SLIP E-Zine Nov/dec 2010

Good news for Sierra Leone is that the country has moved from the bottom of the UNDP index to 158th out of 169 countries in the 2010 Report on development. Three basic dimensions of human development are measured: a long and healthy life, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living. The most basic capabilities for human development are to lead long and healthy lives, to be knowledgeable, to have access to the resources needed for a decent standard of living and to be able to participate in the life of the community. Without these, many choices are simply not available, and many opportunities in life remain inaccessible. Some of the signs of this development are recounted in the very interesting personal experiences and stories in this edition of E-zine.

Editorial

Geraldine Horgan (kiltale@eircom.net)

Many thanks to all the supporters of SLIP and to the contributors to E-Zine.

Good news for Sierra Leone is that the country has moved from the bottom of the UNDP index to 158th out of 169 countries in the 2010 Report on development.  Three basic dimensions of human development are measured: a long and healthy life, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living. The most basic capabilities for human development are to lead long and healthy lives, to be knowledgeable, to have access to the resources needed for a decent standard of living and to be able to participate in the life of the community. Without these, many choices are simply not available, and many opportunities in life remain inaccessible. Some of the signs of this development are recounted in the very interesting personal experiences and stories in this edition of E-zine.

In SLIP we long to see further development and at an even faster pace! However, there are reports of worrying signs in relation to the extractive industry.  Special tax exemptions appear to have been introduced.  Where have we heard this before?

As the new opinion columnist in this edition would likely suggest, perhaps Sierra Leone and Ireland can learn from each other!

Next year is an important year in the development of Sierra Leone as a nation.  How it chooses to mark fifty years of independence will reflect its maturity as a nation and give indicators for future development.  SLIP in co-operation with a number of other organisations will honour the peoples and culture of SL and the strong links with Ireland. Readers will be kept informed of upcoming events and hopefully you will be free to participate in them.

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Visit to Sierra Leone by Sr. Mary Coleman mshr

mcolemanmshr@eircom.net

Reconstruction

I went to Sierra Leone in May 2010 for about 3 weeks.  I also visited Liberia.  Over all I was very encouraged by my visit.  During my stay I spent time in Freetown, Bo and Kenema where MSHR are engaged in Ministry.  I went to Liberia via Kailahun and Koindu. Freetown is very overcrowded making travel within the city very difficult.  Bo and Kenema are also very overcrowded with traffic and people selling on the streets.  I got the feeling that petty trading was booming.  One cannot but marvel at the resilience of the people get back and reclaim their lives.  There is still evidence of war-burnt houses and buildings but much has been done in reconstruction except Koindu which still bears the scars of war.  The town is still full of burnt-out buildings and other signs of destruction with few people in evidence.

Roads: The country is still trying to recover from the effects of the war.  Government is concentrating on infra structure i.e. roads.  The road from Freetown to Kenema via Bo is now complete; Freetown to Makeni and Magburaka is complete; work on a paved road between Kenema and Kailahun is about to begin.  Plans are in place for a paved road between Moyamba and Freetown via Bradford.

Agriculture is being aggressively promoted by funds from Britain.  Free Health Care for Children less than 5 years old and lactating mothers has been introduced and so far is going well.  Health Workers wonder how long the drugs will last.  Serabu Hospital has reopened with a number of the staff from previous times back and trying to get it up and running to full capacity

Education Many schools have reopened and new ones built.  Education of girls is high on the agenda and it is rumoured that Government will pay fees for girls in Junior School in the future.  However, the classrooms are overcrowded.  A classroom I visited had up to 100 girls with desks and chairs for about 60.  The years of war when education came to a standstill, is reflected in the inadequate number of teachers available and the quality of their teaching.  I was fortunate to be able to visit on a day when there was a big celebration, so it afforded me a chance to reconnect with many friends from the past.

Because of time constraints I was only able to visit Holy Rosary Works but other Religious Sisters are there Cluny, Immaculate Heart, Notre Dame; Christian Brothers, Salesian Priests and Spiritans.

Over all I was impressed by the progress which has been made.

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Cluny Diomplor Programme (Teresa McKeon, Sister of St. Joseph of Cluny)(trsmckeon@yahoo.com)

Before her return to Kono in October there Teresa McKeon sent this outline of her work:

The areas covered by the above Programme are: Yomandu, Tankora Chiefdom, Koidu, Kono.

It includes the following:

(i).Projects for:

~ Older women:            Business Training & Loan Management Village Savings.

~ Younger women:       Skills Training in Catering, Weaving, Tailoring.

~Mothers and infants:  Nutrition & Village Health Care

(ii). Development Education workshops for all women in our programmes.

(iii). Education work in Primary and Secondary Schools:

On-the-job in-service training for all teachers since very few are qualified teachers.

News Briefs

Change in SL Education Policy

The Government has extended the Senior Secondary School to 4 years, so that a student now has to spend 3 years in the Junior Secondary School and 4 in the Senior Secondary.  A total of 7 years to finish secondary education.   This latest information on the government educational policy called ‘The White Paper’ means that more pupils will be in the Senior Sector with no provision to support this new policy.  Implementation begins this academic year.

Medical

An Extract from an Article by Marese McDonagh published in ‘The Irish Times” earlier this year. “A new eye clinic to tackle blindness in Sierra Leone”

The clinic in Kenema, the first major building project undertaken by Sightsavers after 50 years in Sierra Leone, is seen as a key tool in preventing blindness and improving the quality of life for those with other visual impairments which otherwise would remain undetected.  Sightsavers Ireland is ensuring that local staff will be trained to run the clinic in the future.  Sightsavers also helps to run a programme to distribute the drug Mectizan which helps to prevent river blindness.

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Mary Robinson writes to Sr. Hilary Lyons

REALISING RIGHTS

The Ethical Globalization Initiative

Sr. Hilary Lyons, C/o Holy Rosary Sisters, 23 Cross Avenue, Blackrock, Co. Dublin

3 August 2010

Dear Sr. Hilary,

I have just returned from a visit to Sierra Leone and felt compelled to write to you to congratulate you on your outstanding achievements over four decades in Sierra Leone.  Your dear friend, Dr. Komba Kono, Minister of State in the office of Vice President, speaks very highly of the contribution you have made to improving healthcare standards in Sierra Leone and particularly in Serabu hospital.  As a fellow Mayo woman, I was very proud to learn of your tireless work to improve maternal healthcare in Sierra Leone and I understand that you are still actively supporting Sierra Leone through the Sierra Leone Ireland Partnership.  I wish to salute your great work and on your commitment to Sierra Leone.

I am currently President of ‘Realising Rights’ and one of the organisations programmes, the Ministerial Leadership Initiative (MLA), is working with the Ministry of Health to support financial management and improved donor coordination in health.  I would be very interested to speak to you about these issues at some stage.  In the meantime, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you most sincerely for the great work that you have done.  Together with Sr. Geraldine Jackson, Sr, Theresa McKeon and Sr. Mary Sweeney from the order of St. Joseph of Cluny, you have greatly enhanced the reputation of Ireland.   I had the good fortune to meet Sr. Geraldine Jackson and Sr. Mary Sweeney whilst I was in Freetown but unfortunately, Sr. Theresa McKeon was away.

With kind regards,

Mary Robinson.

Newsflash!

Sr Hilary has been nominated for Mayo Person of the Year. The winner will be announced in January 2011 and there will be a dinner in the Burlington Hotel on the 11th February 2011. Further information available from Francis O’Malley secretary@mayoassociationdublin.com

Views from the Pendembu Poda Poda By Back Bencher

Michael Ring TD of Mayo is a man of many words and some wisdom.  He, with that much maligned staccato accent, in a recent Dáil debate suggested that Irish rule be handed back to Queen Elizabeth II during her expected visit next year.

But like many good suggestions this one needs a little tweaking.  In fairness to the ageing monarch and her over stretched, axe wielding government, dealing with Mr Ring would be asking too much. But a modest proposal deserving of serious consideration is to exclude Mr Ring’s constituency of Mayo from such a much needed handover.   It would give Mr Ring and his party a longed for majority in the smaller principality.  But the weakness, you may quickly add, is how the almost immeasurable energy of the man be fully and gainfully employed.

A fact finding mission is the answer, and where to you might ask as we struggle with storms on many fronts.  Sierra Leone yet again comes with the gleaming resolution.

Suggested areas of useful study in SL for Mr Ring and his Oireachtas colleagues are:

How the head of State and leader of the government of Sierra Leone can easily and successfully be managed by one person with obvious significant saving.

The tolling network of Sierra Leone.  The system may appear a little ad hoc and lacking sophistication, but among the many advantages are the local retention of the vast majority of funding raised and the avoidance of geometric progressive increases of fines if one fails to pay within the allotted time.  The many positive impacts of money spent by Irish Aid.  Michael Ring could talk a little sense to that Dumpy Dimplex Dude, Martin Naughton and his headline catching sound bite of getting rid of Irish Aid. With Brian Lenihan moving alarmingly in that direction with his ‘curtailment of the allocation for Official Development Assistance (ODA)’ by another €35 million in the recent  budget, where is enlightened self interest of supporting other parts of the global village?   But you need not fear the esteemed Mr Ring will speak with enthusiasm and conviction of the great needs of both Belmullet and Bonthe.

We are nearing Manowa Junction and the road is a little bumpy so we bid farewell from where Ring and Naughton fear to tread.

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Review of book Chasing the Devil, by Sr. Celia Doyle (srcelia@hotmail.com)

A travel book connected with Sierra Leone was launched in September this year.   Tim Bucher’s “Chasing the Devil”, is a dramatic travel book.  He sets out on a journey across Sierra Leone and Liberia.   He follows in the footsteps of Graham Greene going on the journey that he and his cousin did in 1935.  This trip was immortalised in the travel classic, “Journey without Maps”. While Graham Greene took 26 bearers and hammocks Tim walked every inch to find out as much as he could about life in the bush.  He had another Englishman with him and a couple of Sierra Leonean or Liberian guides to help them, depending on which country he was travelling through, to help them.

As we all know, much has changed in Sierra Leone and Liberia between 1935 and the present!   Tim Butcher writes in a very exciting way.  He was African war correspondent for the Daily Telegraph and was first sent out to Sierra Leone in May 2000.  He came into Freetown on a helicopter bringing in the British soldiers (those sent out by Tony Blair who were responsible for bringing an end of the war in Sierra Leone) and met Sr. Redempta and myself trying to get out!

He writes about many things that would seem ordinary to those of us around at that time but does it all in a very exciting way. Much of the Sierra Leone section of the book will be very familiar to those of us in SLIP.  However he tries to go deep into how things work and where the real power is in different groups, especially the secret societies.  In his comment Archbishop Tutu says that “Chasing the Devil” shows the power of good to prevail over evil.

All of us who worked in Sierra Leone will  have heard much of Graham Greene – his connection with City Hotel in Freetown and those of us connected with Pujehun  remember being told that he wrote “ The Heart of the Matter “  on the verandah upstairs in the house that became the Holy Rosary Convent.  In fact “Chasing the Devil “has made me want to find and read again Graham Greene’s books.

The whole journey through Sierra Leone and Liberia and all the research they tried to do had such an effect on Tim Butcher that he left his job as a news reporter. He said he would find it difficult to “go back to the flash immediacy demanded by modern online journalism.  The trip had taught me the value of taking time to savour the true smell and taste of a place” He began a new phase of his life as an author.

“Chasing the Devil” is available at Easons.

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THE END

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