Slum Doctor Programme

SDP Volunteer in Sierra Leone
October 3, 2008, 2:28 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,
While we are waiting for Tim and Paige to recover from their trip to Africa long enough to reflect I wanted to highlight the work of a person very dear to Slum Doctor Programme.    Annie DeVoe is the first SDP volunteer who sat at Tim’s dinner table stuffing envelopes and brainstorming ideas to bring Bellingham together to fight AIDS.  Now here we are 6 years later further along than I am sure either of them imagined.

And now 6 years later Annie has found herself in the midst of Sierra Leone’s painful recovery after a long, bloody civil war.  It takes a great deal of courage to help facilitate the reconciliation of a whole country to itself for some of the worst crimes ever committed.  Needless to say I anxiously await her sporadic emails from Sierra Leone.  I asked her if I could share some of her thoughts on our blog.  So here is the first post of many.

Yesterday was my day to jog home from the Court to my compound. Running through the streets of Freetown is more of an adventure than it is just exercise. At the base of a long, steady hill I came up behind two men who had a two wheeled cart loaded with lumber. One was steering and pulling a little, but the man at the back was pushing this huge, heavy cart up the hill mostly on his own. I realized in mid-stride that I could not just run past them and feel okay about it. So I started pushing that cart, step by step, up a hill that I never realized was so long. It was the only time I’ve walked through the streets here in silence. No “Hello! Hello!” or “What is your name?” or “I love the white woman!” called out from the side. Just silence, and sighs of shock. I was feeling pretty good about what a help I was being until a 6 year old boy came and pushed on one side of the cart and our speed doubled. Humbling.

Every day here is amazing, challenging, good, and difficult. I travelled across the country to the diamond region of Kono, to the town of Koidu, where the RUF rebels had their stronghold during the war. Koidu was burned, block by block, until almost nothing remained. Everyone fled or was killed, and many of the people I work with in Outreach are from the Kono region so they were able to tell me the whole of its history. One man I travelled with told me about how when he was a boy and it rained, diamonds would flow through the small runoff streams in the streets, and he would find them sometimes and take them home to his mom. No Sierra Leonean is ever paid fairly for a diamond. It would be like selling your house or your new car and getting $10.  The Outreach we did in Kono was for youth group leaders in the region, and the topic was non-violence. During the presidential elections last year there were violent protests among youths and clashes with diamond mining companies, and people were killed. It is tough to be in a room full of hopeful young men and women, to know that they have used violence to fight for their beliefs, but to see them talk, discuss, and explore ways to accomplish their hopes without violence; slowly, and through a system that is openly corrupt.

The more I learn about the people here, the country, and their war, the more I want to know and understand. A country actively trying to find its feet and its heart is a powerful thing. The end of Ramadan is tonight, and the holiday tomorrow. Most of the Christians here in the city will still celebrate the feast because of family ties and the linking of both Christianity and Islam through family. Can you imagine? It’s a beautiful thing.


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