Julia has sent her first impressions from Sierra Leone and tells us a little of what this means to her and how she has already realised 1/5 of an ambition…
From Newcastle to Freetown
After six hours on the plane my foot stepped on to the tarmac. And this was a big deal for me, a moment I acknowledge all the way down the steps. When I hit the bottom I was stepping on African soil for the first time. For anyone who knows me well, they will know I have a desire to go to every continent at least once in my lifetime but of all the continents, I have always wanted to go to Africa the most. For me stepping on to the tarmac was my version of Neil Armstrong’s “One small step for (wo)man but one big step for mankind” (in this case my brain) and made me the first in my family to have been to Africa.
So far we’ve spent the last few days in Freetown allowing us to adjust to the heat, gather some energy and to meet the CAFOD team here while they brief us on our time in the communities. It started off on Sunday morning with Mass at the local Cathedral with the Archbishop of the area being the main celebrant. We were able to meet the Archbishop before Mass and explain to him a bit about what we are doing in Sierra Leone.
On Monday morning we arrived to meet the Sierra Leone CAFOD team – all very lovely people who are making our lives as easy as they possibly can in order to prepare us and the partners for our time in Makeni and Kenema. The day started with their usual weekly team meeting- the only problem was that it was a public holiday so some of the staff weren’t in the office. The meeting also involved a skype call with Chris Bain which made the other ‘gappers’ and myself feel privileged to be a part of as we were warmly welcomed to Sierra Leone by Chris. After the meeting we had talks about our expectations, our safety, particular projects we will be visiting and the culture of Sierra Leone. This continued into this morning and we are all very excited to be heading off to Makeni tomorrow.
This afternoon we went on a tour of Freetown which included visiting the National Museum (where we got a tour to be able to learn about the culture), the national football stadium, the University of Freetown and the Sierra Leone parliament. All very interesting things to see and the tour allowed us to see a variety of sites throughout the city.
One of the things we are struggling with is how tired the heat is making us and that means during the hotter times we just want to rest. As our trip continues, I’m not sure how much rest we will be able to get. Therefore I ask you all for prayers – they will all be appreciated.
Talking of tiredness, I’d better head to bed as we have to be up early in the morning to head to Makeni.
So for now, goodbye to Freetown.
As we get more in from Julia and from our other Gapper, Kat in El Salvador, we’ll put them straight up here.
So stay tuned…