Activities in Freetown

This letter was received in January 2000 from St Joseph of Cluny Sister/Doctor Ann Stevens. This reports on her activities in Freetown Sierra Leone and hopes for the future.

Greetings for the New Year. I hope it will be the beginning of the time of peace for all of us. Here in Sierra Leone, the desire for peace is uppermost in everybody’s mind. People still express hope that the mid-1999 peace accord will bear fruit, although it did have quite a few teething problems.

It looks like I’ll be a “Jill-of-all-trades” for a while; generally overseeing the Cluny works in Freetown. That’s four schools, feeding and aged care programs, and a retreat/Conference Centre! As well as working with “my boys” – the war wounded from Makeni who have managed to find me in Freetown. Looks rather daunting, I must say, because we’re a bit thin on the ground with personnel. One sister who came down with me has chosen to leave the congregation and another who was to have come has, for health reasons, not been unable to. That just leaves Patricia and myself.

Let me tell you more about my boys! They are all patients that I previously worked with in the Centre for War Wounded in Makeni and who moved into Freetown in times following the rebel takeover. Already one of our lads who had previously been in Secondly School has been accepted back into school (form three). He had both hands amputated in 1998. He later had the Kruckumburg operation to convert one stump into a pincer. Since we returned he has been coming to our house three days a week practising writing/drawing and has become quietly competent. He starts school again no tomorrow. Another is working on our compound as a gardener. He manipulates tools with his good left hand and his right stump. Some of the older ones are interested in petty trading. There is a local NGO here (started by one of our sisters some years ago) with a good reputation for training disadvantaged women in small business skills. That group has expressed interest in applying their program to the amputee group. The other area of interest is the formation of an amputee soccer team. They had one going in Makeni- the goalkeeper had hands OK but no fingers! The principle of one of the secondary schools here has agreed to allow the team to use the school playing field out of school hours. So the lads are scouting around for a coach and a few extra players.

With regards to the funds sent from MOM – we are all extremely appreciative. We assure you that Melbourne people are making a difference to the lives of children, women and men of Sierra Leone, lessening their suffering and bring some measure of joy.