Mark Anstey.

This man...Mark Anstey. 3 years ago I knew nothing of him. Then he wanted to come on a project. Since then we’ve spent 8 weeks together in Africa on 2 seperate trips. Side by side, sleeping on mud hut floors, roaming the remote African wilderness, frequently covered in dirt, rolling with whatever challenges are thrown at us.
And what a fantastic companion to share the world of Orphfund with! He’s someone who fully understands the complexity of Orphfund and just how hard it is to do this kind of work. He relates with the struggles and perseveres when it’s far from easy to find a way to help and make progress.
Having someone who simply believes in this the same way I do has been a revelation for me! Thank you mark for being brave enough to come and see things for yourself first hand and for seeing how we can change this world for the better for all those kids!
You’re fab brother!!

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Sento.

One of my last jobs in Sierra Leone was to visit this very special young lady. Sento been extremely sick and has had a very difficult year, we are so lucky she is still with us. She’s been so frail and unwell it really wasn’t looking good at times. She now faces daily injections to treat what was a big hole through her shin bone. She’s growing in strength and walking again and hoping to head back to school for the next academic year. Such a brave girl! Keep up the recovery sento!! And thank you to Paul our kind donor who has personally funded the treatment!

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Quarantine!

July 3rd.

So I ended up in a nhs isolation quarantine zone! What we presumed would be a simple malaria blood test turned into a full scale, red flag nightmare.
I was isolated for 2 days as staff donned their protective gear to take bloods to be sent away to test for Ebola, Lassa fever and other airborne diseases they thought I could be carrying. They all seemed a bit excited and also pretty scared!
It was fairly traumatic and worrying and nice to have leah in there with me on the first day to laugh, catch up and freak out together!
Experts and specialists kept flipping from really scary potential diseases to finally all agreeing that I could go home given my condition hadn’t worsened.
I left yesterday and am currently sleeping a lot and hoping to feel normal again soon!

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day 7

Day 7- It’s been a relentless and rewarding whirlwind week of work and with our heads tired and hearts heavy it’s already time for goodbyes.
The week had gone remarkably well, but alas for me, not today.
It started badly and just got worse. There was no sleep. Ants invaded my bed. When I tried to escape them mosquitoes bothered me and had their turn. Some strange insect has also left ugly blisters on my face, neck, arms and body. I’m a mess.
Sombre farewells to our kamakwie children are followed later by goodbyes in Tombo. These departures are always sad but we’re hoping to see these faces again soon with a team of volunteers maybe early next year.
A fever is beginning....
Then the next 37 hours couldn’t be more horrendous. It’s predominantly travel. Sitting in battered, broken old vehicles, the constant black smoke of passing vehicles unavoidable.
Our taxi to the airport should take 2 hours, instead it clocks in at 5.5. A tyre blows, another one is changed, our driver it lost.
Meanwhile I’m huddled on the backseat shivering like never before.
By the time we reach the airport it’s turned to sweating and full fever. Ohhh and my head! The constant migraine! Out here they call it white mans grave, and right at that moment I felt like I was half way to mine! The symptoms are textbook malaria but hopefully it’s just a random passing fever.
Our 5am flight couldn’t be at a worse time. Poor mark. I’m the last choice travel companion right now! All i crave is to be home where hopefully sleep can shake this thing.
It’s an anticlimactic ending having had 6 days of truly eye opening, inspiring, affirming action. But I’ll have to think about all that again later.....

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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!

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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

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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!

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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.

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