Yvonne, Roger, Christine & Richard have returned safe and well from their study trip to Hastings. They all worked incredibly hard, and have opened up lines of communication that will serve the Link and Hastings SL well. Here’s the full version of the press release, most of which was published in the Hastings Observer.
Four members of the Hastings Sierra Leone Friendship Link returned from Sierra Leone last week after 10 days in our namesake village.
Christine and Richard Lane and Roger Mitchell along with Yvonne Johnson of the Hastings Sierra Leone Association from London spent their time working with twinned schools and in the Hastings Health Centre in our Twin Town in Sierra Leone.
Christine, Chair of the Link Health Sub-Committee said;
“Ebola has clearly had a deep and lasting impact on so much of life in Sierra Leone though the number of deaths within the communities in and around Hastings was relatively few compared with other parts of the country. The National Police Training Academy in Hastings was used as an acute Ebola Treatment Centre. This clearly caused our friends great anxiety initially, lest the disease should escape into the community. As time went on it became clear that the Centre was effectively isolated and was saving very many lives so it became a matter of some pride.”
Roger and Richard spent the week largely in schools seeking to rebuild the links that had been growing so well before the epidemic, while Christine concentrated on supporting the work in the Health Centre which has recently been rewired with funds raised by the Rotary Club of St. Leonards-on-Sea.
Roger, the Schools Liaison coordinator for the Link, said;
“We found the warmth of welcome in all our dozen partner schools typically enthusiastic and heart-warming. Teaching English songs was great fun with the younger children as they sing so vigorously and accompany everything with clapping. Playing with number series went down well with older pupils. In the secondary schools I was able to discuss topics such as the systems of government and the environment. Teachers in the UK would be appalled at the numbers of pupils their partners are expected to teach – 50 in a class is common and often it rises to 80 or more being taught in two classes in the same cramped space facing blackboards at opposite ends of the room.”
The group stayed in the Twin Town Centre in Hastings which was built between 2007 and 2010 with funds raised here in the UK. They found it very comfortable once they got used to the low voltage mains supply coming on for a random few hours every other day or so! A back-up generator was a smelly and noisy ‘must’, but prone to blow light bulbs and camera chargers. The week ended with a swim for some in the Atlantic at Lumley Beach – bliss!
“Our visit was vital to help the Link understand what impact the Ebola outbreak had had on the community, what their priorities are and how we can support their efforts to recover from it. We held several meetings with village community leaders to discuss the future work that the Link might consider supporting. The front runner, once the Health Centre development is
complete, seems to be a covered Market to boost the economy of the area. Supporting and helping the local economy recover with projects like this and helping to resource the schools and get children back into education are clearly priorities which the Link will need to focus on in its future fund raising strategy, alongside further improvements to the Health Centre. We will be organising fundraising events in the coming year and publishing our new Strategy in the summer to highlight the priorities for the community in our Twin Town and how people here in Hastings and the rest of the UK can help. ”
Donations can be made online through our website www.hastingshastings.org.uk or by cheque to Hastings Sierra Leone Friendship Link or HSLFL at HSLFL Treasurer, 33 Senlac Way, St. Leonards on Sea, TN37 7JG.