It was a remarkable first day in Sierra Leone, reuniting with four of the remote bush villages I have come to know over these past 7 years. Our SHGO initiatives support many of our Diaspora staff at Seven Hills who come from around the world. This year, through an annual donation made to Seven Hills by a group of churches in Garland, Texas, we are hand-digging four new village wells and building two new village toilets.
We left this morning and drove to our partner Zion Ministries campus in Bandawa where our work began and from there we walked to three remote bush villages beginning with Torbu. Our team did a great job of walking over streams and through the bush and made many friends along the way. At each village we saw the progress made by each in hand digging a clean water well approximately 60 feet deep. After the hole is dug during this dry season it’s lined with metal rods, concrete, and finally closed and a pump installed. Because of the generosity of our friends in Texas, Seven Hills has been able to install clean water wells in 11 of our 22 village catchment area, as well as nine village toilets. Our hope is that within the next three years we will have completed a well and village toilet in all 22 villages—each supporting several thousands of very poor children, women, and their families. In the villages where a well and toilet has been installed we’ve been able to reduce the mortality rate of children under five by 80%! Simple public health measures have made an incredible difference here in the BO region of Sierra Leone.
We then stopped briefly at the small Bandawa campus where we worked with Pastor Kanu to build a medical clinic, maternal birth center, a school for 160 primary school children, a church, and staff quarters for our nursing staff. Pastor Kanu’s wife Cynthia had asked that we stop at the birth clinic as she had a surprise she wanted to show us. Just hours prior to our arrival, a local woman had walked four miles to our clinic and had given birth to a healthy little girl (see picture of resting Mother and baby).
Without the clinic, for which SHGO raised funds to construct six years ago, the mother would have had to give birth in the bush.
After a quick lunch we traveled out to a village called Komende. I first walked into Komende five years ago with my Clark students and Pastor Kanu. Since then I have become good friends with the elderly chief and made it a point to go see him each time I was in the country. Since then, we’ve installed a clean water well and a toilet and just today, committed ourselves to help them construct their own small school; the first school the village has ever had. Sadly, while the village chief passed away several months ago, his influence on the community lives on.
In one of the villages today the children gathered around Krissy to carefully examine her freckles—something many in remote Africa have never seen before—and were curious to know if they rubbed off! The photos attached reflects just a few of the highlights from today. More seriously, in the seven years SHGO has been in partnership with our local friends at Zion Ministries, we’ve been able to carve out an entire medical and education campus where once there was only rugged wilderness. We’ve created a clean water and sanitation infrastructure for several thousand people in the bush and most importantly, we’ve helped save the lives of hundreds of children and women. Seven Hills has done this by begging targeted donors for funds and reaching out to churches as far away as Texas to help us to uplift the poorest of the poor—all in honor of our Seven Hills staff from both the United States and around the world. I wish ALL of my 3920 Seven Hills employees and our donors could witness first hand this work. And once again, many thanks to my students who have traveled with me over the years, and to Carmen, Krissy, and my colleague Ashley Emerson, all of whom are traveling with me now.
Next January (2019), we will be returning to Kenya, to an area called Kibera where we help support a slum-school, to an orphanage started by an orphan (Children’s Garden) outside of Nairobi, and to Seven Hills staff member Samuel Kariuki’s own orphanage called the Focus Dream Center.
It’s been a long, hot, and humid day but well worth our time. Tonight, as part of what has become customary for those who travel on our SHGO mission trips, we will each share a personal “pearl,” or memory, from the day’s travels which most resonated with us individually. It might be the image of seeing a particular child, or a thought or insight gleaned from our travels during the day. For me, tonight I will be thinking of two pearls. The first pearl is the thought of my wife Kathee who I leave behind in Massachusetts far too often to continue this work at Seven Hills Global Outreach. She is always supportive and offers more support than I could have ever hoped for. And my second pearl is the thought of all of our Seven Hills employees in MA and RI—particularly our single Mom’s throughout Seven Hills—who never stop caring for their kids; just like the thousands of Mom’s I’ve come to know in Sierra Leone, Ghana, Kenya, and throughout the under-developed world.
Tomorrow, we will continue our work here in Sierra Leone and travel to the two Seven Hills-sponsored schools we were able to build and that provide education for over 600 children.
Be sure to check out images from today in the photo album we uploaded to Facebook today!