Saturday, September 02, 2017

Freetown Flooding: the landscape then and now

On 14 August 2016, I went to Regent to visit one of my colleagues at his home on the hillside. I took photos of the beautiful landscape that day. Little did we know that exactly a year later, 14 August 2017, torrential rains would lead to a mudslide down Sugar Loaf mountain, followed by unprecedented flooding and the loss of hundreds of lives. These images taken a year apart in roughly the same spot, speak for themselves. Regent is the epicentre of the disaster, but the devastation stretches much further down the valley to the Lumley area. Prayers go out to all those affected and to those responding. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Freetown Flooding: one week later

It is one week since the tragic mudslide and flooding took place at Sugar Loaf Mountain in Regent, Kamayama, Kaningo in Freetown. 492 bodies have been buried, with hundreds still missing and thousands of people displaced. The country remains in a state of mourning as people try to come to terms with their losses.

Today a mom came to the clinic with her 6 week old. With great sorrow she told us that her husband and mother died in the flooding in Kadingo. This mom is now a widow and her child will never know his father. 

On Saturday I met a lady whose family slept in their new home in Regent for the first time on the eve of the disaster. Early Monday morning the lady, her husband and their one year old went to their former house to get the last belongings. By the time they returned to Regent the landslide had taken place. Their 12 and 4 year old children died in the mudslide. They never saw them again. 

There are many sad stories. There is so much grief. Yet the resilience of the Sierra Leoneans is remarkable. Time after time they demonstrate that even in a crisis, they press on. They stand together. They smile. They are courageous. They are kind. Yes, there is a lot of sorrow, but in the midst of it, they show great strength. So many people have worked hard to make sure the victims are given dignified burials and the displaced are being provided for. The response continues. Please remember this country and pray for her people. 


Saturday, June 24, 2017

Even in the storm...

Life has its ups and downs.
It's a bit of a rollercoaster ride.
Storms come and go.
Sometimes they are big.
Sometimes they are small.
Sometimes they pass quickly.
Sometimes they last longer than we hope.‬
‪Rather than waiting out the storm, often it's best to learn to dance in it.‬
‪Try to make the most of life. ‬
‪Even in the storm, there are moments of joy.‬
Even in the storm, there are memories to cherish.
Even in the storm, you can count your blessings.
‪Even in the storm, there are things to be thankful for.
It's time to learn to dance.

#eveninthestorm #learntodance #joy #grace #thankfulness #sierraleone #transition

Quote in photo by Vivian Greene

Thursday, June 22, 2017

40 Acts of Kindness...

On the 8th of May I started a 30-day challenge to complete acts of kindness as one of my #40before40 activities. This challenge included a wide variety of acts and the recipients have included family, friends in Freetown, elsewhere in Sierra Leone and far away, as well as complete strangers. It’s been fun to surprise people and see their expressions of gratefulness.

In a world with so much hatred and despair it is great to play a small part in spreading kindness and joy. I would encourage anyone reading this post to pay it forward and extend an act of kindness to someone today. In a world where you can be anything: Be Kind.

One of the fun things was that my acts of kindness sometimes “backfired” on me. When I got the phone credit for one of my acts of kindness I planned to let the lady who owns the shop opposite my house keep the change, but instead she gave me my change and gifted me with a bag of popcorn. It was an act of kindness in reverse! I was also blessed when one of the Sierra Leonean doctors gave me a lift home after the SLMDA meeting. He went out of his way to drop me off. He said “we need to look out for each other.” That was much appreciated.

I loved this activity and since the focus this year is 40, I decided to extend the challenge for an additional 10 days, to allow for 40 days of intentional acts of kindness. Here’s the list:

1. Bought NPA (electricity) topup for a friend
2. Treated 3 friends to a meal at a "new" restaurant in Lumley - enjoying African cuisine
3. Made a cup of tea for my house help - it was raining and she was cold (although it was still 30 C outside!)
4. Gave a few phone credit scratch cards to one of my security guards - he was surprised, gave a big smile and said "thanks and God bless"
5. Gave cans of Coca Cola to two different taxi drivers on a hot afternoon 
6. Gave a friend a hug 
7. Gave coconut to a group of children at the beach
8. Made a donation to the organization "charity: water" in honor of my mom on Mother's Day 
9. Sent handwritten cards to friends who are on leave in the UK and Switzerland
10. Gave a card and money to a couple to go and enjoy ice cream at Gigibonta
11. Spent some time at a friend’s house to make sure that her furniture was delivered and assembled while she’s on leave in the USA
12. Helped a friend in need financially
13. Helped someone who is unable to write, write a card for a couple getting married 
14. Bought ice cream for a friend
15. Wrote a card of encouragement to a friend leaving Sierra Leone later in the day, who is moving back to the UK
16. Made lime bar treats for Bible study 
17. Donated money to the organization “Mariatu's Hope” to help with the cost of a tutor
18. Gave a new security guard some Guinea mangos 
19. Had a friendly chat with a random taxi driver and then paid double for my taxi ride
20. Donated money to the organization “Planting Promise” for their school-feeding program in Sierra Leone on World Hunger Day
21. Gave a bag of rice to my house help 
22. Baked chocolate chip cookies for the “Kings Sierra Leone Partnership” team at Connaught hospital and had them delivered to their offices the next day
23. Spent the day helping two blind patients access appropriate healthcare including investigations in other facilities
24. Spent more time with a patient to get a CT scan at a different hospital
25. Sent phone credit anonymously to two former colleagues and my caretaker
26. Packed up clothing I don’t wear anymore to take to Namina’s family in Bailor village
27. Gave chocolates to a group of children
28. Went to Murray Town with someone I just met to help her pick up her fiancé at the Sea Bird water taxi, while I was also picking up a friend
29. Paid the taxi fares for fellow passengers in two different taxis. The smiles and gratefulness expressed was so worth it. 
30. Copied and bound my study manual for the pediatric primary exam and gave it to a Sierra Leonean doctor who is planning to take the exam in a few months time
31. Bought medicine for a friend’s colleague 
32. Gave money to my house help towards her pending surgery 
33. Bought a ticket for a Sierra Leonean law student to attend the Advocaid film festival on women's rights
34. Supported the medical students talent and awards night
35. Sent gifts to my nieces in the Netherlands 
36. Sent money to a family friend who is pursuing a course in counseling
37. Sent money to Stefan, Genae and the kids to treat themselves to treats at “Menchies”
38. Sent a get well card to a dear family friend who is recovering from surgery
39. Sent a card to my parents in Haiti, via TN, to let them know I love them
40. Bought Luci lights, cool solar powered lights, for Junior’s family & Namina’s family  

#randomactsofkindness #actsofkindness #bekind #payitforward #40before40 #sandraturns40 #40isthenew30 #bucketlist #alwaysanadventure #sierraleone #sweetsalone

21. ✔A 30-day challenge - completing acts of kindness or gratefulness (8/5/17-16/6/17)

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

An adventure in Outamba Kilimi National Park...

In February I made it to Outamba Kilimi National Park, and surprisingly, it’s not that difficult to get to with a tarmac road for a good stretch of the way. More people should put this on a to do list and not wait 12 years to get there!

Four of us hired a vehicle and set off on a Friday morning. The drive was relatively straightforward and took us about 6 ½ to 7 hours. We made a quick stop in Makeni and then continued our drive towards the Northern part of Sierra Leone. We had a picnic lunch off of the beaten track and then continued the last stretch of the journey, which included a ferry crossing.
The ferry was one of the highlights – this is the simplest ferry I’ve seen. It fits one vehicle and the ferry is manually pulled across! It’s managed by the Sierra Leone Transport Authority, and to our amazement, it’s free.  Once across, we continued on the dirt road for another 25 minutes until we reached the sign for OK. After that, it was another 10-15 minutes until we entered the park.

We were warmly welcomed by park staff and shown the “menu”, which included options for accommodation, food options and day trips. The huts are simple, and although hot, they meet the basic requirements needed to catch some sleep, basically a bed and a mosquito net. Thankfully the mosquito nets are of good quality and gave me the confidence that any creepy crawlies would stay out. My sleep was quite interrupted, however, due to roving bush pigs and mischievous monkeys throwing some kind of pit/seed at our hut throughout the hours of the night. Ow fo do. That’s nightlife in the rainforest for you.

There was no running water, except for the running water in the river! So any bathing, dish washing, etc. was done in the river. Thankfully we brought a gas cooker and were able to prepare our own meals, although otherwise, food would have been available for purchase from the village. Be careful not to leave out any food while you’re not near your hut. While we were bathing in the river we watched a cheeky monkey sneak over to our hut and run off with a banana!

Saturday morning we crossed the river and went on an amazing walk through jungle, forest and savannah like landscapes. We reached the top of the hill and marveled at the 360 views. We saw elephant and buffalo foot prints, which was impressive, but unfortunately the animas are only ever in the park at the height of rainy season.

In the evening we ventured out in canoes to seek out the hippos. Yes, they are ranked as one of, if not the most dangerous mammal in Africa and we were going out in canoes to find them. It was both thrilling and scary. About 30 minutes into the canoe ride we spotted the group of hippos. We stationed our canoes at the waters edge and watched the hippos as they would submerge and then come up again a few minutes later, sometimes in the same spot, sometimes in a new location. It felt like we were pretty close and I hoped they weren’t slowly creeping up on us while underwater and out of our sight. Our guides make this trip all the time, so we had to trust their judgment! The sights and sounds were incredible.

The other creatures we encountered were mosquitoes and black flies. The flies were especially terrible during the boat ride and I managed to get bitten a number of times. In the evenings, despite long sleeves and lots of insect repellant (even spraying our clothes), we got covered in bites. Thankfully none of us got sick in the weeks to follow. Maybe thanks to malaria prophylaxis! So, be aware, there are many insects to contend with.

After a great adventure in the park, we packed up the vehicle on Sunday morning and made our way back to Freetown. I had to make a quick photo stop in Sanda Loko Chiefdom, since this is the chiefdom that closely resembles my name and this was the first time for me to drive through it.  I would highly recommend a trip to OK. We didn’t call in advance but if you want to make sure there’s space you could call ahead of time, network permitting, and make arrangements with Mohamed, +23288606632.

#outambakiliminationalpark #OKnationalpark #alwaysanadventure #40before40 #bucketlist #sandraturns40 #40isthenew30 #adventuresinsierraleone #sierraleone #sweetsalone

~ Act Justly. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly. micah 6:8 ~