Monday, 16 November 2015

Marwan Update

After more than 10 trips to the hospital with Marwan and with still no treatment on the horizon, and the cancer getting bigger and bigger we took him to a priest locally who we had heard has sent children with similar problems abroad for treatment. We had to get a letter of referral from the hospital where he had been seen so the priest could send that and Marwan's scans to a hospital in Ghana to see if they will agree to treat him.
 
We have to see the priest again tomorrow to find out if he's heard back from the hospital in Ghana yet and if we get the go ahead then we'll have to move as quickly as possible to arrange passports and flights for Marwan and his Dad.
 
I've been very disillusioned......the staff at the hospital here just didn't care......the nurse who reluctantly changed his dressing was so rough with him and caused much more pain than was necessary. The doctor was much too important to give us any time and just kept sending us for test after test after test rather than just admit that he either wasn't able or wasn't willing to operate on the boy. (This is NOT the AHS Hospital at Waterloo that I usually go to - if Dr Koroma could have helped he would have).
 
I feel really sorry for the boy's Dad too - Marwan is all he has......he had a teenage son who sadly died earlier this year....and now he's having to deal with this.....I don't know how he'll cope if he loses Marwan too.
 
I spent some time with Marwan today and he seemed more perky than the last time I saw him - he's obviously very scared and in a lot of pain, but I had a wonderful cuddle with him and although he didn't talk to me he nodded or shook his head to answer my questions. He's a beautiful, wonderful little boy and I feel so sad for him.

I'm praying for him, please join me if you can......
I'm praying for a miracle for him
I'm praying he'll be cured
I'm praying we'll get good news from Ghana
I'm praying he'll be free of pain
I'm praying he'll get to go to school
I'm praying he'll grow up and have a family
I'm praying he won't die

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Pneumonia, Cuddles and Cakes

I seem to have had a very full day today........
 
Yesterday I saw my friend Susan, the head mistress of the Hosetta Abdullah school for children with special needs.......I'd last seen her at the beginning of October just before I went to the UK for a few weeks, at that time she had been poorly for a while with a bad chest. When I saw her yesterday I was shocked by just how ill she was so I picked her up this morning and took her to the AHS Hospital at Waterloo today for my friend Dr Koroma to check her over. Dr diagnosed severe pneumonia and has admitted her. She didn't really want to be admitted but Dr Koroma insisted......and you don't argue with Dr Koroma!
 
We arranged to meet Marwan, our boy with the poorly eye, at the hospital with his father as they live nearby. I got to spend some time with Marwan without him having to be stressed by having his eye examined, or the dressing changed, or be poked or prodded. I still haven't heard him say a single word.....but I did get to enjoy a lovely cuddle when he overcame his shyness and decided to come and sit with me. He was wearing the pyjamas I bought him from the UK for him - I got them so he has something to wear if he's admitted to hospital, he looks so cute in them. Tomorrow I should  find out if it's going to be possible to send him to Ghana to get him treated.
 
I'm praying, praying and praying some more for healing for this lovely, lovely boy. As we left the hospital - me to go to my home and Marwan and his Dad to go to theirs - he waved me off and gave me a big smile - it was the first time I've seen him smile. I love that little boy.
 
Aunty (the lady who comes each day to cook for the compound) had the day off today, so my Sierra Leone family and I all sat out in the garden and chatted while they prepared the food and I made omelettes to keep us going. It was wonderful just not to have to be anywhere and to have the time to sit and enjoy each other's company.
 
After years of being in Sierra Leone I have finally purchased an oven! Until now I've got by with 2 ring gas burner - I'm the only one who cooks inside, Aunty and the others cook on a charcoal burner outside. I tested it out for the first time today, first with the omelettes which went down very well.......then I made some corn muffins, which look a lot better than they tasted.
I've decided that I'm going to try to reinstate a tradition my Mum had and cook cakes each Sunday when possible and share them with whoever happens to be around.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

The End Of Ebola?

A few days ago Sierra Leone passed 42 days with no new confirmed cases, meaning that person to person transmission is no longer considered a threat.......for now.
 
I saw some celebrations on the news, but in my area celebrations were pretty muted and understated.....most people I know have taken it as a time of prayer and reflection, remembering those they lost and praying for those who survived.
 
The AHS Hospital at Waterloo, which was first closed and quarantined in August 2014 then later commissioned as an Ebola Holding and Treatment Centre, reopened as a general hospital this week. The doctor and staff are glad to be getting back to normal after living and working under restrictions for so long.
I went to the reopening and as well as being a day of celebration it was a day of reflection, remembrance and prayer. It was an honour to be mentioned as one of the organisations that has helped them through the Ebola crisis and the hospital pass on their thanks for the help that Transform Salone and our supporters have given them since the start of the crisis.
The doctor was so eager to get back to work that he was seeing patients as soon as the tour of the hospital at the end of the reopening programme was over!
 
It's a great testament to the doctor, his staff and the people that came to help that while the hospital was operating as an Ebola centre no staff were infected with the virus.
 
People are very aware that there are still Ebola patients being treated in neighbouring Guinea and that it's a real possibility that we could see further cases.
Wisely people are being advised to continue with precautions such as avoiding unnecessary touching and hand washing.
 
I think people are afraid to get too excited in case it all starts up again - they don't want to celebrate prematurely.......I think most people accept that there's a good chance there will be more cases here and there, but at least the country can start to recover now.
 
The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office have updated their travel advice and are no longer advising against all but essential travel to Sierra Leone.......so we are ready to start welcoming volunteers to come and help us with our community work and the sponsorship scheme. If you'd like to come and help out please get in touch!!

Friday, 6 November 2015

More About Marwan


Marwen, looking a bit fedup at the hospital
It's been a very frustrating week for us and for Marwan.

Lamin, who is looking after Marwan for us, has taken him to the hospital day after day after day. It took about 4 days  to receive the results of his scan (pictured below). He's been diagnosed with Rhabdomyosarcoma, a type of cancer, and needs to have the eye removed.....that's where we've come to a bit of a standstill. Since receiving the diagnosis Lamin has taken Marwan back to the hospital an additional 4 times in the hope of getting Marwan the treatment he needs and each time he's been told to come back the next day. Every day the eye is getting worse.
 
We've started looking into the possibility of getting treatment for Marwan outside of Sierra Leone. Lamin is having a meeting with the original doctor who referred him to find out if he has any contacts outside of Sierra Leone who might be able to help. We have no idea yet if this will be possible, but we have to try to do something.
 
I feel so useless, as if we are just waiting for his eye to get worse and worse until it's too late to do anything.
 
If you are in Sierra Leone and know any organisations or contacts who might be able to help please let me know.
 
If you are able to help financially towards Marwan's treatment and care please let me know.
 
If you can pray for him please do.
 
Marwan's Scan Results


Friday, 30 October 2015

Update on Marwen and his Poorly Eye

We took Marwan to the hospital as arranged and the doctor suspects it is cancer - he was sent for some scans and we are waiting for the doctor to review the scans and let us know what the next step is. During the few days waiting for the appointment the eye had got worse. He's been given some medication to make him a bit more comfortable.
 
He's such a sweet little boy - he's very quiet and hardly speaks, probably because he's in constant pain and discomfort with his eye.
 
We've had to take him back and forth to the hospital everyday this week, seeing the doctor, twice for scans and twice in the hope of getting the results, which are still not ready.......he's been so well behaved, hardly complaining except for when the pain gets too much.
 
He had chicken and chips for a treat and polished off the lot! There's nothing wrong with his appetite!
 
 
We appreciate all the prayers and positive thoughts being sent his way, please keep them coming. Also, a huge thank you to those who have sent donations towards his treatment.
 

Donations towards Marwan's treatment and care can be made either direct to the Transform Salone bank account or via our online giving pages here: Transform Salone's MyDonate Page or here: Transform Salone's give.net Page

*please note, Transform Salone is not yet registered to collect gift aid, but will be able to retrospectively collect the gift aid on any qualifying donations that we receive once the registration process is complete.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Poorly Eye

This little boy has a very poorly eye - it started with an itchy eye and slowly got worse, now it's in a really bad state. It's very painful for him and it's continually watering, he has no sight in the eye. His family tried to get him treatment for it but were unable to afford it.

His father heard that we sometimes help people who are unable to afford medical treatment so they sought us out.

We arranged for him to see a doctor this week and he's been referred to another doctor who will be seeing him on Monday.

Please pray for him, his name is Marwan, he's 3 years old and he's in a lot of pain and is also scared of the doctors.

We will be funding any treatment he needs from our medical fund - if you would like to make a donation towards his treatment please let me know.

 



I've Moved!

I though it was time to rename my blog to something a little easier to remember - so here we are now at: www.transformsalone.blogspot.com - this is still my personal blog and things published here are my thoughts, feelings and stories.

All previous content from www.minklemar.blogspot.com is still here in the archives.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Car Trouble

My biggest headache at the moment is my vehicle - I have an old (2002) RAV4.

The first year or so I had it it was marvellous, but just recently it's started really playing up.

I've been having to do running repairs on it for the last few months to keep it on the road, with small things going wrong here and there.
 
I had to take a trip to the provinces a couple of weeks ago, to visit some of our sponsored students and take some food and clothes for people in the villages. I got the car checked over first and it all seemed to be ok. I was about three quarters of the way into my journey when the car stopped as I was pulling into a checkpoint.
It seems the temperature gauge wasn't working, as despite the gauge telling me everything was ok the car had seriously overheated.
 
We found someone to tow us the rest of the journey and called our mechanic in Freetown - he came to us and had to replace the radiator and the gasket.
After 5 nights away from home the car was fixed and I headed for home - it was clear that there were still some problems but I got home ok. Since then the car has been in and out of the garage, trying to get it right.

I really need a reliable vehicle, it's essential for the sponsorship work to be able to get out and see the families and the schools, and I need to be able to deliver the food relief and at times take people to the hospital.
Soon we will be having volunteers coming over to help out - it's all very well me jumping on the back of a motorbike to get to work, but I can't expect my volunteers to do the same.
 
I am desperate for us to get a new vehicle - if anyone would like to make a donation to the fund for a new vehicle for Transform Salone please let me know and I will supply the bank details for the charity. Donations can also be made online through Stewardship's give.net site at https://www.give.net/transformsalone - Stewardship keep an admin fee of 2% on donations made through give.net. Fundraising pages can also be setup here if you'd like to do some fundraising for us.

Friday, 25 September 2015

A Troubled Soul

I'm worried about a young man I know, he's had a very hard life up til now and I can't imagine what the future holds for him.

He ran away from home when he was aroud 7 years old and ended up at the ferry port where he carried peoples bags to earn some money. He would sleep on empty market stalls or in cars. He supplemented the money he earned carrying bags by pick pocketing on the ferry.

I first met him about seven years ago in 2008 - when he was probably around 12 years old. It's hard to tell his age as until the last couple of years he was always quite small and his mother can't remember when he was born.

I would always see him when I went to the airport to drop off or meet teams and I liked him. He was good company and we would chat while I was waiting for the ferry. I offered to help him get back into school and he seemed keen, but then he just disappeared.........his friends when I saw them were always full of his escapades, but I didn't see him again for a couple of years until.....

.....one day in 2011 I was walking through Kroo Bay when I heard someone call my name - it was my young friend. He had a big open wound on his head, one arm was swollen, bent and obviously broken - the other arm was attached to a police man. He was obviously in some kind of trouble, but was being taken for medical treatment. It was a very rushed meeting as the policeman wasn't much in the mood for chatting, but I told the boy I'd try to find him.

It took me a few weeks but I found out that he was being held at DEMS the children's prison. I got a lawyer for him and when the case went to court (he was accused of stealing a phone) it was dismissed.

I got to know the boy better and learned more about his past. He agreed to go to live at the Nehemiah boys home....but was only there a couple of months before he ran away.

He's had numerous small police cases over the years, then a couple of years ago he was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy (handling stolen goods). He was taken to the adult prison at Port Loco where he spent 8 months as a remand prisoner. When the case eventually went to court it was dismissed.

I visited him a few times while he was in prison, he was quite ill while he was there, I was hopeful the shock of adult prison would be enough for him to turn over a new leaf when he was released but he still keeps getting into trouble.

Twice this year he has spent time in the cells, once for fighting and once accused of theft.
Just this week he borrowed a friends motorbike and had an accident, luckily he's not badly injured but unfortunately he doesn't have a driving license so he's wanted by the police again now.

Aside from all the trouble he's been in he has a wonderful heart - he is so good with disabled children and not afraid of them the way that so many people are - he talks to them, plays with them and comforts them if they are sick. He's respectful to older people and he's fiercely protective of me. I see such promise in him, and it makes me so sad that other people just see him as a wannabe gangster and a troublemaker, when I know he can be so much more.

He's told me he wants to join the army - so I will look into that for him. I am out of other options for him for now and I really don't know the best way to help him. I do know that unless there is a change in his life he will end up either back in prison again or dead.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Parents Meeting

We had a meeting with the parents and guardians of the sponsored students at the weekend, it's the first one we've been able to have since before the Ebola outbreak because until recently there was a ban on public gatherings in place throughout Sierra Leone.
 
Since the last meeting two of our more outspoken parents have sadly passed away, and we missed them. They were both good parents who were passionate about ensuring that their children got a good education and they both participated fully in all parents meetings.
 
As usual we started with prayers - Christian and Muslim then launched into the meeting.
 
Time keeping isn't always top priority here so people kept arriving throughout the meeting and even just as we were finishing up but most families were represented and those that weren't I'm seeing individually this week.
 
I told the families that I'd like them to get more involved in the sponsorship and continue to encourage the students to study at home. Some of the children help their families by selling water, food or clothing and I've asked that they be excused from selling during term time so they can concentrate fully on their studies.
 
We have introduced a new system for discussing individual sponsorship issues and requests, the student and guardian will book an appointment with us to discuss their issue at a time chosen by them......if they are not there at the time they selected they will have to reschedule for another day. Too often we arrange to see people throughout the day, and then they all show up at the same time and all want to be heard straight away.....I'm hoping a couple of wasted meetings might encourage people to be more timely - it worked today, two people who were late yesterday were early for their rescheduled appointments today!! The only downside to this I can think of is I have to be on time otherwise I can't enforce this for others.....and to be honest timeliness isn't one of my strongest qualities, so it's something I need to work on as well!!
 
The general consensus of the parents, guardians and students is that they want us to open a school........it's a lovely dream and who knows what might happen in the future - something to be prayed about I think!!

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Flooding in Freetown

If we are in the same social media groups you'll have seen a lot of posts over the past a couple of days about the flooding in Freetown that happened two days ago.
 
For me it started as an ordinary day, it had rained through the night and was still raining when I got up in the morning. I usually work from home in the mornings then head up to the school where I use a classroom as an office in the afternoons. About the time I was getting ready to go up to the school it dawned on me that it was STILL raining. I had a meeting at 3pm with some teachers from Waterloo so I sent them a quick message to see if they would be able to make it - when I didn't hear anything back I decided I'd better get up to the school to wait for them. When I got up to the main road it was like a river, but just passable - I made it up to the school without too many problems. The rain finally stopped about 4.30pm, and shortly after that some of my kids started arriving - a couple of them had had to help bail their homes out during the day and they'd suffered a lot of damage to their belongings. They started showing my photos of the flooding around Freetown - goodness what devastation and loss. The teachers from Waterloo eventually messaged me at quarter past 6 to say they weren't coming, but I'd kind of realised that by then!!!
 
My area escaped the worst of the flooding, but in some areas many, many homes were destroyed and people lost their lives. I was sent some terrible photos of some of the bodies that were recovered - I can't unsee them, I wish I could.
 
There was a press release from State House requesting that people stay indoors yesterday - but from what I observed very few did.
 
I woke this morning to rain again, which carried on until noon - then early evening it started again.......now there is a massive storm raging and has been for about 4 hours so far. Praying, praying, praying that there will be no more flooding........people have suffered enough.
 
Another concern is that cholera will follow.........surely this country has suffered enough..........
 

Sunday, 13 September 2015

An Update on M

I was finally able to return to see M - what with car problems and getting stuck in the provinces for almost a week events have been conspiring against me!
 
As I pulled up to the place where she is staying I was surprised to see her sitting on the veranda with some of the other children in the home. She was washed and dressed (kind of) - at least she wasn't naked. I don't know if it was people seeing my reaction to how she was living that prompted them to make a change, or something else.....but I'm so pleased that things have started to improve for her. I wasn't expected so this was not a show put on for my behalf.
 
When I spoke to her she looked up and smiled - but she doesn't speak. We don't know if she was like this before she was hit in the road accident or if she was brain damaged in the accident.
 
Someone is coming in to wash and dress her each day and she is no longer sleeping in the shed - she is sleeping in the main house with the other children. They are putting pampers on her because she messes herself and then plays with the mess.
 
I took some gloves and soap with me to be used when washing her. As time goes on and for the care to continue she will need a supply of pampers, more gloves and soap. The home have also asked for help with some money to pay the young lady who is coming in to wash and change her.
 
It's not a perfect situation, but much better than last time I was there - I will be calling in next week to check on her again.
 

Saturday, 12 September 2015

My Lovely Kids

I'm aware that my posts recently have been full of sadness and I don't want people thinking it's all doom and gloom here, so I thought I'd make a post about the kids I work with.
 
I borrow a school classroom in the afternoons to use as an office - most days I'll have anywhere between 2 and 40 of the kids come to visit me......I call them kids but some of them are young adults now!
 
They come because:
...they are sponsored students and need to discuss their schooling
...they don't have a sponsor and want me to find a sponsor for them
...there is a major (in their eyes) problem in their life and they think I can help solve it
...they are hungry and they know I always share lunch
...they don't have anywhere else to be
...they just want to come and spend time with me (my favourite reason!!)
...the list goes on and on
 
Some of these kids I've known for almost 10 years now, many of the younger ones I remember as newborns. We are comfortable with each other, if I'm busy they just come in and make themselves comfortable, chatting with the others, reading, playing, studying. When I'm not so busy we'll talk about anything and everything.....laughing, joking, putting the world to rights....I usually talk in English, and they talk in Krio so we can both improve our understanding of the other's language. If they are discussing something they really don't want me to know about they will speak in their tribal language if they share the same language.
 
At some point during the day I'll ask one of my visitors to go and buy some bread, usually 15 loaves, and we'll share a tin of luncheon meet amongst the bread and share it out with whoever has dropped by. We make up drinks of flavoured water and share them as well. What really impresses me is if there are any latecomers someone will immediately break their bread in half and share it and someone else will share their drink.
 
Today, one of the young men must've thought the place was looking a bit messy because he took himself off, found a broom and swept the whole classroom -- I didn't ask him to, he just thought it needed doing and so did it.
 
If one of them has a problem their friends will always speak up on their behalf and try to help them.
 
I love spending time with these young people, they are always (well, usually) polite, helpful, funny and kind, and I'm blessed to know them and be able to be part of their lives. They aren't the reason I came to Sierra Leone the first time, but they are the reason I am still here now. They are the reason we founded Transform Salone.
Me with a few of my lovely kids!!

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Too Sad........

Just recently the sad and bad things just keep coming and coming......and today was no exception, today I heard about this......

A six year old girl I know went to school last Friday, she got into trouble because she accidently broke the water bucket in the classroom.......for this she was beaten by the teacher.

That evening when she got home she was unwell.
Sunday morning she died.
She died because she broke a water bucket.
Her funeral was on Monday.

This is just too sad

Monday, 7 September 2015

Too Young

This is one of our sponsored girls - she's around 13 years old and, although still a little girl herself, has recently given birth to the baby she is holding.
 
It's thought that the father of the baby is in his late teens, he was arrested but the family couldn't afford to prosecute him so he's been released.
 
We are hoping that when she stops breastfeeding (which will be when the baby is around a year old) her family will allow her to return to school. She should be in Class 6 of primary school now.

At her age she should be playing with her friends, going to school, playing with dolls.....
 
Please pray for this little one, and her little one.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

How to Help 'M'?

I've ummed and ahhed long and hard about whether I should post this.........I know it's an upsetting photo, I feel ill everytime I look at it and think of 'M' in that situation. Who knows, by posting this a solution might be found to get her out of the situation she is in.
 
This is 'M' and the photo shows how she is living at the moment. She is in a children's home, she is kept in a shed separate from the other children. She people whose care she is in told me that she has to be kept separate from the other children because she removes her clothes, plays with and eats her excrement and bites the other children.
The room she is in is almost completely dark, this photo was taken using the flash. The smell is overwhelming. It's raining season at the moment and can get quite chilly. There are some clothes on the floor in the room but they are soaked. This is where she eats, she lives, she sleeps.
She resists being washed and clothed.
 
She came to the home about two years ago after being hit by a car and both her legs were broken - she was hospitalised after the accident and then hospital sent her to the home when no family could be located, it's believed she was living on the streets before the accident. At first she lived in the main house, but when the home could no longer afford a dedicated carer for her she was moved to the shed because he behaviour was affecting the other children.

I don't know if she can talk, she looked up when I spoke to her but she didn't make any attempt to communicate.

I don't know how to help her, I have requested a meeting with a children's home that takes disabled children in the hope that they may consider taking her......if they refuse I can't think of any other homes that would take her. Another option might be to employ a dedicated carer to look after her, keep her clean and clothed and hopefully build up enough trust to reintegrate her into the home - I'm going to discuss this with the home. I just don't know - but I do know that no-one should be living the way she is right now.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Expecting Company!!

I'm so excited that one of our sponsors has booked a flight and will be joining me in November to help with the sponsorship scheme and spend some time with the children she sponsors!!
 
I had quite a few friends and supporters who had planned to visit over the past year to help out over here in Sierra Leone, unfortunately because of Ebola they weren't able to come.

Also, two other lovely people are planning to come in November too!!
 
At the moment there are no known cases of Ebola remaining in Sierra Leone. The countdown to being declared Ebola free is well and truly underway.
 
If anyone else would be interested in coming and lending a hand at any time contact me (click here to email) and we can discuss what you would be doing and possible dates, costs etc.

There is always plenty of work to do on the sponsorship scheme, also helping our students with their English, or helping out at one of our partners here in Sierra Leone - there are lots of possibilities! If you sponsor a student you'd be able to spend time with them and meet their families.
 
As well as working we can go and spend the night at one of Sierra Leone's wonderful beaches, watch the sunset over the sea, spend the evening putting the world to rights around a campfire and then wake in the morning to the sound of the sea.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

How It All Started

When I first started coming to Sierra Leone I helped a few of the kids by paying for their school fees, buying them bags and getting uniforms made for them......then a few more kids came along......and then more. It got to the point where I was helping with the schooling of 11 children and the number seemed sure to grow. I realised I needed help and had the idea of a sponsorship scheme.
 
The one thing I got asked for more than anything else was to help children with their schooling......and many of the volunteers who came on two week mission trips with the charity I was with at the time (Mission Direct) wanted to help the children they met - so, with the support of my Regional Director at Mission Direct, I started an education sponsorship scheme. It grew and grew and took more and more of my time until I decided it was time to leave Mission Direct to focus on the sponsorship scheme.........that's when Transform Salone was born. Since setting up Transform Salone we have expanded the sponsorship scheme to include vocational training for young adults and school leavers.

The first four boys that I started helping are all still in the scheme, three of them are now in senior school. The other boy dropped out of the scheme for a couple of years due to family problems, but he restarted in primary school earlier this year.

We now have over 70 students who are fully sponsored for their basic education or vocational training. If it hadn't been for the boys (I should really say young men) in the photos below I doubt any of it would have happened.
 
Here are the first four boys I started helping all those years ago:
 
And here they are now!
 
These four boys are fortunate to be sponsored for their education, but I know many, many other children and young adults who desperately need assistance to allow them to continue in school or progress onto vocational training. If you would be interested in sponsoring the education of a child or young adult please get in touch by following this email link and I'll send you some more details about the scheme.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

How About Some Respect?

I love Sierra Leone and I love the Sierra Leonean people - I am a guest in this wonderful country and I feel privileged to be able to call it my home....if I didn't like it, if I didn't like the people, if I didn't respect the culture I wouldn't be here......

.......so why is it some people think it's ok to come over here, supposedly to help and then criticise and ridicule the country, the people and the customs? Why do some people think that their way is always better? Why is it ok to trample over peoples feelings?

.....even worse than the things I've mentioned above are the foreigners that add to the corruption in the country......surely this isn't something that people who come in the guise of trying to help the country should be doing? Don't call it a tip, or a handshake - call it what it is.......a bribe. I've been reading a blog by a foreign aid worker that at least 4 times mentions bribing officials to make their life easier - it's wrong and, regardless of the fact that a lot of people in Salone do bribe, it's illegal.

Maybe I should just stop reading other people's blogs!!!!

Saturday, 22 August 2015

RIP Hannah

Everyone in Freetown seems to be talking about the gang rape and murder of a young woman at Lumley Beach area of Freetown last week. In reports her age varies from 17 to 19 years old, graphic photos of her abused body have been shared widely on social media. She was left on the beach, semi naked, covered in sand, dead. I've seen the photos and wish I hadn't because I can't get those awful images out of my mind.
 
I'm hearing a lot of speculation about it.....Why was she on the beach? Was she a sex worker? Is that an anklet she's wearing and false eyelashes, Was she asking for it? Had she been drinking?
What do the answers to any of those questions matter? If she had been wearing a short skirt, if she was a sex worker, if she was tipsy.........she didn't deserve to be used in that way, heartlessly killed and discarded. She was just a girl with her whole life ahead of her and that precious life has been snuffed out.
 
This week women's rights supporters held a peaceful march through the capital followed by a candlelit vigil to pay tribute to the young lady.

The government have offered a reward of $1,000 for information leading to the arrest of the perpetrators - I hope the people who did this are caught, to prevent them doing the same thing to another young girl.

Friday, 21 August 2015

STANNP Postcards

I have a new favourite thing........a postcard application called STANNP - it's probably been available for ages, but I've only just stumbled across it and I'm having so much fun with it.
 
When I first came to Sierra Leone I used to write a lot of letters to my husband, but they often didn't arrive in the UK until after I did and I more or less stopped writing, now I just seem to write a couple of times a year....usually when someone I know is returning to the UK and will post the letter for me.
 
STANNP is so easy, it costs between £1 and £1.50 depending on the number of credits I purchase on the application, then I just select one of my photos, type in a message, add the address and BINGO! A postcard is printed off in the UK and posted to my hubby and he receives it a couple of days later.
 
My husband loves receiving them and whenever I take a photo I think he'll like I can just quickly load it onto my phone, make a postcard of it and send it to him - it's great!
 
When you sign up for it you get one free credit (enough to send a postcard to a UK address, it's 2 credits to send elsewhere) - if you are away from your family a lot I recommend you download it and give it a try.

Lost Luggage......again!!!

I arrived back in Sierra Leone last night - I came with Brussels Airlines as their flights are much cheaper than the other options at the moment. The flight was pretty uneventful, I sat next to a man on the way to Brussels who was going to take part in a shooting contest in Lithuania . I had a wait of about 4 hours in Brussels Airport, but with the free wifi and the sunbed-like loungers it was quite comfy. The flight to from Brussels to Freetown was really quiet - I had the whole row to myself, I watched the entire season 5 of Big Bang Theory which kept me entertained.
 
On arrival in Sierra Leone, as has become normal, we went through the hand washing stations (which is now soap and water rather than chlorine) and a temperature check......then onto the conveyer belt to claim the luggage, where I waited, and waited and waited.....until it stopped. Both of the bags that I'd checked in failed to arrive.....again - last time I flew with Brussels Airlines in February one of my bags was missing on arrival, this time neither of them showed up. I filled in the missing luggage forms, which takes AGES as there were about 10 of us in the same boat all trying to report out missing luggage. I'd already paid for a trolley, and I was super-miffed to have wasted money on it and not have anything to put on it.
They said that my bags might arrive on the next flight on Sunday and if they do I should have them back Monday or Tuesday.
Luckily I have a lot of clothes here, so it's not as big a problem as it might have been.....but all my work files are in the bags so I can't get started on the work until the bags get here - it looks like I'll be having a few days off!
 
My friend who works at the airport had pre-purchased a ticket for the water taxi for me and that took me to Aberdeen where my Sierra Leonean son was waiting for me.
 
I noticed a massive difference while driving through Freetown - the streets were busier than I've seen them for a long time, now that a lot of the restrictions have been lifted people are making the most of it.
 
It's really nice to be back and I'm looking forward to catching up with everyone over the next few days.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Facebook Page for Transform Salone

Now that Transform Salone is a registered charity we can start fundraising in earnest and letting more people know about the work we are doing.

We've setup a Facebook page - follow the link below and give us a 'like'!!

Link to Transform Salone Facebook Page

Sad Sad News

I am sitting here in total disbelief at the terrible news that I've received......I've been trying to get my head around it since I heard a few days ago and still can't quite believe it.
 
There is  a young boy of about 12 who I've helped on and off with his education over the years by paying fees or providing school supplies from time to time.
 
He has a sister that I used to see around, playing with her friends or fetching water for her family - I haven't seen her for a while and I'd wondered where she'd got to......now I know.....
 
A couple of months ago she was sent to live with her Grandmother in the provinces to go to school there.......I was told a few days ago that she has died, she was beaten to death by her Grandmother.
 
I just don't know what to think or say......

Sunday, 2 August 2015

TRANSFORM SALONE


We have cause for celebration........
 
Last year I left Mission Direct to concentrate on the educational sponsorship scheme and my community work in Sierra Leone.
Myself and three friends who also have love for Sierra Leone setup TRANSFORM SALONE, a new organisation to help people out of poverty through education.
 
I'm absolutely delighted that this week TRANSFORM SALONE has been granted charitable status by the Charity Commission - we are now a registered UK charity!!!
 

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Popped Out For Sugar

I was chatting to one of our sponsored boys the other day about his family life, working out who was related to who in which way.......
 
.....he has a younger 'brother' who is really his nephew.......
 
I've known the nephew since his Granny (our boy's mother) bought him to me when he was sick as a baby. He was really very poorly and for a while we weren't sure he would make it - I'm happy to say he's as strong as an ox now and in the third year of primary school.
 
Anyway, I asked about the nephew's mother - I've never met her and I was wondered what had happened to her. It turns out she disappeared when he was sick, around the time I first met him, she said she was going out to buy sugar one day and just never came back - none of the family have seen or heard from her since.
 
It sounds like an old joke doesn't it? But it's not....it's really sad. Another boy in the family was taunting him one day, saying "I've got a mother, where is yours?", so he went and asked his Granny who his mother was......she told him that she's his mother now.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Little Ami and Her Poorly Leg

Ami is the baby sister of one of our sponsored students - a couple of weeks ago she somehow managed to fall onto a nail and injure her leg. For the past few days the leg has been very swollen so her Mum bought her to see me.
 
The injury looks quite deep, and it's obviously very painful for her......it also didn't help that she was scared stiff of me and wouldn't really let me get close enough to have a proper look at it, every time I got near her she screamed the place down.
 
I decided the best thing would be to get her seen by a doctor so I sent her to a local hospital yesterday. The would was cleaned and she was given medication and they have been told to keep it dry - she has to go back later this week for them to take another look.
 
Please pray for healing for Ami.

Friday, 12 June 2015

An Ebola Orphan - Angel

I've been spending quite a bit of time with a young lady I know who survived Ebola, because of the stigma attached to Ebola I'll call her Angel rather than using her real name here.
 
Angel's father became sick so her mother took care of  him.......when her mother started to get sick Angel took over looking after her father.......then Angel became sick too. They were all taken to an Ebola treatment centre. Angel's mother died first, then her father died two days later. Angel waited to die as well, but she surprised herself by recovering - after seeing her parents die she'd fully expected that she would die too.

Angel has three younger sisters and a younger brother, fortunately they all tested negative for the virus.

When Angel was discharged from hospital and returned home everything she owned was destroyed when the house was cleansed. She is now living with her Grandmother along with her younger siblings.
 
Angel is around 18 years old, at the time Ebola was at it's height she should have been starting Form 5 in school (SSS2), but the schools were closed to try to stop the virus spreading. Now that the schools have reopened there is no one to pay for her to go to school. Although the government are paying school fees there are other costs such as uniforms, text books, supplies, extra lessons....the list goes on. Her Grandmother who has suddenly found herself with 5 extra mouths to feed can't afford it.
 
All of Angel's previous school reports were destroyed when the house was cleansed - but she tells me that on her last school report she ranked 8th in her class. Her favourite subject is Cost Accounting and when she leaves school she has dreams of being a bank manager. She has 3 more years left of basic education.

Although she is keen to return to school Angel is scared to go back to her former school because some of the other students know that she had Ebola and she thinks they will mock her......she told me that they laugh at her.

She has already missed the first term of school since the schools reopened, so we have planned to enrol her in a new school when the new school year starts in September.

She is such a sweet, shy, caring, gentle lovely young lady who deserves so much more than life has thrown at her so far.
 
If anyone would like to help Angel with her education please contact me.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

A Plumber In The Making


This is Mustapha, he was in our sponsorship scheme but had to drop out of school during SSS3 (the penultimate year of basic education) when his father died.

Around the time of the beginning of the Ebola outbreak he came to see me to discuss his plans for the future. He wanted to take a 2 year plumbing course. I know him to be a determined young man who has tried his best to support his family since losing his father, I thought that given the chance this could be a great opportunity for him to gain a skill and lead to good prospects for future employment for him.
I contacted his previous sponsor who, once I explained the situation, agreed to restart his sponsorship to support him through the course.

He is now nearing the end of the first year of his plumbers training and he's doing really well. Every time I see him he's so excited to be doing the course and is eager to show me what he's learning.
 
Once he qualifies he will be the first person in his family with a skilled trade. He is looking forward to being able to support his family.

I'm hoping that we will be able to assist many of our students to learn a skill once their have finished their basic education and really set them on the road to finding paid employment by the time they leave us.

If you would be interested in sponsoring a young adult to learn a trade please let me know.

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Life Isn't Easy For 'H'

One of our sponsored girls came to see me a couple of days ago......I'll call her 'H' here.
 
I've been chasing up the students that need to write letters to their sponsors. H came to see me at work and after the usual greetings I told her I needed her to write a letter for her sponsor - she started crying and said she couldn't do it......
 
I know that H hasn't had an easy life, she was abandoned by her mother when she was young and her father isn't really interested in his children - when she lived with her father she had to do all the work in the home and cared for her younger siblings from when she was very young herself.  For the last few years H has been living with her friend's family - but over the past few months she has been made to work for the family more and more. She had to do most of the work in the house as well as go out selling water and when she was in the home they had started to be unkind to her. Her friend's mother had made it clear that she didn't want H living with them anymore, until eventually a couple of weeks ago she threw her out.
 
H had nowhere to go - some nights she was able to stay with a friend, but some nights she had to sleep on the streets.....which is no place for a vulnerable young lady. She was very scared and very lonely. She told me her heart was hurting too much to write to her sponsor. We wracked our brains trying to think of somewhere she could stay - but there was just no-one who could or would take her in. She couldn't stay on the streets - it would only be a matter of time until she was taken advantage of or abused. She is around 20 years old and a sensible young lady, so I told her to find out how much it would cost for her to rent a room.
 
I'm very happy that we were able to rent a room for her and tonight that's where she will be sleeping! I've told her that unfortunately I can't afford to furnish it for her, but she isn't worried about that - she's just happy that she has somewhere safe to stay. Her plan is that when she is settled that she will have her younger sister come to live with her - her sister is currently staying with another family in their area. I hope and pray this will be a new beginning for H, somewhere she can feel safe, take care of her sister, finish her education and have fresh hope for a bright future.
 
I have always been so impressed with H - despite the difficulties she has had she has always valued her education and worked hard. She is an honest, hardworking, decent girl. She has been one of out top scoring students year after year. Next year will be her final year in school and after that she wants to train to be a nurse.
 
It cost me about £52 to rent the room for her for a year......not a huge amount to most people who will read this blog......but a totally unattainable amount to H.
 
H is going to write a letter to her sponsor this weekend......

Friday, 29 May 2015

Boiling Water - 2 Months Later

After 2 Months
The young boy who fell onto a pot of boiling water back in March is back at school!!

Here is a photo of how his back looks now, compare that to how it was before when it first happened and as it was healing:
 
The day after it happened here: Boiling Water
After 12 days here: Update Boiling Water 
 
As the Ebola situation has vastly improved in the country his family decided that he should return to school and he resumed schooling about 3 weeks ago, he's in Class 5 of primary school. He goes to a school less than 10 minutes walking distance from my house so I'm able to keep a close eye on him. He often pops up to my compound at break time with his friends to see if there is any lunch or biscuits going.
 
Thank you everyone who covered him in prayer and positivity.


The Stages of Healing
 

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Sierra Leone.....An Update

I've settled back into life quickly here in Sierra Leone, within a day it always feels as though I've never left. I'm always surprised how easily I slip to and fro between my two lives......although I think it takes me longer to settle back into life in the UK than it does to settle into life in Sierra Leone - I guess that's because I'm in SL more than I'm in the UK.

A group of kids from the local primary school have taken to popping in to see me during their break time, which is nice. Some of the UK forces who were working here at Kerrytown Ebola Centre left a lot of biscuits and cake with me, so we are sharing a few of these out with the kids whenever they come around.

Yesterday was my first day back in the office - I'm borrowing a classroom again at the Hosetta Abdullah school. They only have morning lessons, which leaves the classrooms empty in the afternoon and the headmistress has kindly offered me the use of a classroom in the afternoons. I'm so pleased that I'm able to base myself there again, it's such a nice environment.

I will be meeting with between three and five sponsored students and their guardians each day so I can check how they are getting on and make sure they have everything they need.

It's the beginning of the rainy season here - so while it's still hot and humid during the day most nights there are storms. I'm going to try growing some vegetables and flowers and I'm told now is a good time to sow them, so we are going get started on that this weekend.

Ebola has diminished a lot since I left here just over a month ago, both in new cases and in the minds of people. I remember a few months ago it was the main topic of conversation, there was fear in the air, people were suspicious of each other........that has declined enormously now. When I arrived there was a form to fill in and a temperature check and there are still handwash stations outside a lot of businesses.....but it doesn't seem to be at the forefront of people's minds anymore.

I will be visiting Dr Koroma of the Waterloo Adventist Hospital at the weekend - they plan to close at the end of this month as an Ebola centre and then work on reopening as a hospital. It will be such a relief for everyone when hospitals go back to operating as normal again as it has been so hard for people to get medical treatment these past few months. It will be a relief to me personally as that's the hospital I go to if I get sick - I've been a bit worried about getting sick and not being able to get treatment.

I've been following the Weightwatchers eating plan for just over a month - I'm following the online program as I didn't want to go to meetings and the application makes it easy. I wasn't sure how well I would stick to it when I was in Salone, but so far I'm getting on ok with it. I have my usual cereal and a banana for breakfast, then a light lunch and rice in the evenings where I substitute plassas for tuna or chicken. For snacks I have bananas - I never used to like bananas, but just recently I can't get enough of them.....and the bananas here might not be the most attractive to look at, but they are SO tasty!! I have a banana tree in the garden - I'm looking forward to the day I can have bananas from my own tree!!

I went to the supermarket to stock up on some provisions to make it easier for me to stick to WW - rice cakes, hotdog sausages, lots of fruit, potatoes and some salad. It was my first weigh in since I arrived back yesterday and I've lost another 1.5lbs......which means I've lost 5% of my original starting weight! I might just celebrate with a rice cake!!
In the past I've drank a lot of coke and sprite - but I've replaced that with water so I'm sure that will help with my weight loss. Since I started Weightwatchers I've lost 9lb.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Up, Up and Away

It all started so well, I was probably more organised before travelling this time than I've ever been.......the night before my flight my cases were packed, weighed and locked ready to go - I usually finish packing as my husband is loading the car!

We set off for the airport and were enjoying nice drive and chat....when someone pulled alongside us and hollered that we had a flat tyre.....he was right, we did.....a very flat tyre. We managed to make it to the next garage where we added air, then we stopped at every other garage on the route adding air when needed. Luckily we had left home early so I still make it to the airport in plenty of time for my first flight.......and my husband made it back home again without too much drama.

Thank heavens I was flying from Gatwick - if I'd been flying from Heathrow we'd have been haring along the motorway with the flat and goodness knows what might've happened then!

The first flight was Gatwick to Casablanca, roughly a 3 hour flight - I chatted with two nice ladies in my row, one of them was interested in getting into charity work so we swapped contact details.

I had almost 6 hours to wait in Casablanca for my connecting flight and then we were off to Freetown. The flight was only about 2/3 full so I had the entire row to myself - which is always nice! This flight was due to take about 4 hours - after a bit of sleep and a snack and then a bit more sleep it didn't seem long before they announced that we would be landing in Freetown in a few minutes...........then about 20 minutes after that it was announced that the weather was too bad to land and we would hold for about an hour before landing.
I braced myself for a bumpy landing, but after holding for over an hour they announced we would be diverting to Banjul because of the bad weather! This was a bit of a shock.

We landed in Banjul and waited for 3 hours on the plane - it wasn't too bad because there were so few passengers there was plenty of room - then we refuelled and set off for Freetown again.
I got here in the end - almost 5 hours late, but in one piece and with both of my suitcases!!
I enjoyed the flights - there was loads of leg room and apart from panicking a bit when I thought I might get stranded in Banjul it was pretty much hassle free, I'd definitely fly with the same airline again.

I've spent most of today unpacking and settling back in, and now I'm having a cup of camomile tea before getting an early night.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Ready.....steady......GO!!

I'm heading back to Freetown again. I have found a good balance between the time I spend in Sierra Leone and the time I spend in the UK - it's working really well for me to alternate spending a couple of months in Sierra Leone with a month in the UK.......my husband and I are both happy with the arrangement.
 
This time I'm flying with Royal Air Maroc via Cassablanca. If you read my blog regularly you'll know what last time I flew out to Freetown one of my bags didn't arrive until 4 or 5 days after I did (that was with Brussels Airlines).......I hope and pray that this time it all arrives when I do!
 
I feel remarkably well organised at the moment, which is probably an indication that I've forgotten something! Yesterday it dawned on me that my International Driving Permit had expired - but that was soon renewed and I'm all set as far as that goes. I say I feel organised but I haven't started packing yet, that is one job I always leave until the last minute. Most of my luggage will be taken up by things for the house, including lots of lovely new fluffy towels!
 
One of my first priorities when I get to Freetown is to check on all the sponsored students, to ensure all that are enrolled in school are attending and to make a plan with the parents/guardians of the others for when they will go back to school.
 
Now that travel restrictions have been relaxed I will make a trip to check on our sponsored students in the provinces, in Kambia and Kenema. I am looking forward to that trip as it will be nice to be able to travel inside the country again.
 
I will be putting the finishing touches to my spare bedrooms in the hope that friends will start making plans to visit now that Ebola is coming to an end.
 
I've been having a bit of car trouble recently and I'm hoping to be able to find a decent mechanic to sort out the issues. I think the time is coming to replace the vehicle, but it's just not financially possible at the moment so I'm hoping to get a few more months out of my RAV4.
 
If you feel able, here are a few things I'd appreciate prayer over:
  • That I will find a good, decent, honest mechanic
  • That Ebola continues to reduce in Sierra Leone
  • For our students as they reintegrate into school
  • That my relationships with the people I work with will continue to grow and flourish
  • For my good health and general wellbeing
 
Thank you!!

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Air France to Resume Flights

Air France have announced that they will resume flights in to Sierra Leone from 30th June 2015. They plan to have 3 flights a week operating on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
 
Before Ebola there was a choice of 5 airlines that flew into Sierra Leone from Europe:
 
Air France
British Airways
Brussels Airlines
Gambia Bird
Royal Air Maroc
 
BA and Gambia Bird were always my first choice as they flew direct from the UK.
 
Unfortunately Gambia Bird announced on 30th December 2014 that they were suspending all flights until further notice, so they aren't going to be an option - I do hope they are able to resume operations at some point.
 
I wish British Airways would resume their flights as I have air miles waiting to be spent with them! Although I've lost my silver status, so I'll not be able to use their lovely lounge at Heathrow anymore.
 
Air France is the only airline out of those listed above that I've never flown to Sierra Leone with - they were always too expensive.
 
I'd like to say that I will show loyalty to the airlines that carried on servicing Sierra Leone during the Ebola crisis (Brussels Airlines and Royal Air Maroc), and I would if money was no object.....but if another airline comes along offering lower cost flights I would have to go with them.
 
Hopefully, as other airlines resume their flights, the cost of flights will start to drop - the prices have been very high in recent months.