Saturday, 23 February 2008


Last Saturday a few lovely friends and I headed to Guma Valley Dam, where I escaped Africa and walked into what reminded me of the Lake District, UK. There was no one around and it was wonderful – a huge lake, wild jungle and a nice place to eat our picnic lunch! We just ate and chilled and walked, but unfortunately could not swim in the lake. Found a great looking spider though that looked like a mask – Sandra was teasing my while I was perfecting my photography trying every mode on my camera, while she was saying it's about to's gonna bite you.. it could be poisonous. But hey I got a great photo in the end. We trekked through the woods and found all sorts of surprizes from bullet cartridges (concerned us only a little) to little camps set up Ray Mears style, some amazing looking trees and even saw a little snake, which soon made Anna pull her socks up high looking very funny.

From our relaxing afternoon, we moved to sunset on the beach at Lakka, a swim in the pool and later on my first taste of LOBSTER!! It was a birthday present from my folks and it was DELICIOUS!! I have to say we cheated in terms of fighting for our food as the lobster had already been taken out the shell, prepared and put back into the shell for a superb,aesthetically pleasing and tasty meal. Sandra and I finished it off by trying to piece the body back together for a few photos.

The day was something different and even though far from my good old friends and family in UK, I had a lovely time with my step-in family right here in Sierra Leone – praise God for good friends from all around the world.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Happy Birthday ME!

It's been a fun day so far...


new strings on the guitar, then a great strumm,

chilling in Helen's flat - so nice to be somewhere different!

Then I had to get on public transport to head down to the clinic where my car was being fixed (had a little problem starting the car yesterday, so tried to jump start it - only problem being I was rolling backwards down a hill and turn a corner and the steering wheel locked as the engine was not on so ended up intimately embracing a wall!!!)
Anyway, back to the public transport - it seemed scarce so I started walking - eventually I was picked up and squashed myself into the empty seat in the back row, settled and off we went. Only to feel a strange licking sensation on my left arm!! I turned round to see a goat peering over my shoulder! The rest of the journey I was trying hard not to laugh out loud while I could feel this goat's breath and occasional lick! I was glad when another passenger also got a share of the 'love' and also laughed!!!

So once at the clinic car still being sorted - I decided to try and skype my mum and dad. They really do try to work the webcam... well....after a rollercoaster ride around their room, then a few turns on the waltz, it was eventually lovely to see them and have a good chat, except when they kindly rubbed in they were enjoying nice icecreams in celebration of my birthday. THANKS!!

Still I'm looking forward to a nice walk on the beach in a bit, then dinner with a friend, then we are off to join others for icecreams too!!

I praise God for many wonderful years and I trust for lots more!

Thank you to all my wonderful friends (and the goat!) that have helped me feel so loved today.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

My friend Abu's Birthday

We had a great day, we headed out to Bureh Town beach - Abu and his son Santos, his friend Dadio, a couple Fayia and his fiance, a friend called Maria who was an old patient of mine, and me.
The sun was shining and the beach was empty. Sea warm and waves a bit choppy which always adds fun - and a challenge since Maria is paralysed from shoulders down! I'm very used to handling paralysed people in nice controlled hydrotherapy pools - but the choppy sea left me with aching arms for the next week!!

Anyway, Maria had never been swimming before and she loved it - totally trusting me and Abu not to let her drown. Still she even managed to balance on her own (with arm bands that is!) for a minute at a time.

Abu, despite being a strong swimmer was trying to learn to float - something we whites seem to do very easily here as the water is so salty, but the africans seem to have a denser body mass (prob due to all their BIG muscles!) and are unable to float.

Egg sandwiches with a bit of sand seasoning, coconut and a squashed birthday cake.
Fun was had by all.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Have I got FOOL written on my forehead?!

This week, I was 'taken for a ride', or more like I took others for a ride at my expense!
It might look a long story, but is worth a read!
I met this young boy on my way home through the mountains. He has sat in the same place for months usually begging, and to my embarrassment I've never stopped for him before. He has a nasty problem with Elephantitus of both his legs and it's spreading to his hands. I've not stopped before because I've not known what to do. But God really pressed on me last week (and in previous weeks, but it's taken me a while to listen!) when I drove past... “why didn't you stop? I would have spoken to him. Why did you drive on by? Why does EVERYONE just drive on by?” The NGO cars, UN cars, Doctors, British army and ME – Community Children's Physio!
Usually this thought process takes a while and the road is too bad to turn around and go back.

But last week I promised the Lord and myself that this week I would stop.
And stop I did, to meet Umaru – a boy talked to by few, with a mother and father who had died, no other relative wanting to take care of him because of hie oozing legs, he sleeps in the Teachers College compound where the gurads turn a blind eye to him and spent his time begging for food and money. A sorry story.

Of course as soon as I started talking with him a crowd of people gathered all offering their own thoughts on the situation. Then I met AbuBakar (the older boy in the photo), who was kind, honest and seemingly very wise. He took time to talk with Umaru not at him, and in fact knew him vaguely as his aunt often gave him cake. After a long talk, we decided as I didn't know what could be done for him, the best plan was to send him to an NGO hospital on the other side of town.

I phoned the hospital and made arrangements for the next day. I gave AbuBakar the needed money and a bit more for food, and he promised to take the day off school to take him for me. It would be a long journey and a very long day for them both.
What happened next?
No, they did not run away with the money, as I said I just knew AbuBakar was a good one who I could tentatively trust – despite my recent mistrust experiences!
Instead I got a phone call early the next morning to say that the PodaPoda drivers refused to take them in their vehicles because of Umaru's legs.

What could I do? I had so many patients booked in, and it really was a long way to drive for him back and forth through the mountains on bad roads (at least 5 hours driving in total). Not to mention I was still struggling a bit with heat exhaustion from the previous long days work.

How much is too much? How far is too far? Am I just going to drive on by too?
Would would Jesus do?

So I cancelled my plans for the day, begged MercyShips to let me use one of their drivers for the day, and set off for another very long day!!

We got there and had no probs finding AbuBakar as he had shown me where he lived the previous day (so I had somewhere to check in case he ran off with the money so he informed me – like a said, v.honest!), but do you think we could find Umaru? It was like looking for that one lost sheep – we even had two Policemen helping us!!! Eventually we found him, in he jumped and off we bumped along the roads.

Emergency Hospital (an Italian NGO) were so gracious with us, but surprisingly to me, knew of him before, just one of the small but many pieces to the story that was about to unfold before me!! Nothing can be done to reduce the size of his legs, but a medicine available in one of the government hospitals would kill the bacteria and prevent the infection from spreading any more to his hands. Compression bandaging would also help the legs, but they didn't have any big enough. However they did advise of a children's home that might be able to help him.
So while trying to call the home and make arrangements for this boy there, I next discovered that he had an Aunty in town. The home would meet with Umaru the next day, but only with the Aunty. So the next challenge was to find the Aunty.

After a bite to eat we drove into Freetown to one of the dodgiest places, to jump out in the middle of bumper to bumper PodaPodas (I was so pleased not to be driving), to then squeeze our way through 100's of people into the Aunty's house to find we were in the middle of a funeral – another reason why so many people were gathered.

Do you think we found the Aunty?
But we found his MOTHER!!!

Not only that, but she lives right at the junction where I met Umaru in the first place!! The place where no-one claimed to know anything about him, other than he begged and that he had no friends.

After more talking (with crowds adding their own comments again), Aminata the mother tried to explain that he keeps running away from the house and she had not seen him for a few days. I explained where we had been today and what had been advised. She was keen to follow through, and I agreed to call her next week to find out how it had all gone.

So we left Umaru with her and headed out of one lot of chaos, into the PodaPoda standstill, to find the car! As we turned to get in the car, we were surprised to see Umaru had followed us!! So much for the mother taking more responsibility. The mother caught us up and explained that he just wandered again, but also that he was feeling embrassed because everyone at the funeral was looking and commenting about his feet. So we agreed to take him back to the community where he is known.

Driving another hour, we reached there and Umaru had remembered where his house was! He took us there and both AbuBakar and I were speechless that he had withheld all this info before. We both felt like FOOLS! What I hadn't quite realised the day before was his learning difficulty and obvious lack of social integration. This attention, love and care was something he probably rarely gets and he had obviously enjoyed a good day out!!

Talking with the neighbours, Umaru seems quite a wanderer, and difficult to keep at home. I tried to encourage them to keep him occupied with little tasks to keep him from getting bored. However the lure of begging and getting money to spend is often too much, not only for him, but also maybe for his family. As I left, Umaru called out “Aunty Kadi (my SL name), if you bring me some toys I'll stay at the house”! We all laughed and I thought if only you'd told me that yesterday!!!! :0)

I will visit next week and see what has happened. And in the future, when I meet him begging, I now know where to walk him back to, of course talking and laughing on the way.

Yes I felt a fool for spending a long day, and lots of money, but was it a waste or an investment?

Would I stop again for a similar child?
Would Jesus.

As a friend reminded me as I relayed the story to her – being a FOOL for Jesus is nothing to be ashamed of!

Monday, 4 February 2008


This is Alusan (in purple), and I'm his latest fan! A carpenter struggling to find work but highly recommended by Abu (in green, the lad I have volunteering with me on Mondays.) Recommended more so because he is the brother of a friend – it's all about favourable connections here!
Anyway, I've not been disappointed – he's timely, skilled, friendly and has a mind to find a way around the difficult specifications of these kids requirements. So at approx £20 a chair / standing frame, I've got a few lined up, as well as some other bits of equipment I've designed.
This is Ola again, now looking such a big boy sitting upright in his new chair. Despite limited resources, I'm pleased with this new supported position for him. We hope it will help him feed and play more easily. Isatu, his carer seemed very pleased with it too – especially the table, despite her long face posed for the camera!

Saturday, 2 February 2008


Thank you for all the encouraging emails over the last few weeks. It sure has been a bumpy start to the year, and despite on-going frustrations, I'm determined to continue in the Lord's strength. It has been such an encouragement to know that such lovely people read the news I send out and try to stand in my shoes for a bit in order to support me better.

Be assured that not only to I feel supported by you all, but that the children of Sierra Leone are also supported more because you are helping to keep me here.

Sometimes it is important to forget all the injustice of the world and see instead the beauty and ingenuity of the One who created it. Aren't the colours of this delicate shell so peaceful? (The photo doesn't really do it justice!) This little creature we found while sitting in the River No. 2. I have to admit we un-dug it several times to watch it's cool trick. After being left a few moment to settle, a little tongue-like projection stuck out of the tiny crack of the two half shells, felt it's way round to the sand then heaved itself down till totally covered, squirting a little jet of water on the way. So cute! No matter which way up we put it, it managed to work it's way down to the stillness of being sheltered from the sun and the rush of water in the dark wet sand. Amazing!

So even though I know I can't bury my head (or even my whole being in the sand!) I do know that in God's protection I can regain the rest, enthusiasm and comfort to continue in this work of our loving Heavenly Father.

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” Psalm 91:1

Friday, 1 February 2008

January's Newsletter

Hello friends,
At the beginning of this new year I trust that you are all setting out on different adventures – some to be enjoyed, others to be endured! Well, January for me has certainly been a challenge to keep going. I came back from a lovely time in UK at Christmas and New year, really enjoying spending great times with family and particularly enjoying some special times with Grandma. Also managed to get up to normal shenanigans with friends! All of which made coming back all the harder.

So with determination and a renewed energy, I fully aimed to give it all again, with hope in a loving Saviour, Jesus, who gives hope to all.

When I did get back, I found that I had had a load of money stolen from my house. I was most upset at the mistrust of the people who I had trusted. People I had given to when they had been in need, people who I saw and still see daily, people who I considered friends. I was so upset and mad that I have come to help, and have ended up cheated instead. God saw and knows and although we have not been able to find out who it was, I have in the meantime learnt a lot about acting with integrity and forgiveness, assured of the Lord's justice. The thief also took my return to UK flight ticket, which was probably a good thing otherwise I may have not even unpacked my bags and may have just jumped on a plane back home again!
I moved on my putting my head back down to work with my eyes fixed on Jesus' love for the kids. “Beautiful are the feet of those who bring Good News.” And it has been such a joy to see those twinkling eyes and little feet of my treasures again.

Welcomed with open arms, the kids at SOS jumped, hopped, limped and rolled their way over to me as I entered the gates. Initially not being sure if they had missed me or Bertie the Landrover, their visiting climbing frame, more!
I have been doing a lot more work with my 2 assistants Abu and Mina, who each do 1 day a week with me. Trying to train them as we go along always creates more prep, thinking and effort, but I hope as they assist my work more and more, and I put them in positions of trying new skills out, they will gain in confidence and knowledge.
This is Abu treating Minkalu a young lad with Cerebral Palsy. He loves our visits and is doing really well at strengthening his hip stability and trunk control. His aim is to be able to walk on his own (even if with a frame) so that he can attend school. You would never have known that when he had been younger, his disparate mum, Fatu, had had taken him to a 'traditional healer' for him to be 'cleansed'. When this man told Fatu that he would take Minkalu 'back to where he came from', she ran as far as she could. She'd seen other children like this turned into cobra's in these kind of rituals. Hard to believe I know, but I'm afraid it really does happen here. Minkalu was saved from this, and now has a good chance of getting to school.

So many of all my kids are doing so well, Musu at SOS has put on more weight, as has Ola – that bucket seat still working well at feeding times. Joseph, Mohammed and Ishmael have new foot splints thanks to some joint working with MercyShips NewSteps. I saw Mariama this week too, the baby with severe malnourishment and dehydration that I drove through the mountains with last Oct to take to a hospital late one night. I couldn't believe the change. Chubby legs, a lovely rounded belly and the cutest cheeks. Thank God for this turning around. I thought this baby, then just a bag of bones not even opening her eyes, would die in my car on the way, but a new breath life has been a blessing to her and a joy to all the family.
Let me introduce you to another new friend. I met Alhaji and his mum at the beginning of December when they had been referred to me from Mercy Ships. He also has severe Cerebral Palsy, and a special personality like no other. Working on his sitting balance, a plastic kettle full of sand makes a great stabiliser! I'm working on a special chair for him, so soon he should be able to sit at the same level as his peers and family for play and eating.

So yes the work has continued well, but I have found it a bit of a struggle if I'm honest. The renewed energy from God and continuing vision and passion have been enough to keep me going. However, I've felt quite lonely and as if I'm fighting this huge battle on my own. I know I'm not, but we all have emotions right? I just wish my own would settle down a bit! I've also been saddened at the news that my Grandma is really unwell in hospital. I've felt far from my family at a time I just want to be close. It's hard not to just give up, but I know these trials are all temporary, and that perseverance leads to character, which leads to maturity in Christ.

I'd love your prayers for:
- Peace, perseverance, patience and protection
- My Grandma
- Training of Abu and Mina – I'm finding this real hard work on top of other responsibilities
- Secure friendships
- Future partnerships with people to support this work further
- And especially for Amara, the boy who broke his back, who had been doing really well using his wheelchair on the ramps we had made. He has recently really deteriorated with a chest infection and pressure sores. Pray for hope and healing for him.

Thank you all for being such wonderful friends, support I can always depend on. With Love Vez