The Matriculation Ceremony
Yes I know you were all experiencing a milder than usual Christmas this year but in Sierra Leone the temperature was in the upper 30’s . In case you are wondering, no we didn’t tuck in to turkey and all the trimmings followed by an ample portion of Christmas pud!
On 19th December, we drove for 4 hours along a metalled road (believe me that is worth commenting on!), to visit Newton. We had been invited to attend the Matriculation Event – what we would call a Graduation Ceremony – for the first students who had been doing the courses at the Skills Training Centre. This is now known as the Newton Institute and is providing courses in accountancy, business studies, banking, engineering, IT, and sociology. The tutors are from local universities and the students from the local community.
We were greeted like royalty and I hardly have the words powerful enough to describe the gratitude that the people
of Newton have for this facility. People of all ages are now able to study for the qualifications they have been unable to access through restrictions due to the Civil War in the 1990’s, transport problems and more recently the ebola emergency. It was a privilege to be able to join them for the event that day.
From there, we were quickly and proudly ushered to see the Preschool/Day Care Centre. It was not quite where we thought it was going to be as a land dispute, the scourge of Sierra Leone, had meant it had to be moved from the site originally earmarked. This had meant a loss of some building blocks and precious time, but nevertheless good progress has been made and the walls are approx. 4ft high. Since returning to UK we have been able to send some more funds so building has resumed. We were impressed that, because of the clamour for building land, the foundations and walls are being made strong enough to take a second storey if needed in the future. This facility is URGENTLY needed and we still have to get the roof on and the internal fixtures and fittings put in so please continue to support this important work.
Building work begins
Over Christmas, we are pleased to say that residents from Olney were finally able to visit their friends in Newton again (Ebola has meant no flights for over a year). The Preschool is well underway, despite a few teething problems, and the walls are now approximately 4ft high. Due to a need for finances (see below), building is currently at a halt, and the ONL is discussing whether it can help. A water well is also needed to serve both the Skills Training Centre and the Preschool. A borehole has been started but needs more work.
Sadly the Preschool has been set by difficulties, partly due to the very intense rainy season (see ‘Flooding’ in the News section). However, the Preschool has also been impacted by a common West African problem – land disputes. Land disputes are a real problem in Sierra Leone as there are virtually no written records of who owns what. This is mainly due to title deeds being destroyed by rebels during the Civil War. Similar problems happen in the UK, although thankfully less frequently – it’s known as ‘acquiring ownership by adverse possession’.
The Olney Newton Link Committee in Newton believed that they had bought a piece of land the size of ‘3 town lots’ for the Preschool and started to build. Then sadly someone laid claim to the land and won the case. Consequently everything has had to move! The Committee is now using the land next to the Skills Training Centre – land definitely in their ownership but which had previously been earmarked for the expansion of the Centre. They have ensured that the foundations and walls are strong enough so that, if necessary, they can extend upwards.
Both time and building materials have suffered. However, it is hoped that with support from the Olney Newton Link, and with the precious dry spell of weather underway, the situation can be quickly recovered.
Win money on the horses!
Who said it gets boring after Christmas?! The Carlton House Club in Olney will be hosting a great night out where you can support the Olney Newton Link whilst hopefully winning a few pennies yourself. Place your bets and watch the races on screen – the excitement is tangible! The first race starts at 7.30pm.
Click here for more details
We’re thrilled that Sierra Leone has finally been declared free of Ebola. It has been 42 days since the last case of Ebola – a milestone set by the World Health Organisation (WHO) suggesting that the population is no longer contagious.However, we think it will be a long time before the country can really relax. There are still cases in neighbouring Guinea – a quick hop over the border. And, as we have seen with the Scottish nurse, health complications are still arising in those who have survived.
Although many in the capital of Freetown have been out celebrating, others are more subdued, reminding us of how many lives have been lost – nearly 4,000 in Sierra Leone alone. Mabinty Sesay, one of the Link Trustees in Newton has told us “Really this is not a moment of celebration, it’s a moment of praying and reflect our minds on the past.” Naturally there is still great fear that things could start up again and thousands of lives, families and livelihoods are needing to be rebuilt.
Olney Newton Link Tombola
The always popular Dickens Day is back! Support the Olney Newton Link at its annual tombola stall and win bottles of drink and/or toys (the choice of is yours!) Dickens of a Christmas is the big Olney Dickensian fair where all the traders dress in Victorian dress and there are plenty more things to see and do. A lovely Christmas event!
The stall will be to the far side of the market place, close to Tesco Express.
Get your vocal cords ready for Christmas!
Join your neighbours and have a lovely evening singing to the residents of Olney and raising money for the town of Newton. We will be meeting at 5.55pm on the Market Place. It’s great fun!
Children’s Lucky Dip and Games
Make sure you come and support the Olney Newton Link stand – a brilliant lucky dip and games for the kids!
The Link is pleased to say that it’s been asked to support the Pineapple Plantation project. The Plantation is a crop being planted by the women of Newton which we first became aware of 2 years ago (when we managed to get a bit of sponsorship from a local company). The women are working really hard to plant thousands of pineapples which will provide an income for their families – a brilliant undertaking which we really hope will provide some badly needed funds.
The plan is to sell some of the fruit to the local juice factory and some will be sold in the markets. Although the project started off very well, things have been badly hindered, both by wildfire and by the Ebola outbreak which killed or disabled a number of the workers. Ebola also stopped social interaction – a serious problem when plantation and harvesting is carried out through teamwork. Last year’s crop was seriously lacking but we’re thrilled that they have started the project again with the usual energy and belief.
Our friend Mabinty from Newton has told usOur business plan is, we decided to seek help from donors to plant 70000 pineapple suckers. We have already planted 20000 last year. This year we have planted 15000. We decided to do it by phases– every year we do the planting as we continue to seek for funds. Out of those plants we will get suckers from after harvest. The first plants suppose to produce this year but was burnt by wildfire. The products we will sell to the factory and fresh market.”
Mabinty has told us that the cost of the pineapple suckers is 300 leones /sucker (5p/sucker) and that they have to pay someone to clear the land. They plan is to make the project self-financing. The ONL intends to send them funds of 250 for this year’s harvest.
As is common in Africa, the women are a major workforce who are often the only breadwinners within the family. However, they also expected to raise the family. You can read more about the PreSchool and how we are trying to raise funds to help them look after the children whilst allowing them to also work in the fields. See under News Post Ebola.
Sierra Leone down to a single chain of Ebola virus transmission
By Saffea Gborie (WHO) Aug 18, 2015, 17:06
Freetown, Sierra Leone – 17 August 2015: Use of rapid response teams and strong community involvement in finding Ebola virus disease cases and contacts is yielding results in Sierra Leone. An epidemiological week has now passed with no new Ebola cases for the first time since the beginning of the outbreak.
“This is very good news but we have to keep doing this intensively-working with communities to identify potentially new cases early and rapidly stop any Ebola virus transmission” said Dr Anders Nordstrom, WHO Representative in Sierra Leone.
The Ebola response has moved to ‘phase 3’, focusing on tracking each and every chain of Ebola virus transmission and close down the remaining chains as quickly as possible. Sierra Leone is now down to a single chain of transmission, which started in Freetown but sparked a cluster of cases in Tonkolili, in the northern region of the country.
Effectively tracking chains of transmission means finding every person who has been in contact with someone proven to be infected with Ebola, monitoring them closely for symptoms for 21 days and rapidly moving them to a treatment centre if they develop symptom of potential Ebola.
In Tonkolili, a young man, who worked in Freetown but returned to his home village every month to bring food and money to his extended family, died in a hospital where he was being treated for malaria. As is done with all deaths, to ensure no case of Ebola is missed, a swab was taken. It tested positive for Ebola.
Tonkolili had not seen a case of Ebola virus disease for more than 150 days, but the lessons learned during their outbreak in December 2014 had not been forgotten. The government, WHO and other UN and international partners sent a rapid response team into the district and worked with the village chief and village taskforce to identify and monitor everyone who had been in contact with the young man.
The entire village of Massessehbeh was then put in quarantine for a period of 21 days, as was Masenga Hospital where the young man died. A water supply was established in the village and food was brought in daily. Psychosocial workers and social mobilizers provided information and support, while contact tracers checked everyone daily for symptoms of Ebola.
Two more people, both of them from the young man’s family, developed symptoms and tested positive for Ebola. They were treated at an Ebola Treatment Centre which had been on standby and run by International Medical Corps (IMC). There they were cared for by a team that included Ebola survivors, who provided much of the physical and psychological care they needed. Both are now recovering.
Last Friday, 595 people ‘graduated’ from quarantine in Tonkolili. This included patients, pregnant women, nurses, doctors and other staff who were released early on Friday morning from the hospital where they had been confined for 21 days. Later the same day, a formal ceremony was held at Massessehbeh during which the President of Sierra Leone formally cut the quarantine tape.
Joyful villagers streamed through the cut quarantine tapes, women linking arms to dance along the road, children beating water bottles in time to the singing and dancing. However, the occasion was not joyful for everyone. 43 people remain quarantined until the end of this week. Another 38 people remain in quarantine in Freetown until the 29th of August.