Boreholes for fresh water
We hadn’t been in Makeni long before we realised that everyone had a problem finding fresh, clean drinking water. Jonathan worked at Holy Spirit Hospital for a month and when the water ran out in the dry season they had to buy river water that the fire engine delivered to fill their water tanks. We were able to buy bottled water to drink but flushing our toilet, washing our hands and preparing food was a problem without a source of clean water.
Everyday at the University we saw people carrying heavy buckets of water from the wells to the latrine blocks. Sister Mary at St Joseph’s School explained that if she had clean running water for drinking and washing, then the children at the school would be so much healthier!
We decided that getting clean water to the University, Hospital and St Joseph’s School needed to be a priority and so set about trying to get quotes for three boreholes. We hoped that family and friends would help us raise the money needed.However, we soon realised that we did not have a lot of choice when it came to finding a company to drill boreholes. The Korean Group seemed to have a monopoly in this work and quoted us £30,000. This seemed a lot of money but as we couldn’t find anyone else to quote we agreed to ask them to do the work.
In January 2010 The Korean Group arrived in Makeni with drills and generators and trucks and got started. After four days we had three boreholes drilled complete with pumps and water tanks to store the water. All that was needed was to add pipework to take the water around the sites.
Everyone was delighted with the clean water. The teachers at St Joseph’s School are able to take a five litre container home each night full of fresh water for their families, and the children in the school are able to get a drink when they want to, wash their hands and flush their toilets. Having showers is much more fun when you don’t have to use a bucket and cup! The University has extended the pipe work so that toilets flush, taps work and there is plenty of drinking water for the students.
However, the borehole at the Hospital has been problematic.After a few months of use the sides of the borehole collapsed and the pump was ruined. The borehole was flushed out and the pump was replaced, but again the borehole collapsed and the pump was lost. After a long delay the Trust was able to obtain the support of the Josephite Fathers at Lunsar, who organised for a conventional well to be dug. With the installation of a submersible pump in May 2012, the hospital finally has the plentiful supply of clean water that it needs.
There is plenty of water in Sierra Leone in the long wet season, but many hand dug wells run short in the dry season as they are not deep enough. In the right kind of ground, boreholes can be answer to the problem, as you can drill deep enough to where is a plentiful supply of lovely fresh water waiting to be used.
Thanks to Water for Kids, Alkemy Gold, David and Felicity Paling, and friends and family for all their support for this project.
During the Ebola Virus crisis in 2014/2015, access to these abundant clean water supplies is said to have been especially helpful in protecting against the spread of the disease.]
The Koinadugu district in the north is one of the poorest of the country: eight people out of ten live in poverty (using the U.N. index). Health condition is one of the worst in the Country, due to the lack of structures and the low level of education. Yifin, a village situated at the extreme north of the Koinadugu district, is still suffering all the consequences of being completely destroyed during the rebel war. It is now being gradually rebuilt, thanks to the efforts of the community. Even though far from big towns, it is one of the most populated villages of the area – about 3000 people, but it faces a lot of difficulties, being isolated from the closest communities and lacking in terms of infrastructures like roads and communication networks (the community is using a radio system available just at a particular time during the day). Yifin is particularly hard to reach during the raining season. At this time it is reachable only with special transport.
The general lack of infrastructure makes it difficult to reach the few nearest educational institutions, obstructing the spread of literacy and, together with the high schools fees and costs of transport, obstructs also the spread of information about the proper use of drinking water. For all these reasons Yifin is considered one of the poorest villages within the district.
St Anthony’s Secondary School, with 520 students, is the only one in all the area, and a central point of reference for the inhabitants of the community and of the closest areas.
Water for Yifin
In the remote north of the country, in an area that can only be reached by sturdy four-wheel drive vehicles, and sometimes inaccessible in the rainy season, there is an isolated town called Yifin. The town suffered a lot of damage in the rebel war and, because of its remoteness, post war developments have tended to come rather late. Before we left Makeni we were asked by the bishop if we could find the money to bring water to a secondary school in the town.
The aqueduct network that used to bring drinking water from an old reservoir in the nearby mountains to the centre of the town was partially damaged, causing enormous difficulties to the inhabitants, whose basic drinking water source was now situated 2 miles distant from the village. This inevitably led to diseases like typhoid and diarrhoea, due to the use of undrinkable water.
The organisation Caritas Italiana had offered funding to repair/renew pipework up to the centre of the town, but there was not enough money to pipe the water to the school where there were 500 children. We approached Water for Kids who generously gave the money, so the school now has drinking water, hand washing facilities and water to flush the latrines. The first picture illustrates the difficulty of access to Yifin, the second shows the good outcome of Water for Kids funding.
Helping the children of blind beggars get to school
A very common sight in Makeni in 2009 was to see a young child [of school age] leading a blind relative around the town begging for money. This child through no fault of its own, is being denied an education and a childhood, so when we were introduced to ‘The Blind Beggars Association’ we decided we wanted to help those children. The ‘Blind Beggars Association’ consists of about 60 families where the principal carer is blind, who meet on a Saturday morning to pay in to a hardship’ fund –just a few leones each week- and this money saved can be used by them in the future, to cover funeral expenses, medical bills etc.
We attended several Saturday morning meetings and the problems of daily living were shared with us. There is no social security so begging for money is the way a lot of blind adults support themselves. However, they can not raise enough money to pay for their rent, food and school fees for their children. Their greatest request was for school fees for their children. We agreed that we would find the fees for one child in each family to go to school. Without an education the poverty cycle for these families is perpetuated.
In the academic year 2009/10 we started with 43 scholarships for these children. In 2010/11, 20 more children joined the scheme and we provided 63 scholarships. In 2011/12, having received satisfactory school reports, we have continued with the same 63 children. It costs £15 for a primary child to attend school for the year and £30 for a secondary child. This money includes a new school uniform for each child at the start of the school year. The picture shows Kadiatu Kamara with one of the sponsored children – Isha Kamara.
A local councillor – Councillor Sentu, works on a voluntary basis with the Blind Beggars and carries out school checks to make sure the children are attending and reads their end of year report. The picture shows Councillor Sentu and John Kalowa with a gathering of the sponsored children.
There are many causes of blindness, river blindness, measles, meningitis, malaria, hereditary causes etc and although Sightsavers operates in Freetown they can not cure all cases of blindness.
Dignity for the Blind is the new name for a self-help group who used to call themselves “The Blind Beggars Association”.
The group consists of about 60 families where the principal carer is blind. They meet regularly on Saturday mornings to pay in to a hardship’ fund –just a few leones each week- and this money saved can be used by them in the future, to cover funeral expenses, medical bills etc. We attended several Saturday morning meetings and the problems of daily living were shared with us.
Life for the blind or visually-impaired is extremely hard in a country like Sierra Leone, and especially for blind women and girls. There are high rates of unemployment and no social security to provide a safety net for vulnerable and marginalised members of the community. Government services are basic, and, although improvements are undoubtedly being made, there are still places where utilities and infrastructure are in a poor state of repair.
At present only a tiny proportion of blind people in Sierra Leone get any education or skills training, which leaves the blind with no alternative but to beg on the street. Moreover, the only way for many blind people to do this is by using children as guides. Roads and sidewalks are dangerous for sighted people let alone those unable to see: vehicles are driven with very little consideration for other road users or pedestrians many vehicles should not be on the road and there are potholes and open sewers, and posts, cables and other dangerous fixtures that can cause injury. The fact that children are used as guides means that their lives are blighted too: they miss out on schooling and grow up without education or training.
Some people are born blind, but most develop blindness as a result of parasite-borne diseases, vitamin deficiency or an infection or medical condition such as measles or diabetes. There is no social security so begging for money is the way a lot of blind adults support themselves.
The Makeni Trust Fund supports them by contributing to their childrens’ school fees.
Undergraduate students at the University of Makeni
The Trust has supported some of the students at the university who, when nearing the end of their studies, run into unforeseeable financial difficulties which threaten to ruin all their hard work.
In 2015, we are supporting some students who have had financial difficulties as a result of the Ebola Virus Disease.
Professional development for university staff
The Trust has also supported the professional development of university staff by paying the fees of a member of the administration in studying for an MBA in Human Resource Management at Uganda Martyrs University.
In 2014 a successful IT student has been supported in following further studies in Ghana, to strengthen the UNIMAK IT faculty on his return.
Coordination with Educaid
The Trust is pleased to work with Educaid by supporting some of their staff in their professional development, and an ex-student who is studying medicine at College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences (COMAHS) in Freetown.
March 2013 – a third container …
We have just sent off our third container full of furniture and equipment for the University of Makeni and St Joseph’s School for the Hearing Impaired. We are very grateful for the generous support we have received from many areas.
March 2012 – Sending the second container from Sheffield to Makeni
On March 10th 2012 about a dozen willing volunteers arrived at All Saints School, Sheffield to load our second container for Makeni. The operation was a lot slicker than last time as we had learnt from experience what to put where to make sure everything arrived safely.
A lot of the equipment in this container was very good quality. We had been given 30 flat screen computers from All Saints School that were only three years old. We had also purchased from Computer Aid 30 refurbished lap tops that once at the university would be given to lecturers to help them with their research and lecturing. We also loaded in the container printers, photocopiers, filing cabinets, chairs, science equipment and a lot more. The container made good progress in its journey [unlike last time] and arrived in Makeni on April 2nd.
We have received many emails of thanks but the best comment that stands out is that we are known for sending quality equipment that works, unlike some other organisations that off load outdated equipment that is broken and not repairable!
March 2011 – Sending the first container from Sheffield to Makeni University, Sierra Leone
When Delia and Jon Kay returned to the UK after doing voluntary work in The University of Makeni, Sierra Leone, they promised to send much needed equipment to enable the University to function more efficiently and provide an even better standard of certificate, diploma and degree courses for the students who are keen to get qualifications.
So for six months they and many of their friends asked around for unwanted filing cabinets, desks, chairs, computers, books etc etc and stored them in the basement of their parish church – The Mother of God, Sheffield.
Finally, on March 18th 2011 there was enough to fill a container, so All Saints pupils helped transfer everything donated to their site and the following morning Notre Dame pupils helped load the container. It was a freezing cold morning but over 20 pupils turned up at 7.30 am to cheerfully carry the heavy furniture and boxes. It was a great relief to see the doors close on the final stack of chairs.
A very big thank you to Bob Sawyer and Bernie Healy from All Saints, who provided pupil help and the premises for loading the container as well as 22 much needed computers and monitors; Notre Dame who donated books and pupils to load the container; Mgr Kilgannon for allowing us to store furniture under the parish room; the Wicker Chemist for furniture and transport; St Theresa’s Primary School for donating furniture and stationery and St Marie’s Primary for furniture and office equipment. Also a big thank you to everyone who helped in anyway.
The container left Sheffield on 19th March carrying 8.2 tonnes of equipment and materials for the University and for St Joseph’s school for the Hearing Impaired. Over the next few weeks it travelled via Liverpool, Antwerp, Las Palmas and Lome, finally arriving in Freetown port on 28th April.
There were some delays in getting the container released from the port, but it eventually arrived at the University on 16th June.
Immediately we received this photo with messages of grateful thanks from The Vice Chancellor, The University Administrator and one of the Lecturers.
“We are indeed grateful to you and all those who have helped in putting a container together for The University. It was truly like Christmas! The air of anticipation as each item was carried into the building was wonderful.”– Vice Chancellor
“When it was all unloaded Mr Tholley, the registrar, said ” Today I am really happy! These items will make a huge difference here!”” – Sister Rosanne, Lecturer.
“The container arrived on campus at about 12.30 am. The following morning both staff and students were curious to know the content of what was loaded in the container. To their surprise and admiration the first thing they set their eyes on, as I unlocked the container were chairs…. this called for a real celebration, not to mention the computers, books and anti-virus software.” – Emmanuel Turay, Administrator.
Makeni Trust Fund has directly supported several building projects including the following:
Storm Drain for Bombali School for the Blind, Panlap
The Bombali School for the Blind at Panlap, about 5km north of Makeni, caters for 43 primary school children and accommodates another 17 who are integrated into mainstream secondary education. It currently has a waiting list.
The school was originally situated in a disused abattoir, which still today houses the dormitories and dining area. New classrooms have been built, but the school remains in desperate need of support. It is recognised by the Government but has yet to receive any state funding. Bunk beds and mattresses have recently been provided by an American charity, but the needs of the school remain immense.
In 2009 we were invited to visit The Bombali School for the Blind. We were impressed with the good solid brick and concrete building set in a quiet area called Panlap about three miles outside Makeni. However, we were quite shocked by the lack of resources. There were only a few books, one Braille machine and very little else, but the greatest problem we were told by the teachers was that in the rainy season the water rushed down a steep slope and poured into the classrooms! Friends and family provided the money to install a proper drainage system and also the Braille books and furniture for a library.
We visited the school in the middle of the rainy season to check that the drainage system was working and were pleased to see that it was a success.
Development of Rolal Teacher Training Centre
EducAid Sierra Leone runs the only free secondary schools in Sierra Leone, providing distinctive, personalised, top-quality holistic education. Educaid is also very involved in teacher training and in 2011 approached the Makeni Trust Fund for assistance in funding for an exciting project to build a second floor on top of the senior secondary school in Rolal to be used as a teacher-training centre for secondary school teachers.
We continue to maintain close links with Educaid Sierra Leone as they successfully expand their school activities at all levels.
Improvements at the Yoni campus of the University of Makeni
- Development of the well with a hand pump and a submersible electric pump to deliver running water to the hostel accommodation and three staff houses.
- Enclosing part of the hostel accommodation to make it suitably secure for 52 women students, and including mosquito netting for the windows.
- IT equipment and air conditioners for the computer laboratory.
Fundraiser and Director’s Assistant – St Joseph’s School for the Hearing Impaired, Makeni
The Makeni Trust Fund has been pleased to support a succession of volunteers working as Fundraiser and Director’s Assistant at St Joseph’s School for the Hearing Impaired, Makeni, from August 2011.
Our volunteers have been asked to work to develop and maintain a fundraising strategy, to work on an exciting and ambitious plan to raise an endowment fund for the school’s future, and to work closely with the school’s Director, Sister Mary Sweeney.
The latest volunteer in 2015 is Mercy Mwaura, who divides her time between St Joseph’s School and UNIMAK. She is funded jointly by the Makeni Trust Fund and another UK charity, Friends of St Joseph’s School.
To find out more about St Joseph’s School go to: http://www.st-josephs-hearing-impaired-school.com
Website for the University of Makeni
May 2010 – At the request of the vice-chancellor we have developed and maintained a website for the university. It’s much easier for us to do this from the UK at the moment, because internet connections in Makeni are very slow and very unreliable.
In the first half of 2015 the site had more than 2,500 unique visitors per month.
The site has been developed in a way that makes it easy to transfer control to the university, as soon as they are ready.
You can see what’s happening at the university at www.universityofmakeni.com
Laptops for University Lecturers
Working with Computer Aid International the trust delivered 20 refurbished laptops for university lectures to use in the preparation and delivery of their courses.