17th February: Foofoo Water, Fabaina, Songo Loko & Christ Church Hastings

On the way out, I attempted to reconfirm our flights on my mobile – I got this unlocked befor leaving so that I could by a local sim card. Last time here I didn’t have the luxury of Skype and worked up a frightening phone bill calling home using roaming charges… Bit nervous about the call as I’m still missing a fair amount of Krio! Got through and passed on my request, but had no confirmation before cut the woman on the other side put the phone down. Concerned, we called in, but all was fine.

The first stop was at the school/church at Foofoo (or Fufu) Water, named after its twinned church in Hailsham. In 1992, before I joned the SLM, I did a bicycle ride around the UK churches to raise money to build a school here. This was flattened during the War. It was eventually rebuilt, and a second three classroom block recently erected. The secondary school currently meet here, but are under pressure toget their own home. It was very touching to be presented with a wooden staff, carved by one of the boys – a symbol of honour or authority such as a chief or elder. Unfortunately we didn’t get to meet Magnus Bendu, the minister and well known from his visit to England two years ago. We were both affected by the plight of one of the teachers, a long serving man called Alex Turey, who was suffering with a hernia and had been unable to teach for qite a while. We determined to leave him with the money he needed for the operation.

The first time came to Fabina the school and church were meeting in a pitch black community building. It was so dark that you could bearly make them out. How they could possibly learn or celebrate with that, the dust and humidity I do not know. To come back and find a brand new three classroom building was fantastic. This was another project with Francis behind it. The green, white and blue stripes were a neat touch.

Songo Loko was another site full of memories. Six years ago, Gordon Hamilton and I attended the official opening of the school. It came across as being one of the biggest community events in this area ever with many speeches from signicant local people and much pomp, ceremony and dancing. As we left, enormous peakers were beng unloaded from the back of a van. I suspect the party lasted for hours. Returning, things hadn’t stood still. A new building stands alongside the last for teachers to use to sleep in as it is some way from where they live. This is bit of an experiment. It will be interesting to see if it helps. So far it hasn’t particularly as they haven’t managed to get any bedding there yet… We were also introduced to achurch member who was suffering from a really nasty eye wound. He clearly could not afford the required treatment and once more we determined to help.

Our last port of call was Christ Church, Hastings, whch is twinned with Shoreham in the UK. The minster here is our head agent himself, Rev. Sylvanus Alba Nicol. Sylvanus is a very perceptive man with a wry tinkle in his eye and a really dry sense of humour. He is also renown in the SL Connexion for his poetry – I’ve had for ome time a selection of them which I keep meaning to publish as a fundraiser. We saw much more of him than we expected. We discovered when we got here that he’d recently had a double hernia operation, and was still cleary quite tender. My last memories of Hastings were of a church devoid of roof and full of scaffolding. The roof is now back n and the inside decorated. It hasbeome a beautiful, restful place. It was quite noticible that unlike vitually everywhere else, the church didn’t present us with a list of ‘constraints’ for us to meet, just a tray full of fruit. Beautiful. We decided to risk offence and share them out, a gift turned into a spotaneous banquet, from being distinguished guests we became family members. A wonderful end to the day!

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About Ben Quant

Ben is the former Chairman of the Sierra Leone Mission Committee in the UK, now serving as a co-opted member of the SLM, as well as the minister of the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion church in Wormley, Hertfordshire (www.wormleyfreechurch.org.uk)
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