Sierra Leone visit 2013
To meet Street Children rescued and cared for by St George Foundation, as their families are sought and then supported…
Arriving in Sierra Leone for the first time was an exciting experience. I was joining my brother, Philip (who founded the charity with Justina) and our colleague Steve from Cornerstone Church in Hythe, who had been to Sierra Leone many times before, but this time with fresh eyes and an eagerness to meet the children and see the programme in action. Freetown was busy and chaotic but Eddie, who manages the centre where the children live, met us and he guided us safely through the busy streets. We arrived at the ferry port in time to see the ferry disappear, so had to wait for 4 hours for the next one to take us across from Lungi airport to Freetown, but it gave me a chance to see the beautiful scenery which makes up the backdrop of this beautiful country, to taste the coconuts being sold along the street and take in all the smells of fish being cooked and sold, and to watch the variety of people coming and going. Many young men approached us in wheelchairs asking for help. Everywhere around us was noisy and colourful. Gradually, as it got dark and the breeze cooled us down, the ferry arrived and took us across the water to Freetown.
The children were waiting for us when we arrived, although it was late; they were as excited as us, and introduced themselves and showed us around before going off to bed. For the next 10 days we spent time enjoying and getting to know the children and staff.
One of the greatest joys, for which we had been praying, was a wheelchair for one of the young boys. We were delighted when INVAcare, in the UK, gave us a child's ex-demonstration chair for him. Young Mustapha, 'Staffi' had been brought to us after being found on the street and was only able to get about by crawling, so a wheelchair has completely revolutionised his life.
The staff, their dedication, and their gentle and loving kindness towards the children immensely impressed us. Having come from a dangerous life on the streets of Freetown, the children quickly feel safe and secure in their new environment and settle into the routine and new life.
We visited many of the children who are still at school but are now living with relatives we have traced and it was good to see how well they were and how well they are doing at school. It was clear to me that this was the most valuable thing we could give them. Their families were immensely grateful for our help, and the responsibility of finding sponsors to continue supporting them impacted greatly on me as we went from family to family.
We had many visitors to the centre, people who had, for one reason or another, come to know about the work we are doing. We were able to meet some of those who came, and we also went to visit some, including an American Embassy team who bring gifts of food, clothes and books and who spend time helping the children with school work and reading.
During our visit, Justina and one of the St George Foundation social workers had their graduation. For Justina, our co-founder, this was her second degree and it was a great privilege and joy to be able to be guests at their ceremony and to share this special day with them.
We had the joy of taking the children to one of the many beautiful beaches around Freetown on our last day. Much of our time had been taken up with meetings and discussions, so it was good to be able to spend this time having fun with the children.
Our last morning was just like any other for the children as they got up, did a few chores, had a nutritious breakfast and then went off to school.
We packed up and left, calling in to the offices one more time and seeing two more children who have become St George children. Seeing one of the young girls who first came to us, now leading a good life and living in the home of her uncle, was perhaps the best way the 10 days could have ended, so worthwhile!
Thank you for all the support you give to St George Foundation, from all the children whose lives you have changed.