Friday, 20 November 2009

November 09 Newsletter

Dear Friends,

Well this month has proven to be the busiest yet with administration, I'm so thankful that Abu and Sarah have been able to continue on with the home visits and patient care.

That's right, ~Enable the Children~ is now under the Ministry of Social Welfare of the Government of Sierra Leone. And not only that but we have a Constitution, tax clearance, pay national insurance for our staff, Contracts, Terms and Conditions, Child Protection Policies, leave and benefits, job descriptions..... am I boring you yet!! This last month (and a bit – sorry for the late newsletter!) has been chokka full of writing documents and meeting officials. A huge learning curve for me, some paths being easier than others, but finally God has made a way. It feels a little daunting now too though as commitments are very official. However, another means of support has come out of this in the form of an Executive Board – made up of seven wonderful Godly people here in Sierra Leone – from friends, colleagues from other orgs, a Pastor, a disabled young lady who I've known and supported for years, and a patients mother. The Board will be a source of wisdom and encouragement and I'm thankful to have them aboard (pun intended)!

The other great news is that we have employed another Rehab Assistant, her name is Josephine and she's already been a blessing to us. She was the best interviewee by far and has proven to be reliable, keen to learn and good with our children already. One funny moment in the interviews was when putting a shape sorter on the floor to see how they would use it to play with a child, one lady shook it like a rattle, another broke it to get the lid off, and Josephine was the only one who did something sensible – lining the pieces up colour matching them. No one knew how to post the pieces through, I guess we take toys and how to play with them for granted. Still Josephine is under intensive training for now, but is also getting good exposure in the communities. Come December she and Abu will go out alone to continue treating our families.

There is so much to say this month so I'm going to give you some other news in snippets and hope you follow along....

Bertie the landrover has had major heart surgery!! He underwent a total engine transplant as well as much other major rehabilitation - steering box, horn (essential here!), No 1 ball joint, shock absorbers, arm bushes oh and a new wing mirror that had been smashed over 2 years ago now! Despite struggling for 2 weeks without a car, we give thanks for our British Army friend who has been so kind in helping us do all this. He's been a star!

Huw Briscoe of UNFOLD studio ( has done a wonderful job of designing our new logo. There has been much discussion with the Exec Board and ETC's team about designs and colours but finally (see top) isn't it great?

Sarah has become more established in working in the communities with Abu and Josephine. She doing a great job of practical training as they spend time together with our children. Driving Bertie has also been a steep learning curve (before Bertie got sick that was!). Finding her way through the back streets of Freetown may take a while longer!

Amara, well, you'll remember from last month that we took him out to an NGO hospital in Makeni hoping for surgery to help straighten his legs. He never had the surgery as it was too complicated, but the hospital were able to help with my suggestion of serial casting to straighten his knees, which I could not do in the community due to the risks involved in leaving him unattended with untrained medical people. Still, he has done so well... standing in his POP casts, then eventually with us working at home again..... WALKING with the help of just 1 crutch!! I am amazed at his progress and his uncle and Grani are all happy to be reunited back in Freetown again. Praise God for this outcome – I really did not think I'd see him walking again, and after 2 + years, here we are. It's been a miraculous journey for him, and all the way through we have been giving Jesus the glory. This Muslim family have seen and experienced much, lets keep praying for them.

The boy who had been beaten badly by his father is doing well. Abu and the team have been visiting regularly and gradually he is learning to trust us. They have helped with teaching the grandfather how to dress some wounds have not been healing, and today they even got smiles out of him as they left him playing with a simple rubber ball – it doesn't take much to please some people.

Two of our children from our community visits have been accepted into the SOS Home for the Physically Challenged, and another 2 girls awaiting. This is a great opportunity for them to get a good education and learn that that can (and in fact have to) participate in normal community life. It builds them into great people of confidence despite their disability.

An update from Abu....
Jamestina's story – it's wonderful news for ~Enable the Children~ and for you our supporters, Jamestina is walking on her own now. We were referred her from the Mercy Ships clinic back in March 2008. She was born with many problems – she had clubfeet and bony problems with her knees, her left hand was dysfunctional, and she was delayed with her development. When we first saw her she was 1 year 3 months old, she could sit alone, but she could not crawl or walk. However with on-going home based care we were able to teach her very dedicated mother the special therapy skills to help her improve. Soon she was crawling in her own style and walking with a frame and special shoes. We were also able to get her some surgery for her feet earlier this year which has meant she can now get them in a better position to stand on. The National Rehab Centre have helped too in making some splints that will keep the position. But the greatest news is that in the last few months she has started walking for herself unaided. A little wobbly on her balance she still has far to go as she lives literally on the side of a steep mountain, but Praise God, she's done so well.

And now for a little news of my own.....
Some of you will already know that my time in Sierra Leone is coming to an end for now. I made the decision earlier in the year to be moving my life back to the UK and now is the time. I have just 3 weeks left here and if I'm honest feel a little frantic about all there still is to be done. I'm so happy that ~Enable the Children~ has come so far in the last few months in establishing itself. I feel the work that has been started here is now protected, and has a great platform to move on from. It has been so hard to get everything done properly, but God has given me the grace to do what I have, and there have been so many helping hands and words of advice along the way. Only our faithful Lord could plan things they way they have worked out. My established team of dedicated workers will continue on in SL, while I will support more from the sideline in the UK. There will be different and new tasks for me there – registering in the UK under an umbrella organisation (Links International), gathering an Advisory Board to support the Exec Board out in SL, publicity and fund raising, clinical support via Skype for those on the field and training other UK therapists to get out to developing countries. As well as all that, I'll go trying to resettle into UK life and culture, which will be hard after nearly 3 years in Sierra Leone. These next few months will be a roller-coaster, but I appreciate you all as my friends and family to help me along gently!!

So please do pray for us: give thanks for the progress of ~Enable the Children~, pray for continued healing and progress with our children, pray for Abu, Sarah, Josephine and Abdul, pray for our stress causing car!!, pray for me as I prepare to Re-Enter another world! God is good, all the time!

That's all for now... THANKS again. I'll be in touch again once I get back to a Christmassy England.

With love from Vez

Mark 5:41
Holding her hand, he (Jesus) said to her,
“Talitha koum” which means “Little girl, get up!”

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Abu's Story...

Written by Abu Bangura...

Once upon a time, I met with an international physiotherapist from England. We did not know each other, but our priority to visit the communities in Sierra Leone was to see disabled children for their treatment.

For the first time in my entire life so far, I never knew what it meant to be a physiotherapist. During the first 2 weeks visits I thought that Vez was a children's doctor. I was so admired by her getting down on dirty floors for a session with the children, I wanted to learn. I wouldn't have known about stretches or strengthening or development otherwise.

A few months later, I took interest in the job and started going down on the floor too, while assisting to motivate and facilitate positions of the children. Most of the children and families I interacted with where very pleased for our help and service.

One day Vez noticed that I had patience, encouragement and was committed to the job. She decided to train me as a Rehabilitation Assistant. I agreed to her dream as God have chosen me and called me to learn this job and work with these children.

I have now received a lot of training, about 2 and a half years, while taking internal exams. I normally (though not always! – Vez) score high marks both in the theory and practical.

However, I also had computer email training and diary planning so I can manage and plan more independently. I am now able to assess and treat children with disabilities, I try to explain the problem to the family and often talk and encourage them. I explain how to care for their child and have Jesus' love for their children. I can also design special chairs for those that need them, and I talk to our carpenter to make them. I am also responsible to make phone calls to our families to inform them of our visit or follow up if the child has been sick. This helps the families feel encouraged that we care.

We thank you for supporting this work which enables us to enable them.

October 09 Newsletter

Dear Supporting Friends,

I'm Shocked! That's what a friend of mine continually says sarcastically when he hears of another typical Sierra Leonean happening.

A vehicle rolls along the road and the door falls off, they stop, collect it and carry on. I'm shocked!
Baby strollers are often seen, but never with babies in them, instead, cool boxes full of drinks and snacks. Shocked!
First quote for a car part that I desperately needed (steering box) to allow my car to turn right as well as left, was 800Leones, they were joking, it was actually 800,000Leones. Shockingly, I was not laughing.
Few nights ago we had a storm so bad and rains so hard that I got out of bed to have a look. Standing at the closed window I was shocked to be feeling the rain on my legs, only to discover I was also standing in a puddle of rain! How can rain get through a closed window you might ask? Put it down to the wonderful workmanship when building the house that does not allow for proper sealing of the frames. Shocking! Though I was very thankful to be sleeping in a solid building rather than the corrugated shacks that most of our families live in.
The same storm also knocked out our internet, as well as messed up the power supply in part of the site I live on. Shocked! Literally!
A lorry carrying goods (in this case bags of coal) from the villages to the city can be so overloaded (see picture above), carry boys on the top of the cabin as well as on top of the goods and hanging off the back, and still not get pulled in by the Police. Notice the logo on the front of the lorry – God is Great! I'm shocked!
I met a man who called himself a 'physiotherapist' this week, when I asked where he did his training, it turns out he had shadowed a Rehabilitation Therapist in Freetown for 2 weeks and that qualified him to be working as a physiotherapist. Shockingly worrying.
A cook book I recently flicked through looking for flapjacks, instead presented me with snake stir fry, rat soup, squirrel stew and roast monkey! I'm shocked!

These have happened in the last week and gives you a taster of 'normal' life here! They are all fairly funny stories, where no real harm is done (though potentially some could be lethal).

However, other situations we find ourselves in are both shocking and saddening. I'm reminded this past month how important the role of advocacy is for our disabled children. For some we are fighting against the systems and environments, for others we're trying to give them a voice among their own families.
Khallon, who you might remember was having casting done (by another organisation) for his club feet, sadly where he lives is just too wet with mud and waste water of every description (washing up, bathing, toileting, spitting - a common habit here). His cast soon looked like this and did nothing to hold the correct postion....

So not surprisingly it did not work as well as hoped. However this new brace will hopefully enable us to help him weight bear some more, maybe allowing walking eventually.

A 12 year old boy is beaten so badly over a year ago, rumour has it by his father, that he is recently admitted to hospital for 2 months, the father is arrested, momentarily, but let out on bail to supposedly provide for the boy. The child had been put in a safe place with another NGO, but the father took him back. The boy is now living again with the father, yet still cannot walk independently. It took us over an hour walking in the hot sun to find this boy again having been moved from the safe house he was in. Now we are trying to focus on the boys rehab while involving another NGO to get involved in his social situation.

Some of our other children in the communities were given the opportunity to apply for admission to the SOS Home for the Physically Challenged, where they would be housed and attend the SOS school. However they do not want to accept the children with Cerebral Palsy as they often also have learning difficulties and therefore would bring the exam results of the school down. There are no schools in Sierra Leone which have special units / facilities for any child with any kind of learning difficulty. Recently, Enable the Children were able to direct much funding to the SOS system, however when it has come to wanting to use some of that money for part sponsorship of our disabled children who have been accepted, we have not (??yet??) been given access to the funds.
Amara's family are given the opportunity for surgery to release the contractures in his knees (which we have been searching for for the past 6 months) to be paid (by us 300,000 Le plus transport) and we offered to drive him the 3 hours to Makeni as it is hard for a person with a spinal cord injury to travel by public transport. Amara has gained so much active movement back in his legs since completing the treatment for TB spine, that this operation would give him the chance to walk again instead of being wheelchair bound, the state he has been in for over 2 years now. But we had such a battle with his family who could not be bothered to find a relative who could be admitted with Amara to care and cook for him. And they could not even find the money for them to buy food while he was admitted, even though if he were at home they would have to feed him. I'm shocked that it was such a stress and the family did not jump at this once in a lifetime opportunity. We did however win in the end when a kind 'uncle' agreed to take responsibility for Amara. Sadly for the uncle it does probably mean that he may loose his job on return to Freetown, but thank God he was willing to make this sacrifice. You can see on Amara's face on the way to Makeni how much it means to him. They are still in the hospital in Makeni and Amara would have had his surgery today if all went as planned.

There are many many other stories like this that can be told. In fact each child we treat has their own history. So as shocking as it can be to live in this country, still we press on being whatever help we can be in whatever situation we find ourselves in.

Psalm 10:12
Arise, LORD! Lift up your hand, O God. Do not forget the helpless.

For those of you who pray, please consider:
  • STOP PRESS – we are having interviews tomorrow (Wednesday 7th) for the new post of Rehabilitation Assistant. This is a huge next step for our work as much training and supervision will be needed of the new person. We have been so blessed with Abu, but finding another person so committed, reliable, trustworthy and willing to break cultural boundaries to work on the floor with disabled children, will not be an easy task.
  • Amara - post operatively for good recovery, the rehab process of walking again, and that his family will take good care of him.
  • Khallon – that he too would be able to walk on his feet. There is not much else we can do for him now.
  • For the boy who had been badly beaten, for the healing of his wounds physically and emotionally. For his safety and for justice to come about.
  • Thank God for Sarah's (new British OT) safe arrival and swift settling in. She is enjoying the home visits, working hard with learning Krio, becoming a local at getting public transport and generally doing very well surviving here! Still needs some cockroach and spider killing practice mind!
  • For Abu who is also doing well with work. He has been instrumental with many of these difficult patient situations as well as helping Sarah into the work here.
  • For the on-going process of Registration of Enable the Children with the SL government. I have been hard at work on Constitutions, Job Descriptions, Policy making etc etc. But things move slowly in Africa, and I don't have much time left!
  • And do keep praying for our safety and sanity. Only by God's grace can we continue with these draining situations, but we believe he has directed us to where we are, and we trust he will continue to show us the way.

Thank you once again, without you this team would be a lot smaller.

African Proverb

"The river swells with the contribution of small streams"

With love from Vez

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Pioneering... becoming and living the new vision.

I read this morning about what it means to be a PIONEER.
The greek word is ARCHEGOS, a leader who is also a founder: someone who breaks a path and estabilishes a way.

I felt very much when I came out to Sierra Leone in April 07 to start this work with disabled children in their own homes, that I was starting something new - pioneering it.

Breaking new paths has not been easy: knocking on doors for partnerships and being rejected, sometimes scraping for money, searching for patients and it taking time to find them, getting used to new cultures and how relationships interact, trying to 'achieve' in my own world view but that not being the way here, and often feeling lonely and battling on against what feels like everything and everyone.

But I'm inspired by this...

The archegos pioneers the way by becoming and living the new vision, not by 'claiming new ground' or by force.
And that I feel is what I have done... I praise God that by seeking His ways here for this work and having Sierra Leone become my home since the start of this project and before then (during my time working with Mercy Ships), I have had such a living adventure of this dream become a reality.

We discover God revealing himself to us in Jesus as we follow the path and way of Jesus. Wise and prudent people would not have been able to work out, without revelation from God, that it was to be through suffering that Jesus would restore the glorious destiny of humanitiy and all creation.

So despite the road being tough at times, I'm glad I have lived through it, pioneering something that I know is close to Jesus' heart, and as well inspired in me by God. Without Him I am nothing, and without His inspiration I would have done nothing.

Let us all be inspired to DREAM God's BIGGER dream, then go on pioneering His love to the places and people around us - wherever we are.

This is what the CMS community is all about - working together all over the world to discover Jesus and live out the new vision for life he gives. That's truely pioneering.

Inspiration on Pioneering (in green) from Tim Dakin General Secretary Church Mission Society

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Fatmata had her baby!

Fatmata is one of the nurses I trained up to do the physiotherapy for the ladies who suffer from foot drop after an obstructed labour. She was heavily pregnant when I left to go back to the UK, and she came in last week to show off her beautiful baby - Fatima. She is healthy and putting on weight well. Fatmatat too is happy and doing well.
Helen and I cover the wards for now, but we look forward to having our team mate Fatmata back in October.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

September's Newsletter - Introducing 'Enable the Children'

Dear Friends,
I've been back in Sierra Leone for almost a week now and thought I should write you all an update as to our progress over the summer months before I get too busy.

Sierra Leone is still in it's rainy season which means although the temperatures have dropped, it is also very wet. Returning to my room I found much mould, not only on clothes and wood but even on plastic flipflops!! So I spent the rest of my 'settling-in' weekend cleaning and washing clothes. But there I was complaining about the puddles of water collecting at the foot of my window despite it not being open, only to think about how my families were bearing up. I have to say we English like to complain about the rain and cold, but at least we can stay dry and warm inside our houses. Local families here normally live outdoors except for sleeping, so my thoughts went to them cuddling inside small 1 room corrugated iron houses often insulated with cardboard or newspaper, with roof leaking despite plastic coverings, wind and rain pushing their way through every possible gap in ill-fitting doors and wood covered windows. How easy I have it compared to these brave resilient people? It's no wonder people get sick so easily in this season. And I'm saddened to say that yet another one of our patients Saffiatu passed away. Abu has spent time with the family to encourage and pray with them, but what can we say that will make things better? Nothing, but we do go and just be with them in sympathy.

Many of you will remember Ibrahim – a young boy living with his family in Freetown's biggest slum area, Kroo Bay, situated deep in a valley. We visited them yesterday and despite a 4ft high barrier wall their house had been badly flooded a few weeks previous. The water marks were still visible and they were still trying to dry the floor and furniture out. Thankfully no-one was hurt from their family, other families were not so fortunate.

So Abu and I have been able to do some home visits but when the rain is really heavy it makes it very difficult to reach our families. This has given us some time in this past week to discuss all the changes that will be taking place over the next 3 months and beyond.
As many of you will have heard as I've seen you over the summer in the UK, I have made the decision to leave SL in December and return to living in the UK. This has been a difficult decision to make as my compassion for the disabled children of Sierra Leone has not faded. However I feel that now is the time to hand over and allow other people to input their skills and ideas. This especially impacts Abu as he will step into the role of Project Leader in country. He has shown much progress in his management skills over the past year, and has done a super job of keeping the therapy going in my absence. I hope this opportunity will allow him to step up even further to be thinking professionally in running this much needed service to our families and to 'act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God' Micah 6:8. In the meantime I will remain overseeing from the UK, having contact via Skype to support the team and their everyday happenings. We are excited about tomorrows arrival of Sarah our new Occupational Therapist. She will join our team to work alongside Abu, supporting him in his new role, but also bringing an OT focus to our work. All the while, Mr Abdul (the driver) and Abu (mechanic and logistics) also remain committed to us and have been dedicated throughout this rainy season to keep the wheels rolling. I praise God for them all! Our team is growing and we hope that others will continue to join us both nationally and internationally.

Other changes that will take place are that we have a new name.... 'Enable the children' or 'Enable dem pikin dem' in krio. Whilst in the UK I sought wisdom from many people about registering as a charity independently and decided that it would not be the wisest way to go. For one thing it would cost plenty of money, but mainly because there is a Christian umbrella organisation (Links International) that would happily take us on and manage all the coming and goings of our accounts. Therefore for a small fee we would be registered under their charity number and avoid many other costs. This seems the most sensible way ahead for us, although changes in where to give will not change until the new year. I will let you know as and when that happens.

Along with our new name, Abu stepping up, and new team members starting with us, my moving to the UK will also open new opportunities to network and promote Enable the Children. One area I would like to focus on is to run some training for qualified therapists in the UK in how they can adapt their skills to be useful in a developing world situation, hopefully encouraging others to give some of their time and skills to build the capacity of rehab services in places where it is desperately needed.

So having had a great time in the UK spending time with friends and family, this next phase will be extremely busy and new territory for us all. I'm glad I had a good rest while home and enjoyed much time with Rob. Despite much travelling around, we saw and did some great things together including boat rides, seeing a ballet in London, meals out, walks in the great outdoors and our first trip to the cinema! I also loved playing with many friends children as well as my cute nephew – Jack (see photo). Have to say it was quite strange being with white children after all this time, one friend even caught me chatting away to her 1 year old in krio!!

So now it's back to work, and if you would like to stand with us in prayer here's a few pointers:
For Sarah as she travels then settles into this new country and culture.
For Abu in his new role with more responsibility for planning and organising himself and others. For his patience, integrity and wisdom working in this challenging country.
For our families who have struggled in the rains with poor health, fragile homes and increasing demands with the financial crisis the rest of the world is struggling with.
For safety as we travel on slippery muddy roads and steep paths. Praise God that (despite costing lots of money) mechanic Abu was able to identify and fix major work on the cars brakes and suspension, preventing potentially nasty accidents. Please also pray we manage to fix the steering problem – turning right would be quite useful!!
Pray for myself that I will know what to do, how + when regarding all the big changes.
Finally pray for us as a team that we will know God's everlasting peace and protection as we endeavour to be Jesus' gentle healing hands and words to these children and their families. Thank you

With love from

1 Chronicles 4:10
“Oh Lord that you would bless me and expand my territory! Please be with me in all that I do, and keep me from trouble and pain”

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Mr Abdul, my driver....

Let me introduce you...

Mr Abdul is my new driver
He started at the end of May and we've been VERY happy with him from Day 1
He's a quiet and gentle man, but faithful to his word
He's patient with the bad drivers in this country and takes time on the terrible roads
I'm confident to let him drive Abu and I around, and Bertie seems to have taken to him well too.
and best of all he's always ON TIME!

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Vez's Adventures in SL June 09

Dear Friends,
This is the last newsletter that I will be writing before I go back to the UK for some leave. I will be spending some time working, training, reporting back but also (and maybe more of a highlight for me!) will be taking some time to rest with friends and family.

So this month, I thought I'd feedback to you with some photos, after all a picture speaks a thousand words.
So here we go...

Psalm 150 :1
Give thanks to the Lord, call on His name;

make known among the nations what he has done.

So that should give you a good picture of what we get up to out here. Fun, rewarding, but also very stressful and tiring at times. God always sustains us. A few people have asked about my plans. Well, I will be back to SL early September when I will also be joined by Sarah the new Occupational Therapist. She will take over the supervision of this work, while Abu will hopefully step into more responsibility. The future is always in God's hands, but Him willing, this work has shown to be successful and we hope it will continue to be an evident way of sharing God's love with his people.

Hope to see some of you over my holidays, otherwise, stay in touch...
With love, Vez