Saturday 28 February 2015


I first met Melrose and the Mahanaim Home for disabled children in 2009 when I took Ramatu to live there. Sadly Ramatu passed away last year, but I stay in touch with the home and visit as often as I can.
Melrose joined with a UK charity with the intention that a new home would be built to move the children to and Melrose would move with them to be house mother. Unfortunately the relationship fell apart and when most of the children were moved to the new home about eighteen months ago Melrose decided to stay put and carry on running the home in Grafton.
The home currently has 17 children with various challenges such as polio, epilepsy, deaf-mute, learning difficulties.........Melrose herself has polio and is confined to a wheelchair.
The visit was challenging as the children love to hold hands and cuddle, and they know nothing of Ebola or avoiding body contact. As soon as I walked in the door Tamba came rushing over and before I could stop him he'd attached himself to my legs!!
Melrose told me that she is not getting any assistance from the government or other organisations.
Apart from their long term conditions the children are well, except for baby John who has malaria and craw-craw (sores on his skin).

Melrose with Baby John and Little Melrose

King George VI Home For The Elderly

I have known King George VI Home for the Elderly since my very first visit to Sierra Leone in 2006. Mission Direct used to have an office/team house in the King George compound so I would be there most days and got to know the residents very well.
King George was relocated to Grafton a few years ago when their compound in Kissy was purchased and redeveloped as an industrial site. I am not able to visit as much as I used to, but I try to get out to their site in Grafton at least every few weeks to see how everyone is doing.
King George has always been one of my favourite places to visit, and when I'm able to I love to spend time with some of the residents just chatting and passing time.
I popped in there yesterday to see how everyone is......worryingly some of the staff there told me 'Ebola don don' (Ebola is finished) - which is obviously not true as their near neighbours St George Foundation are currently under quarantine after losing one of their staff a few days ago to Ebola.
It was great to catch up with the staff and residents, including these two gentlemen, who I had a lovely chat with:
Mr Davis

Mr Joseph

Sadly since my last visit one long term resident Mr Prince has passed away. He was a lovely, friendly polite gentleman and he'll be missed by the other residents. RIP Mr Prince.
Rest in Perfect Peace Mr Prince

Friday 27 February 2015

Lifeline Nehemiah Project

I was really happy to catch up with the wonderful people at the Lifeline Nehemiah Project in Kissy this week.

Wow, they have been busy the last few months!! Here are just some of the things they have been doing:
  • Along with Medair they have built and are running a 20 bed Ebola treatment centre
  • They have built an extension to their boys home to take in Ebola orphans
  • They have been providing care packages to quarantined homes
  • They've been sending people out to educate and sensitise people to Ebola.

The work they have been doing is seriously impressive, and it's inspiring to see the way they work together for the good of the Nehemiah family, the good of their local community and the good of their country.

I got to meet some of the Ebola orphans they are taking care of and it was lovely to see them so relaxed,  playing ball and having fun - they are obviously well cared for..
This is the extension to the home that will allow them to accommodate even more children:

Thursday 26 February 2015

Hosetta Abdullah Special Needs School

I visited the Hosetta Abdullah Special Needs School in Thunder Hill in Kissy this week - it had been a few months since my last visit and I just wanted to see how they are all doing.
I had a really good catch up with the Headmistress Mrs Kamanda and got to hear how all the students and staff are getting on.
Mrs Kamanda has kindly said that I can either share her office or borrow a room to use as an office until I find myself a suitable office space - so I'm looking forward to spending a lot more time there!

With the Headmistress Mrs Kamanda

Mrs Kamanda has moved into a house on site and is taking care of a number of children including the two lads pictured below.

The boy on the left is John, who I first met way back in 2008 when one of our volunteers from Texas made a strong bond with him which eventually led to us getting to know the Hosetta Abdullah school and enrolling John there. He was bought up by his Grandmother, but when she died John went to live with Mrs K.

Sadly they have lost two of their students in recent months. This is Kadi-Kadi, she had been living with Mrs Kamanda but went on holiday to family in the provinces and sadly passed away while there. Mrs Kamanda believes that she was infected with the Ebola virus. Mrs K kindly gave me this photo of me with Kadi-Kadi.

Sunday 22 February 2015

Ebola Fatigue?

People's attitude to Ebola has changed here in the past couple of months........I think that most people are just thoroughly fedup with it and the changes it has caused.
I've noticed that the people I spend time with aren't nearly so careful about avoiding body contact as they were the last time I saw them.
People aren't talking about Ebola now they way they were - before it cropped into most conversations, now if it's mentioned its mostly to say that it will be gone soon. Instead of talking about Ebola, now people are talking about the investigation into the suspected misuse of donations made to the government to help with the fight against Ebola.
I do think it's a good thing that Ebola isn't completely dominating the lives of people here in the way that it was at the end of last year.......the strain of living under the threat of such an awful virus takes it's toll - I know that and I had the luxury of being able to come and go.........imagine how much worse it is for the people who don't have that option - who had to stay here no matter how bad it got..
Someone told me that Ebola has been beaten, but the authorities are pretending that it hasn't so that people will keep sending money in.........dangerous talk, I really hope it's a very small minority of people that believe this.
I'm worried that people are becoming too complacent about it - the situation is much better, but it's far from over yet.
Today I heard that St George Foundation, one of the first projects that I worked on in Sierra Leone, has been quarantined after a staff member tested positive for the Ebola virus........proof, if any is needed, that the fight isn't over yet.

Saturday 21 February 2015

I'm About To Get Busy!!

As usual I quickly settled back into life here, not much has changed during the two months I was away.

One noticeable change is the week after I left a new rule was bought in that all trading would cease at 6pm daily......I can't speak for other areas, but in my part of town that means al street traders, all shops, all restaurants and all bars have to be closed or stop selling by 6pm. This is bad news for the new restaurant that had opened just down the road from me, in November it was doing really good business and was attracting a lot of customers, particularly in the evenings.....I drove past at 6.30pm yesterday and it was all locked up, I hope they are getting enough trade during the daytime to keep them going.

Compared to when I left in December there are hardly any Ebola ambulances around, I've seen one or two teams but nowhere near the number we were seeing in November an December when there were 100+ new cases confirmed some days. The official statistics indicate that Ebola is reducing and that does seem to be the case.

I got a call from the BMI office about my missing luggage and they say it will arrive on the flight tomorrow (Sunday) and I can pick it up from their office in town on Monday - it will be a huge relief to get my hands on that bag!!

While I was away an electric pump was fitted to the water well in my compound (HUGE, HUGE thanks to those who helped with this!!), it allows us to fill the water tanks that feed the house and the compound with water from the well - this is just great as previously the tanks only filled with rain water, so no rain = empty tanks. The only other way to get water was to lower a bucket into the well and pull it up manually - I tried it once and it was really hard work! It's a real weight off my mind knowing we can now fill the tanks so easily.

I am enjoying living in the new compound and while I'm here I'm going to get the spare rooms ready so that friends can come to stay later in the year. I'm going to get a local carpenter to make one bed and one clothes rail and if they turn out ok I'll get the same made for each room.

I need to find a new office as I've decided that it's better to work away from home, so my hunt for office space starts tomorrow....I have a couple of ideas of places that might be suitable.

The schools are due to reopen here towards the end of March, so there is a lot of work to do to get the students enrolled and ready for school. It is such a relief that they will be able to begin attending school again after all this time - I am hoping to arrange a meeting with the Ministry of Education next week so I can find out if we will have to pay fees for just the last term or for the full year........or if the rumour that fees will be subsidised by the government are true - if this is the case we will use the funds reserved for fees on extra lessons for our students.

I need to find out if public meetings are still banned as I would like to hold a parents meeting to let the parents and guardians of our students know how we are going to be dealing with the reintegration of our students into the schools - if we are not allowed to hold a parents meeting I will have to go over it with each parent or guardian individually.

Now that most quarantines have been lifted I will be able to visit out sponsored students in the provinces, I will be planning a trip in the next couple of weeks and will probably be away for 3 or 4 days. I'm looking forward to my trip to the provinces!

We are continuing to distribute rice to those who need it most. Thank you so much to everyone who had donated to our rice fund. It's not too late - if you would like to provide rice for a family in need then you can either make a donation using the button at the top of this page or contact me and I'll let you know other ways you can donate......any amount is welcome and will make a huge difference to the families we are working with.

I'd very much appreciate your prayers that I may stay healthy. I can't take anti-malaria tablets, this isn't usually a problem because I take precautions and I'm tested monthly for malaria - I haven't had malaria for over a year now. When I do get malaria I usually go for treatment at the Adventist Hospital at Waterloo. The problem at the moment is that the symptoms of malaria can be similar to the early symptoms of Ebola.......any high fever is being treated as suspected Ebola, so I can't afford to get malaria now. On my first night back I noticed there were a lot of mosquitos around, since then I've been putting on my 'mosquito lamp' at night and I didn't see or hear any at all last night (it's a lamp with a purple light that somehow deters the mosquitos).

Prayer would also be much appreciated for the following:
  • That I find a suitable office space for a reasonable rentage
  • That the people I will be dealing with in the schools will be honest and open
  • The people helping me here will stay healthy
  • Our students will reintegrate into school ready to learn all teachers have to teach
  • The parents and guardians will be supportive of their children going back to school
Thank you xx

Friday 20 February 2015

Matthew 6:6-13

"But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.  And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.  Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.   

  This, then, is how you should pray:

‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
   Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 
   Give us today our daily bread.
    And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.'
Matthew 6:6-13
I love that when we say The Lords Prayer we are praying just as Jesus taught his disciples to pray, isn't that special? When I struggle to find words when I'm praying I repeat The Lords Prayer over and over.
It's the one prayer that almost everyone knows, Christian or not - I guess I must've learnt it in school or Sunday school, and when I was a kid it was just a matter of repeating the same words as everyone else but not giving thought to any meaning behind it.

I'm not always comfortable praying out loud in a group and this passage lets me know that that is ok, its fine to pray quietly on my own if I don't feel able to join in group prayers.
Now I appreciate just how special The Lords Prayer is - hardly a day goes by when I don't pray this prayer.

Thursday 19 February 2015

Where Are My Clothes??

Well, I arrived back in Sierra Leone ok....but unfortunately one of my cases didn't arrive......the case with most of my clothes in. This wouldn't usually be too much of a problem as I have a wardrobe of clothes at home in Freetown - unfortunately I over indulged rather a lot while I was in the UK and have gone up over a dress size since I was last here and so none of my clothes here fit (the reason for having to bring new clothes over!!).

The journey was fine, after an early start from Heathrow I flew to Brussels, then onto Senegal then Guinea, then finally onto Sierra Leone. On the flight to Brussels I sat with an interesting man working for DFID - it was good to hear a little about their work. On the flights from Brussels to Freetown I sat with a nice lady from CDC (Centre for Disease Control) who is over to work on rolling out a vaccine when it becomes available.

'Gone Girl' a film that I'd seen advertised in the UK that looked quite good was showing on the in flight entertainment so I whiled away a couple of hours watching that - this tuned out to be a mistake as there is intrusive music playing the whole way through the film which makes it hard to concentrate on the dialogue and ended up leaving me with a corking headache.......and the film wasn't much cop either!! It wasn't just me - the lady next to me thought the same, but she had the sense to turn it off after half an hour!

We landed in Freetown around half 7 and as is now usual went through chlorine handwash and temperature checks. I headed over to the baggage carousel and spotted one bag right away, then waited and waited for the other one to come......until eventually the carousel was stopped and it sank in that my bag wasn't coming. I had to fill in a report about the missing bag and everyone I spoke to seemed hopeful that the missing bag will arrive on the next flight which is on Sunday - I should find out tomorrow if the bag has been tracked down or not.

My friend who works at the airport was waiting for me with a ticket for the water taxi and he kindly supplied headache tablets and water for me too!! It was very chopping on the water taxi ride to Aberdeen and the wonderful evening breeze soon cleared my headache.

My Sierra Leonean son was waiting for me at Aberdeen with a big smile on his face that soon made me forget my worries about the missing luggage!

When I got home I had a lovely surprise, a young lady I know had cooked me some irish potatoes to welcome me!!

I've been trying to work out what is in the missing bag apart from my new clothes (in the bag that did arrive there were a pair of jeans and one top so all is not completely lost!!). There was a soup machine in there, a battery charger, hand sanitisers, school supplies - I'm wracking my brain for what else I packed!!

If you pray I'd appreciate prayers that I will be reunited with my missing bag, if you are not a prayer I would appreciate you sending your good thoughts my way!!

I had a quiet day today unpacking, chasing my lost case, into town to pick up groceries and tonight I cooked chicken and pasta as Aunty had the day off.

Town was quiet, but everything seemed a lot more normal than it has the last few months. The main topic of conversation seems to be the investigation into the suspected misuse of funds sent for Ebola.........One of the reasons I love the way we work is that people know that any money given through us will reach its intended destination and not be swallowed up by bureaucracy or corruption.

It's great to back. Word certainly travels fast - I told very few people the date that I would be arriving, but my phone has been going almost non-stop today with people calling to welcome me back!

Monday 16 February 2015

Martha's Baby

I recently posted about Matthew a little boy who died in my compound. Unfortunately that wasn't the end of the heartbreak for his Mum, Martha.
Matthew was the third child that Martha had lost.
When Matthew died Martha came to live in my compound and kind of became the caretaker for the compound. A few months after Matthew died I was working late one night catching up on some work on the PC. Around midnight one of the other security guards came knocking on my door and told me that Martha had 'fallen down', I took this to mean she had passed out.
I quickly got dressed and followed the security to a nearby pan house (a house made from corrugated metal panels). I went inside and found Martha and an older lady. The only light in the room was from an oil lantern so it took my eyes a while to adjust and take in what I was seeing. Martha was laying on the floor naked, she had had a stillbirth and the baby was still attached - I hadn't known that Martha was pregnant so this was a huge shock to me.
I needed to get Martha to hospital, but I'd let Sullay the driver go home for the night - I don't usually drive in Sierra Leone, but I didn't have much option. So we ran home to get the vehicle then drove back around and picked Martha up. Luckily the maternity hospital was not far from home.
We got Martha to the hospital but before she was given a bed I had to pay for plastic sheeting, Dettol, soap and pads. Once Martha had been admitted the long wait began. We were told the afterbirth was still inside her and we had to wait for a doctor.
Although the nursing staff were reluctant I was allowed to go to see Martha in the ward. All of the ladies in labour (around 6 of them if my memory serves me) were naked and lying on plastic sheeting on trolleys.
Martha didn't want to stay in the hospital as she said that the nurses were unkind - I pleaded with her to stay and in the end she agreed.
We waiting hours until eventually we were told that she would have a procedure in the morning to have the afterbirth removed - so around 5am we went home with the plan to return to see Martha in the morning.
Martha had the procedure the next day and after 2 days she was back home again, having lost yet another child.
I didn't find out what happened to the baby - I was scared to asked to be honest....the baby didn't come to the hospital with us, so I can only presume that the lady who was helping Martha removed the baby while I went to get the car.

Thursday 12 February 2015

Martha's Matthew

A few times over the last few years I've had cause to say 'this is the worst thing I've ever seen' or 'this is the worst thing I've ever experienced'.......and yet, each time there always seems to be something worse. This is one of my worst experiences:
This happened a while back, but it's not until now that I've felt able to share it, but I feel that people need to know about the sadness and waste of life in situations like this........
Martha was my security and housekeeper when at the previous compound I lived at. She's a hard working lady, her husband had drowned and she was bringing up her son with her mother's help.
She worked everyday apart from Sundays when she went to Church. Matthew was around 8 or 9 years old. He was doing well in school, his last school report showed that he was top of his class.
Matthew had been feeling poorly for a couple of days and he had a fever so Martha kept him off school and bought him to work with her. He felt hot to touch, but seemed quite perky so I said we'd see how he was the next day and if he was no better I'd send him to the hospital. He spent the day snoozing on my veranda.
The next morning I was woken by shouting, I went out in my pyjamas to see what was going on and Martha was there crying and Matthew was lying on the floor on a mat. Martha had carried Matthew from her home to mine, around 4 miles.........he had got worse during the night, but she waited until morning because she didn't want to disturb me.
Matthew was hot, very very hot, I checked for a pulse but there wasn't one. When I did my first aid course I was told that if I were ever in a situation when CPR was needed it would kick in automatically, but it didn' didn't even dawn on my until later that I should have tried CPR.
Sullay, our driver, and I locked eyes across Matthews body and somehow came to a silent agreement that we would take Matthew to the children's hospital - even though we were both pretty sure that he was dead.
We quickly got Matthew and Martha into the Landrover and they set off for the Children's Hospital a couple of miles away. Within half an hour they were back, with Matthew and the confirmation that he had died, presumably from malaria and typhoid.
What do you say to a mother whose child has just died so unnecessarily?
What do you do with the small dead body of a little boy?
How do you deal with the guilt that if you'd sent him to the hospital the day before there's a good chance that he'd be alive and kicking rather than lying dead in the back of my car?
The practical things were easily sorted - we sent Martha with Matthew's body home and arranged his burial and later a memorial service.
The emotional things take a lot longer.
Martha didn't want to go back to live with her mother where she had been living with Matthew - she couldn't face sleeping alone in the room they used to share together so she came to live in my compound.
Whenever Martha would get upset I would hear the other security telling her to stop crying because it would upset me! They allowed her to cry the day Matthew died, but after that expected her to just get on with things.
As for me, I doubt I will ever fully forgive myself for not taking Matthew to hospital that first day - would it have made any difference? I will never know now, and we will never know the young man he would have grown into.
I now keep a stock of malaria tests, so I can quickly know if someone with a fever has malaria and get them treatment quickly. When a child is sick I no longer say we'll wait and see how they are the next day.
There are so many 'what ifs' with this story.........

Matthew at his last sports day


Wednesday 11 February 2015

John 3:16

'For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life'
John 3:16

In most Christian primary schools in Sierra Leone the  children are taught 'memory verses'. This is by far the favourite verse among our children.

Heading Home to Freetown

I came back to the UK to spend Christmas and New Year with my husband, then decided to also stay for our wedding anniversary which we celebrated this past weekend.....and now I'm preparing to go back to my home in Freetown. It has turned out to be the longest time I've been away from Sierra Leone in the last 8 years!!
Apart from my husband there are few things that I will miss about the UK. I enjoy the food when I'm in England, perhaps a bit too much as I've put on a lot of weight! I will miss tiger bread, grapes, roast dinners, ham and potatoes!!
I am very excited about going back to Sierra Leone and catching up with my families there. The Ebola situation seems to be very much improved since I was there at the end of last year although it will be a long time before the country recovers.
It's going to be a busy time for me from the moment I get back to Freetown. Some of the areas I'll be working on are:
I have a lot of work to do  on the Education Sponsorship Programme, getting the students ready for when the schools reopen in March.
Way back in August we got uniforms made for most of the students before it was announced that the schools wouldn't be opening - I hope the kids haven't grown too much and that the uniforms still fit!!
We also purchased school bags and supplies for the students in August, so they are ready to be given out.
I need to get all the students enrolled in school, pay the fees and arrange extra lessons for our exam year students. I'm also hoping to meet with the Ministry of Education to find out their plans for helping the students to catch up on work they have missed.
Then there is the ongoing job of checking attendance and performance. Making sure our students are allowed time to study at home and identifying areas they need extra help with.
We are continuing to supply rice to families who are struggling to make ends meet and to the blind beggars. If anyone would like to help with this you can make a donation using the button at the top of this blog, or email me for further information. For £13 we can supply a family with a 25kg bag of rice.
Getting Ready for Volunteers
Over the next couple of months I will be getting the house ready to accommodate volunteers later in the year who will come to Sierra Leone to help with the work we are doing. I'm going to ask a local carpenter to make beds and furniture for the spare bedrooms.
Because a lot of people are unable to afford medical treatment they come to me when they are ill - I have a medical fund that supporters can donate to. The medical fund is used to provide emergency medical treatment to people who would otherwise be unable to avoid treatment.
As the Ebola situation improves basic medical care should become more accessible again and I look forward to working again with the Adventist Hospital at Waterloo.