Sierra Leone Trip – June 2014

8th June 2014 | Posted in Nigel's Blog

Few hours between landing form California and flying to Sierra Leone.  Thought I would try Gambia Bird and see if experience means we can rely on them as cheaper than British Airways.

So the plane is late – they say due to late arrival in and then confess that they can’t get all the baggage in the plane – so disappointing when the airlines tells lies.  Surrounded by cross Sierra Leoneans in boiling loaded plane with no zircon!  Leave 2.5 hours late, food and drink all quite poor but people next to me leave so I can sleep lying down.  Easy arrival in Freetown only to find they decided to leave my bag in England!  No concern from anyone and lots of angry passengers. Eventually fill forms and get to seacat to take us across.  Negotiate for a taxi and people ask ridiculous prices.  Eventually get a taxi.  Driver not eaten and hungry so feed him, welcomed at hotel find room and head to bed.  No water in taps so throw some over me from a bucket. Welcome to Sierra Leone – 4 hours later than anticipated.

Power off by 7.30am.  Nice Swedish lady at breakfast, here to teach on empowerment.  Adonis arrives with car.  I think he is the driver so ask him to get some water and a sim card which he does and then comes back and introduces me to the driver.  They don’t have my car so have brought another one.  Get in the car and it doesn’t work.  Then he tells me we need fuel.  Have to stop (got bit upset as the driver had been sitting an hour and could have got the fuel but didn’t tell me!)  Then off to Hill station church – driver doesn’t know where it is (I have always had a driver who knows where we go – this is not going to be easy).  Traffic bad.  Put sim in phone and phone doesn’t work so now need to find a phone to buy and charge it up.  Internet in hotel not working should be Ok by tonight he tells me.

Church full.  This one was Anglican and had wealthier Sierra Leoneans.  Usually see people I know but met a building contractor!  Then to hotel where they had internet to catch up.


Productive day.  Met Moses, Abs and Andrew in the morning.  Because I hadn’t rung Moses and Andrew to confirm a confirmed meeting both were not sure it was on so rang them and 9am meeting began at 10.30am.  Have to remember to confirm things more.

Went through plan and each got to know each other.  Great group and Abs particularly who I am just getting to know is an extraordinary chap having set up a charity and trained 20 disabled young people.  Changed money with a new man and Abs helped me get a better rate.  Having £3,000 in Leones needs the large suitcase.  Talking of suitcases, rang the Gambia bird who said my suitcase was in Freetown but the office was shut and I would have to come and get it as they don’t deliver in case they deliver the wrong case!

Few key things – Moses findings in the slums were that many don’t want to move unless the whole world is on a plate.  The idea I got from the states was they look for “fighters” – people who want to improve themselves and grow and make progress.  I think they will be there.

Then to the lawyers.  They helped me and realised the main benefit of an International NGO over a local NGO was status – something I don’t need so agreed to get all documents done.  Had to get photo taken  – daft cost but I now have 7 spare pictures of me! Now understand some of the process and hope we will have the entities sorted.  The problem lead time is the time the Director General will take to confirm land transfer so need to be careful on that as it would suggest can’t build till next year.  We shall see!

James from the lawyers came over for a drink – he had been burgled, crashed his car and had an awful 10 days.  Interesting bloke who is smart and clearly wants to help his people.  And so to bed.


Met Thor from Denmark.  He was with their teachers union and trying to help the SL union run the 5/10 hotel.  He was interested in my experience as they are thinking of sending consultants to work out how to get the hotel to make a profit.  Whilst we have a good deal by Freetown standards, he said local teachers’ pay only 25,000 (£3.20) per night so not surprising the hotel cannot make money as that is most of its occupancy!

Met Prince the builder and agreed plan for next week with him – team will render the school toilets.  Not enough work there so will buy paint and do the corridor of the hospital.  Went through quotes needed on Quarry school but now Darren from the company concerned to come, it may never get built  – but let us hope the ebola goes away in time.  Also discussed possibility of Prince involved in houses and he is interested.

Drove out to site and such glee at new school.  Found that even though steve had agreed with Prince the toilets would only have the base, they were nearly finished.  Ladies offered to cook lunch on Monday and reinforced decision there was only enough for 1 day or work.  Kids just wonderful and like ants grab your legs.  Pastor was so overjoyed with the school.  Told me the next school had 90 per class so many wanting to come to the new school so overcrowding will soon be an issue here.

Then to Adventist hospital – lovely people.  Agreed on Tuesday we would paint the rest of the entrance way and have lunch there.  Good to see progress on the wards and talked with Doctor about building homes on their land.  This could get us building early as we would not need to transfer land and deal with an institution.  Possible to do say 10 homes here.  Looked at land.

Then to meet Hastings Polio ladies – agreed soap making next week and they have a well.  They are having a thanksgiving ceremony for the well.  Mariama introduced me to Francis – a chicken farmer.  After understanding his metrics he agreed to help me build other chicken farms and train the people – Just what we need Praise God!

Then to town work on internet.  Sent driver to pick up suitcase.  They refused to give it to him as the right man was not in the office.  By the time he got back and told me (he could not ring as phone out of power) the office was shut again.  They still can’t deliver it so try again tomorrow.

Back home and soon fell asleep.


Relief – Sulay has come to drive for me. To have a friend and man who knows where to go takes such a pressure off – even if it costs a bit more!  Abs arrives and we drove out to see the work he has been doing at Tambo.  Seeing the East Hampstead Baptist church was funny (a church largely funded by that one in the UK.  Met the pastor and saw the new school they are building right in front of the Craig Bellamy Football academy.

We then went on to Medina and met the chair of the lands committee, the deputy head man and several others.  There was a perfect site before us and I asked for 20 acres.  I told them the vision and Akim the deputy leader said rest assured this will be yours!  I have to say it is even more ideal than Kippys but in truth I hope we will need both.  I agreed to come back next Thursday to meet the head man and we will see if we can finalise the land transfer.  We shall see!

Bought paint for team next week and delivered it to hospital.  Good bit all set!  Then dropped Abs off and crawled in to town and alleluia – Got my suitcase.  Picked up money after difficult money exchange had given a problem and then to meet Freetown City council.  They agreed to introduce me to their lands man on Friday.  Then to internet and meet Kippys parents for dinner.  He was an ex minister and runs an insurance company.  He is considering standing for president – what a lovely man and well informed.


To Lifelines where Turley, our company who sent 2 teams here had helped so much.  Met the 4 leaders and laughed with them.  Saw the 2 vocational training schools almost complete.  Took the pictures to send back.  Great to see what they are doing.  They have 300 on the waiting list to start vocational training in September having covered nearly 200 this year.  The need is overwhelming but what a great job these guys are doing.  Arranged for our group to teach a lesson next week.

Then to King George seniors home and arranged to pay for a meal for the whole home next Sunday where we will come and help serve.  All the guys called out to me for Batteries.  Mr Davies, who we saved last time by taking him to hospital looked so well but he needs over £100 to cover needed drugs and medical treatment.  The home do nothing to help.  Turned out 18 people were employed there though what they do I have no idea.  Looked at the piggery they built.  It was in total disrepair and clearly no one had bothered about it.  They want pigs but to do so would need major renovation work for the wall and much of the roof had been stolen.  The leaders of this home make me so cross!

Then to St George and met Eddie.  He was doing well and arranged of our team to visit Sunday, which he was overjoyed about.  Learned they would welcome another YWAM team which could be important.

Met Peggy Cummins – elderly missionary here.  What a trauma she had had with her right hand man of 10 years and wife threatening to kill her and doing witchcraft stuff and then stole nearly all her possessions.  A truly remarkable lady who offered forgiveness and praises God through her difficulties.

Polio men next and caught up with them.  Arranged for us to join them making blocks next week.  Then to Racecourse slum and met up with Chief Yammimamy.  Having given her some Cola (money) we then talked again about my plan and I asked if they could get a group together to talk to my group about life in the slum.  This should prove a real insightful time next week.  Prayer for her husband who was sick.  Then back to hotel


Met up with Abs and Moses and had excellent meeting helping narrow down how to approach some of the selection of people issues.  Opened my e mail to learn one of my party tomorrow was not coming as he and his wife concerned about ebola.  Can’t tell you how down it made me feel, especially as heard from doctor in the provinces that he had more chance of a RTA than catching ebola at the present time.  I cannot sit in someone’s shoes though who looks at the world through a different lens.  Compounded later when another rang to ask permission not to come.  So gracious but we simply accept and get on with life.  Bit of rethinking as set up so much for them and now with 3 from 6 the dynamics and objectives will be very different.

So tried to open a bank account.  Wanted to find someone who would discuss fees.  That wasn’t possible as they want me to put my request in writing.  I asked them for paper and put it in writing and then had to leave.

Meeting again with Freetown council but with their lands people.  They took the information again and will meet next week to see if they have some land we can have.  Great meeting so see if this is something else God has for us.

Just off to meet Andy Young, Dr from Luton but he rang me to cancel as he had just heard ebola was in his area in the countryside so her was going to be leaving.  The risk to healthcare workers is clearly high and certainly not worth taking the risk.

Returned home to replan!


Up at 6am to head off to see the village at Madina where they may offer us land.  Abs is an hour late so we get away and meet up at Waterloo.  Bought the batteries for King George and headed for the village.  Soon met John Kamara, the head man – great chap who explained what they had given away and what was available.  Unfortunately the available land was right at the back.  In truth it would do but asked if as the other community at the front had not moved yet would they mind swapping.  One man asked what compensation I wanted to give them for moving!  I left it with them and will be back next week.  Abs was so good with them but a bit upset as the original deal looks different now.  I am just grateful for the learning.

9.30 and on the way back to get on the 11am ferry.  Swapped over a bigger car.  Sulay looked at the spare tyre and called it furniture!  A different one will hopefully appear in the morning.  Again despite agreeing to receive a full tank of fuel it came fairly empty.  The fuel gauge doesn’t work so have to guess how much we use!

Met Alisons ferry boys who told me their latest stories.  Bought shoes for one and food for all 3.  You wonder how they move on from this.  One was saying he needed money to get extra lessons to pass his exams.  I thought of all the needs I have visited this week – how does one decide which to help?  To scatter widely or keep and do a few things well?

Thinking about Sulay the driver – we pay him about £3 per day plus food.  To eat a meal on the restaurant costs £7-£10, to fill up a tank of fuel is £50.  Value of labour in the basic economy is so small yet each day they survive.

So now to hand around and hope the 2 planes come on time – we shall see!   They did-ish and great to see Zak first and then Dave and Phil.  They had looked in vain for the other two.  Found we could not open the back door to put cases in so threaded them through.  Then off to the port where we had a drink and hung around by the ferry.  There are 6 boys in wheelchairs with Polio that beg on the quay.  Having listened to their latest plight and knowing the consequences I agreed to buy them a tarpaulin to shelter from the rains.  Hard to know what truth is but I think they are now straight with me.

Slow trip over surrounded by people and insights.  Got the guys to the hotel on time – a great start.


A small group and programme built for different purposes but will stick to much of it. To church where welcomed and stay through the worship and multiple offerings and just great.  Then to King George Home.  There we collected residents from their beds and helped up to top part where a meal is served.  There are no tables to sit at and the church that used the hall before seemed to have no interaction with them.  One younger guy there had got a nail in his foot and resulted in amputation.  Viviane had glaucoma and could no longer see.  The ailments were sad, and in another setting would be dealt with but no one had medical care to speak of.  Gave the batteries to Mr Davies to distribute.  Took the people their food but none ate.  They all wanted to save it to eat over a longer period of time.  We talked and sang – again they sang “all is well with my soul”  Great thing to sing when living a life as they do.  The men asked if I could get a TV for the world cup for them!  But of course they would need a generator and fuel as well.  One staff member gave me a note asking for help for her blind husband.  The need is just huge.

After a brief look at the City of Rest, which Zak found interesting with his interest in Psychiatry, we went to St George children’s rescue centre.  They sand and Phil shared some stories from his time living in Sierra Leone.  Great time.  Then to meet Abs and learn some cultural insights before dinner.  Met up with Zaks friend Pete who just happened to be here working on an electrical contract.  Small world.  Back to bed.


Some old friends of Phil’s had left home at 5.00am to find him and he was thrilled to see them again.  He then went off to find other friends through the day and was just glowing when he came back in the evening. Phil had been a missionary in SL for many years and was such a sweet time returning.

The rest of us headed to the Kings Royal academy.  There we rendered the inside of their new toilets and painted the doors.  They were well made and cost around 19 million (£2,800).  As the head teachers said, many schools have hundreds of children and no toilets so he was just thrilled.  One boy playing in the yard was in a threadbare shirt – as I had one I gave him a football shirt – his joy was immense – hope no one takes it off him.  Food with teachers – the plates were unbelievably full as even the slightest polished off mega quantities.  Toilets should be finished later this week.

Then to Hastings Ladies who made soap and to see the chicken farmer again which was so helpful.  To Polio men where we made 35 blocks with their guys and listened to updates.  They are pressing on with some building and Mission Direct given money to make a few thousand blocks so encouraging to see progress at last there.

Then to dinner and bed.


Phil back in the fold and off to the Adventist Hospital and Moses joined us for the day.  Spent the morning painting all the corridors and was amazing how the work fitted the time we had.  Patients and people everywhere.  The extension was continuing notwithstanding the rain today and ready to start the roof next week.  Sense of satisfaction as such a difference to the place by lunch time.

Met Hannah and Chief at Kippys land – amazing how beautiful it looked – currently growing peanuts.  This will be a great thing.  The land surrounded by housing that was built for Liberian refugees.  I came away so excited at the possibilities here.

Then on to second piece of land.  They offered us the piece we wanted and asked if we would build a football pitch for them.  That’s not a problem.  The land is very hard and I am concerned if we take it that it would cost so much to build on it.  Decided to send a builder to look at before accepting as I want to know what I am getting in to and don’t want to taken on excessive cost without thought – still – looks a wonderful opportunity.

Then to beach – tree across the road so paid the man to lift the branch he had left to get though!  Food not ready or going to be on beach so had a drink and some fun.  Saw hotel the last team stayed at, which was interesting and see the possibilities for people in the future.    Home to dinner.  Great day with Moses and the group.


Phil as sick as a dog, ate a few things on Monday, when with his friends, and just wiped out.  Off to Lifelines school where Zak and I taught a lesson.    Looked at great progress of school again

Then to racecourse slum and met area leaders and different people from the community.  Spent about an hour listening to their aspirations and issues.  One clear new thing that if we do some micro enterprise loans in groups, people will borrow and say they will do their “petty trades” and pay back so need to build that in to scheme.  Went down to the sea through the slum with team and took in all that was there.  They showed us where the water comes up to in their houses.  A bit like the Somerset levels problem but every year with no insurance and nowhere to go.

Lunch in town.  I looked at the bill that said service not included.  I had just said no to 10 children asking for money for food and now do I just drop money as a tip for waitresses in a good job (and will they get it anyway?).  Everyday making choices.  Few examples of requests

  • Friend needing £80 for daughter schooling or she can’t sit exams on Monday
  • Lady saying help her blind husband
  • Need £75 per class for books at a school
  • Many asking for small amounts
  • Elderly man needing medicine and doctor bills paying
  • TV and generator for world cup.

Each day we have to keep our eyes on the main thing but being open to Gods leading as to which if any to respond too.

Spent 2 hours doing the 3 hours getting home as Freetown just at a standstill.  Car went into side of us damaging his car not hours.  Unbelievable that he tried to get through a gap that did not exist.  You cannot imagine how many opinions there were.  Dave thought it was our fault, other 3 theirs.  Sulay did not “want to embarrass us” so agreed liability and I paid!  Thankfully our car not hurt in any way.


Up at 4.30am to see Dave off on the boat.  Phil decided to stay a few more days and catch up with old friends.

Great news – Zak passed his exams so now a doctor – celebrated with a cheeseburger for lunch.

To try and find a bank account and open it.  Standard Chartered offered bets terms but docs needed to open it are extensive.  Thankfully Abs will see it through for me.  Visited the Council who had not followed through on last weeks meeting but said they would and gave a copy of the structure plan – an amazing document that provides significant background understanding to the challenges here and what the Govt may want to do.  Let us hope this one is acted on.  Collected docs from lawyer – Home Leone exists in Sierra Leone!  Just need all the other registration docs to go with it now!

Met with American Missionaries for dinner.  They had had 7 drop from their team on rumours of ebola and said how difficult it was people posting totally false information on facebook as it worries their families unnecessarily.  This couple came on a team with me in 2007 and 2 years later came to live here and joined in various ministries.  They have done so well.  Sad to hear of more stories where long term people have poured their lives into local people and the ended badly.  One lady here 20 years, broke her arm and went to hospital for a few days.  When she got home, those she had poured her life in to for years had stolen everything she had.  To stand the test of time here takes wisdom, endurance and Gods protection.  Also an acceptance that despite our best endeavours, even those with many years of Christian training may steal and destroy, when tempted.


Into the last day of a month on the road.  Be good to be home.  Sorted the accounts first – tricky when dealing in thousands and millions for everything.  Filled in bank application forms and met another bank who came to see me and offered slightly better rates.  After running through everything with Abs, we went to the chaplins graduation parade and service and were treated as dignitaries, being seated on a sofa on the stage!

Interesting how God brings us to meet new people.  Here I met the head of the army estates who is responsible for all the army land in the country.  He was interested in what I said and has a 15 acre barracks they don’t really need in Freetown – so another conversation to be had.  Then met a delightful elderly American missionary – Rev Dr Pepper.  He had been in the country 5 years and running a bible institute.  He asked if we could meet up when I am next in town.  He had been teaching the leadership school for chaplins – focused almost entirely on character as we know this is such a difficult thing here.

Then met up with a man I met in church last week who was a builder.  John had spent a lot of time in the UK and was only too pleased to go and look at the land in Madina and tell me if it is buildable on.  Again, a “chance” meeting may bring forth a good relationship and opportunity.

Food and a trip to the airport and plane only 1 hour late so not too bad.

So some findings from the trip

  • Be more aware of who I come in to contact with as it’s easy to miss what God is doing and get part a picture.  Keep great notes of the people I meet and connect them to each other.
  • The true spiritual battlefield Sierra Leone is – need to structure the prayer request and support.
  • That micro loans in groups have to be part of the picture to enable the families to ensure they have the dignity and ability to support their wider family.
  • That many of those wanting to relocate will bring up to 10 people per house
  • That other communities will welcome development and be prepared to offer land free of charge.
  • That linking with Abs and Moses has been Gods way of building the key bridge I need in to the nation
  • That Freetown City Council may be a source of encouragement, land and communication where they have some good priorities I can join in with.
  • That new life slum remains the best group I have found to start with.
  • To consider dorms/one room with shared facilities for groups of say 5 young men or 5 young women and link to training/loans.
  • That Sierra Leone may simply be too risky for corporates so either need a second venue or downgrade as a priority
  • Need to consider who to ask to be trustees of new venture and what I expect of them.

It is wonderful to see how God is revealing himself step by step as I need it.  Having Dave here was wonderful and now to get behind the fund raising effort his run may attract.  To have a week with Zak and know him deeper, to celebrate his becoming a doctor and becoming a son I never had and good friend too was real highlight.

Also to spend some time with Phil gave me a glimpse from Sierra Leone past.  A real pioneer and to understand the country in the 1960s had a handful of Christians and now it is up to 30% shows real progress, yet the penetration beyond a prosperity gospel is weak and we need to build the character and discipling training in the programme.

So now to pray for the builder who will go and live there as part of this effort.  Also for focus in the states on the fund raising opportunity.

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