It is Day 5 and we are in Freetown and BO, Sierra Leone - January 7, 2020
Updated: Jan 12
Our day was spent stopping at locations throughout Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital. Before touring Freetown’s largest hospital, we walked through the downtown area that becomes flooded every rainy season, displacing thousands of the city’s poorest. Due to Sierra Leone’s severe economic crisis, many of the social structures; such as schools, healthcare, sanitation and water infrastructure, is sorely lacking. This was never more evident than during our tour of the hospital facilities in Freetown. Lack of basic maternity, ICU, pediatric, and surgical equipment, was discussed with us by the physicians and nurse managers we met with. It’s hard to describe seeing children with severe burns, wrapped in cloth bandages holding on to their mothers, with only a modicum of hope for a full recovery.
Our hospital tour preceded a tour of the University of Sierra Leone which was once, prior to the 11 year long civil war, one of the leading academic institutions in West Africa. Today, it struggles with antiquated facilities, textbooks, and maintaining leading scholar-professors. Many of the photos attached to today’s blog reflect our walking Freetown’s downtown district, our visit to the Hospital, and then our tour of the University of Sierra Leone. Later this afternoon, we began our 3 hour drive from Freetown toward our final destination to the south central city of BO. It is hard to adequately describe the sights, sounds, and smells of Freetown. It’s congested, noisy, chaotic, dirty, and lacks so many of the basic infrastructure we might expect in the West. Their healthcare system and higher education would, by Western standards, be considered moribund. However, with all that appears “broken “ in this country of 7 million souls, there is graciousness in its people that has drawn me back to it each year for the past decade. Sierra Leone is complex, yet at the same time, endearingly beautiful and people here are fond of calling it my “second home”. I suspect they are right; I have come to love this country and the children even as they call out to me, “pumwey , pumwey!” (white guy). My wife and I renewed our wedding vows here in Sierra Leone. I suppose that about says it all. Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries on the planet, but few nations can surpass its acceptance and embrace of foreigners; even this pumwey.
Tomorrow, our SHGO team of Andy, Tracy, Ali, Frances (who, for reasons unknown, I keep calling ‘Jackie’), and Peter, will spend our day walking for many miles through the bush, stopping at remote villages for whom we have provided clean water wells and village toilets . We will also be engaged with our partner, Zion Ministries and the SHGO medical clinic, birthing centers, and primary school on the Bandawa campus. More updates tomorrow from BO, Sierra Leone.
Dr. J -