Today started off with a drive through Freetown to get to church. Buses, taxis and pavements were crowded with people in their best dress travelling to church. We ended up in a huge traffic jam due to a tyre being sat in the middle of the road! In the village of Waterloo, there are several churches of various faiths. What amazes me is how people of such different faiths interact and work side by side peacefully together. The people of Waterloo are very accepting of the views of others. I visited Mary immaculate conception catholic church for the service. The service lasted 1 hour and 40 minutes and at some points it was so hot, it looked like the congregation were asleep! It was a great experience and lovely to see the community all coming together. During the service there were two separate collections for men and women and during communion I had to cover my head with a scarf. After the service we met some of the gorgeous local children who were very interested in us snapping them. Whilst having their picture taken, most people here are very solemn, but they have beaming smiles when they view their photos.
Next we drove to Tombo. This place was featured on the documentary ‘The toughest place to be a fisherman’. Here we met the port master who gave us a tour of the village, which has a population of 20,000. Throughout the tour there were hordes of children following us. These children were barely clothed, shoeless and filthy. They were desperate to hold hands with us. A few of the children were very confused by my blue nail varnish! They kept touching my nails expecting the paint to come off. We saw men in fishing boats, gutting fish, fixing nets and smoking the fish. The smell was overwhelming in Tombo.
Following our tour around the fishing village, we visited Craig Bellamy’s football academy in Tombo. After the crowded narrow streets in the markets, it felt relaxing to be in such an open piece of
spectacular land, which is unspoilt and tranquil. In the academy we were able to meet the head teacher, head coach, director and the pupils. 19 boys attend the school and they live in the onsite dormitory. The boys have a 5 year scholarship on the condition that they train daily and maintain their academic grades. Following the academy, the boys will attend an education facility outside of Sierra Leone to continue their education. In September, one of the pupils, Dennis will travel to California to study. Although football plays a big part in the boys’ lives, the academy aims to provide the children with opportunities to build a career, not just in football but other professions too. Four pupils at the school told us about their lives. 18 months ago, some of these boys couldn’t speak English, yet today they were so confident speaking in front of such a large group. These boys are a credit to the academy and will go far. This year the school will hopefully expand to provide further children with such great opportunities. The staff members at the academy were so passionate, hardworking and dedicated to their jobs. They were truly inspirational. Everyone at the academy was so welcoming, despite our surprise visit delaying their afternoon at the beach!