Sunday, 13 November 2011

Dear ~Enable the Children~ Supporters,

It's been a while since I've updated you in whats been going on.... so now is my chance.

Firstly - you'll see below is Sarah's Newsletter.
Sarah is our on the ground British Occupational Therapist. She is doing an amazing job in Sierra Leone at the grass roots level of working with our Sierra Leonean staff to keep the project rolling.

Read some encouraging and challenging stories of life out there.

Secondly - update from the UK office (- my home and many other parts of my mind and life!)
~ Amazingly we now have enough money to buy a 'new to us' 4x4 car. People have been incredibly generous at helping us get the word of our need out there and to fund-raise. We have had enough donations for not only buying the car, but also shipping it out too, whilst maintaining the provision of the on-going day to day costs. Thank you all for your generousity - you know who you are.

~ It has been a HUGE job weighing up the tangled dilemmas of buying in Freetown vs buying in UK and shipping. I think (although we're still keeping our eyes open) we've decided on buying in the UK as we can get much more for our money and we can check the engine and mechanics with an excellently qualified engineer (thanks Dan!). HOWEVER - this does mean trying to navigate the complex and time consuming rigmorals of the Sierra Leone ports and tax systems. We think we are entitled to a duty free import, but re-registering our project with the Minsitry of Social Welfare this year has also taken some unexpected demands (both financially and paperwork). We'll get there in the end and are not worried about the registration as we know it will happen in their (african) timing, but we don't want to be delayed in getting the new car out while we wait for the Waiver of Duty. I have also learnt much about shipping to Africa, if anyone ever needs to know, and I've been in touch with some very helpful people!
Watch this space for what happens next!

~ There have been many developments in SL that we've been working on too.
~ Our new Rehab Assistant, Ambrose George, is had an excellent start with us and Sarah is focusing much time on getting him up to scratch.

~ Abu, our longest standing staff member is leading Ambrose through the communities as he also keeps his head down, focussed on the children we work with and encouraging their progress.

~ The rent on our office space in Freetown will be coming to an end next March and we are currently investigating relocating to a space where Abu might live and caretake the equipment and property. This is another huge step for us in empowering our local staff.

~ There is a possibility of taking on yet another Rehab Assistant later in the year, who has been working with MercyShips for the past year. There is plenty of work for us all, it's just more a case of how many staff we can manage to oversee, support and pay.

~ We have not finalised a new permanent driver for the project yet, but the SL team are using a few different people as they see how that turns out.

~ Katy, the US Physical Therapist who I will have mentioned to some of you, is now living with her husband in Freetown and is currently working out how she will split her time between the government run Children's hospital and our own project. We hope she will pick up some of a supervisory role and become a good clinical advisor of the project as sadly Sarah will coming to the end of her time in SL later next year.

~ We've decided that the demands of me working fulltime (as a physio here in the UK) as well as trying to oversee the complexities of the above for ~ETC~ has frankly been too much. Rob and I have agreed that I'm going to give up a day a week to keep the ~ETC~ stuff going, and believe me it is for his gain as much as mine!!

Every step along the way I feel we are blind to what is coming next. All I can do is try to make wise decisions for now and trust in God for where we are heading.

For as long as God continues to provide the people, the love, the finances and the passion, we will carry on strong.

Thank you for being a part of this journey with us. Keep praying and being hopeful for the work are are striving to do.

Vez and Rob

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Sarah's Newsletter: Freetown Sept 2011 to present day

The final Frontier....(ok, slight exagguration, maybe more accurate to title this “The final Year”)

Greetings from Sierra Leone! I'm now 2 months into my final chunk of time in Freetown. It's good to be back here after a restful, restorative time in the UK for the summer (or rainy season as it's known here: Sierra Leone saw non-stop heavy rain throughout the UK summer!)

Here is just a little up-date on some things going on here...

Visits to children:
It's been fab to see the improvement many of our children made while I was away (the local staff bravely carried on therapy sessions in spite of the crazy rain).

One of our children who made significant improvements is Fausatu, a 3 ½ year old girl. She has cerebral palsy that mostly affects the strength and control in her legs and the use of her right hand.
When we saw her for the 1st time in May she could only stand up for short periods of time and was crawling to get around. We taught Fausatu's family exercises to do, and they have worked so hard with her in between our visits. She is now walking, although a little unsteadily, and able to kick a ball around her garden.
Last visit she was starting to use both hands together for activities like threading and crayoning.

Sad news: Sadly as always a few of our disabled children passed away during the rainy seasons. They're particularly vulnerable to illnesses during the rains due to a combination of their condition and the poor housing.

Staff update:

Our new Rehab Assistant, called Ambrose, (not George as I originally thought) is a great addition to the team. He is enthusiastic and commited. He still has a lot to learn and much of the remainder of my time here will involve investing in teaching him therapy skills as well as more basic administration skills.

Drivers – Our driver Abdul has moved onto another outside of Freetown. We have not yet appointed a new one, but have had 2 different drivers come as needed to work.

The Landrover: Unfortunately the Landrover keeps breaking down (3 times since I've been back) and is always tricky and expensive to have fixed due to limited access to car parts and skilled mechanics...but even in this God has been amazing to us as it only ever seems to break down at the end of the working day and I have never yet been left broken down and stranded. Our founder Vez is looking into buying a more reliable car in the UK and shipping it out, but it may take a little while to get here.

Upcoming Family visit: I'm very excited that both my brother and sister are coming to visit (within the next week!).
My sister, Esther, is a speech therapist, so is kindly going to do some visits to the children with the most significant problems with swallowing/choking and with communicating as well as doing some training for our team.

Please pray....

My time here only serves to increase my belief that many breakthroughs only happen through prayer. Please continue to remember us, especially with regards to:

• Finding a new car, the shipping process (especially getting out of the port without paying bribes) & for the Landrover to last til it arrives.

• Ambrose to continue learn skills and to stay working with Enable the Children after he completes his year trainee post. It'd be amazing to have another trained up worker in the team.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Help us get there...

Our dedicated team are currently reaching out to 107 disabled children and their families.
We go to them, in their homes, schools, communities.

Help us to get there.

In aid of our fundraising
to buy a new car,

would YOU hold a…. . .…

~ Car Boot Sale ~ Wine Tasting Evening ~ Car Wash
~ Open Garden ~ Marathon / Races ~ Sponsored...…
~ Coffee Morning ~ African Evening ~ Raffle
~ Selling crafts ~ Clothes swop ~ Cream Tea

Bertie” the Landrover was bought used in 2007 when the ~Enable the Children~ project was still in it’s beginnings. Since then many bumpy miles have passed under it’s wheels, many smiles at our arrival, many children clambering on it’s bonnet and many costly mechanical repairs have taken place.

Some of our families live in the city of Freetown where the roads are busy and in poor condition, while many more live in outskirt communities where the roads are sometimes barely passable.
“Bertie” is essential in taking the team directly to the disabled children we work with in Sierra Leone, making most efficient use of our time and efforts.

Sadly, we have come to a time when we feel “Bertie” is costing too much to keep going and a better and more reliable vehicle would be a wiser use of money.

We are currently looking into the best way to do this: buying in-country – with less selection and premium prices; or importing one into SL –which may cause us headaches with unofficial importation and customs problems.

Either way we are needing to raise £6000.

This is where we hope you will help us.

With some individuals already pledging money, we hope more of you might be willing to do some fundraising…

There are some ideas on the 1st page for you to get your creative minds churning…
But any idea, however big or small, that you can put into action will be a great help.
I am also available to come to any groups or meetings of children or adults to give a presentation so you can see the work we are doing which will surely inspire and motivate you.

Any money you raise for us will be a wonderful contribution towards the new car that we so desperately need.
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See our website for info on donating the money straight to our account (#3507) with Links International.

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Registered under Charity No. Links International 327000

Thank you so much.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

A story from one of our children...

Abibatu is a delightful little girl, who is around the age of 8 years old. She has a diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy which affects her muscle strength and control in her legs and her perceptual skills.

When ~Enable the Children~ first assessed her, she struggled to stand upright adopting a posture of bent, knock knees and tip-toed ankles, due to the tightness in her muscles. She had poor balance and would often fall down when walking on the uneven terrain where she was living. In addition to this she had difficulty writing and letter formation related to perceptual difficulties of shape, size and orientation.
~Enable the Children~ have been visiting Abibatu in her own home for around 2 years doing stretches, balance exercises, shape awareness and pre-writing skills, as well as educating and teaching the family how to do this on a more day-to-day basis. We had also supported the family by advising and helping fund medical treatment when Abibatu became seriously unwell with malaria
one rainy season. During this long term relationship with the family we have seen a real difference in the care of Abibatu by the family and the neighbours around her.

Following our intervention, it is great to see that Abibatu's posture and balance has significantly improved, demonstrated by the fact she can now run around without falling over. Overall she has a more upright gait, less tightness in her muscles and increased muscle strength. Abibatu is doing well with shapes and is beginning to start copying letters of the alphabet. With our encouragement she has just started attending SOS International School, who have a boarding facility for children with disability where ~Enable the Children~ will continue to work with her. She has made friends quickly and can now be seen running around playing and laughing with the other children.

We know Abibatu's future has been changed for the better because of the intervention of ~Enablethe Children~.

Thank you
for playing your part in changing this child's life.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

It's been a steady start to the Year

The work of ~Enable the Children~ has continued in Sierra Leone at a good pace this year. As it has started to cool a little with the Harmittan season (when sands are blown down from the deserts and a haze blocks some on the sun). It has made getting around a little more bearable. That said, the temperatures are still in the high 20's and since many of our families are unreachable by car the physical exhaustion just getting to their homes is demanding.

Sarah and Abu continue to do a great job of identifying new patients and ways to help them as well as the long standing ones. You can see from the photos, they are doing well at bringing fun and happiness to these often ignored disabled children.
News from the team on the ground in SL:
Happy news: We had three young babies with Erb’s palsy referred to us last July. Erb’s palsy is weakness or paralysis affecting the shoulder, arm and/or hand due to nerve damage usually during birth. It has been great to be able to discharge two of these babies as they have full active return of movement. The other little girl, Isata, now 10 months old, had a very floppy arm with no apparent active movement in it. We taught her mum stretches and massage for the arm and have progressed onto weight bearing through the arm. Both mum and Isata are doing really well with the rehab program and she now has some voluntary movement in her shoulder and elbow.

• Sad news: It is very sad to report that Hawa, a delightful and intelligent 13 year old with paralysis from the waist down as a result of TB spine, now has a deep pressure sore on her bottom. Because of this the SOS school have withdrawn their funding of her place at school and her medical care. Please pray for her and our plans to take her on an approximately 2 hour journey to the Aberdeens woman centre (the old Mercy Ships Centre), who have kindly agreed to dress the wound and teach the family how to do the wound care.

• New things: We have recently had our first referrals of children who are on the autistic spectrum disorder, Lydia, Alpha and Abdul. Amazingly this coincided with the visit of a friend’s nephew, Kyle from Canada, who works with adults on the autistic spectrum and was able to give us some training and advice as well as come on visits to two of the children. It has been hugely exciting to set up programs for these children for behavioural management and functional goals to help the families who are currently at a loss of how best to manage their care.

Many of you may know that ~ETC~ started with strong links with Mercy Ships and although we continue to work closely with them we are standing on our own two feet more strongly now too. This has lead to their logo on our cars being replaced with ours! The photo shows how we are proudly known in SL now. 'Bertie' is recognised by many and our reputation continues to spread with our presence known and expected in many communities.

The view from ETC's base - right in the heart of Freetown

Our office base has also seemed to work well. To have a place that we call our own and a space that Abu can write notes, plan equipment and Sarah can live has been great. It has been shared more recently with an African family that causes it's own craziness and exposure to 'real' african life, but soon an American friend of ours will move back (she is the original tenant). We will soon decide whether to continue in this same location as it will mean committing to another year's rent. It's likely we'll stay.

Sarah Arbery (British nurse assistant) returned after 3 months with ~ETC~ in Sierra Leone. She was a great asset to the team and reports she came back a different person! Here is a little of her reflection:
"What a wonderful 10 weeks I had in Freetown, Sierra Leone!...I had a fantastic time visiting and helping out with the work of Enable the Children.
Sarah A - the challenges of getting to our patients!Some very challenging times but above all it was a privilege to meet and work with the children and their families. The ETC team made me feel very welcome and put me to work straightaway. Visiting the children in their homes was so delightful (trying to run a session in a dark tiny space with chickens around your feet was just one of the challenges we faced!). During my time in with ETC I managed to visit some individual children three times, in this time it was great meet them, work with them and see them develop/progress. For a lot of the children and families we visited it was evident that our visit was the highlight of their month. The children were so willing to listen and work with us ... it was wonderful it see them engage with their disability in such a positive way with us.Sarah and the team are amazing! Sarah continues to drive ETC forward and is so passionate about the work even when faced with challenges like culture differences, language and financial concerns. Abu (Rehab Assistant) is a wonderfully hard working man with a wonderful smile, he works so well with the children. He is a wonderful role model and the children adore him! Mr Abdul (driver) I enjoyed some great 'conversations' with Mr Abdul most consisted of me saying 'well done Mr Abdul!' (after he had tackled a particularly tricky road) and his response would be a huge smile. Abu Max (mechanic) is very committed to the work of ETC and was always at the end of the phone if we needed him to rescue us when the car had decided to stop (!)Thank you so much ETC for allowing me to be a part of the work out in Freetown...I hope to return some day soon!"

The Finance report for the last year is being put together as we speak. A huge task each month is keeping track of what goes where both in SL and UK, transferring money out to SL and making sure there is enough coming in. We give thanks to Links International who help us manage some of that, but mostly we thank you all for being our supporters. If you'd like more of a breakdown of where our money goes then please do email me. But at a glance you'll celebrate to know that in 2010 ~ETC~ raised just over £12,000. British staff all work as volunteers and we pay our SL team. All other money goes towards our beneficiaries and their needs eg. Special equipment, fuel to get to them, office rental, and SL tax and national insurance.

Coming soon, will be many new needs for the work to continue and expand as it moves forward. Sadly, too much money was spent on car maintenance in the last year (nearly 25% of total expenditure). Therefore the Exec Board have proposed that we should start thinking about buying a newer vehicle. We demand a lot of this vehicle and will need to research hard to find the right replacement. Not only that, but we will need to raise the funds too. If anyone has any ideas of how to do this I'd love to hear from you. I'm happy to travel to come a speak to groups to help inform and motivate. The more support we can get behind this new need the better. Please let me know if you can help fund raise.

Also, Rob and I will be travelling out to Freetown on April 24th for 2 weeks. I'm so excited about going back but fear we'll be extremely busy. Many plans have already been made, including an Executive Board meeting; appraisals for Abu, Sarah and Abdul; researching a new car; problem solving some complex patients; teaching for our own team and at the government Children's hospital; and a highlight - our annual Beach Gathering with all our ~ETC~ families. It will certainly be a productive time and we can't wait to see so many of our special friends again.
Other needs that we have been asked for by the team are mobile phones that are no longer needed here, personal cassette players (walkmans), pressure relieving cushions (for children like Hawa (mentioned above), and a big request of a laptop. Sarah's computer has broken out there and in order to keep on top of finances, reports and communication, it is essential to have a computer there. Abu has been learning to do these management tasks too and so therefore in the long run we would need to provide a computer anyway. So just in case anyone has an old one kicking around that is not in use, or were thinking of replacing what they have, then PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE think of us!
Right, that is certainly enough to bring you up to date on ~Enable the Children~. We love having you all as part of our team and this work would not be able to happen if it were not for you.
Every blessing on you and your families in all that you do.
Love Verity & Rob and all the ~ETC~ team