Tuesday, 2 February 2010

A long overdue update...

Dear Friends,
It's seems far too long since I wrote to you all last, and I apologise for the silence. As you know in the last few months I have been transitioning back to life in the UK, and it's certainly been a bumpy ride (though the roads are notably smoother over here!). It's not until you return to your supposedly 'normal' culture that you realise quite how much you have adjusted to your 'foreign' culture. Still, slowly life is becoming more 'normal' – grey skies and freezing winds are as miserable as I ever remember! Christmas and New Year has been full of wonderful times with friends and family, and Rob and I are fuzzy with excitement of being able to spend as much time as we like together (and he's not sick of me yet!).
From my last month in Sierra Leone, there were some encouraging moments that just left me with smiles.

Minkalu Junior – the police lady's son with quadriplegic cerebral palsy started school. He sits proudly at the front of his class in the chair we provided, and participates well verbally. We are yet to see how he manages with written tasks along with his peers. Abu and Sarah will continue to work with him on that, and will also advise the teacher. It was a privilege to see him amongst his classmates and since he is well know in the community he seems to have plenty of friends in the playground too.

Then there is Mamasu, a teenage girl with Cerebral Palsy who gave up on school last year as she was never passing Class 1 (with 6 yr olds). We have over the months been trying to get her into various vocational training placements, but since she is wheelchair bound it was difficult to find somewhere she could travel to by being pushed and once there could actually get inside. Finally Abu and Mamasu's mum found a kind tailor in the area who agreed to have Mamasu help him in the mornings. We watched to see his commitment to teaching her and we were happy to see that after a month the sessions were still going. Thanks to a kind donation from Mercy Ships, we were then able to present Mamasu with her own hand sewing machine and a box of threads and equipment. And as you can see she is thrilled with this. Pray with us that Mamasu will utilise this opportunity to be what she can be and that the tailor will continue patiently with her.

Before I left Sierra Leone in December, still so much more was happening than I could ever report back to you. If you want to see the real busyness of life out there, you really have to go and experience it for yourself. Sarah is finding that out, and since being there alone she has done a wonderful job of learning to juggle it all. I am supporting her with regular Skype calls, and she reports back that Abu is helping make some of the decisions as they go along. It's a joy to hear the work going on so well. Josephine too is continuing to work with Sarah twice a week and for both assistants, training in more Occupational Therapy skills continues.

Other current news from out in SL, Sarah has moved to a new apartment in Freetown with some American friends of ours running another Christ-centred programme with vulnerable children. It is a great move to be more central and will cut out much traffic time and has space for teaching. It may also lead on to having a more permanent office base there, which I dream might be utilised for theraplay groups offering support for the mums and a safe play space for the children with disability. It has been a real blessing to be helped along with wisdom, advice and encouragement from other similar organisations, and we give God thanks for them, whom without, ~Enable the Children~ would not be in existence.

Having now returned to the UK, ~Enable the Children~ work continues here for me and it's certainly keeping me on my toes. The biggest change you should know about is that we have come under the registered charity Links International (http://www.linksinternational.org.uk/). They act as an umbrella organisation and represent many smaller projects around the world. They will handle the finances and send it across to Sierra Leone when we request it (providing it's there!). The main reason we have done this, is that now we are officially recognised in Sierra Leone, we also want to have a more official front here in the UK.

So what will this mean for you as supporters?
We would love you to continue your support of our work in Sierra Leone if you still feel able to do so. The money you give pays for Abu, Josephine and Abdul's salary, the on-going costs of running Bertie the Landrover so we can get around, the specialist equipment we design and make with local craftsmen, donations to families in particular need, contributions to medical expenses of our disabled children if they go to other institutes for treatment, occasional sponsorship of our children into schools and many other day to day costs. We keep accurate records of our expenditure and are thankful for every penny that goes towards meeting these costs, without your generous provision we would not be able to continue this much needed work.

How can you give now?
For those who are already supporting I will contact you shortly about transferring your donation to Links International.
For those who want to start giving it's easy. All you need to do it send a cheque to Links International Trust, PO Box 198, Littlehampton, W.Sussex, BN16 3UQ. Make the cheque out to Links International Trust but clearly identify that it's for ~Enable the Children~ Acct No. 3507. However, if you pay tax we can also reclaim the gift aid if you sign a declaration, (can be found at www.linksinternational.org.uk/Give) or please do drop me an email, and I'd be glad to show you the way.

What else is new?
- Well, I hope to get a website up and running in the near future. This is a task I feel overwhelmed by, but one that once running will really advertise our work positively.
- Sarah's sister is currently out in SL, and she is gathering film footage of our day to day work. We hope she will then be able to turn this into a short presentation of our beautiful kids and our wonderful team doing their stuff.
- Having visited Church Mission Society (http://www.cms-uk.org/) my sending organisation last week, they continue to want to be linked with ~Enable the Children~ and support us with the HR of sending more people out. I hope to be getting involved in training more qualified therapists in this country in how to adapt their skills to work in poorly-resourced countries such as SL.
- We are also urgently looking for another qualified Physiotherapist or Occupational Therapist to go out to Sierra Leone and work alongside our team. If any one knows of someone who might be interested, please do let me know.
- As life settles for me, I'd also like to make myself available to come and visit different groups, both contacts of old and new places. There is so much I can report back on, and as most of you will know, my enthusiasm and love for these children best comes across when I tell their stories. If that might interest you, then please do get in touch, though beware it will not be for a while yet, too much job hunting to be done.

We'd still like to keep you in touch with what is going on in Sierra Leone, and so I will send on Sarah's newsletter instead of mine. You will however also hear from me from time to time. If you would no longer like to receive these emails please do reply me and I will 'unsubscribe' you! We will not be offended and in fact it's a privilege to have had you on board till now. We are so thankful for all who have given of time and money, prayers and encouragement, clothes, toys and chocolate! I want to personally say it has been true honour to me to have been able to do and see and achieve all that ~Enable the Children~ is now, thank you for helping me along, and let's give the glory and credit to our faithful Father in heaven.

My goodbyes in Sierra Leone were as you can imagine extremely difficult. I stumble even now as I think back to the many great friends I had made. The families were humbly grateful for what we do for them, and the children's courage and determination is nothing short of incredibly inspiring. Many tears flowed and many prayers prayed. Out of their little they gave a lot – a lot of love and life and hope. With so much despair in the world, and so much 'aid' being given, sometimes we can wonder where is it all going and is it all worth it. There are people in Sierra Leone who have the will to change their future, many of those are the children and families served by ~Enable the Children~ and of course people like Abu, Josephine and Sarah. As Mother Teresa once said 'In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.' And it has been with that great love that has been shown to me by Jesus, that I have indeed tried to be the gentle and devoted hands and feet of Jesus in the desperate places I found myself.

The memories will go on with me forever, and having founded ~Enable the Children~ not only will the work develop, but I'll have the privilege of being involved from the sidelines, most probably forever too. I am very sure that my feet will reach the red soils of Sierra Leone again, but for now I hand on the baton to the ~Enable~ team.

On this note, I will leave you to the joys of the SOS children at my farewell. We had an afternoon of fun and madness, they sang songs they had written for me, we shared soft drinks and presents.... an incredibly moving afternoon. All was well until Jeneba (see on my back) often a stubborn and difficult girl started the tears and begging me to stay, then Hawanatu, then Abu, Ishmael and Kadiatu, Isatu, Mohammed and Emmanuel.... before I knew it all the rest were all crying too. Such a sad day for me – and those cheeky rascals still managed to jump on Bertie and barricade my exit route!! One day I will return to see those beautiful faces again!
With love from Vez

matthew 19:14

Jesus said “let the little child come to me, and do not hinder them,
for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these”