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 Because of this the SOS school have withdrawn their funding of her place at school and her medical care.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