Where is Newton?
Newton is a Rural Community, with a population of about 24,000, approximately 24 miles east of Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone.
Sierra Leone is a small country (the size of Republic of Ireland) in West Africa, situated north of the Equator and with a population of 6 million. It has a tropical climate, with a diverse environment ranging from savannah to rain forests. Two thirds of the population is engaged in subsistence agriculture, but the country is still a net importer of food. Economically the country is over reliant on the export of minerals, primarily diamonds, as its principal foreign exchange earner.
It is ranked 181 out of 188 countries in the World by the United Nations Human Development Indices 2015 – a measurement of life expectancy, education and standards of living. In 2015 life expectancy was 50 – a marked increase since 2009 when it was 41 but a drop from 2012 (57) due to Ebola. This is a long way behind the United Kingdom’s 80. The 1991 – 2002 Civil War destroyed much of the education system in the country and in 2001 67% of school age children were out of school. By 2004/05 only 64% of children completed Primary Education.
English is the language of instruction in schools and official language of the government, but Krio (derived from English and several indigenous African languages) is the primary language of communication amongst the different ethnic groups and is spoken by 90% of the population. A majority of the population are Muslim, but there is an influential Christian minority. The religious groups collaborate with each other peacefully, the constitution of the country provides for freedom of religion and does not tolerate its abuse.
The first record of European visit to the Sierra Leone coast was in 1462 when the Portuguese explorer Pedro de Sintra named it Serra Leoa, “Lioness Mountains”. During the 1700’s West Africa was one part of the transatlantic Triangular Trade with slaves being transported to the America’s. On 11th March 1792 Freetown was founded as a home for former slaves. In 1808 Sierra Leone became a British Crown Colony and in 1961 an independent member of the Commonwealth. The Civil War devastated the country leaving 50,000 dead, many maimed and more than 2 million displaced in neighbouring countries. With the support of the United Nations, Non Governmental Organisations and Charities, such as the Olney-Newton Link, standards of living and education are slowly improving.