Our team left in three SUV’s for the 20 minute drive out past the paved road at the edge of Bo. The town of Manjama is at a junction where upwards of 17 villages used to come for the medical clinic located there. The property was built over 70 years ago and has since been abandoned. HCW, the local Health Ministry and Mercy Hospital have begun efforts to form a partnership to revive the medical outreach and support to the community there. We met with the leaders, the families and the children of the area and discussed what it would look like for HCW to offer family support. The children sang for us and were excited to show us their school and village.
On our last day in Bo before we left for Freetown, we attended the ante-natal clinic at Mercy Hospital. Our team members were able to assist with pre-natal check-ups, educational instruction that included singing songs about all the things new mothers should be aware of and hands on clinicals for student nurses. There were new babies being born, and mothers receiving new baby and mother kits that we delivered to the hospital. It was a blessing to be a part of such a wonderful mission!
So much singing! Worship was an incredible experience for our team as we sat with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Scripture was read, congregations birthdays were celebrated, and offerings were given all while dancing up the aisles. As honored guests visiting from the US, we were asked to preside over the collection bins and dance and sing for a little friendly competition during the service. Everyone was dressed in beautiful traditional clothing in bright colors and designs. It was a joyful experience and their choir was awesome. Pastor Emily was asked to give the offertory prayer and was invited to sit with the pastors of the church.
Another outreach day at Fengehun village about an hour outside of Bo. When we arrived many children and families came out to meet us with chairs and benches for us all to sit. We presented rice and chocolates to several families that are part of the Family Empowerment Advocacy program via Helping Children Worldwide. Fengehun was the original village partnership for Ebenezer Church. They have thrived from the care provided including a fresh water well and a school room and family support. The next step is their village enterprise project which should start soon. We let them know that Ebenezer has been praying for them continually over the years and we will continue to pray and be faithful in our support.
We arrived in the village of Sammie after a challenging drive over a dirt road that included mud, large rocks, washed away road, and quite a lot of water. The people of Sammie were as joyful about our safe arrival as we were!
The first thing they wanted us to see was an area they had cleared. They cleared it themselves in preparation and hope that a Medical Clinic will soon be built in that space. Once it is built, the current medical clinic will be used as a school.
We arrived to singing, dancing, and rhythmic instruments. There was so much joy in our being there and we joined into that joy.
They had us sit in front of the community. The Sammie is a community in which Christians and Muslims live as neighbors and in community with each other. The assembly was started with Christian and Muslim prayers. After that, introductions of the community and the mission team were completed. Many people spoke words of welcome. In addition, small gifts of relationship were exchanged.
Afterward, we visited two families with Helping Children Worldwide staff. Rice and chocolate were presented to the families who were both a part of the HCW Family Empowerment Advocacy Program (FEA).
Mission partners and friends,
So many amazing things have happened on our trip so far, it’s hard to condense it into a small blog post and two pictures! We promise to more fully share our trip when we return but we will endeavor to write something short each day. Here’s our first go at it. The videos we have captured really are amazing, but these pictures made us so happy! More to come…
Bevehun Lebembu medical outreach, October 19, 2023
Our first outreach effort as a team was about an hour outside of Bo. As we arrived we closely zig-zagged between the houses until suddenly, the whole village appeared! Tables and tablecloths and benches and chairs came out. Almost immediately, the medical equipment that the Mercy Hospital team brought was set up and things were ready and organized. The crowd was probably 250-300 people.
We served mothers and babies with a medical outreach that included pre-natal check ups and malaria testing. We served over 8 brand new pregnant mothers and 81 babies! We were all engaged with specific jobs from registering families as they walked up, helping write prescriptions from the doctor, administering malaria testing, and filling prescriptions. We were told it was the largest outreach in the village to date, doubling the size of the previous effort. God is good all the time, all the time God is good.
Before our trip, our church held a meeting to explain to the congregation regarding what we would be doing on our trip to Sierra Leone. As a part of this meeting, we held a small fundraiser to raise money to provide rice to families enrolled in the CRC program.
During our trip, we were able to go with the CRC to deliver this rice. Wow, I will never complain about the potholes in the streets of Philadelphia again! Saturday we went out to deliver rice to families; it took most of the day and a lot of patience. I am truly grateful that yesterday was the last day for delivering rice. The holes, lumps, and bumps in the ground were a challenge to the driver, and a nightmare to me, but we made it safely to every family. At one point we had to drive through a small body of water, I looked out the window to my left and there was a mother and child washing clothes a few feet from us!
Pastor Chaney and I were well please with the selection of people who received the rice. Just to share a few examples; we met with one family that both parents where blind and dependent on help from the village to raise their children. There was also the single mother who was physically disabled; she could not walk needed help daily to do simple chores for her children. And yet at the end of the worse road ever, we met a family that was being cared for by the Auntie. The mother was not available because she had to walk to the city on the very road we were on to sale fruit to support her family.
What a blessing it was to meet these families and participate in the food assistance that CRC provides to vulnerable families.
Looking back over the last two days, I saw the much-needed improvements Mercy Hospital has made. The hospital is beautiful; it looks more like a working small medical campus. I visited with and prayed for the patients who were housed on the second floor. I remember when mothers would come from long distances just to wait outside in the heat to be seen by the doctor. In one day, I have observed almost 100 pregnant women who traveled from far away villages to be seen. Those that came to Mercy where greeted in a building with conformable chairs. During my visit the mothers participated in a lecture on self-care. I discovered the unique care provided by staff was an encouragement to mothers to take better care of themselves and their children.
Today, we are just getting back from the Village Partnership--what a wonderful experience! We first met with the Chieftains and elders of the village and then with the families. We were well received by all adults, but the smaller children were afraid to come close to us. We took pictures of the parents with children who received the rice. They appear to be very grateful; the language barrier prevented much interaction, but the smiles and happy faces said it all. I was so impressed with the size of the bags of rice. We priced the rice we bought based on 50 LB bags, but it actually weighted 50kg or 110.25 lbs! It took 2 men to carry each bag of rice.
Another great experience was Pastor Chaney and I am learning to speak “Mende.” We visited a class of young school age children who native language was Mende but was learning to speak English. After a short time we ask could they help us learn a few words in Mende. We all had fun sharing with each other, it was a wonderful time. It is such a blessing to learn while you serve others.
House of the Lord Church
Today the team and I had the honor and privilege to set out to visit the children that we advocate for and their beautiful families. The families we visited found in and around the city of Bo. The team members included in this trip were Misti, Melissa, Brent, Alex, Ellen, and Tom. We took three vehicles and had Henry, the Family Empowerment Advocate in Sierra Leone, as our experienced navigator. We each had gifts, which included a bag of rice, for our families. As we traveled around Bo, it was heartwarming to see each advocate meet with the children and their families. During each stop, the team was greeted with smiles and warm welcomes.
The last stop that we had in Bo was a visit with Mabinity and her family. Mabinity is the young lady my husband, Graham, and I are advocates for. Graham and I began sponsoring Mabinity last year after the previous child we sponsored graduated from the program. Within this partnership, we pray for Mabinity and her family, support her schooling, and write letters back and forth with her. We also send pictures. At home, there is a picture of Mabinity hanging up so that my husband and I remember to pray for her each day. Despite looking at the photo daily, when we arrived at Mabinity’s home, I did not recognize the young woman who greeted us. Upon arrival there was a young lady brushing the hair of a younger girl. I greeted the girls as Henry pointed to the older girl and said something like “Janie, do you recognize who this is?” I then realized it was Mabinity! She is no longer the little girl in the picture I have, but instead a young woman. Mabinity and I looked at each other and then hugged tightly. I think Mabinity and I were both speechless at first. I could not believe that I was really meeting her in person.
Mabinity quickly gathered her sisters and gave the team chairs to sit in. She pulled up a stool and we sat close together. She told me that she would be taking an exam soon for school that determines if she can move up to the next level. She also introduced me to her family dog, Biggie. After chatting for a few minutes, we stood up to take several pictures, or as they say here in Sierra Leone, “snaps.” Included in them were Mabinity, her sisters, me, and of course Biggie. I promised Mabinity that when I get home, I will write to her and send her some of the snaps we took together. She then held my hand as she walked me and the team back to our vehicles. Though our time ended quickly, I must say it was one of my favorite parts of this visit to Sierra Leone.
Mabinity and her family are one of the many families who have gone to the Child Reintegration Centre to apply for assistance. In America, they would go to social services and the government would meet that need. In Sierra Leone, we have the unique ability to be part of meeting that need. Though we may not feel like we live in abundance, the small portion that we donate each month allows families in Sierra Leone who apply for the assistance to improve their quality of life. I am thankful for the provision that God has given us to be able to help those in need. To see the impact of that help firsthand is not only a blessing for the family included in this program, but for me as well. If you have never thought about partnering with Helping Children Worldwide to advocate for a child and their family, I am here to tell you firsthand that the impact of being a Family Empowerment Advocate is greatly significant. After this experience of meeting Mabinity and her family, I urge you to pray and consider joining the Family Empowerment program through Helping Children Worldwide.
If you are interested in becoming an advocate for families in Sierra Leone, check our our website or email Munda@helpingchildrenworldwide.org
A post by Sharon Gardner:
Today, Janie Williams, Melissa Herbolsheimer, and I conducted day two of our three-day collaboration with thirteen Sierra Leonean teacher-leaders. Together, we renewed our learning around a variety of topics including learning theories, strategies for reading comprehension, character education, guidance and counseling, conflict resolution, and the power of having a growth mindset. Along the way we shared with each other our teaching experiences, games we enjoy playing with students and with each other, celebrations and struggles we have as teachers, a great deal of laughter, and the comradery of colleagues. This collaborative is in its third year as a partnership between Sierra Leonean and U.S. teachers. During this time, we have worked together to develop a professional learning curriculum, guided by the thoughts and experiences of our Sierra Leonean teacher-leaders so that they can provide meaningful learning for their Sierra Leonean colleagues. As always, it was a day filled with respect and friendship, and admiration for the work of our Sierra Leonean partners.