Eccleshall Rotarian, Sylvia Keris, has just returned from a successful charity development aid project in Sierra Leone.
She was working with a team of volunteers from the Charity Mission Direct, helping with building work and in local organizations who help disabled children and adults. The temperatures in this small West African Country were a constant 85 degrees, but also with 90 percent humidity – which meant the volunteers were using a lot more energy undertaking both the manual building work and their activities in crowded schools and workshops.
But Sylvia said their efforts were well worthwhile, as the projects were all very successful.
The main building project was helping local builders construct 2 additional toilets at Quarry School in the Kissi region of Freetown; a primary school that had 600 children and only 2 toilets! The children desperately needed more toilet facilities to avoid long queues, and inevitably the need to resort to buckets in the school yard. From the first digging of the soil, the charity saw the building work right through to completion of the new toilets, and the school and local people were delighted with the team’s work on site – which will afford their children much more dignity with the additional facilities.
Sylvia’s team also helped at the Hastings Ladies Polio organisation, where the ladies run an enterprise sewing garments, making tie-dye materials, and soap making – teaching these skills to enable those who would be abandoned on the streets because of their disability, to have somewhere to live and earn a livelihood.
Sylvia had been donated Ferrules for crutches and other mobility aids by Medequip in Stafford, and by Ironbridge Rotary club, which were very well received by the Hastings Polio ladies, and other disabled people. They said they cannot find Ferrules anywhere in Sierra Leone, so once the original rubber wears out, they are walking on bare metal, and it causes them to fall over on rough ground. So the replacements were a lifesaver. Likewise, the team also visited and organised activities in Children’s orphanages where there are many disabled children: some with Polio, Cerebral Palsy, other illnesses or learning disabilities.
They also visited and took aid, including medical supplies, to a hospital and facilities previously built by Mission Direct in Sierra Leone – the hospital of which was under tremendous pressure during the Ebola crisis. And the team helped at Saio school, in the Regent area of Freetown, which had been affected by the mudslides of late 2017, where hundreds of people died.
Sylvia organized craft and learning activities at this school during the team’s visits, with school supplies and craft materials donated by friends and Rotary colleagues; and on one visit the children at the school very much enjoyed a practical English lesson – writing letters back to the letters that Sylvia had taken out with her, which had been written by pupils at Walton Hall special needs Academy in Eccleshall, where she also volunteers. The children loved learning about each other’s cultures, language, favourite school subjects and development issues.
Now acclimatising back to Staffordshire’s cold weather, Sylvia will be plunged straight back into her volunteering activities including at Stafford County Hospital’s A&E dept, in Walton Hall Academy, and with the Rotary club of Eccleshall Mercia – going round the villages as an elf with the Santa Sleigh throughout December. And in the New Year she will be preparing her photos to give illustrated talks as a thank you to some groups who very kindly sponsored her Sierra Leone trip.