As usual I came to our school in Syke Street (Freetown), on Thursday afternoon to attend to various administrative issues as well as conduct the daily vesper service. I was informed by Maximus Kamara that someone had been travelling from Waterloo to seek my help for the last few days and that even today she was waiting to speak to me. Her name is Eleanor Massah. I sat and listened to her terrifying, painful and courageous story.
She carefully explained that she was born in 1987, of Christian parents of the Mende tribe (one of the largest indigenous ethnic groupings of Sierra Leone). She lived in a village around the Kenema area which is near the border of Liberia. The catastrophic and long drawn civil war which battered Sierra Leone to a ground zero situation erupted when Eleanor was only about five years old. From the on until well into her teenage years she would only know war, particularly being so close to the Liberian frontier – the stronghold of the revel forces (RUF). During those years schools could only run, if at all, on an intermittent basis. Yet Eleanor was a good pupil and doing well despite the horrifying circumstances around her.
In 1998, when Elenor was only eleven, the rebels sent a threatening message by letter to her village, warning the civil militia forces which were defending the village (the so-called Komajors) to either abandon the village or get ready for a battle. For this reason the civilians were ordered to quickly evacuate the village and run for their lives.
Eleanor’s family packed what they could, abandoned their humble hut and ran through the field to escape the oncoming fiendish carnage. AS she and her family were running Eleanor without noticing stepped on a land mine. The second she steeped off, the land mine exploded cutting off her leg at the ankle. She was knocked unconscious and woke up in a clinic which was unable to assist her due to the absence of medical equipment and supplies. By the time they took her to the Red Cross facility her leg had become so infected that it had to be imputed above the knee.
Since then, with extraordinary determination Eleanor has returned back to primary school, completed high school and even enrolled at a university programme. Presently however she has no financial help and has come seeking assistance from us. This is what we will offer her.
A scholarship to attend a teacher traing programme in early childhood education at our teachers College in Freetown.
An artificial leg to give her back the chance to have a normal life without the need of walking sticks.
We are right now in the process f finalising the details to begin operations of our leg fitting clinic. We have sent a nurse to study in Kampala (Uganda) the skills and techniques of the Jaipur leg fitting system. When he returns at the end of September he will train our other nurses in the system. We have already established the clinic. What remains is the workshop and the leg manufacturing material. By the beginning of next year I am hopeful to offer our first services to countless young amputated war victims.
Today a unique opportunity arose, by God’s grace, to purchase 150 wheelchairs from a local NGO for distribution to polio and amputee victims who are completely unable to walk. This only cost the Diocese around $ 1250, which is a bargain. That amounts to less than $ 10 per wheelchair.
Those of us who are blessed with two legs and are able to walk and even run, should rejoice but also remember those who have been deprived of that capacity. Let us bring to mind the sacred words of Jesus:
“I was sick / in pain and you came unto me…”
+ Rev Themi Adamopoulos
21 / 7 / 12