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.