When Bishop John Yambasu tragically died in a traffic accident in August of this year, he left behind an epic legacy of love and service, but he also left a huge hole in the hearts of the many people he led and inspired. The Child Reintegration, Mercy Hospital, and Missionary Training Centre staff members have been especially devastated by his loss. They decided to hold a very special ceremony to honor the bishop and reignite their commitment to his ministry of transforming the lives of vulnerable children and families in Sierra Leone.
The ceremony, called "Carry the Light" was held on September 29th at the CRC and included all staff members from the CRC, Mercy and the MTC. At the event, one big candle represented the Bishop's light, and each staff member lit an individual candle from that light, symbolizing the continuation of the bishop's vision and mission. The staff members took the candles home, so that they will continue to be a visible memento of the CRC and Mercy staff members' recommitment to their mission.
Child Reintegration Centre case managers traveled to Manguama village to distribute food to families made more vulnerable by the economic slowdown affecting the whole country. Manguama is one of the villages served by Mercy Hospital's medical outreach teams, and home to ten CRC students. These families, who are among the most marginal in a predominantly poor population, have been struggling severely, as markets were closed and movement restricted to prevent the spread of COVID.
The restrictions put in place by the Sierra Leone government to limit the spread of COVID further depressed the already sluggish economy, and have imperiled families in extreme poverty. The price of food has inflated by as much as 16% by some reports, and the percent of people with insufficient food has increased to more than 50%. Sierra Leone already had a very high rate of child malnutrition, which has increased to nearly 30% for children under five. There are no government provided income support measures in place, and no debt relief.
COVID-19 is also an added burden on Sierra Leone’s fragile health system, which is still recovering from the 11-year civil war that ended in 2002 and the Ebola outbreak that killed nearly 4,000 people between 2014 and 2016.
As of September, most government-imposed restrictions have been lifted, although gatherings of more than 100 people are still banned. Sierra Leone has reported more than 2,000 COVID cases, with 72 deaths. (COVID Tracker: https://www.bing.com/covid/local/sierraleone)
Restrictions: As of September 11:
-There are no workplace measures.
-There are no stay-at-home requirements.
-There are no restrictions on internal movement.
-There are restrictions on gatherings of more than 100 people.
-Screening is in place.
-The government does not provide income support.
-There is no debt or contract relief in place.
By Sharon Gardner, literacy intervention teacher and First UMC of Colleyville Partner Church Representative
Jill Barker, Donna Edwards, Kerry Mueller and I, all educators, had the privilege of being part of a "virtual mission trip" to collaborate with Education Manager Mabel Mustapha and CRC Director Olivia Fonnie. Since the planned July 2020 mission trip to the CRC had to be cancelled due to COVID-19, our plans for a Teachers Learning Collaborative, Phase 3, had to be put on hold. TLC is an initiative for teacher-leaders from Sierra Leone to lead professional development for other teachers from Sierra Leone, assisted by teachers from the US. Olivia and Mabel talked with HCW and asked if we would be interested in collaborating virtually, so that Mabel could share some of the training materials with teachers in schools. Mabel was also interested in learning more about study skill strategies. We met several times online, and it was delightful! We discussed and shared information back and forth to support teachers and students. This was a marvelous way to “go” to the CRC without leaving home, and to be in partnership with our sisters in Sierra Leone.
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