Latest on the ebola situation

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

As far as we know (20th August), there have not been any cases of ebola in Hastings SL, though Sallu and his team are very worried and are doing their best to be ready, and to educate the public about what they can do. We at the Link will do our best to respond to the situation as it develops. Dr Effi Gooding has sent us the following harrowing account of the situation in the east of the country, written by a Sierra Leonean reporter:

KAILAHUN, SIERRA LEONE—The day shift at the Ebola treatment centre has barely begun when a nurse runs up to Ewenn Chenard to announce the first corpse of the day.
Chenard’s team is responsible for removing bodies from the isolation ward and the nurse stretches out her forearm, showing him the “212” she has written haphazardly on her skin. “C3. Ten years. OK?”
Such numbers and letters have become the language of death at the Médecins Sans Frontières treatment centre in Kailahun district, the epicentre of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. “212” is the patient’s identification number; “C3” is the tent where Chenard will find the corpse; “ten years” — the patient’s age. Chenard will need a child-sized body bag.
Patient 212’s name is Jimmy and he is the 90th death at this centre since it opened seven weeks ago. He will not be buried today because there are already nine bodies in the morgue — one has been rotting for four days. “That is a problem,” says Sebastian Stein, who works with Chenard. “Not enough burial teams.”
This is the reality of fighting this Ebola outbreak. Too many patients, too many bodies, and not nearly enough money, people, chlorine or even ambulances to stop the dying. Last week, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a global health emergency.
There is no great mystery in containing an Ebola outbreak; every flare-up since 1976 has been successfully quelled. But this time, the virus has slithered into a new part of Africa, gaining a foothold in large cities. Now more than 1,800 infections have been reported in four West African countries, including in their capitals; in Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital, there are at least 11 cases, but a treatment centre has yet to open.
This outbreak has also been a disaster of poverty, emerging in some of the world’s poorest nations.
Forty per cent of the total reported cases in this outbreak have been in Sierra Leone. Among the affected countries, it is the worst off by nearly every development measure, ranking 183 out of 187 on the Human Development Index with more than half its population living below the poverty line.
With the arrival of Ebola, an already weak health system is now buckling. “The system’s already stretched to the limit,” said Dr. Jacob Mufunda, the country’s WHO representative. “(We need) surge capacity. Not for three weeks — six months to one year, from other countries.”
If the world hadn’t noticed Sierra Leone’s struggles before, it certainly does now. Unless Ebola is defeated in the West African villages and cities seeding the outbreak, the virus will continue to be an international threat; it has already brought patients to hospitals in Spain and the United States and caused scares as close to home as Brampton.
Millions have recently been pledged toward fighting the outbreak and reinforcements are beginning to trickle in. But it’s not coming fast enough.
In Kailahun, the district with the highest number of cases in Sierra Leone, the struggle remains lonely and exhausting. The fight has largely fallen to Sierra Leoneans like Daniel James, who volunteers his days burying infected corpses, or Ahmed Lengor, paid $10 per shift to clean vomit and diarrhea teeming with virus.
Everyone is exhausted. The day after Jimmy’s death, 10 more people died at the MSF centre, sending Chenard into the isolation ward five times, even though protocols discourage more than three daily entries to avoid fatigue and mistakes.
Only four ambulances serve this district of roughly 465,000 and one pulls up with five people crammed inside — three are confirmed to have Ebola. If the other two were not already infected, and did not have protection, chances are they probably have the virus now.
And at the treatment centre, the biggest ever built by MSF, they have reached maximum capacity. More than 150 trees had to be cut to make space for what was to be a 50-bed centre. There are now 80 beds.
MSF is refusing to expand. Without additional staff and resources, patients and staff will be put at risk, says Anja Wolz, who has been running MSF’s emergency response in Kailahun. She already served Ebola missions in Guinea and Liberia when MSF asked her to come to Sierra Leone. A few days ago, she finally went home for a much-deserved break but says she expects to spend Christmas in West Africa.
With Ebola, you need to be a step ahead, she says. In Sierra Leone, they have been “two steps behind, four steps behind.”
“It’s frustrating. I’m really frustrated,” she says. “We know what to do but we don’t have the capacity to do it.”
At the MSF centre, everyone’s nightmare is what happened at the Kenema government hospital.
No MSF worker has ever died from Ebola. But in Kenema, five hours from Kailahun along a pothole-infested road, more than 20 hospital workers have died from Ebola since May 25, when the Sierra Leone outbreak was declared. Among them was Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan, the country’s top expert on viral hemorrhagic fevers.
Chenard went to Kenema to help identify what went wrong. “It’s the worst place I’ve seen as an Ebola treatment centre,” says the 32-year-old Frenchman, a logistician who specializes in water and sanitation. “Take everything that you want to avoid in a treatment centre — and you are in Kenema.”
There was blood on the walls, starving patients and hygienists using water that was “brown like mud.” Health workers moved from high-risk to low-risk areas without changing clothes; “you never knew who was next to you,” Chenard says. “It could be a patient, suspected or confirmed … it could be hospital personnel.”
He recommended the hospital hire at least 46 more staff to support infection control and sanitation in its isolation ward. When he visited, there were only three.
“They don’t have the means to work properly,” he says. “It’s not like they do not try. They really try their best. But there are not enough numbers and there are not enough skills.”
There are now plans to open an isolation ward outside of Kenema, which the Red Cross will run.
At the MSF centre, built on years of experience, the rules are fastidious. There is no touching, even at the compound where staff stay, and when a visitor briefly leans against a pole, she is quickly admonished not to touch anything.
The personal protective equipment, or PPE, is your lifeline in the isolation ward and it takes 15 to 20 minutes to put on, a slow, precise process that requires a supervising hygienist who checks for gaps, tears and oversights. But when you leave the ward, it becomes your greatest threat if you don’t disrobe properly, ensuring the contaminated suit does not brush against your skin or clothes.
Since nothing leaves isolation, doctors shout their medical notes to a nurse standing on the other side of the fence. “Abdominal pain,” a doctor calls out, as a nurse scribbles. “Needs diapers.” Twice a day, waste from the contaminated area gets burned in a large pit, including the 150 Tyvek suits used daily.
The 92 hygienists — all locals — perform one of the centre’s most gruelling jobs. Among them is Ahmed Lengor, a 46-year-old who since June has walked 20 minutes from his home to the treatment centre where he is paid a daily rate of 42,000 leones, about $10. His days are filled with vomit, stool, blood and bodies — which he must clean then dispose of.
Before he started this job, Lengor enjoyed sitting in the town centre and chatting with friends and neighbours. These days, people whisper when he comes near and move away.
“I just let it go,” he says. “Whatever you think about me, I don’t care. All I know is I’m doing something for my people, to save them.”
In sleepy Kailahun town, life continues; women sell grilled corn roadside; children play in the fields; motorcycles zoom along the dusty roads, sometimes with two or three on a bike.
But all is not normal. Plastic buckets filled with chlorine water are everywhere and the local economy all but stopped after the market and only bank closed. Sierra Leoneans, prone to hugging, handholding and handshaking, keep their distance.
Last Thursday, both Kailahun and Kenema were quarantined by the military — no moving in or out. The next day, there were no admissions at the MSF centre.
“I feel more insecure when there’s zero,” Wolz said at the district health office Saturday morning, where daily Ebola meetings are being held. “Like, going from seven to zero. We need to find out why there are no new admissions.”
These daily meetings are attended every day by some 50 people — NGO workers, government officials, local chiefs — who gather to discuss the latest numbers and problems: villages that initially refused chlorine are now complaining they have none; another patient who has gone into hiding; a new rumour spreading from Nigeria that saltwater washes will ward off Ebola.
They also talk about the contact tracers, who have been charged with the most important job in stemming this outbreak — identifying every person who has contacted a patient and following them for 21 days, the maximum incubation time for the virus.
There are currently 1,264 contacts being traced across the country. In Kailahun, there are 270, currently being traced by 314 volunteers equipped with a day’s worth of training and a cellphone.
But it is obvious that contacts are being missed. There are still new cases, new deaths in the villages.
“Only yesterday, there were three community deaths; today about four to six,” Wolz said last week. “This means we are not following up. It’s not functional at all.”
Alpha Sesay is a volunteer contact tracer with the Red Cross. He is 20, polite and wears a seemingly permanent smile and a T-shirt that says, “Spread the word and not the disease. Kick Ebola out of Sierra Leone.”
Sesay’s job is to follow up on a teenage boy he has been tracking who came to Kailahun after his father died in another village. Sesay walks to the teenager’s home and asks if anyone has seen him today. A boy, maybe 6, shakes his head; the teenager’s mother also shakes her head. Everyone gathered around the home shake their heads.
Sesay has only just received the contact tracing form. He starts to fill it out but scraps it when someone points out he has written the wrong name; he pulls out another one and finally enters the answers from his previous two visits.
Did the teen have nausea or vomiting? Muscle pain? Fever? No to all of these. Sesay could only take the boy’s word. He does not use a thermometer to check for fever.
After 15 minutes, the boy still hasn’t showed. Sesay shrugs and leaves but returns later that evening, catching him this time. Any symptoms? Still no, no, no. The boy has now made it through day nine of being traced by Sesay and has 12 more to go — unless he gets sick or runs away.
Sesay doesn’t get paid for this work, which has exposed him to potential Ebola patients as well as threats from nervous townspeople.
But he won’t quit, even though his brother told him to. “I want to help,” he says brightly, with that wide smile. “So soon we can kick this Ebola virus out of this country.”
A group of glum-looking young men are sweating in a dusty lot near the centre of Kailahun, listening to a stern 20-minute lecture.
“Whatever you do today will reflect on you tomorrow,” says Eric Moosa, the district health superintendent. “If you are a hard worker, it will reflect on you in the future.” The boys stare at him in silence.
“We know it’s a risky job,” says Daniel James, a Red Cross volunteer. “But please, let’s do it from our heart.” More stares, more silence.
These boys are in their late teens and early 20s, dressed in soccer jerseys and dirty flip flops. They are the burial team and theirs is one of the most dangerous jobs in any Ebola outbreak.
Ebola is relentless. Even after it dispatches its victim, the virus will shed from the corpse, making funerals super-spreading events. Mourners often wash, touch or even embrace the bodies of their dead. Two or three weeks ago, two unsafe burials were performed in a nearby village “and then more than 30 to 35 people got infected,” says MSF’s Wolz.
Today’s lecture is in response to last week’s strike by some of the gravediggers. The boys wanted more than the monthly “incentive” of 350,000 leones, or $88, paid by the Ministry of Health. Hardly enough to make such grim and dangerous work appealing. But there are simply no other jobs in Kailahun due to the outbreak.
These boys labour in the heat in full PPEs. Sweat pours out of their boots and glasses when they take them off. The slightest mistake — a slip of the glove, a snag on a nail — could cost their life.
Their days are spent with corpses, some found lying in pools of blood. Sometimes, rigor mortis has seized the bodies and they have to wrestle with stiff limbs to fit them in the body bags.
One man told James he has nightmares of an Ebola corpse chasing him or sitting on his bed. “It was the first dead body he had seen,” James says. “Sometimes I worry when I see them doing the job because I can see they are frightened.”
James’s team heads to a village deep in the bush called Sambalu, where a death has been reported. Another team will take care of the 12 bodies waiting at the MSF morgue.
Like most days, the morning is filled with frustrating delays — the car needs fuel, they need to fetch more PPEs. Jimmy Kapetshi, a doctor from the Democratic Republic of Congo who samples suspected Ebola corpses, has yet to arrive.
At 12:30, the team finally hits a road so bumpy and treacherous that two cars wind up in a fender bender. When they reach Sambalu, Manjo Lamin is already there, a health official with the Ebola surveillance team as well as the 46th patient at the MSF centre — he was infected after poking his finger with a needle while taking a specimen.
Lamin has already done a preliminary investigation and says three men have washed the dead body. But he does not think the man died of Ebola — he was more than 100 years old and had not left the village in 20 years.
Moses Msellu, a villager, says there have been no Ebola cases in Sambalu, even though the village is a short paddle across the Mua River to Guinea, where the outbreak originated as early as December of last year.
The team gathers. Should they spend precious time burying the old man the “Ebola way”? Or appease the villagers by allowing a traditional burial?
But in this “era of Ebola,” the question “What if?” lingers. They suit up.
As they walk toward the dead man’s home, the villagers watch in silence, some snapping pictures. The team sprays everything with chlorine from tanks worn on their backs; the dirt floor outside the door, the rickety wooden bench.
In the dead man’s tiny room, goggles immediately fog up from the heat. The mood is tense and James’ voice takes on a hint of urgency. “Spray,” he commands, pointing to the walls. “Spray,” he says, pointing to a bucket. “Spray,” he says, pointing to the dead man, lying in bed beneath a thin blanket.
Kapetshi enters and carefully swabs inside the man’s mouth and nose. He takes a needle — slowly, slowly — and draws unpumped blood from the man’s heart.
The body is wrapped in a white sheet and body bagged — twice. Chlorine is sprayed after every step. They heave the corpse onto a stretcher and lay it on the ground outside so the villagers can gather and pray.
Kapetshi has seen Ebola many times and is not worried. “This is not Ebola,” he says. But even so, his entire body is disinfected before he carefully removes the suit, demanding again and again to be sprayed. His sample tubes are in a plastic bag that is sprayed, bagged again, and sprayed one more time.
The blood tests come back negative but no one feels the day was wasted. For one day, at least, there is one less “what if.”
The latest blood results have been posted: Negative, negative, negative, negative, negative, negative, negative.
A commotion suddenly erupts among the staff at the MSF centre.
“Seven people cured in one day,” nurse Géraldine Bégué exclaims. “I’ve never seen it.”
Everyone is especially excited about patient “65.” Dr. Sameh Kirollos, a 30-year-old doctor from Egypt, recognizes the number immediately — Isata, a 22-month-old girl admitted on the same day Kirollos started working here two months ago.
When Isata first arrived, she was terrified, says Stein, a water and sanitation specialist. She had been confirmed positive and was supposed to stay in the high-risk isolation area, accessible only to workers clad in PPE. But the area is fenced off with only plastic orange mesh — easily escaped by a toddler crawling underneath, which is exactly what Isata did.
“She’s so small and tiny and she can hardly walk, but everyone was freaking out,” Stein says. “It was this terrible situation where they were forming a circle around her, trying to keep her there, while people were very quickly trying to put on their PPE so they could put her back.”
Such is the savagery of Ebola — even a crying toddler becomes a source of terror and cannot be comforted.
MSF staff say babies never survive Ebola but last week, Isata became the youngest patient to be discharged from the centre. Staffers stayed late and came in on their day off to watch her leave. After she was doused in chlorine, she tottered out of the isolation ward and into the open arms of the joyful nurse. Everyone cheered.
But Isata’s struggle is only just beginning. She has survived Ebola but her parents did not. Across the district, workers are looking for other children orphaned or left vulnerable by Ebola; at last count there were 82.
The consequences of this outbreak will ripple for years, says Dr. James Sylvester Squire, Kailahun’s district medical officer. There has been no school or economic activity for months and for survivors like Mamie Lebbie — the country’s first laboratory-confirmed patient and survivor — her illness prevented her from farming and she is only now ploughing her fields, while others are already growing their rice; she worries about where she will get food or money in the coming months.
“The impact is huge,” Squire says. “Even in the next two years you’ll see the effects. People have lost entire families.”
Right now, the outbreak shows no signs of slowing. The staff at the MSF centre were still celebrating Isata and the other six discharges when Wolz received some news that ambulances were on the way.
“Twelve more are coming,” she tells a staffer. He grimaces and sighs deeply, shrugs and gets back to work.
Read more about: Global health


Family BBQ in the woods at Hastings : Saturday 12th July

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

We had a great time in St Helen’s Woods on July 12th. The weather was looking very threatening and we nearly cancelled, but in fact the sun came out at 3 o’clock and everything was perfect. A whole coachload of our SL friends from London & Essex came down, and everyone had a good time. Yvonne brought lovely African food to supplement the traditional BBQ fare. The youngsters enjoyed  face painting, a scavenger hunt in the woods and a lucky dip. A few brave souls actually danced. We raised about £300 for the health centre – perhaps we could have raised more if the event hadn’t clashed with the St Leonards Festival.

A huge thank-you to everyone who donated raffle prizes and helped; and to Bill Orton, who generously donated the home-made sausages, to Sainsbury’s for buns and soft drinks, and to Judith Collins and the Scouts Association for the loan of two field toilets.


Minutes of ordinary general meeting of June 11th

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

Hastings Sierra Leone Friendship Link

Ordinary general meeting 11th June 2014-06-13




Present: Melanie Bray, Christine Boulton-Lane, Edwin Rew, Eileen Evans, Liz MacKay, Derek Tomblin (chair) Nola McSweeney, Diane Reed, Roger Mitchell, Cllr Nigel Sinden, Michael Foster, Lynn White, Robin Gray (minutes)


1. Apologies for Absence: Gillian Rubi, Cllrs Peter Pragnell and Jeremy Birch, Paul Cabban, John Geater, Mandy Hinxman, Richard Homewood, Ernie Grice, Stella Underwood, Ray Keene, Bill Evans


2. Minutes of ordinary general meeting of 23rd April and matters arising not covered in today’s agenda: The minutes were approved. The meeting noted two slight clarifications that Ray Keene requested. In §2, the apparent large loss on the calendars was due partly to an accounting error, and partly to the fact that more calendar sales money trickled in subsequently. In §8 (ii), the Gold Account still does pay interest, although at a fairly low rate.


3. Chairman’s Report. Robin conveyed Richard’s apologies that he was not able to chair what would have been his first meeting as Link chairman. Richard had sent word that the posters, flyers and advanced sales vouchers for the BBQ on July 12th would be ready next week. He will convene a meeting of the BBQ sub-committee as soon as he gets back. Members will then need urgently to distribute posters etc in the schools and in the community.


4. Treasurer’s Report. The meeting considered Ray’s statement of our balances as at 21st April, but there were no questions arising. Derek explained that £4883 rather than a round £5k had been sent as a first tranche for the Health Centre Wall, simply because there was already £117 unused in the account over there. Robin to attach to the Minutes a few pictures of the early work on the wall.


5. Schools Report inc May exchange visit. Roger reported that the teachers’ exchange trip had gone very well, although only Kainde Pearce of the parallel local authority group came, because of visa problems. The English teachers have now met and agreed that the programme was too tiring. In future, a free evening will be built into the programme, as well as an opportunity for a school’s SL visitor to meet the whole staff. We will take on board some advice from Hull about providing visitors with a ‘welcome pack’ to include a limited amount of GBPs for personal use. All schools will be submitting a grant application by 30th June.

Castledown School (linked with St Malumba Catholic School) no longer wishes to be part of the partnership scheme. As it happens, Christ Church School wants a genuinely curriculum-based partnership, so will probably link with St Malumba rather than Kankaylay. The future of St Leonards Cof E School’s link is uncertain. Roger stressed a serious problem with some links, in that SL schools sometimes see a partnership unrealistically in terms of financial support, whereas the true purpose of a partnership is to support global curriculum work and foster mutual understanding. Sue Furness has kindly agreed to lead the next teachers’ exchange trip, in 2015.

We discussed the problem of shipping goods to SL. The swimming pool at St Paul’s is still available as a collecting and storage point, but the question remains as to whether we can spend £3-4k on shipping items that may in any case be worth less than that. It is agreed that anything we send must be what is actually needed. Lynn and Diane stressed that they know from their exchange partner Irene that the school books etc sent out were all considered very useful. Melanie wondered if we could not share shipping costs with the Waterloo group. Edwin has visited an on-line forum to see if there is a possibility of sharing with another client of the Rokel Shipping Co, but has had no reply. Robin is to look out an earlier contact from a naval officer who suggested that the Navy has ships that call at Freetown every few months.

Michael reported that St Leonards Rotarians are hoping to support us with a significant donation, though that would have to be linked to a specific need that had been established. After some discussion, it was agreed that the Health Centre has an urgent need for a generator and an electric pump. Derek will cost these out and report back Michael acting for the Rotarians. In any event, one would source items in SL, get them bought through the MOSH (the health authority), and then reimburse the MOSH.


6. Other report. (a) Health. Christine reported that Sallu has informed her that the shelving is completed and an additional cupboard built. The next meeting of the working group is on June 23rd.

(b) Water. Derek reported that the wells (at Edest and Jui) have been completed. It must of course be understood that these were separate projects run by the two schools (Little Ridge and Dudley Infants) in response to a particular need. Our schools are not normally to be seen as just fundraisers. Melanie wondered if solar panels would not be the way to power water-pumps. Derek reminded us that there are still significant problems with the cost of batteries.


7. Events and fundraising. (a) Family BBQ in St Helen’s Woods on Saturday July 12th (3pm – 7pm). See also § 3 above. Robin will email out posters as soon as HBC graphics department has finished them. Members will have to help with publicity, distributing flyers, putting notices on trees in the woods etc. Robin to ask the Preservation Society to put the event in its newsletter. Roger doubted if the schools would have a lot of time to devote to publicising the event.

(b) Concert in St Mary-in-the-Castle on October 17th. This is a free let by kind permission of Buckswood School. The programme will be split between Sussex Brass, a drummer who specialises in West African drumming, and Robertsbridge Community Choir with a medley of Africa-inspired songs. We hope Yvonne and Yvette will provide a buffet. The ticket price was agreed as £15, to include the buffet. The meeting discussed other practical details: seating layout, stewards, the title of the event for the posters etc. Roger will ensure it is publicised in the Hastings Week brochure and website.

Roger also reported that Roger Wilcock has agreed to put on a Big Choir concert for us in 2015.

(c) Talks and presentations. Derek and Robin have given an illustrated talk to the St Leonards Rotarians (see §5 above). Christine has recently given two illustrated talks.

(d) “Posh” Jumble Sale on Saturday 20th September. At Christ Church Hall – organised by Christine and Liz. We are asked to start putting good quality items aside. Liz can help find storage. Many helpers will be needed on the day.


8. AOB. (1) The matter of a mention of Hastings Sierra Leone on the Rye Road twinning sign was raised again. Michael will contact Jeremy Birch.

(2) Roger has some rectangles of tie-dyed fabric (roughly table set size) produced by a group of women run by Francis Mason’s wife (to help women earn a little money). Please contact him ( if you think you could sell some.

(3) Roger asked us to think about our next project. He suggests that we could address the needs of polio victims. Michelle d’Acosta (who distributed the crutches we collected in 2011) has an interesting project underway for polio victims in Freetown: see or her Youtube clip: . Edwin observed that the King’s College Sierra Leone Health Partnership has an interest in polio.

(4) Roger observed that this year’s Thanksgiving Service is on September 14th. Please let Robin know if you would be interested in joining a party to go up to London – we could hire a minibus again.


9. Date of Next Meeting. Wednesday 3rd September at 6.05 in the Town Hall (confirmed).




Blocks are being made

Blocks are being made

The foundations

The foundations

Making pillars

Making pillars

Reinforced pillars

Reinforced pillars


Minutes of 2014 AGM

Saturday, May 17th, 2014

Hastings Sierra Leone Friendship Link

Annual General Meeting

held at the Town Hall, Hastings, on 10th May 2014


The formal business was preceded by an African-style buffet lunch provided by Yvonne, Yvette and Janet. Once again the Link would like to express its appreciation for our London friends’ hugely generous kindness and support.

Minutes of the meeting

 Present: Yvonne Johnson, Yvette John, Janet Seisay, Tunde Rahman, Emmanuel Nylander, Eileen Evans, Bill Evans, Margaret Mitchell, Liz Mackay, Linda Astell, Tania Kavanagh, Ray Keene,  Christine Boulton-Lane, Alison Day, Janet Jarvis, Corinne Harris, Mandy Hinxman, Carole Cabban, Paul Cabban, Cllr Peter Pragnell, Cllr Eve Martin, Sue Furness, Jacqui Lockwood, Roger Mitchell (chair §1), Nola McSweeney, Richard Lane, Richard Homewood (chair §2), Derek Tomblin, Lynn White, Cllr Eve Martin, Melanie Bray, Cllr Nigel Sinden, Cllr Jeremy Birch, John Geater, Robin Gray (minutes)

1. Apologies for absence: Angela Gartland, Richard White, Diane Reed, Jane Smith, Michael & Rosemary Foster, Amber Rudd MP, Anne Hanney, Stella Underwood,  Ernie Grice, Edwin Rew.

2. Minutes of AGM 2013 and matters arising.  With one correction (the AGM 2013 was held at Little Ridge School, not at St Paul’s School as indicated erroneously in the heading), the minutes were accepted as a true record and signed by the chairman. There were no matters arising.

3. Chairman’s report.  Roger presented his written report for the calendar year 2013 (see Appendix A), and commented on some events that have taken place in the early months of 2014.  February ’14 saw the largest exchange visit to SL to date: 20 participants. Much more work was seen to be done at the health centre; most of the 2 schools partnerships are going well. Roger thanked all those who have helped to make the Link’s work so successful, though he urged that we make every effort to involve more people in order to spread the load.

4. Election of officers.  Roger having decided to stand down after a two year stint as chairman, nominations for the chairmanship had been invited. Richard Homewood had been proposed by Ray Keene and seconded by Lynn White, and had agreed to allow his name to be put forward. There being no other nominations, this was put to the vote and carried unanimously, and Richard took the chair for the rest of the meeting.


Richard thanked Roger for his great work as chairman, and said that no doubt he will turn to Roger for advice as he endeavours to follow such a hard act. As no nominations for the other executive officer posts had been received, and since the current officers (Derek Tomblin: vice-chair; Bill Evans: membership secretary; Ray Keene: treasurer; Robin Gray: secretary) were willing to continue for another year, this was put to the vote and carried unanimously.

 5. Membership Renewal. Bill asked members to make sure that they let him know if they change their email address, since Bill depends on email to send out membership reminders etc. We consider our friends from the Hastings Association UK Branch to be automatically members of the Link, but Yvonne insisted that her association will be paying a lump sum donation of £50 to cover their affiliation.

6. Treasurer’s Report.   Ray presented his accounts, together with a written explanation (for the latter, see Appendix B). Ray reminded us that the accounts are complicated by the fact that payments in and payments out straddle the end of the calendar year.  The quiz sheets and quiz night in 2013 raised £1867, whereas in 2014 they raised £2323. Our thanks go to all who help with these, and in particular to Nola.  Nola will not be able to devote such a lot of time and energy to selling the orange sheets in future, and hopes that it will be possible to set up a team to cover this work, this autumn. She will be happy to advise.  Roger observed that even if we made a small loss (about £500) on the calendars this time, their publicity value was still considerable. Mandy wondered if the format was quite right: perhaps a smaller, narrower calendar might sell better. It was agreed that if we decide to produce a calendar again, we will discuss the format.

Ray noted that the accounts had been accepted by the Trustees.

7. Any Other Business.

(1) Roger reminded us that the second half of the exchange runs from 17th to 24th May. The soccer tournament takes place on Friday 23rd at St Leonards Academy (ex-FVS) at 1.30.  All are welcome. Cars should be parked in Filsham Road.

(2) Christine reminded us that the BBQ on July 12th is to be a family affair, running from 3pm to 7pm. Details to follow.

(3) Roger told us that this year’s Thanksgiving service for the twinning link takes place on Sunday 14th September at 3pm, followed by a meal. He hopes we will be well represented.

(4) Roger announced that there will be a fundraising concert on 17th October at 7.30pm in St.Mary-in-the-Castle. Music by Sussex Brass and others.

(5) Derek proposed that we release two tranches of £5k from the Gold account in order to allow work to start on the perimeter wall around the health centre, to safeguard the site and the well. Ray seconded the proposal, and it was carried nem con. Robin noted that he has put in a bid to the British High Commission for some funding towards this, but we have not yet heard the result of this application.

(6) Christine confirmed that she will be organising a team to run a ‘posh jumble sale’ in September or October. The church hall at Christ Church in London Road is available to us. Liz Mackay has kindly offered storage. We are all encouraged to start putting items aside.

(7) John urged that ‘Hastings Sierra Leone’ be added to the list of our twin towns on the sign on the Rye Road. Jeremy promised to raise the matter with the Council.

(8) Robin noted that the Round Table has invited local charities to bid for a pitch at the Beer & Music Festival in early July. The winner will run, and have the profits from, a ’bungee run’ plus £500. Two runners-up will have a pitch for their information stand plus £250. He will put in a bid.

8. Date of next ordinary general meeting: Wednesday 11th June at 6.05 in the Town Hall.

The formal business of the AGM was followed by presentations arising out of the February trip and updating us on current progress.

(1) Alison and Corinne spoke movingly of their experiences as first-time visitors to Sierra Leone, and about the work they did with the teachers and children in their partner schools.  They were deeply impressed by the welcome they received, by the dedication of the (often unpaid) teachers, and by the children’s thirst for education.

(2) Derek outlined the work that has been done to supply wells to Edest School and Jui School with funds raised by Dudley Infants and Little Ridge respectively. Derek explained why a well is the best option for supplying water in the area. The two wells now have fully functioning hand-pump systems.

(3) Christine described the multi-faceted work that Sallu Lansana and his team are carrying out at the health centre. She showed pictures of an important meeting at the Twin Town Centre for the launch of an important Helen Keller Foundation project to provide a programme of injections for babies. Since the visit, Sallu has reported that the two boxes of medicines sourced by Liz and handed over by Christine had already saved the lives of 4 women. Looking to the future, Christine stressed how important it is that we work with the SL health authority and the health centre, supporting them and not imposing our own expectations.

(4) Richard echoed Alison’s description of the emotions one feels in Hastings SL. He described the huge waste management problems the Freetown area faces, and re-capped the initiatives undertaken in 2010 & 2011 – composting, education, a British Council schools seminar, a mini-conference in the UK etc. He felt that that much of that early momentum is lost; but that although national projects are too big for us, he will continue to refine the biogas digester system he has introduced, in the hope that it will be more and more widely adopted in the Hastings area.

Appendix A

Chairperson’s Annual Report 2013

Management:            Committee Meetings: Our General Committee met four times during the year to hear reports from the Treasurer and the conveners of sub-committees and to discuss all issues affecting the work of the Link. Sub-Committee Meetings:  Regular meetings of the sub-committees for Health and for Education took place throughout the year.

Partnership Activities with the Community of Hastings Sierra Leone

Exchange Visits:  In February a party of 12 travelled to Sierra Leone accompanied by Yvonne Johnson. Of these 10 worked for a week in schools and two worked with the staff of the Health Centre.  Five of the teachers benefitted from British Council grants while the rest of the party were either subsidised by their schools or funded themselves.  In May a party of 9 teachers from Sierra Leone spent a week in their partner schools and enjoyed a full programme of activities in the locality.

On-going Projects:            Health Centre:            During the year the building of the extension to the Health Centre continued and at the end of the year was nearing completion. During and since the visit to the Health Centre in February the sub-committee has been increasingly concerned about building a perimeter wall around the premises, both as a protection against vandalism and ‘land-grabbing’. This is a costly undertaking since the area concerned is about an acre. The enhancement of the equipment and drug resources available to the Centre has also been a concern that has met with some success.

Waste and Recycling:  Richard Homewood reported mixed success in the development of this work in the absence of a grant to enable personal visits to trouble-shoot some of the difficulties that arose in the operation of bio-digesters. Materials used in the construction of recycling containers were stolen. It has been encouraging to have some local technical support, particularly from the Kissy Technical Institute, and plans were made for Richard and others to join the exchange party in 2014.

Schools:            We were encouraged as 5 more pairs of schools (making 12 partnerships in all) were recruited as partners during the year and applications for further grants from the British Council were successful.  This enabled plans to be laid for even larger parties of teachers to be to be exchanged in 2014. The enthusiasm of schools involved is spreading. Despite this there was concern that, as some schools moved to academy status, this enthusiasm might not be shared by their new managements.

Fund Raising:            The main concern during the year was to raise sufficient funding to secure the Health Centre. A range of events took place:

  • Over the Christmas period 2012 and into 2013 the ‘orange quiz sheets’ designed by Robin Gray and Nola McSweeney were very popular as was the hugely successful quiz night masterminded by the same team in March.
  • Some used the LOAF Walk in May to raise sponsorship.
  • Attendance at the St Leonards Festival raised some interest.
  • A Prom Concert given by Sussex Brass in Hastings Week drew a good attendance. It was wonderful to have a large contingent of our Sierra Leonean friends from London joining us and donating a very significant sum that had been raised by them and a further gift from the Church of the Good Shepherd in Collier Row.
  • Robin Gray worked tirelessly to produce a calendar. Prints of places in 1066 Country by local artists made a beautiful Christmas gift but sadly did not sell as well as had been hoped.
  • Robin has made application to a number of grant-making trusts including Comic Relief without success during the year. The expenditure of so much effort for so little return is discouraging.
  • Two schools committed themselves to raising funds to provide wells at their partners’ premises. Other schools undertook a variety of fund-raising efforts to enable teacher exchanges beyond the British Council funding and made significant educational resources available to their partners.

Goods to Sierra Leone: A container was sent out at the end of 2012 and arrived safely. Goods for a second were assembled at St Paul’s School and packed at the end of 2013 for transit. A large quantity of educational material was assembled along with medical supplies for the Health Centre. The gross cost of sending such a container, needing to be bonded until opened by reliable people in Hastings, amounted to nearly £3500. Whether such an outlay is good value was of concern to the committee.

Partnership with the Sierra Leone Hastings Association (UK):  We continued to be privileged to have such good friends amongst the Sierra Leonean diaspora in London. Your chairman and his wife were warmly welcomed at the Association’s Valentine Dance. A group of 21 from the Link attended the Association’s annual Thanksgiving Service in September and were royally received. Yvonne Johnson and Yvette John and others were regular visitors to our events in Hastings, always bringing a choice buffet – to the LOAF Walk, the AGM, the School Soccer Tournament, and the Hastings Week Concert.

To sum up, 2013 was a successful year for the Link in many ways with significant advances in Health and Education cooperation. Our concern must be that we have not gained greatly in committed membership.  We need to find ways of communicating a clear vision of what we can achieve in future to a wider constituency.

I close by thanking my colleague officers on the Committee and Trustees of the Link for their hard work throughout the year. Beyond those with specific roles there are many others who attend our rather ad-hoc Committee and support at various events and in different ways during the year .The encouragement we receive from within Hastings Borough Council and among its officers is greatly valued.

Roger Mitchell. May 2014


Appendix B

Hastings Sierra Leone Friendship Link


Treasurer’s Report for year ended 31 December 2013

 Firstly let me say that the figures within these comments relate to the last financial year and as such are somewhat historical.

In the year income totalled £50,941 (all figures to nearest pound) of which £18,813 was normal income with the balance of £32,129 relating to the visits to & from Sierra Leone in early 2013 and the advance payment of air fares by those who travelled in February 2014.

Similarly the expenditure for 2013 totalled £54,400 of which £34,179 related to the exchanges in 2013 and the payment of air fares relating to the trip in February 2014.

There was a shortfall of £1,408 between income & expenses before the exchange trip transactions which increased to £3,458 in total. The exchange trip timings mean that the income & expenses for these events bridge two financial years but all costs are covered from the schools & individuals concerned except that our charity pays the costs for Mrs Y Johnson who is invaluable in assisting the smooth running of the visits to Sierra Leone.

The main income was derived from the quiz in early 2013 which, together with the sales of the Orange quiz sheets, raised £1,867 after costs. The LOAF walk raised £625 whilst the Sussex Brass concert raised £755 net of costs.

We continue to receive support from Hastings Borough Council in connection with the official twinning with Hastings, Sierra Leone both financially and in the provision of a meeting room and other services.

Robin Gray, our Secretary, produced and distributed a calendar for 2014 with sales being made through outlets in the town and through supporters. The printing and design costs were £4,810 and in the financial year we received sale proceeds of £2260. With further amounts in 2014 a total of £4,289 was received. A further £151 was retained by our linked schools for their own funds.

During the year we received donations of £1,000 each from the Church of the Good Shepherd and the Hastings Association Sierra Leone (the London group) which are shown as part of the sum of £2420 received specifically for the Health project and further unrestricted donations of £1,546.

Our expenses are specified in the Income & Expenditure statement and are self-explanatory – the sundry expenses were mainly the football medals (covered by a donation) and a new screen used when making presentations to schools and other groups. During the year we transferred a total of £13,000 from the Gold account (ring-fenced for this purpose) towards the work on the Health Centre extension which was offset by £5,000 transferred from the Cash account to the Gold account as the cost of the erection of the security wall round the Twin Town Centre had been understated, resulting in funds from the Gold account being used rather than the Cash account.

The income and expenditure figures having been independently examined in line with Charity Commission rules and accepted by the Trustees are presented for your information.

Ray Keene

Hon.Treasurer, Hastings Sierra Leone Friendship Link



Quiz Night Results

Monday, March 24th, 2014

Friday’s Quiz Night 2014 was our best yet. 30 teams – ranging from hardened quiz enthusiasts to kind-hearted but baffled-looking Link supporters – battled it out over 10 rounds, plus a fiendish picture round aimed at those who watch too much TV. Serious quizzers were hoping to unseat the reigning champions, the redoubtable Runners and Non-runners, and it looked as though these were going to lose the crown: but they just squeezed one point ahead of arch-rivals Grinling Gibbons and Searchers on the very last round.

Michael Foster auctioned several interesting lots in his inimitable style, raising £355; the raffle raised £292; and the special Kiley’s Karpets raffle another £160. Kiley’s team had a bet on with their mates from Easylet, with the loser putting another £100 into the Link’s funds… Easylet have sworn to get their revenge next year.  All in all, the evening raised over £1600. A HUGE thank-you to everyone who helped to make the evening such a success.  It helps us edge a bit nearer towards our goal of £15,000 just to get a secure wall built around the health centre.

Eyes down...

Eyes down…

Runners & Non-Runners win - just!

Runners & Non-Runners win – just!

Jeremy & Richard at work

Jeremy & Richard at work

Orange Quiz Sheet: the answers and the winners!

Saturday, February 1st, 2014

This year’s orange quiz sheet raised over £600. Thanks to everyone who sold them for us, and of course to everyone who bought one. We sold a dozen via the Internet, and received 7 sets of answers that way. The Quizmaster tells me that the winners are:

Hilary Coote (Hastings) and Pam Robbins (Battle) with perfect scores of 70, and runners up Derek Greenup (Pett) and Mrs A Buchan (Hastings). We’ll divvy up the prize-money between them.

Here are the answers, with explanations.

  1. I’ve heard Victoria’s lasted 64 years. (4)   rain  (reign!)
  2. How popular things go down:  a ….. (5)      storm
  3. Diamonds (3)     ice
  4. Greetings, bad weather! (4)    hail
  5. Confederate general met in the street. (5)      sleet  (Lee inside st for street)
  6. You find it in the mountains – no wonder! (5)  snow (hidden answer)
  7. Rent-a-party: it’s a blast! (7)       tornado (torn + a + do)
  8. May be first down in a bank. (9)    snowdrift (anag)
  9. Sounds like a quick thrashing. (9)        hurricane

10. I am nuts about such a freak phenomenon. (7)     tsunami (anag)

11. Presents party spectacle in front of the Queen. (6)  shower (show + ER – a shower is also a presents party)

12. A meteorologist’s gut feeling, perhaps (4)       wind

13. Sounds as if the quartet is fly-fishing. (8)         forecast (four + cast)

14. Such extreme weather might toss about Trans World Airlines. (8)     heatwave (TWA inside heave)

15. We might see Oxford University Press drown in such weather. (8)    downpour      (anag. O.U.P + drown)

16. This is how low Queen Mary sank (7)       draught (though we  thought some people’s  ‘settled’ was quite good)

17. Useful in the winter to OAPs, and in summer to hang-gliders. (8)   thermals

18.  A blow to Kathleen Ferrier (9)        southerly

19. Used by swimmers in qualifying races? Can be nasty (10)   heatstroke

20. Roosevelt (not Teddy) goes round toilet for a serious wetting (5)     flood (loo inside FD)

21. A quick snack for David Jason? Extremely  (9)       frostbite (David Jason starred in ‘A Touch of Frost’ on TV)

22. The darkness you’d find in Hades (5)  shade

23. 451, according to Bradbury (10)     Fahrenheit (Fahrenheit 451 – book title)

24. Haggle about our Mum’s effects, initially (9)   barometer (barter around O,M,E – initial letters)

25. The sort of weather to make elks cry (8, 3)   mackerel sky (anag.)

26. Depression as expressed by cows (3)    low

27. Freddie, say, expands in the heat (7)      mercury (Freddie Mercury, lead singer of Queen)

28. This may, in a way, conceal tiny rotary outflow of air (11)      anticyclone (anag.)

29. Harsh ground conditions may well stop farmer cultivating (10)      permafrost (anag.)

30. Yet this current goes nowhere near the Arabian coast (4,6)    Gulf Stream

31. The child from South America that causes big climatic changes (2,4)  El Nino (El Niño) or La Nina (La Niña)

32. O unmusical bum!  – without a strange cloud in the sky (12)     cumulonimbus (anag.)

33. A lost polar bear might be this (or a London policeman caught short) (3, 6)    met office (met off ice  /or/ met officer without final –r)

34. Sudden wind in August (and at other times of year) (4)         gust (hidden answer)

35. They say there’s a bit of an atmosphere in a town in Middlesex (4)    haze (Hayes)

36. A shout of “Butterfingers!”  (4)      mist  (missed!)

37. A hot wind that might cause harm at Tangiers (9)       harmattan (hidden answer)

38. A storm in a tea-cup, Norman? (7)        typhoon (typhoo +N for Norman)

39. Biblical 20, from French “toboggan”  (6)            deluge

40. Oddly, SoMe OrGy might take one’s breath away (4)       smog (oddly = odd letters)

41. A cause of widespread concern – malt ice, or male tic, for example (7, 6)  climate change

42. A green and peaceful warrior (7)       rainbow

43. Such precipitation is a pet subject of hydrologists (4,3,4)     cats and dogs

44. A noise that isn’t only heard on Thursdays (7)     thunder (Thursday = day of Thor, god of thunder)

45. It’s wet & windy when National Symphony Orchestra is trapped in satellite (7) monsoon    (N.S.O inside moon)

46. It started like the Zodiac and went like the wind (6)       zephyr  (Zephyr & Zodiac both models of Ford cars)

47. What Nigella does with a lemon when baking  (7)        drizzle

48.  Nasty weather that may start and finish like a squash ball (6)   squall

49. Why does a film director worry? – about actors. (8)                                    overcast

50. E.g. sailing, rowing, kayaking…but when R becomes U, head for dry land! (10)  waterspout  (watersport, change –r- for –u-)

51.  Medic should resolve this matter of dehydration (7)       drought (Dr. + ought)

52. Work at holiness – on your head be it! (10)          hailstones (anag.)

53.  Was this Bishop of Winchester the first Michael Fish? (2.7)       St.Swithun/Swithin

54.  This producer of honey may give you wind (4)     Gale (proprietary brand of honey)

55. With which Benjamin Franklin took a shocking risk (9)  lightning

56. Fräulein Schiffer sounds in a less sunny mood (8)  cloudier (= Claudia,   pronounced in the German way)

57. With Tammy and Jinty, this appealed to girls in the 1970s/80s (5)    Misty (comic for girls)

58.  It looks pretty, but might make you boo a surreal air   (6,8)       aurora borealis (anag.)

59. Mathematician from the sub-continent? You’re surprisingly warm (6,6)    Indian summer

60. Coco, Sir? It’s hot (7)     sirocco (anag.)

Can you find these names or expressions, which all contain (or seem to contain) a reference to the weather?

61. How some people like eggs. (5,4,2)       sunny side up

62. A story in which a rat and a mole figure prominently (3,4,2,3,7) The Wind in the Willows

63. Lawrence’s 1915 novel (3,7)     The Rainbow

64. How quickly butter melts in a storm (4, 7, 9)    like greased lightning

65. Something that’s hard to find or doesn’t exist (6,4) Scotch mist

66. Like Gene Kelly (or the two Ronnies) (7,2,3,4)            Singing in the Rain (sorry – it should have been Morecambe & Wise, but everyone spotted it)

67. Statement of a successful umbrella manufacturer  (5,5,3,1,6,6)            Every cloud has a silver lining

68. Put something off in America (4,1,4,5)        take a rain check

69. Have too much on (2,6,5)        be snowed under

70. Northern Irish potter (9,7)           Hurricane Higgins

Comic Relief disappointment

Friday, December 6th, 2013

I’m afraid that we’ve just been told that our bid for Comic Relief funding has been unsuccessful. It’s true, of course, that Comic Relief gets far more requests for funding than it can satisfy. Still, the focus of our application – providing medical supplies , improving water and sanitation and funding educational outreach work to help mothers cope with malaria, cholera, dysentery etc – was presumably just the sort of thing that Comic Relief wants to encourage in sub-Saharan Africa. We’ll ask for feedback, but doubt if we’ll get any.

So, if anyone knows of any other source of funding, large or small, that might be interested in the Link’s work, PLEASE let us know on Actually, there is a way that all our supporters can help us. I’ve signed the Link up as a beneficiary of ‘Give as you Live’.  When I’m shopping on line, a lot of retailers including Amazon give a percentage of what I spend straight to the Hastings Sierra Leone Friendship Link, and doesn’t cost me any more than I was going to spend anyway. You go to, say that you want any money to go to the Hastings Sierra Leone Friendship Link, and the retailer automatically sends the Link a percentage. Shopping through Give as you Live is no different to shopping online normally, it’s just as secure and  shopping doesn’t cost a penny more. In fact, the only difference is the difference it will make to our donation total.
Many thanks


The Link on Countdown – how did Robin do?

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

If you saw today’s Countdown, you’ll know that it was quite an exciting match – but I was pipped at the post. It was surprising that I didn’t do a lot worse: the chap I was up against already had 4 wins under his belt. I wasted points early on – I could have got quite close on a numbers round, but didn’t bother to declare as I was sure Jonathan Liew would  get 10 points – and he messed it up. Then later I managed to make an embarrassing spelling mistake (comes of having been a French teacher for all those years: appease in English is apaise in French with one -p-.) Fortunately, getting a 9-letter word gave me a big advantage, but when it came to the crucial conundrum I hadn’t spotted where I was supposed to look for the jumbled-up letters. Silly me. Never mind, Jonathan (a really nice guy) is brilliant at the maths and pretty good at the words. I bet he makes it as an octochamp.

The important thing is that Nick Hewer asked me about Hastings Sierra Leone, so we got some useful publicity. If anyone gets to this site because I invited viewers to Google ‘Hastings Sierra Leone’, it’ll all have been worthwhile. It was good fun taking part, seeing how a studio works (you’d be amazed at how basic the set is – everything has to be manually swapped around between the word rounds and the numbers rounds), and everyone was very nice to the poor contestants. Your brain freezes under the pressure, and 30 seconds flies by, especially when you’ve got a tricky calculation to do. Talking of calculations,  I’ve been sponsored for £234 plus Gift Aid. All for the health centre project, of course. If any Link members fancy free-fall sky-diving, I’ll be happy to sponsor them.



Sussex Brass Concert a huge success

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

It was an amazing evening: a great atmosphere at St Matthew’s, and some wonderful music from Sussex Brass under the baton of Steve Hallamby. It started with both national anthems – the words to the Sierra Leonean one are very moving. Then, quite a variety of pieces – I hadn’t realised a brass band could span so many styles, from a medley of Glenn Miller numbers through the Conquest of Paradise by Vangelis to the familiar heart-warming tunes like Jerusalem and Sussex by the Sea, which the audience joined in with gusto. There were some great solos, too. If you haven’t heard Tracey on the flugelhorn, or Jonathan Chappell playing an old chair, you haven’t lived.Yvonne and her team supplied another delicious African-style supper, and all-in-all the evening raised over £1100. To cap it all, Sussex Brass had such a good time, they waived their fee and gave us a donation, and we were bowled over to be given cheques of £1000 each by our Hastings SL Association friends and by the Church of the Good Shepherd, Collier Row, which has given us tremendous support in recent years. Thanks to everyone who made the evening such a success and took us that much further along the road to putting the mothers-and-babies unit in Hastings Village back on its feet. The crystal-clear photos are all by Colin Foy – thanks, Colin.Sierra Leone music night (170)_stitchSierra Leone music night (154)Sierra Leone music night (138)Sierra Leone music night (130)Sierra Leone music night (32)Sierra Leone music night (28)Sierra Leone music night (18)

Hastings & 1066 Country Calendar for 2014

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

Do you remember our beautiful calendar in 2012? We’ve produced one for 2014 with the help of the talented members of the East Sussex Arts Club. You can get it from the Hastings Information Centre, from Yvonne and Yvette, or from Link members – ring Robin on 01424 436603. They usually cost £5, but if you want one sent to you, I’m afraid it’s £6.50 which includes postage and packing. Send a cheque (made out to Hastings SL Friendship Link) to Secretary HSLFL, Oaklands, Rock Lane, Hastings, East Sussex TN35 4NY.  Don’t forget to give your name and address!    HIC calendar poster 2014(Website)