So a brief post about the third and last project… after all, we still had a race to run, had landed only a couple of days before and the majority of us were due to then return home in a couple more days… talk about packing a lot in!
This visit was firstly to the main Project Centre in Makeni:
then disbursing into smaller groups and actually going out into the local community and visiting people who had their own businesses, thanks to help from Street Child. What is important to note here, is that Street Child supports, assists and teaches everyday people how to create a sustainable business, instigate small savings plans at the same time as reintegrating the street children back into those families… until a certain point when the Charity can then step back and those helped have reached a stage of self-sufficiency. Street Child are helping people help themselves and once that is done, they gone on and help others… such influence rippling out as I mentioned before… which will positively affect generations to come!
Here, we’d gone out to visit two businesses: the one above featuring a mad marathoner (more on her in later posts – bad influence, bad! *grin*) was with a local lady who collected firewood and sold it on, who was helping support her family, and her sister’s family if I remember correctly, and keep the girls in education and while as shy as a lot of the other kids, the two little ladies above chatted to us about what their lives were like and how proud they were of their family for helping each other. An ethos a lot of people could do with adopting!
We then headed back to the Project Centre where some surf shorts were handed out: one of the marathoners was from New Zealand and had brought a load over, and I’ve never seen anything like it. The street kids are allowed into the Centre but obviously the Centre is not there to feed the town’s children, nor would it be able to. But they do what they can, with what they have. So when you have kids with nothing, absolutely nothing… and boxes of shorts are being handed out… there’s gonna be a melee… it was actually a heartbreaking sight… to see children so desperate for a pair of shorts that was likely too big for them… and how proud they were of having something new and clean to wear… it’s not the same as watching it on a tv, reading about it in a paper… you’re totally disassociated from the experience that way… it’s not “real”… here, to see it, in front of your own eyes, mere steps away… heartbreaking!
And then lunch… Street Child did a fantastic job of catering for us… the food was included in the package price… no-one got sick… well Reece did have some salad on the last day and was very queasy on the plane home, but then again that could have been his Freetown hotel… anyway… lunch! We lined up, got our food, found somewhere to sit and ate. Surrounded by kids that hadn’t probably eaten what we would call “proper” meals for… well, God only knows! And they came and sat by us, behind us… and still I didn’t twig!
Naive or what!
One of the guys didn’t finish his lunch so passed his plate back to the kids… who promptly grabbed it off him (with thank you’s I hasten to add)… and of course when I finished and had food left on my plate, I didn’t pass it back quickly enough… with the consequence I was mobbed and food went everywhere… mainly over me! Sure there’s some photos out there somewhere of me brushing rather a lot of food off me… and what a waste, because it meant it ended up scattered. So when you remember being told as a kid to eat all your food because some kid in the world would die for what you’re throwing away… it’s true. I’ve been there, I’ve seen it… and it is not pleasant to witness.
Very belated updates now I’m afraid… my scheduling just hasn’t happened as I had hoped and although I’d expected things to calm down once I returned home, that hasn’t actually happened! Those who know me, won’t be surprised to hear that 🙂
So on the last post I talked about arriving in Sierra Leone and the first day and Project visit to Lunsar. Street Child also arranged for us to visit two other projects: I got to visit Bumbuna and then the Makeni Project Centre. The visit to Bumbuna was quite something… it’s probably the only time in my life I will ever get off a coach (well I wasn’t on my own, obviously) to be greeted by so many people that had been waiting patiently for us for hours.
There had been some rain and we were out in the countryside here which meant slower going to get there. These kids had been waiting for hours in the heat… just for us. We had the opportunity to learn what work Street Child had been doing in this area, how it had helped the children and how this was impacting upon the future of the country. Education here is so valued that I think many kids in the UK (and most likely other western countries) could do with appreciating what they have more… these kids will learn in the open air, will walk long distances just to learn… you get the picture! We were also treated to skits that the students had been practising and got to talk to some of the younger students before they were ushered back to their area (they kept running over when they could :)).
As I said, fantastic to see just how many people’s lives are being affected positively by Street Child, and an amazing feeling to be involved so directly… to see, hear and talk to those concerned… yep, yours truly… proof I was there 😀
We also managed to make a little trip to see the local waterfall… although there were signs everywhere telling you NOT to go in the water… do bear in mind quite how hot it was… a fair few people did go for a little swim. I can tell you that those rocks were very slippy and the orange colour from the iron ore from those rocks does not come out of anything that touches it (well, skin being the exception)… won’t be wearing those shorts again any time soon!
It was then time to clamber back to the buses, get back to our hotels and then over to the Stadium, where a match was going on. Yes, more football… this time with the amputees. Now I’m not generally a fan of footie and don’t go out of my way to watch it, but these guys were fantastic… if you’d asked me before this visit whether anyone could play football with legs missing, I would have said no, highly doubt it. Time to get my uninformed beliefs kicked into touch 😉 … so fast, so unafraid at tackling… this was one game I enjoyed… unfortunately I didn’t take many photos and no goal-scoring ones, so this one will have to do!
All in all, a fantastic day… and a lot achieved… after only just two days… and then it was time to head to the Clubhouse for dinner and then to get some sleep. Happy days!
Now back in the good old UK, I’m finally getting some time to update the blog posts on Sierra Leone… wishful thinking on my part about the available time I had leading up to and during the trip that I’d blog as I went along!
So following on from the last post… we arrived at our respective hotels, had time to check out our rooms and the facilities… and in my case scour the place for cockroaches… I have hated those things with a passion ever since an unfortunate incident in a NAAFI back in the Army days… *shudder*… luckily none were found… and then it was straight into the programme that Street Child had organised for us.
Because while we were there to run a marathon (or half), the whole reason for doing so is to raise funds for the Charity, and as we had arrived a few days before the run in order to acclimatise to the heat and humidity, this meant that we were able to visit projects over three different days and actually get to see, at ground level, precisely where all the fundraising money is going… to whom… and to see the impact that it has… or rather that should read, that WE are having… on other people’s lives. Yes Sierra Leone may be a long long way away and after donations have (hopefully) poured in, most people may not think about the money they have given… but the effects of those donations are going to be felt for years to come… everything we do ripples out and affects another… and so on!
Anyway, the Programme! First up lunch… always a good thing especially for someone who loves their food as much as me (it’s not greedy, it’s having a healthy appetite!) and a chance to start to get to know your fellow runners! I’d luckily already been chatting at the airport to a lovely lady called Helen whose son works for Street Child and who, at that point, I had no idea how much she was going to change my run. More on that in a later post!
Then the first Project. This one was to a place called Lunsar where we visited a school and were treated to singing by the students.
It was here that I first started to understand not just the immensity of how hard it is to effect change in a country which has nothing, which has such scars embedded deep within it’s psyche but to appreciate just how organic, holistic and sustaining an approach Street Child are adopting with their work. It’s not just a case of take a child off the streets and put them into education… they build schools, they support and pay for teachers, they teach and support families not just financially (for a set period of time) but help them learn to save, to build new businesses… they help them to help themselves!
It was then football time… it seems that it doesn’t matter where you go in the world… football reigns supreme! And Manchester… although to be fair, that seemed to be quite evenly divided between City and United! I do believe one of the lads decided to play without shoes on… with the result that his feet were pretty cut up, though that didn’t stop him from running the marathon a couple of days later!
and in the meantime the rest of us chatted and had our photo taken with some students, and one lady had a bit of a dance with some of the young girls – I don’t generally dance in public in daylight, without the aid of alcohol… so didn’t actually have the nerve to join in, wish I had now!
What an experience and what a start to our Sierra Leone visit… a very long day… flying through the night, no sleep… but oh so worth it… and that was just the first day!
(My friend Ski with the children and their important message)
And while the trip may be over, my fundraising page is still open for anyone that would like to contribute – see the links below!!!
And so we’re in our Christmas week… only a couple of days to go! Have you got all your cards written and sent, all your presents bought and wrapped up? And let’s not forget all the food that’ll be eaten as well… always a highlight… must admit it’s the one time of year I actually get time to do some baking, even if it’s only the Pavlova that gets requested for Christmas Day and my favourite oatmeal & raisin cookies (yeah I know, not expected given my chocolate consumption…)!
Christmas means many things to many people… and given the diversity of beliefs and opinions (to which we are all entitled) that may read this post, I am not going to wax lyrical about any specific one. Suffice it to say, that from my (very small) awareness and perspective, all religions and spiritual organisations appear to have the same fundamental aspects at their very core, those of:
Treating others as you wish to be treated
And we all know, in our hearts, that just because someone may not agree with us, doesn’t necessarily make them wrong, it just means they have life experiences, societal/cultural learning and awareness differences to our own. Perhaps then, the most important thing we can do for ourselves and others that will benefit us all is to open our hearts and share “Christmas” spirit, not just today when you’re reading this, nor just on Christmas Day, but try to embody and incorporate those aspects into our very being, each day of our lives.
Please have a wonderful Christmas week… and a special Christmas Day with your loved ones. Send loving energy and thoughts to those who can’t be with you, healing to those who need it… and hope for those who have none. I wish that you all have a Christmas that is filled with love, joy, laughter and hugs 🙂
Affirmation questions for this week are:
What does Christmas mean to you?
How is your Christmas spirit/energy coping?
What Christmas message can you give to others
What Christmas present can you give to yourself?
How can you keep your Christmas energy going?
And since it’s that time of year, I thought I’d share that Band Aid song, which was released way back in 1986!