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(Jovana recently returned from a trip to Sierra Leone. In several installments, here is the story of her visit to Freetown Cheshire Home and news about the children who live there.)

Your donations and support have been instrumental in helping these children.

The 7.5 million Leones that you all gave will feed the 47 children at Cheshire Home for the next several months. It  will provide medicine when they are sick.

The money that you all sent will truly have a huge impact on their lives, in ways that I cannot even begin to describe.  For them, knowing that there are people in the world who care about them, despite never having met, boosts their morale and gives them a reason to believe that good things can happen. 

Thank you all so much for making this trip possible and worthwhile.  I am so happy to report that everything went well, and that now I have even more focus on how to help them.
I look forward to hearing from you soon.
All the best,  

Jovana Paredes

(Jovana recently returned from a trip to Sierra Leone. In several installments, here is the story of her visit to Freetown Cheshire Home and news about the children who live there.)

 

On Wednesday (Day 5) I went outside of Freetown for the first time. I took Marie so that the two of us could have some alone time.  Kadie has a mother who really loves her and visits her often, while Marie has no one. 

We went to Makeni (Sierra Leone’s 4th largest city) to see the hospital where Kadie would be having her 2nd surgery. I was really impressed with how nice the hospital is, and the amazing work that they do.  Afterwards, on the drive home, we stopped at little villages to buy lots of fresh fruits and vegetables to take back with us to Cheshire Home for all of the children to have a good meal. 

Here is a video of what its like shopping for food: 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wgv-qWxu0ZY

 Here is a video of the Cheshire Home girls singing to me, as a Thank You for all of the food:

  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UXr6wRWAGZM

 Maybe you noticed how dark it is in that video? 

That’s because there is no electricity at the Cheshire Home. Due to financial difficulty, they are unable to afford a generator, so all of the girls share one (ONE!!!) kerosene lamp, and the boys share one as well.  At night, they all lay around in a circle around the lamp to do their homework.  Its so heartbreaking to see how much they all suffer. 

My next goal is to get two solar panels and two batteries donated to the Home, so that the each dormitory can have lights in the evening.  If you have any ideas of companies who might be interested in donating, please let me know.

On Thursday (Day 6) we invited the directors of the Cheshire Home to the house for dinner.  We wanted to discuss with them why the kids were complaining about how little food they were receiving. 

For lunch:

  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ITlpNzvTxFY 

 and for dinner:

  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=flD-qN3vZbM

What we heard broke our hearts. The Cheshire Home is funded 100% by the Sierra Leone government. The government has pledged to provide the Home with 15 million Leones per quarter (about $4,000 per quarter).  So far, in 2009, the Home has received 7 million in the first quarter and 8 million in the second quarter.  They have not received any other money this year.  Mrs. Sesay told us that while she would love to spend lots of money of food for the children, she is unable to because she does not know when she will receive any more money from the government.  So she keeps it in a savings account and spends it little by little. In her view, it is better to give everyone a little bit all the time than to  go through periods of having a lot and then having nothing when the money is gone. 

My other goal is to find long-term donors for the Cheshire Home. It would be great if we could find a company willing to donate a fixed amount of money each quarter or twice a year.  This will enable the Home to make a real budget, and improve the lives of all of the children. Again, if you know of any company who may be willing or interested in doing this, please let me know. 

On Friday (The saddest day, day 7) I had to say goodbye.  I always hate saying goodbye, but I am confident that I will see them all again, soon.

(Jovana recently returned from a trip to Sierra Leone. In several installments, here is the story of her visit to Freetown Cheshire Home and news about the children who live there.)

On Sunday (Day 2) we took Marie (age 14), Kadie (age 12) and Pachel (age 2) to the beach.  Unfortunately, it had been pouring rain so the water was too violent to swim with the kids. We just sat on the edge of the water and splashed around and talked.  I asked Marie what she would like to do while I am in Freetown. Her response? “Mom, I just want to be with you.”

On Monday (Day 3) I went to the bank to deposit the funds we had collected. Because it was such a large sum of money ($1,900 or $7,505,000 Leones), we wanted there to be an official record of the donation (if you would like the receipt, email me, I have an electronic copy).

We also donated some money to the Magbenteh Community Hospital (the hospital where Kadie had her first corrective foot surgery last year, the other foot will be operated on this year!).  They were very grateful for the $650 (or $2,500,000 Leones). 

The doctors asked how we would like that money to be used, for surgeries, for building additional facilities, etc.  When we asked where the money was most needed, we were told that it was most needed for surgeries. We agreed, and then were told that a 17-year old girl had been turned away from the hospital on several occasions due to lack of funds.  The money we donated would not only pay for her much-needed surgery, but many other children’s surgeries as well.

Tuesday (Day 4):  I accompanied Mo and Barbara’s 25-year old caretaker, Alhaji, to school. Prior to January 2009, Alhaji was illiterate. Mo and Barbara encouraged Alhaji to go to school, to learn to read and write.  He is very bright and sharp.

Alhaji, like many others, just wants an opportunity to learn – he is like a sponge!  I gave him my magazines and he read them all 🙂  I even had one of my  textbooks with me, and I taught Alhaji about Cultural Relativism and Human Rights! But I digress. 

Alhaji’s school is in the neighborhood where they live. About 20 children of all ages attend for 2 hours per day. They all sit together and the two teachers assign classwork according to each student’s level. Alhaji is the only adult in class. 

I was really impressed with Alhaji’s teacher.  While he is not a certified teacher (and thus, has an unaccredited school), he is passionate about learning and teaching. He is kind to the students, and even has two special needs children whom he teaches: a young girl suffering from epilepsy and a deaf boy. Instead of treating them badly, this teacher discovers the children’s strengths, and then tries to improve on those.  For example, he told me that the girl (her name is Abby) is not good at math or spelling, but she is a wonderful artist.  I was truly touched to hear him speaking about the children in that way. 

I spent two hours in class with all the children. They were all bright and adorable.  I taught them how to use my video camera to interview each other.

They had a great time, and here is a video of one such interview: 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wLDauk5kBHU

After school, Alhaji, Farah, Farah’s children, Marie, Kadie, Pachel and I (there were 9 of us) piled into Farah’s car and went to the Chimpanzee reserve. The children loved having such an educational outing!

 

donations

(Jovana recently returned from a trip to Sierra Leone. In several installments, here is the story of her visit to Freetown Cheshire Home and news about the children who live there.)

There were many people who contributed money, but I also wanted to take clothes and books to the kids.  Several co-workers had brought clothes for me and the British School in The Hague donated tons of books. I was sad that I couldn’t take everything with me (I could only take 40 kg in two bags) but whatever was left went to a homeless shelter in The Hague. 

I took two full suitcases to the Cheshire Home that first morning.  The kids were thrilled to see so many new gifts!  They were especially happy to have new books to read. 

Here is a video I took of all of the donations: 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-HVK8Dcm74E

a surprise visit

(Jovana recently returned from a trip to Sierra Leone. In several installments, here is the story of her visit to Freetown Cheshire Home and news about the children who live there.)

I arrived very late (my flight was delayed), so I had to take the helicopter from the airport to Freetown.  Having taken it last year (when I vowed to never ever take it again), I was terrified. The flight only lasts 7 minutes but those 7 minutes were spent praying for my life! The helicopter was old and we were told that it crashed a lot! This year, though, I was so happy to see a brand-new helicopter, one that was equipped with safety features like life vests! There were proper seats and seat belts and even headphones to protect your ears from the noise.  I could barely believe the flat-screen tv and the safety demonstration before takeoff.

I saw Farah (my taxi driver from last year, and friend) as soon as I landed. We were laughing, hugging, laughing and hugging some more! Suddenly, all of my fears and panic from the previous night disappeared. Farah drove me home (I was staying with Mo and Barbara, two friends who helped with the orphanage stuff last year).

 Mo, Barbara and I decided that we would go first thing in the morning to the Cheshire Home to surprise Marie and Kadie. We had kept my visit a secret from them, and we knew that their reaction would be amazing. 

Here is the video of Marie’s reaction. Fast forward to the last 15 seconds or so. 

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XNK7TKVVMYw

(Jovana recently returned from a trip to Sierra Leone. In several installments, here is the story of her visit to Freetown Cheshire Home and news about the children who live there.)

From: Jovana Paredes Subject: My return to Sierra Leone
Date: Sunday, November 8, 2009, 5:46 AM

 Dear Friends,
I hope this email finds you well. I returned from Sierra Leone last week, and as promised, I would like to let you all know how the trip went, and how your donations helped to change lives.

The night before I left, I was in a panic. I was so afraid that I would see no changes in the country since I left last year. I wondered how I would feel seeing extreme poverty and suffering again.  However, I was pleasantly surprised to see several positive changes!  I saw that new paved/flattened roads had been built, the amount of government electricity had dramatically improved, and the government was trying to “beautify” Freetown by (re)constructing  monuments. Locals told me that little by little, life was getting better. 

 Here is a video I took of driving around Freetown: 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=REnYqFxu7s0