This is our last few days, we all fly out on the 14th, back to hot showers, back to electricity, back to running water, it’s truly amazing what you miss when you don’t have it anymore, and it’s a extremely humbling experience.
The work here is never ending, and so is reaching into your pocket to help the poor.
There is always someone in dire need, and even a small amount of money here can go a long way.
If you have kept up with the blogs, you know that traffic here in Sierra Leone is absolutely frustrating. You can be sitting for a couple of hours in a stop and go situation that would take you only about 20 minutes without traffic. People begging can be annoying, from young children to adults, blind or handicapped and they will work their way to the car. Inevitably, Fr. Themi will reach into his pocket to give someone something and makes sure to let them know that this gift is given in the name of Jesus.
We were stuck once again in traffic outside a community of handicapped who either because of polio or missing limbs from the civil war, they lived in quite horrible conditions. When they saw the car which we were in, (the side panels have the stamp of our Holy Orthodox Mission in Sierra Leone), they immediately looked to see who was in the car and started to say, “It’s the Father, come!” They crowded around the car and said to Fr. Themi, “Father come in come in, please stop, come in we need help” .
They saw there were three visitors and they were eager to show us around. Fr. Themi said to the driver, “Go ahead, let’s pull in, these are our people.” The Orthodox Mission had been asked by the government to help these people. Fr. Themi accepted the challenge and quickly began a project to house them. He was given land in Waterloo a little ways outside the city. However a portion of the disabled chose to stay in the city. Many others went to Waterloo where free housing was given, a church was built, and a school from infants to Junior Secondary along with a medical clinic. “We will try to help them here as well.”Fr. Themi said.
One of the group members grabbed my hand and said “Come, come! Look where we live! Look! Come in come in!” We first walked inside the square where they all just hung out, doing various things. Three kids were doing homework on a strip of wood like a bench. They were sitting on the dirt floor. There were no lights here and no roof in the open yard. A lady was taking a sponge bath in her wheel chair. All the children wore really dirty clothes. One child was physically picked up by our guide, because in reality it was a crowd following us around. This little boy who must have been 3 years old was the cutest thing ever. He took the toddler and rather quickly tossed him into a corner and said, “Show her where you sleep”. It was merely a cement cell with medium sized rocks on the floor as a mattress and a flat piece of sheet metal for his head. The little boy quickly laid there and pretended to be asleep. He was quite the actor. I had to ask myself, how is it possible for these people not to have a mattress? How is it possible for them not to have a pillow? Most people slept on the floor and some had a small wooden contraption (something that looked more like a shelf than a bed), coming out of the wall to crawl on and sleep. See photo above child. I really don’t know how they are that flexible, but they even demonstrated for us.
“Come here, come here, you must see, this is our Bathroom for everyone. He opened the door and it is difficult for me to even write about the memory of the stench that they endure on a daily basis. Two holes in the ground and a huge puddle of what I would imagine to be human waste. This dark dingy room was used by everyone in the community. Next was the shower room, again shared by all in this communal house.
Did I mention that this house had been bombed during the war and it was now abandoned. So the disabled simply moved as much of the rubble as they could to the side and moved in. Parts of the destroyed roof was replaced by sheets of thin metal or tin and there were many spots that you could see the sky, so as the rains pour down, people in this place must get a little wet.
So as we were leaving, the crowd became a bit more animated and loud, requesting money and help. Fr. Themi wanted to give everyone a meal, so the leader a man in his wheel chair was going to be given the money. Fr. Themi reached into his pocket and together we gave them enough so that all of them could have a meal.
You could still hear the crowd asking for more, and as we were driving away, Fr. Themi is saying, “Don’t worry we will get you foam. That means a foam mattress.”
Just another thing to remember to do in the life of the mission here in Sierra Leone.