Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Sierra Leone videos

Check out my youtube page. I have added various videos, filmed during my visit to Sierra Leone.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Sunday 13th Feb

What a great start to my day; I got to have a well deserved lie in until 10.30!! After packing, we left the hotel at 11.45am, to drive through Freetown, to the port to catch a ferry to Lungi. I love driving past mothers carrying babies on their backs, items being carried on people’s heads and men walking along holding hands with their friends. Once I return home, I am going to practice carrying shopping on my head!
On the roads here there are lots of cramped, crowded broken buses.  Some buses have broken doors and seats. We had some sad news today; three people had been killed in the car crash we had driven by yesterday. Hospitals in Sierra Leone have inadequate resources and limited staffing. Often medical supplies are reused on many people, this leads to the spread of infectious diseases such as HIV and AIDs. Before I came to Sierra Leone, I had to purchase a sterile medical kit, which could be used only for me, in case I had to be taken to hospital. Preventable diseases such as typhoid (which I have had a vaccination for) are also being spread because people aren’t able to be vaccinated. On the way to the ferry, I saw various people using broken wheelchairs. I also witnessed one man, who had had both of his legs amputated, shuffling along on the dirty floor.  Some sights here are heartbreaking. People shouldn’t have to live like this in the year 2011!!
Before catching the ferry we had a nice cold drink, took some group photos and bought some jewellery. On the ferry it was very hot and crowded. I bought a CD of African music which I can’t wait to play in my car when I get home. The ferry is a great place to people watch. I couldn’t quite believe it when I saw one man carrying a 2 seated sofa on his head! Two men with a form of dwarfism were performing excellent dances for money.

Once off the ferry, we drove to Lungi airport hotel for some dinner. Our flight left Lungi at 12am. On the plane the cabin staff deinsect the cabin, to kill any insects which might have snuck onto the plane, on our clothing. Upon take off, the plane filled with lots of steam because of the condensation on the plane. Following a bumpy plane journey, we arrived very tired, into Heathrow at 7am and then drove back to Liverpool. 25 hours after leaving the hotel in Freetown, we eventually arrived in Waterloo, Liverpool at 1pm on Monday 14th Feb.
Words cannot describe the experience of the past 8 days for me. I have had an incredible time. Posters by the airport said ‘Welcome to Sierra Leone, home of peace, unity and freedom’. Following the horrific, unimaginable events of the civil war (1991-2002) the country is on the long road to recovery. A great deal of work still needs to be carried out. What struck me most about my trip is that in a country that is desperately poor, the people have such spirit and determination.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Saturday 12th Feb

Today has been a lovely ending to a fantastic week. We drove through Freetown to get to Waterloo, instead of driving on the bumpy back roads. This was very eye opening. I have never seen so many people in such a crowded space, going about their daily lives. Everywhere you looked, there were hundreds of people selling random items. The sheer amount of people selling goods made me wonder if people are able to make enough money to live off.  We also drove past the famous willow tree.

We ended up in a traffic jam for hours following a car accident, which happened on the main road. During this drive we were able to see the houses that people live in. We drove past a shanty town. The housing is so cramped and dirty. All we could see is the roofs of the shacks touching and absolutely no open space. It’s astonishing to think that people are able to live in such conditions. On the drive I also got to see mud huts that people had made. The people here are extremely resourceful and excellent at building structures. The scaffolding here is made from bamboo sticks!!

Today was the final day of the literacy festival. Children from my school were there to perform and it was lovely seeing them all. Teachers from Bassa Town had bought me a bag of bananas and cucumbers. I got told off by a man because my children were noisy, talking to me and telling me to ‘snap them’. These children are incredible; they had been sat since 8am until 12pm, quietly with nothing to entertain them. Children here take such care of their uniforms and belongings. They are so proud of their uniforms and they are always spotlessly clean, despite the fact they have to wash in the dirty rivers. A teacher from Bassa Town who had attended my workshop yesterday, said she had gone home and found her copy of Owl Babies. She said she is going to teach it to her class next week, which was lovely to hear.

Following a quick stop at an army base, we then went to visit Kent Beach. This was an absolutely stunning beach, with a horrific history. Two volunteers spoke to us about the history of the beach. People were brought to Kent Beach to be held and shipped to Banana Island. From here they would then be shipped to other countries (including Liverpool!) to be sold as slaves. Looking at the slave house was awful. The slaves were kept underneath the master’s house in awful conditions. In this tiny room, with minimal ventilation, 500 people were chained up. I was unable to stand up in this room as it was so small.

On the beach, hundreds of students arrived to sleep overnight and have a party. The atmosphere was lovely. We then got to meet a group of trainee teachers, who were carrying out research. They were lovely to talk to.
After a long drive back through the hustle and bustle of Freetown, we arrived back at the hotel and I had a much needed rest. Today our driver Mohammed played the song Heal the world by Michael Jackson, constantly on repeat. This song will now always remind me of my time spent in Sierra Leone. At dinner time, we had dinner with a second group of teachers who arrived from Liverpool last night. Staff at the hotel were very interested in the bells that Ian had bought, from the war wounded community.

This week has been an incredible; I have experienced so much kindness and warmness from the people I have had the pleasure to meet.  The past 8 days have been jam packed with laughter and smiles.  Despite the extreme poverty in this country, this week has been full of happiness and joy. I have so many amazing memories from my time spent in Sierra Leone.
I would like to thank the people I have spent this week with;
Ian from St John’s,
Pat, Clare and Adele from English Martyrs,
Eddie, Jenny and Chris, teachers from Maricourt,
Robyn, Sam and Charlotte, students from Maricourt,
Anne, Early Years specialist,
I have enjoyed every minute spent with this wonderful group of people. I can't wait until next year  when I can experience this adventure all over again!