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


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 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.

Tuesday 12 May 2015

Zephaniah 3:17

'The Lord your God is with you,
He is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
He will quiet you with his love,
He will rejoice over you with singing'

Zephaniah 3:17
This verse was on the pillow, on my bed, when I checked into my room in the Hotel 5/10 in Kissy the very first time I ever set foot in Sierra Leone in May 2006 - I still have the note, it's stayed in my bible ever since that day.
Later on, when I went back to Sierra Leone to host teams of volunteers, I often left a card with this verse on it for volunteers when they arrived......I wonder if any of them kept theirs too?
The note that was left for me in May 2006
I know that God is with me, I love the thought that He will take great delight in me, and He definitely does quiet me with His love.

Saturday 9 May 2015

Sorry I've Been AWOL

I'm sorry it's been so long since I've posted to this blog.....I'll explain.....

I came back to the UK for my 7th wedding anniversary - we had a fabulous weekend in London to celebrate it. It turned out that the weekend away coincided with the London Marathan - had we realised that when we booked we probably would have gone away another weekend.........but it was so much fun!

We got a good spot between mile 18 and mile 19 to watch the marathon and we just intended to see the elite athletes then do a bit of sight seeing......but we enjoyed it so much we ended up standing there for over 3 hours!! It was fantastic cheering on the competitors.

We were at the top of a hill, so a lot of the runners were struggling by the time they got to us and I hope our hollering encouragement might have spurred a few on.....we got a lovely smile from Paula Radcliffe as she passed - she was one of the few runners who looked like they were enjoying it!!

Paula Radcliffe - Enjoying the Marathon

We enjoyed it all so much we are planning to be in London again for the 2016 marathon to cheer everyone on!

My husband has been having a bit of trouble with his leg recently and the day we came back from our weekend away he had a hospital appointment........and ended up having to go in for an operation the next day. He is recovering well, but it has meant that I'm chief nurse and driver for while as he refused to rest up and insisted on going to work!

So......that's why I've been off the radar for a while.

I'm heading back to Freetown very soon.....when I left the schools were still closed, but many have reopened now so I need to check on each of our students and make sure they are attending regularly and that they have everything they need.
The parents of some of our younger students prefer to wait until there is no more Ebola in the country before their children go back to school and I will be meeting with each of them also.