Annual partner visit

Ziz and Pearl visit Sierra Leone in March 2022

Our team travelled out to appraise the potential & sustainability of our projects in Sierra Leone. The team covered aspects such as staff changes, site development of the vocational centres, and growing our Develop with Dignity program. However, they also went to attend a VERY important event for our in-country director Helga, as Kumba R Sellu Vocational Institute celebrated their first graduation since it opened!

All the content below has been extracted from a broadcast list sent directly to supporters during the trip. If you’d like to be added to this broadcast list, please email your mobile phone number to info@teams4u.com

Day 1: Travel from Waterloo to Koindu

What a way to celebrate International Women’s Day, landing in Sierra Leone and seeing our friend and inspirational partner Helga Sellu! Just out of the airport and 3hr drive (taking the long way round) to our first hotel [near Waterloo]

Ziz York

“Listening to the news on Sierra Leone radio, all about Ukraine – feels disconcerting and far away. Yet, Pearl is also arranging money transfers as we travel, to those distributing aid to the people who can’t leave or are holding out in the hope things change. Everything feels a little clouded, whilst we melt in 37° heat.”

“We’re on route to Koindu now, stopped in Kenema (diamond town) for lunch & are now driving to Kaliahun for supplies before continuing to Koindu. Left 9.30am, expect to arrive around 6pm. Will hopefully send an update when we arrive.”

We have arrived!! We lost tarmac in Kaliahun and continued in 1st-3rd gear, hardly going over 20mph for about 1.30hrs. Pastor Kamara welcomed us and provided us his guesthouse to stay in whilst we are here. The sun is about to set, we’re sitting outside enjoying the sounds of the crickets and being greeted by our hosts.

Day 2: Morning starts with a Dignity talk in a village in the rainforest

We’re travelling to a village for the Dignity project whilst listening to a talk show on radio with Victoria Joshua (graduating catering), Dennis (the Tailoring tutor), & Christopher Faiya (the centre principal), promote the institute and the graduation to the community.

“The projects Teams4U support here focus on women, so today, as we spent time in the villages and the college, we got to hear their stories.”

Village life is difficult, remote and deeply patriarchal. We met a 17yr old victim of domestic violence, with her 2yr old child. “He started beating me with sticks and tell people not to come between us, so that is what happened.” Not only does our Dignity program reach into schools but also into villages like these to challenge cultural attitudes to women and Gender Based Violence.

Day 3: Afternoons are spent with the students at Kumba R Sellu Vocational Institute, Koindu

One issue is the lack of opportunity for women. So many drop out of school and think their only future is to be with a man – so they get stuck in abusive relationships. Which is why Helga is passionate about the colleges – to give women their power back and present an alternative to them – one where they can learn to rely on themselves.”

“Tailoring will benefit me because as I’m learning now, I make clothes and then sell them and that money is used to buy another material to complete my course and take care of my son”

Sarah at Kumba R Sellu

“Me coming here as a tutor has helped me a lot and made a big difference in my life, because before this time I was up and down on the streets with other girls, but now people respect me. Most of the people that used to look down on me now call me Miss Fanta, they respect me a lot. It really feels good to come back to a place where people called me all sorts of things, for them to know they’re not god, and my story has changed.”

Fanta

Day 4: Graduation!

“In plus 37° heat, we paraded through town; had a 5hr(!) graduation ceremony; I practiced my Creole (there is video evidence! 🙈) in a speech; & both Pearl & I ended up on local radio. The last picture is our teaching staff in Sierra Leone – as the teachers from Waterloo came to support the team in Koindu on this very special occasion.

These people all often give from their own pockets and salaries to help their students, as they know what it’s like to struggle and grow up in poverty.

Today was “making history” in Koindu. It’s the 1st graduation of students from a vocational college, and all women. For many of them it has taken 3yrs to get to this day. A very proud moment.”

Day 5:

“We left Koindu yesterday and stayed overnight in Kenema before travelling to Waterloo (Freetown) today. It may sound petty but walking into the air conditioned room at The Paloma hotel felt like a cwtch (hug) from heaven. After four nights of turning into a pool of salty water every time a limb touched, the cool air was such a relief! Pessima (our driver) said walking into the hotel room felt like being led by an angel into paradise 🤣.”


“Being a packed schedule I didn’t get any images of the ‘ID’ of Koindu so I’m sharing some photos from last year. What makes Koindu particularly harrowing was that it was once a thriving trading town, a crossroad between Sierra Leone, Liberia & Guinea. But it was burnt, plundered and decimated in the 11yr Civil War (1991-2002), never to recover. Ebola also entered the country, through this border, in 2014. These devastations are all within living memory of the people here. Now Koindu is a pastoral community, largely cut off from the rest of the country due to the poor roads, and also from their neighbours because of the weak currency.”

Day 6: Teams4U Vocational Institute, Waterloo

“Today we enjoyed visiting with the vocational students in Waterloo. Mrs Cargbo gave Pearl a lesson in cooking Cassava leaves, & I had a lesson in garra-tye dye.

We also spent some time with the students directly sponsored from the UK. Currently, we have quite limited support for the vocational centres in Sierra Leone, so we discussed the viability of each dept., project plans, & their own plans for graduation (2023) with Pastor Brima (principal) & Helga.

Day 7:

Penultimate day here in Sierra Leone. We were again with the students & tutors in Waterloo, and discussing their aspirations for the college. We currently rent the premises, which are small and hardly fit for purpose, but they make it work. Their dream is to eventually build their own place, when funding and support allows.”

“The team and students are an incredibly entrepreneurial people, always coming up with new ideas to fund their studies and support the colleges. In Koindu, they work lunchtime food stalls outside schools; decorate halls & make cakes for parties; and are looking to set up their first restaurant.

In Waterloo, the students make cakes, bread, and beadwork to sell in the bustling markets. Their latest venture is hoping for some UK support, as they’ve laden us with things to try and sell here(!) should interest allow. All proceeds in aid of the schools.”

We need support!

We need A LOT more support to keep our colleges open. Would you consider making a monthly donation for our colleges to continue offering a route to self-reliance?

We are also actively looking for funding to support the college in Waterloo to purchase land as part of a long-term commitment to support them build their own building. Additionally, we want to raise £1,500 to equip our new restaurant in Koindu (helping provide sustainable income to our catering graduates) with solar electricity.

Could you make a one-off donation to help us extend our projects in Sierra Leone?