Saturday 15 November 2008

This is just a quick update to say that everything is going well. It's almost time for the first team to leave, the time has just flown by.

I've got a bit of a cold and I've lost my voice and I'm really tired, but apart from that I'm fine and happy here.

I spent a lovely morning a couple of days ago with a few of the St George Foundation children. I took three of the team there while the rest worked making blocks at the City Of Rest site. We made balloon animals and sang and chatted with them. It was a lovely morning.

Tomorrow we are going to church then spending the afternoon at Dove International followed by a team farewell meal at a restaurant in the west.

The time in between teams will be very busy this time as we have the second team arriving on Friday - but I'm hoping to be able to take an afternoon off to try to find out how Ramatu is.

Tuesday 11 November 2008

Back in Freetown

Wow I've been in Freetown a week already and this is the first chance I've had to go online! We had a busy first few days before the first team arrived last Friday and it's been non-stop since they got here.

We went to a dedication ceremony at the new City of Rest site in Grafton on Saturday and work has started there. The team are there today making blocks for the perimeter wall. Yesterday we went to the current City of Rest house and painted their meeting room and spent some time with the residents there.

I've not been able to spend much time with the kids yet as we've been so busy.....but I'm managing to get some time with them early in the mornings before the team arrives for breakfast. It was so great to see them all again, especially Abu.

This afternoon we have a visit scheduled to the United Polio Brothers'll be a chance for me to find out how Kinney has been doing since his dad (Bobson) died.

It is so great to be back in Sierra Leone, and although I'm hot, tired and a little bit grubby (I've had the kids climbing over me this morning) I'm loving being back. I think I'm on the verge of losing my voice which will be a disaster for me but probably a relief for Brian and the team! the first team have just under a week left with us and the second team arrive next Friday. I think I'm going to need a holiday when I come home!!

I'll try to post again soon. If anyone needs to get in touch with me leave a message for me here and I'll send you my SL number.

Friday 31 October 2008

Almost there

I just have a few things left to do before I leave for Sierra Leone on Monday, but I'm almost ready to go. As I'll be staying at the 5/10 I need to get a kettle so I can start each day in my usual way with a cup of camomile tea - otherwise I might be unbearable for the people there with me!

Last weekend I went to the team orientation day that Mission Direct hold for volunteers who go on short term mission trips. It was a good to be able to meet some of the people that will be coming out on the teams while I'm in Sierra Leone. It was also a chance to have a good chat with Brian, the other member of the MD in country staff team......Brian and I will be based in Freetown hosting the teams of volunteers. My passport was returned to me complete with a shiny new visa and I was also given my flight ticket - it's just about sunk in that I really am going!

I intend to fully make the most of the time I have in Sierra Leone - we only have three days in between hosting teams of volunteers so I won't have much time off, but there are a few people I'd like to look up and spend time with if I get the chance. I especially want to find Ramatu (the girl with epilepsy Maureen and I found lying in the street) - I've thought about Ramatu a lot since I came back to the UK, but so far I've been unable to get any news of her.

If you want to stay in touch with me while I'm away you can email me, I will make an effort to pick up my emails at least once a week. If you want my to call or text me drop me an email and I'll send my SL number to you (I've kept the same number as before). It'd be great to hear from friends while I'm away.

I'd better get to the shops and finish my last minute shopping!

Also posted at

Wednesday 22 October 2008


With only 12 days to go until I travel to Freetown I have a lot to do!
I went to Nomad travel clinic in Southampton last week to get Lariam anti-malarial medication for my trip, but there was bad news.......there is a shortage of Lariam in the UK and they could only supply me with 6. I had one left over from the last time I took it, but that still left me three short of the total I need. Luckily my friend Rach has a few spare she's going to let me have! All my vaccinations are up to date so fortunately I didn't have to have any jabs.
Last week I posted off my passport and visa application, so that should come through in plently of time. Fortunately by CRB check is still in date so I don't need to apply for another this time.
When I left Freetown in June I gave away most of the clothes I had with me, so I need to have a shopping trip to buy some suitable clothes. At least this time I have more idea about the kind of things I need.
I bought a mozzie net at the weekend to take with me, as we'll be staying at the 5:10 and they don't have nets on the beds there. Bob bought me a larger panel for my solar charger so if we have times with no electricity at least I'll be able to charge my phone and my ipod.
Today I've spoken to our cook in Sierra Leone Maria and arranged to meet up with her when I get there to arrange the menus for the teams. I also called Adama, our breakfast cook, I wasn't really expecting to get through to her as she's due to go to Isreal and I thought that maybe she'd already it was a lovely suprise when she answered the phone. She's not going away until January so has agreed to do breakfast for us while we are there. I'm really looking forward to seeing them both again.
Before I go I still have to get first aid supplies, contact out driver, check the hotel bookings, get a dentist appointment, get my car serviced, get some t-shirts printed........oh! there is so much to do - I should log off and get on and do it!
While I'm in Sierra Leone we'll be hosting 2 teams of volunteers. The first team from 7th to 18th Novemer has 13 volunteers, the second team from 21st November to 1st December has 5 volunteers. I arrive 4 days before the first team and travel home with the second team.
What am I looking forward to most about going back? Meeting the teams of volunteers - I loved getting to know and spending time with all the volunteers, it is fantastic to see how Sierra Leone affects people - especially people visiting for the first time. I'm also looking forward to seeing all the kids that I spent so much time with earlier this year and seeing how they are all getting on. I'm looking forward to visiting all the MD projects and seeing all the people we work with again.
As far as I know the main projects we'll be working on are the City of Rest for people with mental health or alcohol/drug addicationh problems, and the Hosetta Abdulai school for special needs children.
Also posted at

Saturday 11 October 2008

News from Sierra Leone

Abu has been ill so we arranged for him to be taken to hospital where he was diagnosed with malaria, typhoid and worms......he was also undernourished. The poor little thing was so poorly, but once he had medication he was soon on the mend. Harder to address was the issue of him not getting fed at home - his aunt agreed that if I provided a sack of rice she'd make sure he got an evening meal. I arranged for a sack of rice to be delivered to her, I just hope and pray that she keeps her side of the bargain.
Abu is completely well now and he went back to school when the new term started on 22nd September. From what I hear it sounds like he's staying out of trouble!
I can't put into words how much I'm looking forward to seeing him next month!!

Sadly on 7th September Bobson Musa passed away. Bobson lived at the United Polio Brothers Association in Kissy with his son Kinnie. Bobson was well known to the Mission Direct volunteers - he made bible cases and wall hangings which he sold to the volunteers and he liked to meet and spend time with the teams.
He was paralysed in a car accident in 2000. I met Bobson on my first visit to Sierra Leone in 2006 and got to know him and his son well during the 4 months I was there earlier this year.
He'll be missed by the MD volunteers and his brothers at UPBA. Bobson has two other children David and Kadi who live with their mother.

Also posted on

Friday 10 October 2008

All Change!

My plans for returning to Sierra Leone later this year changed completely yesterday. Bob and I had been planning to join a Mission Direct team over Christmas then stay on for a while extra when the team went home to explore a bit on our own. Unfortunately due to the cost of the flights over the Christmas period MD have had to cancel the Christmas trip.

There are two short term trips planned for November so MD asked if I'd consider going out there for about a month as one of the in-country staff team. I talked it over with Bob and he said that I should go! This time next month I'll be in Freetown!!

It's just over three weeks until I go, so I have quite a lot to do before now and then - first of all I need ot get my visa application sent off and get some lariam.

I am disappointed that we won't be going at Christmas as I was so looking forward to Bob seeing the projects, meeting everyone and experiencing Sierra Leone first hand, but unfortunately that's the only time he can take time off work. We've decided that we'll go somewhere else over the holiday the moment we're thinking of a walking holiday in Madeira.

Also posted at

Monday 15 September 2008

More Ramblings

I've been trying to decide what to do work wise. I've been seeing a recruitancy consultant about my options, getting my CV up to date and going over interview techniques etc. I think I know now what I want to do, but I don't want to say too much just yet in case it doesn't work out. I'm going to try to get some part time temp work in the meantime so that I can cover the bills, but still keep some time free for training.

As I said in a previous post, my cat Jiffi died on 2nd September. We took her to a place called Cremate-A-Pet in Winchester and arranged for her to have an individual cremation. The chap who runs Cremate-A-Pet, Peter Winfield was very sympathetic and made the while thing easy for us. I was able to pick up Jiffi's ashes three days later. I think we are going to scatter her ashes in the fields where she used to go hunting for mice.
At the weekend I attended a Mission Direct training day for their speakers network. Now I'm fully armed to go to speaking engagements for Mission Direct. It was really nice too, because the rest of the staff team I lived with in Sierra Leone earlier this year were there - it was good to have the chance to catch up with them.

I've had my phone upgraded to a Samsung Tokka. It looks and feels nice. This is my third Samsung in a row and I much prefer them to any other make of phone. This one has a full touch screen, which will take some getting used to. It has a 5 meg camera, the shots it takes are very clear and it has a gadgety thing called 'Smile Shot' ...... focus on someone and the camera waits until it detects that they are smiling until it takes the photo, it's a nice touch.

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Tuesday 2 September 2008

Bye Bye Jiffi

I'm so sad.......our cat Jiffi died this morning. Bob woke me up at about 6 to tell me that Jiffi had gone, but when we checked again she was still just about alive. As we sat with her giving her a stroke she took her final breath and died.
This photo was taken last week when she was already quite poorly, but as you can see she was still such a pretty little thing.

Bye bye Jif xx

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Monday 1 September 2008

A bad meal and a good pub

We went for a meal at an Indian restaurant called Kuti's as it was recommended to us. The welcome was nice, if a little bit over the top. We were shown to a nice table by the window. The layout of the restaurant was good, the tables weren't too close together so you we didn't feel like we were sitting on top of the people at the next table. A lot of attention had been paid to the decor, which was all in violet. The price was higher than the Indian restaurant we usually go to , but from the look and feel of the place, and the fact that it had been recommended to us we were expecting really good meal.
We had a couple of popadoms (when we got the bill we noticed that they charged extra for the pickles to go with the popadoms!) then for main course I had a 'medley of chicken tikka's' and Bob had chicken dahnsak, we shared a pilau rice and some bhindi aloo (potato and okra). When the food came the presentation was really good. My medley of tikka's consisted of 6 pieces of chicken, 2 green, 2 white and 2 of the usual orangy red tikka colour - the menu had indicated that the chicken was corn-fed, but I think that's unlikely as the colour of the chicken was just too white on the inside. Unfortunatley the meal was disappointing, the chicken was opaque in the middle and wet looking, the okra was slightly slimy and the potatoes were watery.
I wouldn't recommend this restaurant and I wouldn't eat there again.

On the way home from the disappointing meal we stopped off at the 'Bat and Ball Inn' in Hambledon. This is that place that cricket was invented and is known as the 'cradle of cricket'. It's a newly restored 17th century inn. The inn used to house the clubroom for members of Hambledon Cricket Club, in the great days of Hambledon cricket from around 1750. There is lots of cricket related memorabilia in the pub and lots of attention to detail. There is a restaurant but we didn't try the food there (I wish we had forgone the Indian and eaten at the Bat and Ball!!). The staff were friendly and the ladies room was well decorated and spotless. There is quite a large carpark and an outside patio area with tables and seating and a smoking area. I liked it, if we are ever driving that way I'd definately like to pop in again.

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Wednesday 27 August 2008


Unfortunately one of my cats, Jiffi, is on her last legs. I don't know how old she is, as she was a rescue cat and the shelter I got her from didn't have many details for her. They reckoned that she was between 6 and 8 years old when she came to live with me around 10 years that'd make her about 16 to 18ish. She's still eating, but she's struggling to get around and spends most of the day sleeping and has lost all of her energy. She's lost a lot of weight too.....there's nothing of her now. I'm dreading getting up one morning to find her taking her final sleep, but I think it's going to happen soon. That'll leave me with just Kiwi, my black cat, because my Jack Russell lives with my Dad now. Jiffi is such a lovely cat, she's very affectionate and loves cuddles - I'm going to miss her a lot when she's gone. She has the loudest purr I've ever heard on a cat - she's still purring even now, I can hear her as I'm typing this!
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Wednesday 20 August 2008

Worried About Abu

I'm worried about Abu - I worry about him a lot anyway, but this time I have reason......Abu's teacher keeps me up to date on any news on him, and this time the news isn't good.

First of all he's got a wound on his foot - he's always getting cuts and punctures on the soles of his feet as he rarely wears shoes, but for the teacher to mention it to me it must be quite bad. I'm waiting for a email with more details.

The other issue is more upsetting, it seems that Abu's 'aunt' (the lady he lives with) has given his clothes to her daughter......leaving Abu with just underpants and a shirt. I know this sounds far-fetched, but it's not that unusual, Abu gets neglected at home and the needs of his 'sister' are always put before his. I feel so sorry for Abu, he had virtually nothing......and now everything but the shirt on his back has been taken from him.

It's good to know that his teacher is taking care of Abu as best as he can.....treating his bad foot, making sure he eats and looking out for him in general. Being so far away I feel useless - unable to do anything to make things better for Abu.

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Tuesday 19 August 2008

My Ramblings

I'm feeling rather fedup with myself today. I'd decided that today was to be the day that the diet starts......then found myself in McDonalds scoffing a Big Mac Meal, a 'go large' one at that! What a piggy I am - I guess the diet is delayed until tomorrow. On a happy today has now been designated as a no-diet day I'm looking forward to some crispy aromatic duck tonight! I've
I've joined the library, the best thing about it is the speed of the free internet connections there - it's much quicker than my vodafone mobile internet as there is STILL no 3G broadband coverage at home, the only downside is access is limited to one hour, but I suppose that's for the best otherwise people would stay on all day and no-one else would get the chance. I've been reading a lot too - the best book I've read recently was an autobiography called Shutterbabe by Deborah Copaken Kogan about her life as an photo-journalist. Another interesting book was 'Once a Pilgrim' by Will Scully about the siege at the Mamma Yoko hotel in Aberdeen, Sierra Leone in 1997.

I've been watching quite a lot of the Olympics, and suprised myself by quite enjoying some of it (I'm not normally one for watching sports on the TV). I must be going soft in my old age, as at times it's made me quite emotional - expecially at the medal ceromonies. The rowing and the cycling have had me shouting at the telly cheering on the Brits.

Ramatu's Story

On the day our penultimate team of volunteers left Andy and Heidi took them to the airport while Maureen and I stayed behind to clean the team house at King George to get it ready for the final team of volunteers who would be arriving just 4 days later. We had decided to go for a meal at the 5-10 Hotel, so once we'd finished clearing up we set off to walking around to the 5-10 - looking forward to a relaxing evening doing nothing.
In the same road as the King George VI home is a convent, I don't know much about it, but there are always queues of people outside on Mondays and Fridays, they run some kind of medical clinic there........anyway, as Maureen and I were passing the convent one of the kids who was walking with us pointed out someone laying in the gateway of the convent. We went over to have a closer look and there was a girl lying there, she had open sores on her arms, legs and head, there were flies buzzing all around her and she wasn't moving - we thought she was dead. No one else seemed to be taking any notice of her, and as we stood decided what we should do she had a least that let us know she was alive. When she came around we tried talking to her, but all we could get out of her was her name 'Ramatu'

We decided we'd get her to hospital, the closest one was the UMC in Kissy. We went back to King George to see if we could borrow a wheelchair to take her to the hospital. We asked our friend Amanda who is the head teacher at the school in the King George compound to come with us in case we needed someone to translate...........we were also lucky that a man who helps look after the King George residents, Abdul, was there and he agreed to come with us too. We made our way back to the girl (without a wheelchair, we'd decided it'd be better to get a taxi). When we got back a lady came forward who seemed to be the girls mother, she told us Ramatu was 12, had been ill for 5 to 7 years and she couldn't walk. The gateman at the convent explained to Amanda that they couldn't take the girl in, and she should come back the next morning. We attracted quite a large crowd who gathered round trying to see what the apoto's were up to.

We sent someone off to find a taxi for us and all bundled in......Ramatu's mother in the front (heavily pregnant) with the girl on her knee, me Maureen, Amanda and Abdul in the back. Luckily it was only a 5 minute drive. I'd been to the hospital a couple of weeks before visiting someone so I knew the layout and we went straight into admissions. We settled Ramatu in a wheelchair while her mother checked her in........just then she had another fit - I was standing to her right and that's the way she fell so I instinctively caught her head......before that day I'd never seen anyone have a fit and this was my second one in as many hours - I was scared and praying, and I was also vaguely aware she had a big open sore on her head and my hand was touching it - luckily my time in Sierra Leone had knocked a lot of the squeamishness out of me. A doctor came to talk to us to let us know that they couldn't admit her to the hospital, he suggested that we take her to the Epilepsy Association of Sierra Leone which is in Rokupa.

We hailed another taxi and all piled in again and went off to find the Epilepsy Association. Luckily for us when we got there Mr Max Bangura who runs the association and is the main man in Sierra Leone as far as epilepsy issues are concerned was there. He assessed Ramatu and told us that with medication she could improve. As well as the epilepsy Ramatu was very underweight, which was what was making her so weak. Her mother was scared as when she had seizures she thought it was due to demonic possession.....she was scared to touch her - in fact the only time we saw her touch her in all the time we were with her was when they sat in the front of the taxi together. Maureen and I arranged for medication and food for Ramatu until the end of the year. The field officer for the Epilepsy Association will be visiting and checking on her progress. As the medical office at the association was closed for the day the only medical supplies available where what I had in my backpack, so Adbul and I cleaned and dressed her woulds as best as we could. During the time we were at the association Ramatu had another two fits........this gave Max the opportunity to show Ramatu's mother (and us) how best to deal with someone who is having a fit, and to explain to the mother that it wasn't contagious or the effects of possession. Ramatu had her first dose of the medication while we were there as well as something to eat. Max explained to us that is was likely that Ramatu was going to be abandoned outside the convent until we showed up.

By the time we left she'd definitely perked up a bit - although she still couldn't stand unsupported, she could sit up and made some effort to communication......she asked Maureen to give her 1 bloc (100 leones)! As we made to leave it was decided that Adbul would take Ramatu and her mother back to where they were staying and Maureen, Amanda and I would go our separate ways. As we were trying to flag taxi's down I was standing with Ramatu giving her a cuddle (and holding her up) when she had another fit. This was a busy time of day on the main road into Freetown so created a lot of attention. In the 3 or 4 hours we were with Ramatu she had 5 fits - with that and the malnutrition it's no wonder she was so weak. It was such an intense time when we were with her that we didn't really have time to stop and think about how desperate the situation was for the girl or how awfully sad it was - while we were with her I held it together quite well......but as soon as Maureen and I were alone in the taxi it hit me. Ever since then I've not been able to get her out of my mind.

I've emailed Mr Bangora asking for an update on Ramatu, when I hear from him I'll post the details.

(Maureen and I went to the 5-10 for a meal a bit later than planned, but neither of us could find anything we fancied on the menu so we ended up going to out usual haunt.....The NP.)

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Sunday 17 August 2008

King George VI Home for the Elderly

King George VI Home for the Elderly in Kissy, East Freetown, Sierra Leone is where the Mission Direct team house is based. When there is a team of Mission Direct volunteers in country most of the meals are taken there. There are currently 44 residents living at the home for the elderly.

There had been no running water at King Georges for over 6 months, so one of our projects was to resolve the water situation and to provide new toilets and showers for the residents. It was hard work, first scraping down the buildings with wire brushes on the outside and cleaning on the inside, then painting the blocks. The buildings were re-tiled inside, the windows were replaced and new toilet seats were made and fitted. As you can see from the photos the end result is a big improvement.


During the time we were there our teams also helped with cleaning the wards Some of the teams of volunteers spent time with the residents at the home reading to them, playing games and doing craftwork. Part of he program for the short term teams is to have a culteral talk so for the smaller teams we arranged for two of the King George men to come along for an evening and talk to the teams about their lives and the history of Sierra Leone, they were great fun.

Here are some of the King George VI residents:

The Glorious Community Primary school is also in the same compound.

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Saturday 16 August 2008

Why have I created a new blog?

I've created this blog because blogspot seems to have a lot more functionality that the Mr Site blogging tool that I've been using. I'll carry on updating my blog at and replicate the posts here until I decide which format I prefer.

There is no archiving facility with the Mr Site blogging tool, all posts are on one rolling page, it's not been a problem so far as my blog has been mostly text with just a few photos, but as I add more and more updates I can see it becoming a problem. I like the way that blogs are automatically archived on blogspot on a monthly basis and the archives can be accessed from a link on the mail page.

I'm going to post some of the pages from my website here so that I can compare the formats of the two tools.