Friday, 17 April 2015

Just when you thought it was safe... go back in the water. That we need a bigger boat. A tremendous shock happened yesterday. OK, not quite 'Jaws', but scary all the same. What could it be? Well, how about catching, completely by accident, your mother-in-law in her oversized bloomers? Sacre bleu. Last time I saw that much silk, I was dangling underneath it. Will undoubtedly have a lasting effect on me...

Let me try and push that frightening image, and thoughts of parachuting, completely to the back of my mind...

Let's instead return to 26th March. The day before lockdown. The second school donation. 40 more children. 40 more sets of text books. 40 more stationary packs. 40 more school uniforms.

Great news. A real turning point. Schools in Sierra Leone have been gradually reopening this past week. Including schools containing the 80 children we have assisted. Attendance countrywide has been patchy. Will take time to return to normal levels. Schools have been closed for 9 months because of Ebola.

A definite turning point, patchy or not. New cases recorded last week numbered just six. The lowest total for nearly a year.

However, we should not forget that in Sierra Leone nearly 4,000 people have died from Ebola. There's been over 12,000 cases. Heartbreakingly more than 9,000 children have been orphaned. The human cost has been incredibly high.

Let's get on with the school delivery. What about this little fellow? Let me introduce Emmanuel Cummings. Year 4. Confident, bright, and complete with his dad's waistcoat. Lovely welcome speech too. Tucked under Emmanuel's arm is my welcome gift. See final photo below. My turn as the Senegalese lottery winner.

As is custom we begin with prayers. Followed by succinct welcome statements. We had a good chairman today. The speakers focus on the importance of education. They mention the problems. Schools in poor repair. Poor hygiene and sanitation. Often no latrines. No running water. No electricity. Leaking roofs. Poor pay and incentives for teachers. Overcrowding. Sometimes 3 classes in the same room. Poor security, no perimeter fencing. Often two shifts of children a day. Young children working outside school to help support family budgets.

The positives. The children are a happy bunch, same as most places. They don't know what they don't have.

We have sufficient funds remaining for perhaps another 2 - 3 donations. We look forward to those. Never believed for one minute that we would endure this long. Thanks once again to everyone who has contributed and made this possible. Thanks as always to both divas. Talking of which, Senior Diva has miraculously grown hair since we started all this, and Baby Diva has a new member of the team arriving in August. Quite the 6 months...

Great work again as well by Violet from ‘Save the Needy Sierra Leone'. Such superb organisation, commitment, and good humour, especially at short notice. Thank you Violet.

Senior Diva above. Emmanuel, I know, I've been there...

As for me, I'm currently in UK enjoying Easter break. 3 weeks. Good rest. Good family times. Taggart, my tight-arsed Scottish neighbour, is in China cheering up the locals no doubt. Highlight of this break is tomorrow. Travelling to London by train. Reading vs. Arsenal; FA Cup semi final at Wembley. Reading's first since 1927. Taggart was in short trousers. Let's hope the wait is worth it. 'H' is pretty excited.

Next Wednesday (22nd April) return to Africa. A quick hello to Freetown, then to Ghana end of April. Looking forward to Accra. Couple of previous posts from there. Next one as well.

See you in Ghana.

Don’t forget to follow on Twitter: @roadrunnertns

P.S. Thanks Emmanuel...