Thursday 30 October 2014

I Made It

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday 24 October 2014

Philippians 4:6-7

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

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

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

Wednesday 22 October 2014

I'm Going Back

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Please Make it Stop

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday 11 October 2014

Ebola in the Media

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday 9 October 2014

Matthew 25:34-40

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

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

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

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

Wednesday 8 October 2014

Waterloo Hospital Update 08/10/14

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

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

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

Saturday 4 October 2014

Romans 15:13

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

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

Wednesday 1 October 2014

21 Days

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

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

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

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

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