Monday, February 28, 2011

What We Have Done in Freetown

What Have We Been Doing?
Our team of 35 has been a LARGE group to maneuver through the town.  We have had two rented poda-podas (crowded, 18 passenger vans with metal bench seating)
and have been working in mainly two areas:
1) The majority of our group worked every day at what would become the Hospitality Center - a building just a few minutes walk from the docks that now has been converted into the dental clinic and three patient wards.  Some patients need to have some physical therapy after surgery (orthopedic patients, for example), or need before or after care.  These wards will be used for them.  Our team built walls, put in screens in all 40 of the windows to prevent mosquitos, got the water source hooked up for flush toilets, installed electrical wiring for air conditioning in the ward needed for burn victims and casts, and transformed this building from a giant open space into a second hospital.  It is amazing how much work they accomplished.
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2) The rest of us worked at the Cheshire Children's Home - a home for children who suffer from polio related deformities.  There were 38 kids that were there while we were there- some of them live there, others come there for school during the day, but live at home, and don't have physical ailments.  We helped in the classroom, doing some songs, puppets, drawing lessons, English classes, and loved on the kids through games, songs, jump rope and the like.  The ADA would be appalled to see the condition of this home and what the kids would manage to do in order to get from place to place - they are incredibly strong and resourceful - rolling themselves up steep, steep ramps, rolling over large drainage ditches in the concrete - pulling themselves out of their wheelchairs and climbing up steps and pulling themselves into their desks.  While some of us were in the classrooms, we also helped paint the exterior of several of their buildings, picked up garbage from all over their campus, and built some new bookshelves for their library which was in complete disarray.  Hopefully it will become a place where the kids can go and relax themselves.
Kylie and Savannah accompanied me here almost everyday, and they were a hit. The kids loved them there, and our girls quickly warmed up and interacted with them easily and comfortably.  The children here speak Krio (a type of Creole) and English- some prefer one more than the other, but there is usually someone fluent in both who can help you translate.  The beauty of children is they can play together - card games, clapping rhymes, jumping ropes and coloring can be done in any language.  We look forward to visiting here often - it's about a 25 minute walk from the pier so this can be easily done.

Eventually you get used to the heat, the humidity, the ability of your body to absorb liter after liter of water without even feeling the need to go to the bathroom, and you look forward to your paper bag lunch of pb & j, again....  Pineapple or coconut rounded out almost every lunch so this was a highlight - and a bottle of Coke from the store up the street (just don't forget to return the glass bottle!). 

On the weekends after doing construction or painting or playing with kids in the hot, African sun, we wanted to relax a bit.  We checked out Lakka Beach - about an hour outside of Freetown (with not much traffic), and 2-3 hours with bad traffic.  This was a beautiful place to refresh.  The riptides can be very strong here, so we were careful with where we swam, and the locals were very helpful to show us which areas are safe for swimming and which weren't.  Another place to relax was at a large hotel that overlooks Freetown, that has been restored and re-opened by the Chinese.  They have a big swimming pool and a kiddie pool, and for $4-$5, you can get entrance in the pool for the day.
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By this weekend we were very ready for the arrival of the Africa Mercy, as it continued it's journey up the coast of West Africa.  Read the next post for this eventful day.

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