A year in SLBSA

blog 2015-01

blog 2015-02

2015 Solomon Scott-Manga, acting head of St Paul’s School wrote to say November had been their worst month with over 2,000 new cases of Ebola; worse than any other country and it seems almost certain that the school will not be reopening in January as previously hoped. However the money which has already been sent for the uniforms and current term’s fees is safe and will be used when school reopens.

Overall situation is worsening according to WHO they now report a total of 9,780 cases in the 3 affected countries – Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. Efforts to contain the disease are not yet bearing fruit and may not do so until a vaccine becomes widely available. A second transfer of £2,210 has been sent to St Paul’s school to allow them to build on the successful radio broadcast phone-in programme they made about Ebola awareness some 6 weeks ago. It will also go to buy provisions for the families of the sponsored children and school staff, all of whom are suffering badly from loss of economic activity and rising prices. Price of sacks of rice is soaring.

The Committee will reassess the aid and may need to make different arrangements. As yet none of school children nor their immediate families have been affected by Ebola. Meanwhile we are using the money sponsors and other donors give to the school to alleviate the worst effects of the disease as best we can and trust our efforts and those of the school staff are helping to keep them alive.

blog 2015-03

All schools still closed. WHO report 10,740 cases of Ebola. Acting Head Master, Solomon Scott-Manga celebrates his 50th birthday – he says he wants to get back to school to complete his life’s work. Life expectancy in Sierra Leone for a man is 45 years. Due to the Ebola epidemic there are now hundreds of child headed orphan families. This means it is the children who are shouldering the responsibility of caring for their family.

blog 2015-04

Solomon has a new daughter, baby Joy and Mariame are doing well.
We hope the school will reopen later this month. The Bo committee have sent £3,000 this month for a deep clean and redecoration of the school before it reopens and also a footbridge which will shorten the children’s walk to school and make it safer – last year a girl nearly lost her life trying to cross on a fallen log which had been placed across the stream. The school could also do with a security fence around the school site to keep out intruders, the encroachment of buildings and stop the children from being distracted as people take a short cut.

blog 2015-05

Discussed the perimeter fence but decided too costly and perhaps not the priority at present. We are planning with school to improve sanitation by supplying running water to toilets and hand basins. Hygiene standards in the school set new standards post-Ebola to help keep children safe. Fundraising – We are planning a Treasure Hunt for 6th June to raise funds. Also 29th August a Pimms Party – well Pimms and Canapés perhaps we should choose a better name.

blog 2015-06

12,440 reported Ebola cases and 3,903 deaths. The Government is making a great effort to eradicate the disease completely with a new series of 3 day lockdowns when health workers go house to house checking everybody for symptoms. People are afraid that if they have a temperature they will be sent to an Ebola Hospital. The Bo area has now been clear for 3 months, although a new case was reported in Kailahun recently. The 21 day and 3 day lockdowns have a severe impact on families ability to grow own food. Crops decimated from lack of watering and people starving unable to harvest their home grown produce.

We’ve sent £2,375 to provide for running water and better sanitation. More will be needed for wash basins and toilets but first the well has to be deepened and the pipes laid. Hopefully all will be completed this month and have long term impact as a preventative measure for all kinds of diseases, not just Ebola. Schools reopened on 16th April although exams took place earlier for those wishing to go to secondary school. Some £500 of the above money was for farming implements and seed to allow the school to maximise its output from the agricultural training it gives pupils, as food security is now an issue and the more everybody can produce the less hunger there will be going forward.

blog 2015-07

We held a Family Treasure Hunt on Saturday 6th June. The money raised was for taps costing 15,000 leones (£2.50), hand basins at 100,000 leones (£16) plus tap buckets for drinking water. Toilets will cost approx. 300,000 leones each (£48). Thank you to all the families that took part at £2 per ticket which included a delicious sausage buttie and lucky dip at the end. Congratulations to Max, Ollie and Sam who each raised £25 in sponsorship taking part in the Treasure Hunt. They also received a donated prize of a Ticket for 4 to a popular theme Park. The Treasure Hunt was fun and we raised £201.

blog 2015-08

Things are improving, the Ebola disease has not been eradicated but the Bo District – the West and South of the country has now been clear for over 3 months. The bann on all public gatherings and no communal farming e.g. burning off the jungle, harvesting and sowing crops have been relaxed.

St Paul’s reopened on 16th April and the lost school year will be caught up by July 2017 by cutting holidays and working through the rainy season to shorten the school year. We are pleased the footbridge over the gully (March) has been completed before the rainy season. Sadly, Harvey Starte a steadfast member of the SLBSA committee in the UK has died. Harvey has sponsored several children through their secondary education and regularly volunteered to be on the gate meeting and greeting new arrivals at our fund raising events. We shall all miss Harvey and his excellent homemade cakes.

blog 2015-09

Thanks to sponsors and donations we have been able to make a difference to support the school and the families during one of the bleakest times when death rates nationally were approaching 500 a week, and now in the post-Ebola phase as we try to rebuild lives and learn lessons. We have provided finance to fund the school’s efforts to educate the population in best hygiene practice through radio broadcasts, to provide clean drinking water, water for hand-washing, and food to keep quarantined families alive. Money has recently been spent to provide running water and new sanitation with proper toilets for the children. We have also provided funds to help the school’s agricultural training and to maximise production from their land around the school.

blog 2015-10

On 29th August we held a ‘Pimm’s in the Garden’ at a volunteer’s house in Birdham. It rained torrential rain for over 3 hours! We are very grateful to the garden owners who allowed us to move everything indoors and the intrepid supporters who still came to sip Pimm’s and share the delicious Canapés. Thanks to Mark and Linda for the loan of the chairs, tables and other equipment and to everyone for their hard work. Despite the soaking we raised over £1,000 for SLBSA.

blog 2015-11

A new term has started after a shortened holiday and the results of the BECE exams (their equivalent of GCSE’s) have been released. St Paul’s is in the top five in Bo District (half the country). Solomon Scott-Manga said all the children did well but two Albert Nyaqua and Isatu Barrie were awarded the top two places and were rated ‘outstanding’.  Albert and Isatu are sponsored children, how hard they have worked. Congratulations to Albert and Isatu. Just £5 a month has made such a difference, thank you to their two sponsors.

blog 2015-12

Ebola cases 14,089, deaths 3,955, new cases NONE. Sierra Leone reported zero cases for a 7th consecutive week, and will be declared free of Ebola Virus Disease transmission on 7th November if no further cases are reported.

blog 2015-13

Great news. No new Ebola cases. St Paul’s has made up one term lost due to the Ebola outbreak. The new school year commences in January and they hope to catch up the second term by September 2016.

In a country with only 12% employment we are always looking for ways to help pupils find work when they leave school. With guidance from the committee in Bo we are considering sponsoring five places for vocational training and 2 at university. The sponsorship will be for pupils who are already being sponsored and criteria are being worked out to make sure we choose the children with the best chance of success. We are also looking at other avenues of preparing the children for when they leave school, as providing education alone is not enough to help marginalised children reach their potential in the environment they live. Pictured left are the children receiving letters from their sponsors.

What great happiness in Sierra Leone today, to have survived, albeit hungry but with the freedom to visit family and friends. They have the opportunity to  look forward to a better year in 2016.