In January 2015, my friend Ian moved to Sierra Leone at his own expense to work with some of the poorest people living in the Freetown area. He was soon followed there by his wife Heather. Sierra Leone is recovering from civil war and Ebola, but still lies towards the bottom of the international list of social progress indicators and there is clear evidence that children with disabilities can have a hard time.
Ian and Heather (pictured) have created a building company that carries out construction projects for charitable and community organisations whilst providing on-the-job training for local labourers and skilled craftsmen. Projects to date have included negotiating purchase of a 20 acre site for a slum relocation programme run by Home Leone, construction of a play area for disabled children for Leonard Cheshire Disability, a computer training unit for Lifeline, an incinerator, perimeter wall and storage unit for Waterloo Hospital, and a roof for a child and maternal health service. Heather also does project management and finance work.
Ian and Heather have established a particularly strong bond with the Magnificent Seven, a group of young care-leavers who have survived polio and are determined to become financially self-reliant, pursue their education and challenge negative stereotypes about disability.
The St Nic’s Open Book group is coordinating the UK end of a partnership designed to support Heather, Ian and the Magnificent Seven to achieve their ambitions. If you would like to see what has been accomplished already and perhaps join us in this partnership, please click here.
We have friends called Adama and Atta who live in Burkina Faso, and we visited them in January 2016. Again, this is a poor part of the world. Our friends have strong connections with the neediest people in their community, and are able to get practical help to the places where it is most needed.
Adama moved from the south of the country to work in the province of Oudalan in the north east of Burkina Faso, an economically deprived region. He is a minister in the Assemblies of God Church and works in the region around his base in the town of Markoye. His role is to lead the local church, support other church leaders in the region and engage in community development projects. Food security is a continuing problem due to the recent influx of refugees from Mali and uncertain harvests. Adama and his wife Atta receive no salary and grow their own food to support their family. There are few church members in Markoye who earn a regular wage so there is little local financial support. They are people of vast integrity and warm laughter.
Adama and Atta also have links with a dental project in the Oudalan region – read about it here.