Tuesday 29 September 2015

Car Trouble

My biggest headache at the moment is my vehicle - I have an old (2002) RAV4.

The first year or so I had it it was marvellous, but just recently it's started really playing up.

I've been having to do running repairs on it for the last few months to keep it on the road, with small things going wrong here and there.
I had to take a trip to the provinces a couple of weeks ago, to visit some of our sponsored students and take some food and clothes for people in the villages. I got the car checked over first and it all seemed to be ok. I was about three quarters of the way into my journey when the car stopped as I was pulling into a checkpoint.
It seems the temperature gauge wasn't working, as despite the gauge telling me everything was ok the car had seriously overheated.
We found someone to tow us the rest of the journey and called our mechanic in Freetown - he came to us and had to replace the radiator and the gasket.
After 5 nights away from home the car was fixed and I headed for home - it was clear that there were still some problems but I got home ok. Since then the car has been in and out of the garage, trying to get it right.

I really need a reliable vehicle, it's essential for the sponsorship work to be able to get out and see the families and the schools, and I need to be able to deliver the food relief and at times take people to the hospital.
Soon we will be having volunteers coming over to help out - it's all very well me jumping on the back of a motorbike to get to work, but I can't expect my volunteers to do the same.
I am desperate for us to get a new vehicle - if anyone would like to make a donation to the fund for a new vehicle for Transform Salone please let me know and I will supply the bank details for the charity. Donations can also be made online through Stewardship's give.net site at https://www.give.net/transformsalone - Stewardship keep an admin fee of 2% on donations made through give.net. Fundraising pages can also be setup here if you'd like to do some fundraising for us.

Friday 25 September 2015

A Troubled Soul

I'm worried about a young man I know, he's had a very hard life up til now and I can't imagine what the future holds for him.

He ran away from home when he was aroud 7 years old and ended up at the ferry port where he carried peoples bags to earn some money. He would sleep on empty market stalls or in cars. He supplemented the money he earned carrying bags by pick pocketing on the ferry.

I first met him about seven years ago in 2008 - when he was probably around 12 years old. It's hard to tell his age as until the last couple of years he was always quite small and his mother can't remember when he was born.

I would always see him when I went to the airport to drop off or meet teams and I liked him. He was good company and we would chat while I was waiting for the ferry. I offered to help him get back into school and he seemed keen, but then he just disappeared.........his friends when I saw them were always full of his escapades, but I didn't see him again for a couple of years until.....

.....one day in 2011 I was walking through Kroo Bay when I heard someone call my name - it was my young friend. He had a big open wound on his head, one arm was swollen, bent and obviously broken - the other arm was attached to a police man. He was obviously in some kind of trouble, but was being taken for medical treatment. It was a very rushed meeting as the policeman wasn't much in the mood for chatting, but I told the boy I'd try to find him.

It took me a few weeks but I found out that he was being held at DEMS the children's prison. I got a lawyer for him and when the case went to court (he was accused of stealing a phone) it was dismissed.

I got to know the boy better and learned more about his past. He agreed to go to live at the Nehemiah boys home....but was only there a couple of months before he ran away.

He's had numerous small police cases over the years, then a couple of years ago he was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy (handling stolen goods). He was taken to the adult prison at Port Loco where he spent 8 months as a remand prisoner. When the case eventually went to court it was dismissed.

I visited him a few times while he was in prison, he was quite ill while he was there, I was hopeful the shock of adult prison would be enough for him to turn over a new leaf when he was released but he still keeps getting into trouble.

Twice this year he has spent time in the cells, once for fighting and once accused of theft.
Just this week he borrowed a friends motorbike and had an accident, luckily he's not badly injured but unfortunately he doesn't have a driving license so he's wanted by the police again now.

Aside from all the trouble he's been in he has a wonderful heart - he is so good with disabled children and not afraid of them the way that so many people are - he talks to them, plays with them and comforts them if they are sick. He's respectful to older people and he's fiercely protective of me. I see such promise in him, and it makes me so sad that other people just see him as a wannabe gangster and a troublemaker, when I know he can be so much more.

He's told me he wants to join the army - so I will look into that for him. I am out of other options for him for now and I really don't know the best way to help him. I do know that unless there is a change in his life he will end up either back in prison again or dead.

Wednesday 23 September 2015

Parents Meeting

We had a meeting with the parents and guardians of the sponsored students at the weekend, it's the first one we've been able to have since before the Ebola outbreak because until recently there was a ban on public gatherings in place throughout Sierra Leone.
Since the last meeting two of our more outspoken parents have sadly passed away, and we missed them. They were both good parents who were passionate about ensuring that their children got a good education and they both participated fully in all parents meetings.
As usual we started with prayers - Christian and Muslim then launched into the meeting.
Time keeping isn't always top priority here so people kept arriving throughout the meeting and even just as we were finishing up but most families were represented and those that weren't I'm seeing individually this week.
I told the families that I'd like them to get more involved in the sponsorship and continue to encourage the students to study at home. Some of the children help their families by selling water, food or clothing and I've asked that they be excused from selling during term time so they can concentrate fully on their studies.
We have introduced a new system for discussing individual sponsorship issues and requests, the student and guardian will book an appointment with us to discuss their issue at a time chosen by them......if they are not there at the time they selected they will have to reschedule for another day. Too often we arrange to see people throughout the day, and then they all show up at the same time and all want to be heard straight away.....I'm hoping a couple of wasted meetings might encourage people to be more timely - it worked today, two people who were late yesterday were early for their rescheduled appointments today!! The only downside to this I can think of is I have to be on time otherwise I can't enforce this for others.....and to be honest timeliness isn't one of my strongest qualities, so it's something I need to work on as well!!
The general consensus of the parents, guardians and students is that they want us to open a school........it's a lovely dream and who knows what might happen in the future - something to be prayed about I think!!

Saturday 19 September 2015

Flooding in Freetown

If we are in the same social media groups you'll have seen a lot of posts over the past a couple of days about the flooding in Freetown that happened two days ago.
For me it started as an ordinary day, it had rained through the night and was still raining when I got up in the morning. I usually work from home in the mornings then head up to the school where I use a classroom as an office in the afternoons. About the time I was getting ready to go up to the school it dawned on me that it was STILL raining. I had a meeting at 3pm with some teachers from Waterloo so I sent them a quick message to see if they would be able to make it - when I didn't hear anything back I decided I'd better get up to the school to wait for them. When I got up to the main road it was like a river, but just passable - I made it up to the school without too many problems. The rain finally stopped about 4.30pm, and shortly after that some of my kids started arriving - a couple of them had had to help bail their homes out during the day and they'd suffered a lot of damage to their belongings. They started showing my photos of the flooding around Freetown - goodness what devastation and loss. The teachers from Waterloo eventually messaged me at quarter past 6 to say they weren't coming, but I'd kind of realised that by then!!!
My area escaped the worst of the flooding, but in some areas many, many homes were destroyed and people lost their lives. I was sent some terrible photos of some of the bodies that were recovered - I can't unsee them, I wish I could.
There was a press release from State House requesting that people stay indoors yesterday - but from what I observed very few did.
I woke this morning to rain again, which carried on until noon - then early evening it started again.......now there is a massive storm raging and has been for about 4 hours so far. Praying, praying, praying that there will be no more flooding........people have suffered enough.
Another concern is that cholera will follow.........surely this country has suffered enough..........

Sunday 13 September 2015

An Update on M

I was finally able to return to see M - what with car problems and getting stuck in the provinces for almost a week events have been conspiring against me!
As I pulled up to the place where she is staying I was surprised to see her sitting on the veranda with some of the other children in the home. She was washed and dressed (kind of) - at least she wasn't naked. I don't know if it was people seeing my reaction to how she was living that prompted them to make a change, or something else.....but I'm so pleased that things have started to improve for her. I wasn't expected so this was not a show put on for my behalf.
When I spoke to her she looked up and smiled - but she doesn't speak. We don't know if she was like this before she was hit in the road accident or if she was brain damaged in the accident.
Someone is coming in to wash and dress her each day and she is no longer sleeping in the shed - she is sleeping in the main house with the other children. They are putting pampers on her because she messes herself and then plays with the mess.
I took some gloves and soap with me to be used when washing her. As time goes on and for the care to continue she will need a supply of pampers, more gloves and soap. The home have also asked for help with some money to pay the young lady who is coming in to wash and change her.
It's not a perfect situation, but much better than last time I was there - I will be calling in next week to check on her again.

Saturday 12 September 2015

My Lovely Kids

I'm aware that my posts recently have been full of sadness and I don't want people thinking it's all doom and gloom here, so I thought I'd make a post about the kids I work with.
I borrow a school classroom in the afternoons to use as an office - most days I'll have anywhere between 2 and 40 of the kids come to visit me......I call them kids but some of them are young adults now!
They come because:
...they are sponsored students and need to discuss their schooling
...they don't have a sponsor and want me to find a sponsor for them
...there is a major (in their eyes) problem in their life and they think I can help solve it
...they are hungry and they know I always share lunch
...they don't have anywhere else to be
...they just want to come and spend time with me (my favourite reason!!)
...the list goes on and on
Some of these kids I've known for almost 10 years now, many of the younger ones I remember as newborns. We are comfortable with each other, if I'm busy they just come in and make themselves comfortable, chatting with the others, reading, playing, studying. When I'm not so busy we'll talk about anything and everything.....laughing, joking, putting the world to rights....I usually talk in English, and they talk in Krio so we can both improve our understanding of the other's language. If they are discussing something they really don't want me to know about they will speak in their tribal language if they share the same language.
At some point during the day I'll ask one of my visitors to go and buy some bread, usually 15 loaves, and we'll share a tin of luncheon meet amongst the bread and share it out with whoever has dropped by. We make up drinks of flavoured water and share them as well. What really impresses me is if there are any latecomers someone will immediately break their bread in half and share it and someone else will share their drink.
Today, one of the young men must've thought the place was looking a bit messy because he took himself off, found a broom and swept the whole classroom -- I didn't ask him to, he just thought it needed doing and so did it.
If one of them has a problem their friends will always speak up on their behalf and try to help them.
I love spending time with these young people, they are always (well, usually) polite, helpful, funny and kind, and I'm blessed to know them and be able to be part of their lives. They aren't the reason I came to Sierra Leone the first time, but they are the reason I am still here now. They are the reason we founded Transform Salone.
Me with a few of my lovely kids!!

Wednesday 9 September 2015

Too Sad........

Just recently the sad and bad things just keep coming and coming......and today was no exception, today I heard about this......

A six year old girl I know went to school last Friday, she got into trouble because she accidently broke the water bucket in the classroom.......for this she was beaten by the teacher.

That evening when she got home she was unwell.
Sunday morning she died.
She died because she broke a water bucket.
Her funeral was on Monday.

This is just too sad

Monday 7 September 2015

Too Young

This is one of our sponsored girls - she's around 13 years old and, although still a little girl herself, has recently given birth to the baby she is holding.
It's thought that the father of the baby is in his late teens, he was arrested but the family couldn't afford to prosecute him so he's been released.
We are hoping that when she stops breastfeeding (which will be when the baby is around a year old) her family will allow her to return to school. She should be in Class 6 of primary school now.

At her age she should be playing with her friends, going to school, playing with dolls.....
Please pray for this little one, and her little one.

Sunday 6 September 2015

How to Help 'M'?

I've ummed and ahhed long and hard about whether I should post this.........I know it's an upsetting photo, I feel ill everytime I look at it and think of 'M' in that situation. Who knows, by posting this a solution might be found to get her out of the situation she is in.
This is 'M' and the photo shows how she is living at the moment. She is in a children's home, she is kept in a shed separate from the other children. She people whose care she is in told me that she has to be kept separate from the other children because she removes her clothes, plays with and eats her excrement and bites the other children.
The room she is in is almost completely dark, this photo was taken using the flash. The smell is overwhelming. It's raining season at the moment and can get quite chilly. There are some clothes on the floor in the room but they are soaked. This is where she eats, she lives, she sleeps.
She resists being washed and clothed.
She came to the home about two years ago after being hit by a car and both her legs were broken - she was hospitalised after the accident and then hospital sent her to the home when no family could be located, it's believed she was living on the streets before the accident. At first she lived in the main house, but when the home could no longer afford a dedicated carer for her she was moved to the shed because he behaviour was affecting the other children.

I don't know if she can talk, she looked up when I spoke to her but she didn't make any attempt to communicate.

I don't know how to help her, I have requested a meeting with a children's home that takes disabled children in the hope that they may consider taking her......if they refuse I can't think of any other homes that would take her. Another option might be to employ a dedicated carer to look after her, keep her clean and clothed and hopefully build up enough trust to reintegrate her into the home - I'm going to discuss this with the home. I just don't know - but I do know that no-one should be living the way she is right now.