Saturday, February 28, 2009

Dispatch from Sierra Leone - First Impressions

That last post was written in hast while I was sharing online time with the other two members of our party. Here in Sierra Leone internet time is about $2 American or 5,000 Leones. This may be my last post until Thursday. We're in Freetown, the capital, but we're off to Waterloo tomorrow. Waterloo is where the school for girls is, the one Grace Church has been helping to build. I don't know if we will have internet access there.

Today I read one of the columnists in the newspaper who wrote that Sierra Leone is officially the poorest country in the world. I can believe it. It is amazingly beautiful. The natural beauty is the backdrop for the grinding poverty of the displaced persons from the war. As we drove along the beach road today, the coastal mountains suddenly rose up in the near distance, shrouded partially in mist. It was primordial beauty, breathtaking. At the same time, the destruction that still scars the city is alongside the building of new housing that will sell for half a million dollars per house.

About the girls and the school in Waterloo, I have been told that no one has unrealistic expectations for their education. When they graduate they will be able barely to read and write. There is a heavy emphasis on vocational education and training. The girls come from families with a history of illiteracy. It is a huge step for these families to send their girls to school at all. What I read between the lines is this: These girls are the first step in changing the culture of their families. If they graduate from school, they will be more likely to send their own daughters to school, and these daughters will do even better than their mothers.

We at Grace Church, and the others in the community who have been contributing to the building of classrooms, are taking part in a long term dream, the dream of a better future and a better life for girls of post-war Sierra Leone.

I can hardly wait to meet the girls. Tomorrow we will see them for the first time, at a Thanksgiving service, giving thanks, in part, for our part in their lives. The following day, Monday morning, we three from Grace Church will dedicate the second classroom which we helped to build. I can hardly stand the wait - this is an emotionally full experience for me.

I am going to do something I would not normally do on this blog, but if you are inspired to be on the ground floor of the beginning of a generations-long cultural revolution in the education of girls, and you want to contribute to the fund for building another classroom, or, if it is more needed, a well for more clean water for the school, then please make your check payable to Grace Episcopal Church for Waterloo School and send it to Grace Episcopal Church, 1 Union Park, Norwalk, CT 06850, attention Kathy Dies. That's Attn: Kathy Dies and that part is very important in getting the funds credited to the school fund.

However, if this is an inappropriate request, please add Waterloo School for Girls to your prayer list.

I will write again as soon as I can. I have taken no pictures so far. Every opportunity has seemed too exploitative - like I should give money to the persons I would like to photograph or something, and that is not encouraged. So, so far, no pics. But I will try to do better in Waterloo.

Until next time, I am faithfully yours,

1 comment:

FranIAm said...

Lois! Wow, I have not been around, this is amazing.

And do ask for contributions. If people can - they will, but you must ask. So glad you did.

This is most exciting and you all will be thought of my prayers starting right now.

God bless and good travels.