April 30, 2022
April 30, 2022- Another fulfilling day here in Sierra Leone as we traveled over rough terrain out to our Bandawa Campus to review our medical clinic. It is incredibly hot and humid, particularly coming from the cool temps of New England. Our entire morning and early afternoon was spent meeting and talking with the village chiefs who represent the 26 bush ( jungle) villages that we support. Our discussions included topics such as the desire to establish a better food security program through planned agricultural programs, the desire of 6 of the most remote villages to have Seven Hills establish a satellite school facility , and the dire need to construct a culvert / bridge over a particularly dangerous section of a stream that children must cross to get to our campus school.
Here in Sierra Leone, like many other parts of the developing world, is facing a crisis in growing enough food to adequately feed its people. This is particularly true in West and East Africa as climate change is altering rain patterns necessary to produce rice and other crops. The people in BO - and in our remote Bandawa area- are facing their annual “hunger season” between June and November when the rainy season begins ushering in flooding. In order to survive the months ahead villagers have to raise enough food ( eg cassava, rice, yams, etc) between December and June to last the entire year. This is becoming harder to due with climate changes and the cost of seed, fertilizer, and food staples. In the past 2 years alone the cost of rice alone has doubled and as a result villagers we support are intentionally cutting back on their daily rice intake. Women in particular are eating much less than they need so that their children can have at least one meal a day. I noted this phenomenon today as villagers I’ve known fir 10 years are noticeably thin. I spent several hours with the chiefs in discussing how they might begin cooperative farming techniques in larger plots of communal land to produce greater quantities of food. What is needed however is to begin mechanizing food production in ways that are sustainable to the land. Acquiring a costly tractor or other farm equipment seems an inevitable need though it will serve as a break from the traditional ‘family plot’ firm of farming. This is an area they will be discussing among themselves and then sharing their thoughts with me in the weeks ahead. It is such a paradox to come from our home in Massachusetts where one merely walks into a supermarket to purchase whatever food desired and then compare that to the lives of people who rely upon subsistence farming to survive. And so, we will do everything possible to help the 17,000 + people we interact with in this part of the world to identify sustainable means of food production.
The second request , made by a group of 6 village chiefs whose villages are furthest away from our campus medical facility and school , was to construct a satellite primary school structure for their children. At the present the children living in Komende Village have to walk nearly 5 miles each way through the bush to get to our school. A satellite school made of mud bricks would eliminate that burden for the children - and for their parents who trust that they will be safe each day traveling to and from their village home to school and back. When I return to Massachusetts I hope to begin raising the needed $12,000 USD to construct a new satellite school for the 250 children in our 6 most remote villages.
And finally, the village leaders of the Bandawa village discussed the need to construct a concrete culvert which could serve to contain the flow of a river and serve as a bridge for women and children to safely traverse a river during rainy season. Many times in my own travels from village to village I’ve had to cross rivers on traditional makeshift “stick walks” where long tree branches are bundled together and tied to poles embedded in the river. This is not for the faint of heart and requires carefully balancing on uneven sticks. During rainy season these same rivers double or triple in size and velocity of the water flowing and in 2021 two children and a woman lost their lives as the rushing water threw them off the stick walks. Grading the land on each side of the river to create a 4 foot elevation with a concrete culvert through which the water could flow would provide a lasting and safe “bridge” for the hundreds of children who must cross this particular river each day.
These are the types of issues that Seven Hills Global Outreach and my past and present teams try our best to address for those we have come to love over the years. The poor have few , if any, resources to address starvation or natural disasters such as flooding and so we work to find solutions in partnership with local peoples and the donors we have back home.
More tomorrow from BO and our work with our brothers and sisters in this part of the world.
Dr David Jordan