permission I am going to share some of their stories........
 
This one is written by Ibrahim B
 
 
LIFE THROUGHOUT THE EPIDEMIC (EBOLA) - A MONTH DURING EBOLA
By Ibrahim
 
"At first it was just a rumour, our people could not believe it because they have never seen or heard anything about Ebola. Some say it is a curse, for others it's a witch sign. As for me, anything is possible.
 
Ebola entered Sierra Leone in the early month of March but was not taken seriously. It then spreads gradually until it becomes a national concern, seeing our politicians action it was of no serious concern. It then turns into an international issue.
 
Unluckily for us, the school going pupils, it is a big blow because school wouldn't reopen until further notice. Being at home doing nothing is the same as babysitting, it was really boring missing the fun you get at school. But it all became worse when our President decided to close all social activities. During this period life sucks and it was like being in jail.
 
The worst part of it was hearing the number of confirmed cases increasing drastically. My face was full of pain.
 
One day I was home listening to the radio as usual when I saw an ambulance passing and park just a few meter (40m) from our house. At first I thought they were out of fuel or something, but suddenly I saw four men dressed up like astronaut ready to enter a rocket. They entered the compound and bought out a sick man, entered the ambulance and left. It was agonies I was in my house for four days without stepping my feet outside, I was panicked and cannot trust anyone. The compound was later quarantined for 21 days and then everything was ok. Just imagine how much days I was indoors, four plus twenty one days, that's twenty five days indoors and my only friend was my family which I can't trust hundred percent because they go out there and return in the evening. But really the month of Ebola was a sad month and it's still a sad month because Ebola is still killing people out there, lets just hope it gets better."


Friday, 28 November 2014

RIP Zainabu

Sadly King George have lost another resident - Zainabu.
 
She was a lovely, friendly lady who loved a good natter.......but she didn't like having her photo taken so I have no photo to remember her by.
 
She wasn't a lover of crowds, preferring to get to know people one to one, so she rarely joined in with group activities. If you visited the ladies ward, she was in the corner bed on the right hand side and I'm sure you will remember her. She had limited mobility and rarely left the ward.......but when there were visitors to the ward she would always call them over to say hello.
 
May her soul rest in perfect peace.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

RIP Mr Dore

Ah, I'm so sad......my old friend Mr Charles Dore has passed away. He was a long term resident at the King George VI Home for the Elderly. If you have ever visited the home with me I'm sure you will remember him.
In the old days when the home was based in Kissy and we had our team house in their compound he and his friend and sparring partner Mr Roberts would come and talk to our teams about their lives and later he would play his guitar and Mr Roberts would play his harmonica and they would sing to us.....we joined in where we could. He never seemed to have the right number of strings on his guitar, but he could still get a tune out of it - I've lost count of the number of times people sent new strings for him.
Mr Dore had been sick in recent times - it was thought he had prostate cancer and he was hospitalised numerous times in 2013. Many times we thought we were going to lose him, even the doctor was amazed when he kept bouncing back.
More recently he had seemed well and he passed away peacefully.
Even though he was well into his 80's he quite enjoyed his stays in the hospital as it gave him the chance to flirt with the nurses.....who all loved him of course.
He would tell people I was his daughter. He was a great talker and I loved our chats, he had a great sense of humour too and he could always make me laugh. He was such an interesting man who'd lived  long and varied life. I'm going to miss him. Rest in peace my old friend. Goodnight my Sierra Leonean Papa xxx







Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Mr K is Ebola Free!

I recently posted about Mr K, the father of one of our sponsored students.  Mr K was quite sick and had been tested for Ebola.

Thank heavens the test result was negative! Mr K was treated for his ailment and he's been discharged from hospital. He's still a little weak, but he's recovering at home.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Access Criteria

Here's the access criteria for the 12 Bed Ebola Facility at Kerry Town for heathcare workers and foreigners:


The good news is that if I get Ebola I can be treated there. The bad news is most of the Sierra Leonean medical people that I know are not working in UK funded centres so they won't be able to be treated there.
 
This is going to be a disappointment to healthcare workers not working in UK funded centres.
 
**This only relates to the 12  bed facility in Kerry Town intended specifically for healthcare workers and international staff.......not the main 80 bed treatment centre at the same location.


Ebola Statistics - More Info Needed

I read the daily Ebola statistics for Sierra Leone released by the Ministry of Heath and Sanitation, and I appreciate the information they are sharing on a daily basis.
 
Like many others I watch the number of confirmed cases each day rise and fall and rise again. Yesterday it dawned on me that these numbers really aren't informative unless we also know the number of samples that are tested or the number of negative results each day also.
 
Yesterday there were 39 new confirmed cases - which is lower than it has been for some time.......but what I would really like to know is how many people were tested, or how many negative results were received for the same period. 39 sounds like an improvement......but what if it was a slow day in the labs and only 39 tests were performed......that would be a 100% infection rate on the samples tested........on the other hand if 400 tests were performed we would be looking at a less than 10% infection rate.
 
On the days we have 90 or more new confirmed cases, our hearts sink because the number is so high........but how many are tested on those days 100? 200? 1000? It could be that on those days there are more tests carried out making the infection rate seem higher.......perhaps the number of tests that return negative results is higher still........
 
We need more information so we can see the whole picture.


Saturday, 22 November 2014

Student D and Mr K

Up until now Ebola has felt quite remote from me, I've made adjustments in my day to day life such as avoiding body contact, continuously washing and sanitising my hands, not visiting hospitals, taking the temperature of people who I spend time with etc.....but the only people that I knew personally who had contracted it were medical health workers who had treated a patient with Ebola and a local Imam who had performed burial rights........that has changed now, I suppose with the high number of cases being confirmed each day it is inevitable that more people I know will be affected
 
Student D
One of our students 'D' went to visit family upline - his Aunt was due to give birth and he was excited to see his family, who he hadn't seen for some time, and to meet the newest addition to the family.

When he arrived his aunt was in labour, she was also quite poorly. The baby died during childbirth and the mother died the next day. The authorities were called and they suspected Ebola, the bodies were quickly taken away and buried.

The family house was quarantined for 21 days. For 21 days they had to stay in the house and rely on people bringing them food in order to survive. Fortunately no-one else in the family got sick and D is now back in Freetown.

Mr K
One of our sponsored boys came to see me to ask for help - he was tying to raise some money to send for his father in the provinces who is sick.

Another family member had arrived yesterday morning with the news that Mr K was sick, he had been vomiting blood. He's been admitted to hospital and we're waiting for his test results.
 
The visiting family member was going to sleep in his car last night - just in case - and he returned to the provinces this morning with a little money that I was able to give them
 
Please pray for Mr K and student D and their families
 

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Numbers 6:24-26

"The Lord bless you and keep you,
  The Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you,
 The Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”
Numbers 6:24-26
 
If we are friends on Facebook you will know that I'm having a tough week. Three people that I know have passed away......a child, a man in the prime of his life, and an older person. None of them had Ebola, although if it were not for Ebola they may not have died - many hospitals are closed, those that are open some people are scared to go to in case they are mistaken for an Ebola patient or in case they are exposed to Ebola. People are dying because they are unable to get medical treatment. I don't know if they would have survived if there was no Ebola here - but I do believe they would at least have had a fighting chance.
 
I was pondering all this tonight when this passage came to me - it feels almost as if it were written just for me. When I go to bed tonight I will still be sad, desperately sad.......but I will also be surrounded with Gods love and filled with His peace.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

New Ebola Holding/Treatment Centre - Waterloo

 
Back in September the AHS Hospital at Waterloo was closed and quarantined for 21 days after admitting a patient who later tested positive for Ebola. The patient later died. Three of the hospital staff who had close contact with the patient contracted Ebola from her......2 nurses passed away and the other, a lab technician, survived.
 
Since the end of the quarantine the hospital has remained closed. The Government ordered that it should be opened as a holding centre for Ebola patients. There was an unfinished ward in the compound (started by Mission Direct) and the government decided they would complete the building to increase the hospital capacity as a holding centre.
 
As the work to ready the hospital progressed it was decided that it would also serve as a treatment centre for Ebola.
 
I was invited to pay a visit to the centre before it opens - I hardly recognised the place! They now have solar lighting, plenty of water tanks and a new well - so no more water shortages, and two big generators that I'm told were donated by the British.
 
It was quite eerie being inside the hospital with no staff or patients (when I visited during quarantine the staff were all there)
 
Here are some photos:

The main entrance is now in the 'Red Zone'
 

Each of the existing wards will accommodate 6 patients (Red Zone)
 

Outside area for Ebola patients

The new ward (Red Zone)

A single room with toilet in the new building (Red Zone)

This is where patients will await their diagnosis (all air conditioned!!)

Newly built offices

Newly built offices

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Remembrance Day Service 2014

I felt honoured to be invited to the Remembrance Day Service held on Sunday 9th November at the Cenotaph in Freetown.


Due to the National State of Emergency that Sierra Leone is currently under public gatherings are banned, but the President gave special permission for the Service to go ahead to show his respect and support of the armed forces. It was a very good service, as well as paying respect to people lost in WW1 and WW2, respects were also paid to people lost during the Rebel War and during this current ebola crisis.

During the 2 minutes silence the only sound was the distant wail of ebola ambulances - a stark reminder of the current problems the country is facing.


His Excellency Dr Ernest Bai Koroma - President of SL
 

My Experience of Ebola

Since the Ebola outbreak I've read quite a few blogs by people here in Sierra Leone - my experience differs quite a lot to what I am reading in other people blogs. I've also seen and read a lot in the media and what I'm seeing here is vastly different to what people are seeing on TV and in newspapers in the UK.

A lot of the blogs I'm reading are by medical people - so that's a major difference for a start, they are here to help people affected with Ebola.....while part of the reason I'm here it to help people not to get it.

I've not really had any first hand experience of Ebola, four people that I know have contracted it - two survived and two passed away, but I had no contact with them while they had the virus.

I've read in some blogs that all bars and restaurants are closed - that's not true, some have closed yes, but by no means all of them. I don't know if organisations are telling their people that the bars and restaurants are closed to prevent them from venturing out....but these places that have remained open could really do with some support and customers!

The news I was seeing while I was in the UK would have people believe that there are dead bodies on every street corner.......well I live on the east side of the capital, Freetown, and I've not seen one dead body abandoned in the street - I pray it stays that way.

Obviously a lot of the media coverage is showing the Ebola centres and I have no experience of them whatsoever - what I see is everyday life, family life, people trying to get by - life for a lot of the families I work with was a struggle before Ebola - now it's almost impossible.

For me the biggest change and challenge is the no touching rule - it's so difficult to get used to the ABC rule.....Avoid Body Contact - it's not natural and it feels very isolating.  I quickly got used to the continuous hand washing....and I always smell of either chlorine or dettol.

For me just feeling slightly off colour is enough to make me go over and over any possible contact I might have had with people which could have unwittingly exposed me to the virus - I'm sure this is the same for a lot of people. I have a headache today - most probably because I'm a little dehydrated, or because I've been working on the computer and I've not fully admitted to myself yet that I need glasses. In normal times I would just take some tablets and brush it of, but now I'm checking my temperature every couple of hours just in case.
I know that I've not been exposed to EVD......I don't touch people, I'm always washing my hands with chlorinated water and using hand sanitiser, I've not been around anyone who is sick, I've defiantly not had contact with a corpse........but all the same I'll be relieved when this headache is gone.

When I ask people what is the worst thing for them personally about the Ebola outbreak the main answers I get is lack of money for food and the schools and colleges being closed. The worst thing for me about it is seeing people I care about struggle and knowing that I can't help them all.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Ebola Ambulances

There's a new thing in Sierra Leone - the Ebola Ambulance......
 
It used to be that the only time a siren was heard was if a vehicle was carrying a corpse........nowadays if you hear a siren you know it's an Ebola Ambulance
 
It gave me quite a jolt the first time I saw one......the driver and passenger both wearing white hooded suits and masks.......unfortunately now it's become an everyday occurrence.

When  a siren is heard people stop for a second to try to judge how close it is........then say 'Ebola' then carry on with what they were doing. If you happen to be driving and hear a siren you give way quick! I have seen a few parked outside residences, picking up patients or corpses.....they always draw a crowd - who stand and watch the proceedings from what they consider to be a safe distance.
 
During the 2 minutes silence on Remembrance Sunday the only sound to be heard was the Ebola ambulance sirens in the background - it was quite chilling.

Imagine how scary it must be if you or someone you love is sick and one of these ambulances comes - these strange looking people turn up covered head to toe with hooded suits, masks, gloves, goggles. The sick are put in the back of one of these ambulances and whizzed off - that could be the last time the family see the person who is sick if they succumb to the virus.
 
A couple of months ago we might hear one or two of these ambulances a day......now it's many many more - there are more ambulances in the country now - but there is also more Ebola
 
Where I was in the UK recently for a few weeks it took me a while to get used to hearing sirens again without saying to myself "Ebola" 

Monday, 10 November 2014

Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is discord, harmony
Where there is error, truth
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy

O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console
To be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love

For it is in giving that we receive
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life

This is one of my favourite prayers and I was so pleased to see these words in the program for the Remembrance Day Service in Sierra Leone....I was also very moved when the military band played the music for the hymn 'Make Me A Channel Of Your Peace'

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Children of the Blind

These children are all guides for blind family members, their days are spent leading their family member and begging on the streets of Freetown - they don't have the opportunity to go to school because looking after their parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle is a fulltime job.
 
Look at their faces, look at their eyes.....there must be something we can do to help them. Please join me in prayer that the Lord will guide us in finding a way to help them.
 
 






 
 
 
 
 
 










** Apologies if you are looking at this one a phone - I just can't get the photos to line up correctly for the mobile version.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Jeremiah 29:11

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future"
Jeremiah 29:11

I love this passage, one of the Mission Direct volunteers shared it in devotions way back in 2010 and I've gone back to it many times since then (Thank you J if you are reading!!)
 
I think God every day that the plans He has for me have bought me to Sierra Leone.
 

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Rice Distribution for the Blind

We have recently started distributing rice to some of the blind beggars of Freetown. They are really struggling at the moment as most people just don't have any spare money to give to them. They have no way of earning any money and so rely on whatever little is given to them.
 
We started with just a few, but it has grown quite quickly - last Friday we shared rice with 49 of the blind beggars and their families. We had shared out all the rice for the day - 600kg-  with the 48 that turned up, about 5 minutes after sharing the last of the rice a straggler wandered in.......oh dear, we felt so sorry for him but what could we do, all the rice had gone. He went away quite happy with the remains of our compound rice!!
 
We plan to continue with the rice distribution until this crisis is over.
 
If you feel this is something you are able to help with, donations can be made using the donate button at the top of this page.
 
Here are some of our blind friends:
 












Thursday, 30 October 2014

I Made It

I made it back to Sierra Leone last night! I took a round about way of getting here, changing planes in Belgium then landing in Senegal and Guinea before finally getting to Sierra Leone. ....but I got here in the end!!

On arrival I had to wash my hands in chlorine solution, fill in a questionnaire about where I've been and who I've had contact with for the past two months and then have my temperature taken.... but it was all handled professionally and went smoothly.

About an hour after I landed a massive storm hit.....I'm glad it waited until I was on the ground!! The good thing about the rain is it has topped up the water tanks in the compound., so there should be plenty of washing water now. I was also blessed electricity all through the night til the early hours of this morning.


I decided to take it easy for my first day back in the country, so I spent this morning unpacking , then drove up to Bureh Beach this afternoon to take the car for a run and catch up with a few people there. I had a lovely chat with a young man who used to be in our education sponsorship program and is now working at the surf club........unfortunately there are very few customers at the moment,  we were the only visitors to the beach today.

I spent a while relaxing and watching the surfing then after watching the sunset and trying out my new camera I made my way home. 

About 30 minutes after I got in another huge storm hit and its still raging. Unfortunately I have no electricity tonight. I managed to get everything (phones, camera, dongle, tablet) partially charged from the car battery I use when I have no national power before that ran out of juice about an hour ago. If I don't get any national power tomorrow I'll have to pay a visit to the Hotel 5/10 and 'borrow' some of their electricity.
I heard the reason for no power is someone in the neighbourhood got electrocuted today trying to fix a fault in the area (may they rest in peace).

Friday, 24 October 2014

Philippians 4:6-7

'Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus'
Philippians 4:6-7


I need to do this more often. Instead of worrying about how I'm going to cope with something I need to hand things over to the Lord. Sometimes in the middle of a situation is is easy to get so caught up with things that I forget to include God in the equation.

I prayed a lot about going back to Sierra Leone,  and this verse describes perfectly how I feel about it.


Wednesday, 22 October 2014

I'm Going Back

The title says it all really, I'm going back to Sierra Leone in a few days.

Bob and I have talked and prayed endlessly about it and decided that it's the right thing for me to do.

Gambia Bird being unable to resume their direct flights put a bit of a spanner in the works, but it didn't put me off for long and I managed to find an alternative route.

I'll be doing a lot of work with the sponsored students and their families, ensuring they know the facts about Ebola and how to best protect themselves from risk as well as putting everything in place for the students so they can restart their schooling as soon as the schools reopen. I'll be meeting with educators about how they are going to manage the curriculum when the schools reopen.

Distributing rice to the blind and their families
We have had such a great response to the rice appeal and we are continuing with that. Many many families and households have already benefitted from rice we have been able to provide with the generous donations we have received and we hope to be able to continue with that and expand it to include even more people in need of help. Last week we distributed rice to 40 blind beggars and their families.

Donations for rice can be made using the donation button at the top of this page, any amount is very much appreciated.

I feel that my setup in Sierra Leone is such that I will be at very low risk of coming into contact with Ebola. I live in a secure compound and anyone entering or leaving goes though the chlorine wash, I will also be taking the temperature of all visitors.  I have my own vehicle so will not be using public transport. At my office everyone entering has to go through the chlorine wash and have their temperature taken.
I won't be visiting any hospitals or ebola centres.

I'm looking forward to going back,  it's been very difficult for me to be away when so many people that I care about are suffering.

** A note about the photo, the two finger salute a couple of the kids are doing doesn't mean the same in Sierra Leone as it does in the UK........it's not a rude gesture there!!

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Please Make it Stop

Well, my joy at hearing that Gambia Bird were resuming direct flights between the UK and Sierra Leone was short-lived - their license to fly the route was revoked by the UK Department for Transport before they even had a chance to get started. I'm so disappointed with the decision.

The media coverage of Ebola continues to be relentless and typically sensationalist.......I've started to avoid the news as much as possible.

The reaction that I've had from people since I returned to the UK has been mixed, some people have treated me with suspicion - as if they might get infected with Ebola just by talking to me........other have been wonderfully supportive.

There are still a large number of new cases of people being confirmed with Ebola in Sierra Leone each day, the number of new confirmed cases so far for October is 1082 and still rising.

I'm praying for the day that Ebola will be under control and the country can start to recover.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Ebola in the Media

Sierra Leone and Ebola are in the news a lot at the moment, with reports that 5 people are being infected with Ebola every hour there........I just don't see how that can be true, five an hour? The reported figures certainly don't reflect that. I know that it's bad out there at the moment,  but I don't believe that it's that bad.

It seems Ebola is on every newscast at the moment, just a few news items that spring to mind are:
  • The hoax on the flight from Dominican Republic to the US
  • The suspected case in Australia of a nurse recently returned from Sierra Leone - she has since tested negative for Ebola, but they don't seem quite so quick to report that
  • The dog of the Spanish nurse that was exterminated (does anyone know if you can get Ebola from a dog??)
  • The suspected case in Macedonia - surely this can't be an Ebola case, he had travelled from the UK and hasn't been to Africa for years
On top of what's being reported in the news is social media. On twitter there are a lot of people calling for borders to be closed for the affected countries. There are a LOT of jokes about Ebola too - I must've had a sense of humour bypass where this is concerned because I can't see a funny side to it. Then there are the rumours of the virus becoming airborne, which is causing even more panic.

I'm finding the coverage of Ebola exhausting, it's relentless and it makes people think that that is all there is to Sierra Leone - when it's so much more.

It's been hard enough for people living with the stigma of the war, and now this.......
Sierra Leone is more than Ebola.......
...it's wonderfully warm, friendly, loving, funny, beautiful people
...it's the most religiously tolerant place I've ever known
...it's traffic, okadas and noise
...it's unspoilt beaches and the most perfect sunsets you could ever wish to see

...it's so much more than Ebola


There is some good news.......I was very glad to hear that Gambia Bird are resuming flights to Sierra Leone later this month, they will be flying direct from Gatwick which is much better for me than the only other current alternatives of going via Brussels or Morocco.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Matthew 25:34-40

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’     “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’     “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Matthew 25:34-40


I often use these verses during devotions when we have teams of volunteers in Sierra Leone. In my previous life I didn't really do any of those things listed above,  except maybe visiting sick family members in hospital, and only that under protest.  Since I've been in Sierra Leone I am blessed that I regularly have the opportunity to do all of the above,  some of which are much harder than others.......I find visiting prisoners the hardest of all.

I know one young man who was imprisoned for 8 months on suspicion of theft, when I found out where he was I visited him as often as I could. It was a three hour drive to the prison, I was a allowed to see him for just 15 minutes, then it was another three hour drive back home. The conditions in the prison weren't good and the young man was quite sick - he would spend most of our 15 minute visits crying. After he was released from prison he told me that a few days before my first visit he had given up and had tried to take his life, he thought he had no one who cared for him and didn't see the point in going on. I'm so grateful to God for compelling  me to visit and keep visiting.

The young man was eventually released without charge after spending over 8 months in custody. He is planning to start a vocational training program once the Ebola crisis is over.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Waterloo Hospital Update 08/10/14

I received this update from Dr Koroma at the SDA Hospital at Waterloo - please pray for them as they prepare for and move into this this new situation.

It's a very brave decision for them to make and show's their dedication and determination to help their country through this crisis:

Dear Ali,
Since after the quarantine of the hospital, I am in consultation with the ministry of health and sanitation about the reopening of the hospital, they advice us that it will be difficult for us to reopen by now due to the increase of the new cases in the  Waterloo axis, we rather wait until the trend reduces, and they requested us to allow them to use the facility for a holding center to help reduce the trend of new infection. We had consultation with the authorities of the hospital including the minister of health, and we came to conclusion to allow them to use the facility with conditions that we still remains the sole owners of the facility after the whole exercise. During the assessment of the facility, they found out that they needed more space and they decided to extend to the new extension by finishing the remaining work with the exception of tiling and few other things, so whatever remaining, after the whole exercise the Mission Direct will continue from there. As a founder and proprietor of this project, I found it mandatory to inform you what ever is going on here. Thank you for your continues support.
Regards,Dr. David


Saturday, 4 October 2014

Romans 15:13

'May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit'
Romans 15:13

I love this verse. The first time I went to Sierra Leone I was broken after visiting St George Foundation,  We visited there on the final day of my trip and I had met James and he had touched my heart (James is the boy who died of rabies this year).When I got back to my hotel room that night I couldn't stop crying so I got on my knees and read the bible.  I picked up reading where I had left off the day before and this was what I read. It was just what I needed and as I read it I knew I had to share it with James. I copied this verse out into the front of my bible and left it to be given to James. I though a lot about James after I returned to the UK, and then had a lovely surprise when he called me on my birthday - he'd found my birthday and contact details in the bible I left for him. We stayed in touch from then on until he died.
I believe that God showed me that verse that day to help me through what I was finding a tough time,  and also so that I could share it with James.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

21 Days

The incubation period for Ebola is 21 days. It's 21 days since I left Sierra Leone........so today is the day that I'm officially Ebola free.

I wonder how long it will take before I stop worrying every time I feel a bit off colour that it could be the start of Ebola symptoms?
 
How long will it take before human contact feels normal again?
When will I stop flinching when someone brushes by me in a shop?
When will I be able to pay for something or take change without making sure I don't touch the hand of the other person.
When will it feel natural again to shake someone's hand?

How long before I stop feeling guilty for being well, when so many people are sick and dying?

How long will it take for Ebola to be eradicated from Sierra Leone.......and after that for the country to return to normal? Things have changed so much I can't imagine how they will ever go back to how they were pre-Ebola.

Now I've got the all clear I'm off to try to find a flight to get back over to Sierra Leone to help with the sensitisation of people in my community

Friday, 26 September 2014

John 14:6

'Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me'
John 14:6 NIV

This bible verse means a lot to me, it is the verse that led to to Christ.

Years ago I was on a train going through London when I saw the words "I am the way and the truth and the life" emblazoned across a building.  The words stayed with me and when I had the chance I looked them up........then forgot about them.

A month or so later it was Easter and the film Jesus of Nazerath was on TV, I heard those words again "I am the way and the truth and the life"

I started an Alpha course and I think it's during the first session on the video I heard Nicky Gumbel quoting "I am the way and the truth and the life"

Why did I keep seeing and hearing this, what did it even mean? It was popping up all over the place. It kept hearing it in my head, finding it on my mind.

Anyway, the long and short of it is, that hearing it on that day at the Alpha course made me decide that I would really give Alpha my best shot. That night I went home and started reading the New Testament,  I finished reading it the week the Alpha course finished......by which time I was ready to give my life to Christ.

"I am the way and the truth and the life" those words mean so much to me........funny thing is whenever I've been on a train in London since then I've looked out for that building with those special words.....I've never seen it again.  Did I imagine it? Has it been removed?  Was it there just for me to see? Who knows.......but I do know that those words have changed my life.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Being in the UK

I've been back in the UK for two weeks now and it's not been an easy transition.  I feel guilty for leaving my Sierra Leone family behind.  A lot of people have commented that I must have been pleased or relieved to get out of Sierra Leone.....well no, I'm not, I feel terrible about it.

I'm still shocked that there were no checks or information given when I came from Sierra Leone first to Belgium, then onto the UK. The flight was full, and any one of us passengers on that flight could have been exposed to Ebola, any of us could start having symptoma and be spreading the disease.

I will get the all clear from Ebola on 1st October. I'm not particularly worried as I'm quite confident that I wasn't exposed to the virus, but even so when I feel a bit hot, or get a headache the first though that comes to mind is that it could be ebola.  It is always with me in the back of my mind, like a black cloud looming on the horizon.

I'm still avoiding touching people. When I pay or take change in a shop I try to do so in a way that avoids touching the hand of the other person. I avoid brushing past people in the street or in queues. It is good not to have to be washing my hands all the time and I no longer smell of chlorine or dettol but I kind of miss that!

The three day lockdown helped to identify many new cases of Ebola and since then Port Loko, Bombali and Moyamba districts have been isolated because of the surge in cases. Other hotspots have been quarantined. 

While I'm in the UK the best thing I can do is raise awareness about the situation in Sierra Leone and continue to collect donations for rice for families to help them get through this crisis. Donations can be made using the DONATE button at the top of this page, please consider giving £13 for a 25kg bag of rice.

I travelled back to the UK to attend a family wedding,  but unfortunately they felt that having me there would be a risk to other wedding guests so I wasn't able to go. My husband took me away that weekend to Torquay to cheer me up and we had a lovely time, so we returned again the following weekend.  This weekend we are going to stay in a B&B in Buckfastleigh and we are planning to spend our time geocaching on Dartmoor. It sounds like the food at the B&B is going to be great, so I'm defiantly looking forward to that. 

Buckfast Abbey

The past two weekends we have visited Buckfast Abbey, a place where I feel great peace.  I'm looking forward to staying so close to Buckfast Abbey this weekend and to attend a service there. 

We don't get much opportunity to take holidays, so we've decided that when I'm in the UK we'll get away for weekend breaks as often as possible.

I have setup office in my husband's showroom so that I don't have to work from home. It works well and means that we get to see more of each other while I'm here.

Obai
I'm in daily contact with Sierra Leone. Unfortunately Obai wasn't able to keep his hospital appointment for his eye because the hospital was closed after a patient tested positive for Ebola. A nurse friend is going to keep an eye on him and if it starts to get worse again she'll get more medication for him.

When his grandmother died Obai had to leave the home that he'd shared with her. For now he's staying with another family in the same area.  I'm hoping this will work out and turn into a long term solution. His mother is alive but unfortunately it's not possible for him to live with her. He misses his grandmother terribly.

Please keep Obai and the people of Sierra Leone in your prayers

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

James 5:12

'But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation'
James 5:12 NIV

It's never fails to amaze me when someone will ask me for something, then the next time I see them they'll remind me that I promised to do whatever it was they asked for.........I know that can't be true because I don't make promises........as it says in James I let my yes be yes or my no be no.

People who know me well know that I don't make promises. If someone asks for something and I am able to help, just saying yes is enough, there is no need for promises.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Lockdown & Rice



Rice Delivery
By time the lock down in Sierra Leone started on Friday the 19th of September 2014 we had purchased and delivered 135 bags of rice, that's a total of 3375 kilograms of rice!

The day before the lockdown the price of food increased dramatically, by evening time some items were seven times their usual price. The streets were crowded with people trying to stock up on food for the lockdown.

During the lockdown 92 dead bodies were discovered and a number of new cases of Ebola were identified.  More than 20,000 people made up small teams to carry out the house to house visits.  The teams educated households about Ebola and each household was given a bar of soap and a sticker to show they had been visited.
Thank heavens the lockdown was peaceful.

The staff at the Waterloo Hospital were released from quarantine on 17th September, but only had one day of freedom before the lockdown started. They are waiting to hear when they will be allowed to reopen the hospital. 



The need for rice is still very much apparent so I will carry on taking donations for rice and providing them to the families that need them most.  If you would like to make a donation to purchase rice you can use the donation button at the top of this page or contact me for alternative ways to donate. If you use the PayPal button to make a donation there is no charge if you send it via your PayPal account,  if you use the option to donate by credit or debit card the charge is 3.4% + 20p.

Sticker Showing Household Has Been Visited by Ose to Ose Team


Friday, 19 September 2014

Galations 6:9

'Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up'
Galatians 6:9 NIV


For various reasons I have been having quite a difficult time since I returned to the UK from Sierra Leone.......to the point that a couple of days ago I found myself wondering why I bother.  At just the right time I was given this verse. It reminded me that I am not doing this for myself, nor even for the people I work with......I am doing this because I believe it is what God wants me to do. I will continue to try to help the families that I work with in Sierra Leone and I will return to Sierra Leone as soon as I am able.

I will not give up.

Lockdown aka Ose to Ose Ebola Tok


The lockdown in Sierra Leone is being referred to as the 'Ose to Ose Ebola Tok' - house to house ebola talk

The lockdown started at midnight last night and will last for three days.  During the lockdown people are not permitted to leave their homes, there will be house to house visits to educate people about Ebola and to try to find Ebola patients that are being hidden in homes. 

There have been many rumours around the lockdown, here are a few of them:
That the soap being distributed will give people ebola
That a corpse was discovered in the Guma Valley dam and has infected the water
That all mobile phone networks will be shut down, so there will be no communication with the outside world
That the lockdown will be extended to either 7, 11 or 21 days
People are really worried about these rumours and I can only think that they are being spread by people who want the lockdown to fail. I just hope and pray that people will comply with the lockdown and that the country will remain peaceful.

There are a lot of homeless people in Freetown and I wonder about them, how will they cope during the lockdown,  where will they go? It's been reported that there will be some food provision for the homeless - hot food for street children and dry food for the adults. 

In total we were able to purchase and distribute 135 bags of rice before the start of the lockdown with donations pledged and received. Thank you so much to everyone who has donated, it means such a lot to the families and households that we have been able to help.

If anyone would like to make a donation for rice for after the lockdown please contact me.......or you can use the new PayPal donation button at the top of this site. There are no fees for donations made via your UK PayPal account,  but for credit/debit card donations there is a fee of 3.4% + 20p.

Please keep the people of Sierra Leone in your thoughts and prayers as they go through this lockdown

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Lots of Rice


Wow, I am so happy with the amount of rice we've been able to provide for the upcoming lockdown in Sierra Leone.

With donations from friends and family we have so far supplied 73 bags of rice to households in Sierra Leone. We will be delivering at least another 42 bags on Thursday.  

A total of 115 bags of rice! 115 families that will be able to eat during the lockdown 

The generosity of friends and family is amazing, thank you so much to everyone who has helped with this appeal for rice.

There is still time if you would like to help, I will be making the last transfer before the lockdown in the afternoon on Wednesday 17th September - if you would like to pledge a donation I will add it to the donations that are being sent on Wednesday. If people would like to we can continue to provide rice after the lockdown as it will still be much needed and appreciated.
We can receive donations by cheque, bank transfer or Paypal - please contact me if need more information on how to make a donation

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Back To The UK

I reluctantly left Sierra Leone to return to the UK for my niece's wedding,  although because of worries about the ebola virus I won't be going to the wedding after all.

I drove from Freetown to the airport via Port Loko.  I had my temperature checked at 4 checkpoints on the journey. At the airport I had to fill in a questionnaire about Ebola and had my temperature checked before passport control and then again just before boarding the plane.

36.4
Ebola Questionnaire
Some of the air crew on the flight wore masks and gloves, as did a few passengers I had been worried about being seated near someone who was ill, but I sat next to a lovely girl who was travelling to attend her grandmother's funeral.

I was expecting to be checked in either Brussels or London (I had to transit through Brussels). I was surprised that when we left the plane in Brussels we went straight into the airport with other passengers. When we got to London I went straight through passport control, got my luggage and left.......no checking or information about what to do if anyone gets symptoms at all.

In Sierra Leone they did everything they could to ensure no one sick was allowed to board the plane. In Europe there was nothing at all.

I'm really sad to have left Sierra Leone and the people that I care about there during this crisis. 

As I won't be going to the wedding that I returned for my lovely husband is taking me to Torbay for the weekend. We are planning to do some geocaching while we are there.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

On The Ground

On the Ground - isn't that a strange saying? People ask me how are things on the ground and I see news articles from reporters on the ground.......it strikes me as a strange phrase......anyway.....I was lost for a title to this post and thought it would do the job.
 
The appeal for rice to help families through the lockdown is going well - so far I've been able to purchase and deliver 24 bags of rice with the money donated! So many families are being blessed by the rice being purchased with these donations and it will help them so much during this difficult time. Many people here live day to day......the money they earn in a day is used to buy food for the next day, there just isn't any spare to be able to save or stock up. I will continue to collect donations for rice until the crisis here is over.
 
I had two very different experiences in banking institutions this week. First I went to the bank where my account is held to try to sort out internet banking. I had to wash my hands on the way in, but once inside no-one seemed at all concerned about body contact with others - I was pushed, pulled and jostled as I waiting to be seen. When I finally got to the front of the queue I had to ask the lady behind me to back off as she was leaning right over me trapping me against the counter....it wasn't pleasant!!
After this I went to another bank to pick up a Western Union - this place couldn't have been more different. All the staff wore gloves, which is sensible but must get so uncomfortable. The customers were all spaced out and everyone was keeping to their own personal space.

I've had no electricity at home for over a week now, I saw some NPA workers in the area today so hopefully it will be fixed soon. I have a car battery that I use to charge my phones when the power is out, but I used the last of the juice in that three days ago....so I'm writing this camped out at the nearby Hotel 5/10 pinching their electricity.
 
One of the sponsored girls came to see me because she wasn't feeling well. She had been vomiting, she had a high fever, her body was aching - she thought it was malaria, I was scared in case it was Ebola. I wanted her to go to get tested, but she refused, in the end all I cold do was give her some money for medication. Thankfully she has recovered now......it was malaria after all.
 
One of our sponsored boys list his Grandmother recently - she had bought him up and he is devastated. We're trying to find somewhere for him to live as there are people ready to move into the place he shared with his Granny. I'm hoping we can find a nice family for him to live with.
 
The number of  'ebola ambulances' to be heard is increasing, a few go screaming by each day. When the kids are in my office they rush to the door to try to get a glimpse and to see which where they ambulance is going.
 
I think I mentioned in another post that my British Airways flight was cancelled, BA have cancelled all flights to and from Sierra Leone until next year. They were very helpful in the BA office in town and have transferred me onto a Brussels Airlines flight for the same day that I was due to fly with BA.
 
I'm worried....
I'm worried about leaving,
I'm worried how my Salone family will cope with the lockdown.
I'm worried that people will think I am abandoning them
I'm worried that once I leave I may not be able to get a flight to come back
I'm worried in case I'm sat next to someone who is sick on the flight
I'm worried that I might get a high temperature and get detained
I'm worried that when I get back to the UK that people will be scared to be near me
I'm worried that I won't be able to act like everything is normal....when for me at the moment it is anything but
To summarise......I'm worried

I'd appreciate your prayers xx