day 6

Day 6 - Alarms are set, we grab breakfast of of spicy cassava and banana, before motorbikes take us deep into Sierra Leone’s inaccessible and remote north.
The bike journeys out here are always a thrill, with unpredictable roads littered with holes, detours through thick bush, pools of water and swampy grasses. You want a good driver!
We pass through countless villages of grass thatched mud huts, kids scream and wave with excited delight. Life is simple and serene yet desperately hard.
Our first stop is Samaya, the head village in the tambakha region. Since 2009 we have built classrooms and homes, provided their first water pump, and run their only secondary school. Our swift visit is to assess needs and make plans for a returning trip. We are greeted with signs written by the kids exclaiming thanks, but my favourite is one that says Steve increase your help! Cheeky!
School gardens are happening and finally one of the big NGOs are helping! The WFP are supplying rice and oil to help with our school feeding program.
Next stop is madina and a visit to old friends. Rev Bai and his wife Alice run a wonderful project powered simply by their enormous hearts and hard work. They farm to feed the 40 or so children that they care for and are simply an inspiration. We help fix their tractor so farming can continue and spend a wonderful few hours meeting some of their new young recruits.
It’s then back on bikes, at the main river crossing with the wooden canoes full we elect to wade through the waters following local women with their babies. It’s a wonderful momentary respite from all the dust and heat.
Upon returning to kamakwie our last job of the day is to check in on our cassava plantation the kids and staff are so proud of. It’s flourishing well and in a month or so will be helping feed mouths and reducing costs. Brilliant!

day6.jpg
day61.jpg
day62.jpg
day63.jpg

day 5, Chiefs, snakes and ducks!

Day 5 - Chiefs, snakes and ducks!
A delightfully random day! It’s begins with a remarkable ceremony held at our secondary school. Students offer a crescendo of songs. Well written and perfectly delivered speeches follow, detailing the achievements of our schools within the community. Then from out of nowhere we become honorary chiefs! Soon we are named Pa Almamy and Pa Santigi (big chief and slightly not so big chief) and are crowned in traditional clothing that helps us sweat a bit more in the heat! :) its a brilliantly joyous moment to the hundreds of kids and teachers present! A heartfelt honour given, smiles broader than ever fill the rest of the morning!
It’s then back to work. I’ve organised for all of our now big kids (18plus) to come and map out plans for their immediate future. For most independent living has begun and it’s not at all easy! They still depend on us. We spend hours considering viable options. Situations range from moving back to their village to heading to university. All those early distant dreams of becoming a policeman or teacher are now their reality. It’s decision time. College, university, business start up, vocational training, gaining a drivers license, teacher training are all pathways we hope to be able to offer in the coming months with one last push to help them on their way.
Then the circle begins again. There’s a lack of younger children in our programs so myself and our social welfare worker Suzanne head off into the wilderness for the afternoon to villages we do not know in search of marginalised children living in deep poverty. Sadly passing through just 3 villages we find many. Parents lost and kids left stranded. A solitary small meal a day, the dream of school already ended so soon, bloated bellies, rags for clothes. It’s impossible to ignore, and although financially we shouldn’t help more, no doubt we will!
We leave one village having been given the gift of a duck for the start of an unexpected duck project.
On our homeward journey my motorbike narrowly misses (mm’s!!!!!) a green mamba bathing in the sun. My worst fear! Next we hear news from our Tombo project that a cobra is in the toilet!! Snake alert activated

day5.jpg
day51.jpg
day52.jpg
day53.jpg
day56.jpg

june 26th - day 4.

Day 4 - A return to our original home.
It’s a frustrating and uneventful start to the day as we attempt to move from tombo to our project in the north. The roadside negotiation with 10 locals (only one of whom is the actual taxi driver) chews up an hour, before we finally hit the road in a battered, heavily decorated taxi. Sadly the new road project has ended at the half way point, a new government has new ideas and completing this road isn’t one of them. A slow and uncomfortable familiar ride over cratered ground and through rivers of water begins.
8 hours in we finally complete the 120km route to our home, Orphfunds original home. Kamakwie.
There are both girls and boys football matches being played, all of which stop in an instant as they hear our car arrive. Cheering, dancing, hugs and smiles flow for the rest of the day.
These are our original kids and aunties who we’ve been in this with since 2007 and a huge delight to be back home with old friends.
We take a tour and it’s beyond impressive! Suzanne our new centre manager has worked wonders! The homes sparkle with pride, the newly approved and painted primary and secondary schools glow, surrounded by the most impressive Orphfund garden I have seen!
To come back and see such progress has inspired me beyond my dreams! This place is finally where we have all been working so hard to take it to.
In the dying light we hand out more school bags and then settle down under the stars with the aunties, laughing our way into the night. Thank you kamakwie!

kamakwie.jpg
kamakwie2.jpg
kamakwie3.jpg
kamakwie4.jpg

Kadiatu.

So this girl made me cry today! Kadiatu is our shining female star and 18 is about to sit her final exams. If all goes well she’ll get to go to university and study agriculture.
Sat in the back of a hot long bumpy taxi journey between our projects I asked her “kadiatu where did I find you?” She replied “steve, you found me at the slum at the rubbish tip when I was 9 years old.” 
In that moment everything was validated and all the years of effort just made perfect sense. Those little lost souls turn into this! it just takes someone to help! 
I’m so epically happy I have never given up and that I found kadiatu and all the other Orphfund kids.

girl.jpg



june 25th, Day 3.

Day 3 - Monday. Most of the children return to school but with some awaiting exams at the end of the week we still had many willing helpers around the centre. With a rain free morning Mark was able to train and oversee the re-roofing of one of our homes, whilst I lead the paint team to freshen up the houses. More stones, sand and cement arrived as hand made bricks are prepared for the kitchen. 
There is a constant hum of activity; the kids launder their clothes, kadiatu the head girl makes local donuts, others catch a nap in the shade, more seedlings arrive, Aunty haja is usually singing or laughing, Tolo our manager always doing something. Its a real, vibrant, ever flowing community here. Harmonious and wonderful!
We finish painting in the afternoon downpour to the sounds of Sierra Leonean music i introduce to the kids. They translate one song to me and tell me how it’s about how they want to sell their belly as it’s too expensive to feed it! The evening meeting with the staff is based on that very issue. Food prices are a real issue here so I learn about every meal, cost and ingredient in a mission to help find healthier and more effective ways of feeding the kids. We will get there but it’s not easy!



day3.2.jpg
day 3.jpg
day 3.1.jpg
day.3.jpg

June 24th - Day 2.

Day 2 - Sunday is a buzz of activity around the centre! We start with planting. With constantly rising food prices the need to grow our own food is essential. 23 mango and 26 cashew trees are planted, with banana, guava and avocado to come. We’re also planning a sweet potato crop and a kitchen garden for chillies, onions, cucumbers to be grown.
The star of the day is 14 year old Amadu! He came and asked me for 60cents as he wants to repair the television. An hour or two later the kids are elated as the tv has sound again! They dance to a reggae DVD in celebration. Go amadu!!
Another highlight was handing out the school bags full of amazing gear. (Maths sets, lunch bowls, pens, pencils, books, water bottles) make for some truly grateful children.
Throughout the day the local team of builders make some steady progress on our new kitchen, foundations and bricks are made.
In the late afternoon we randomly stumble on to the set of a Sierra Leonean horror movie (very odd!) before playing out a Team Orphfund game of football - Another epic encounter ending 11-9!
The night ends with a food and nutrition meeting as we try to work out the best for the kids with our limited monthly budgets.
Each day is non stop and tiring, but to be here and be able to take so many steps forward is so worthwhile!

cassava3.jpg
cassava.jpg
cassava2.jpg
cassava4.jpg

June 23rd. Day 1

tombo1.jpg

Day 1. Two sleep deprived chaps arrive at our Tombo children’s village, our home nestled high up in the hills on the outskirts of Freetown.
It’s most definitely rainy season! Heavy storms break up our first day as we share stories with the children and learn how they are doing at school. They are such a delightful bunch of kids all growing so fast! It’s hard now to believe years ago they were living on the streets or on rubbish tips.
Between downpours we manage to buy cement, roofing sheets, sand, fix bicycles and make a start on building a new kitchen, repair homes and the new chicken project.
The day ends at 10.30pm following a long meeting with staff as we share dreams and plans of Orphfunds future here.
More storms and then came the mosquitos....

tombo2.jpg
tombo3.jpg
tombo4.jpg

Steve and Mark return to Sierra leone!

Tomorrow somewhat reluctantly (and partially excitedly) i head back to Sierra Leone for a whirlwind 8 days of intensive work across our OrphFund projects.
Its always emotional. I'll be sad to leave my own family for that of my Orphfund family. I'm worried that i'll become sick again! I'm excited to see how those little faces have grown. I'm reluctant, as its always an enormous challenge and such a hard place to work. Its exhausting and definitely not another holiday. We've 2 nights at airports and will be non stop building, holding meetings, travelling across most of the country in local taxis and motorbikes and catching up with all those kids.

Sierra Leone brings the biggest highs and lows of any place we work. Its desperately poor and i continue to go back as what we have set up since 2007 is making huge differences in so many lives and helping build a better future for those we can reach out to.

Myself and Mark Wilfred Anstey who is coming with me pay our own way, and give up way more than money to make this magic happen. (Blood, sweat, tears and a good chunk of our hearts go into this!)
We'd both be so grateful if you can help the OrphFund kids out and donate whatever you can to help us be as productive as we can be out there. We've masses to do and achieve and really need donations to help us help them.

Aussies/world can donate here - https://www.mycause.com.au/page/206314/back-to-sierra-leone
UK here - https://www.thebiggive.org.uk/s/campaign

Huge thanks to anyone that helps! Lets make things better in the world!

School In A Bag!

A great day with an old friend in Somerset yesterday! We are teaming up again with the wonderful charity School in a bag who have donated 65 bags full of amazing educational goodies for our kids in Sierra Leone. So far they’ve handed out over 100000 bags for kids around the world!! Amazing!!

schoolbag.jpg