June 2019 – a Month to Remember

Bo teachers visit UK and join the Day of the African Child

In June 2019 we welcomed four teachers from Bo; John Sandi, Lucy Amara, Kula Fangawa and Francis Jusu. This was the second part of a British Council funded Connecting Classrooms project. For some of us it was like welcoming old friends, for others the excitement of having a ‘real person’ from Bo in their classrooms, where pupils had been learning about life in Sierra Leone, but now met with that life, face-to-face. Staff and pupils exchanged details about what they had been learning around Global Goal 13: Climate Action and about recycling and reusing waste. Ecobricking had very much become a feature of school life both here and in Bo, thanks to our project.

As well as visiting all 15 of our link schools in Warwick District, the four experienced as much of UK life as we could possibly fit into their three week visit; a trip to the RSC to see The Taming of the Shrew, visits to big cities Birmingham, Coventry and London, time with a foodbank in Leamington learning that not all of the west is affluent, an evening with Songlines Community Choir, spectating county athletics, fun at Ten Pin bowling and meals in many different friends’ homes. Sharing all this was an absolute pleasure for all involved and many of us have cemented professional friendships for life.

The highlight of their visit for us was bringing together 550 children for the Day of the African Child, this year our 10th Anniversary. As usual the children were treated to six workshops throughout the action-packed day.

Our four visitors told West African stories and ran Q&A sessions. Kwame from African Activities helped pupils produce printed fabric using Adinkra Symbols. Children burnt off some energy with dancing, learning an African playground game (Boys Norty) and drumming. Finally, in the huge marquee pupils sung their hearts out and danced to songs such as ‘Tem am tenki’ and ‘You are my brother.’

During the lunch break we fitted in a skype call with Bo where, despite technical problems, we could see lots of Bo school children gathered together at the OWL centre. We then paraded round the field with our banners and flags to the sounds of drumming.

We were delighted to welcome many VIPs, including Hayley Coyne and Mike McPaul from the British Council and Hannah Dixon, the Send My Friend to School campaigns manager. Others were: Bishop John of Warwick, April Gold representing the DBE, Chair of WDC Cllr George Illingworth, Deputy Mayor of Leamington Cllr Susan Rasmussen, Mayor of Warwick Cllr Neale Murphy and John Holland representing our MP Matt Western. They all spoke very highly of the children’s hard work in campaigning on important issues like the environment and children’s right to education – messages which came across powerfully in two pupil-led speeches in the Finale.

The day left no doubt in anyone’s minds that the school partnerships we sustain through OWL do a very powerful job in developing global citizens who care about each other and their planet.

OWL is very grateful to Leamington Town Council and the British Council, without whose funding these events would not have been possible.

Report by Liz Garrett

Day of the African Child - Final Session
Day of the African Child – Final Session

International award for OWL planners

One World Link has been recognised in a major international award for town planning work as “a model for others to follow”.

One World Link’s work was “Highly Commended” by the Commonwealth Association of Planners (CAP) in its 2019 Awards for Outstanding Planning Achievement in the Commonwealth announced in Ghana on Saturday 9th November.  Entries for this award were received from around the world but One World Link was the only UK entry to be even shortlisted.

One World Link, the friendship link between Warwick District and the city of Bo in Sierra Leone, has been working with Bo City Council for several years to develop a plan to guide the growth of the city.  Town planners from Warwick and Leamington teamed up with Prince Charles’ Prince’s Foundation and planning consultants Turley to deliver training and support for colleagues in Sierra Leone and have run several joint training workshops to help develop a plan for the city.  

Philip Clarke from One World Link said: “It is a great honour for our work to be recognised in this way.  Bo is currently a city of 175,000 people but, like many middle-sized African cities, is likely to grow massively in the next few years to three times this size by 2045.  Sierra Leone does not have an effective planning system, so developing any type of meaningful plan for the city is challenging to say the least.  We were, however, hugely encouraged by the way that local people in Bo, with no planning training, embraced the ideas behind developing their own plan.  It was really important that the ideas for how Bo should grow should come from them.  Hopefully the recognition from this award will give them further encouragement to take this important work forward.”

One World Link will be travelling to Sierra Leone in January to undertake further training and continue to support this work.

Clive Harridge, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Association of Planners and a Warwickshire resident, presented the Award to Philip Clarke and John Archer at the Town Hall, Leamington Spa and said:

The Commonwealth Association of Planners Awards champion the very best of planning from across the Commonwealth. The Award winners were selected by an eminent independent panel of judges and I am hugely delighted that the work One World Link and its partners have been undertaking in Bo has been Highly Commended.  It was a real privilege for me to present the Award in person to Philip Clarke and John Archer.  The planning work in Bo which is ongoing is of the highest standard and is being used as a model for others to follow across the Commonwealth.”

The Commonwealth Association of Planners (CAP) represents over 40,000 town planners from 28 countries throughout the Commonwealth.  The annual CAP Awards for Outstanding Planning Achievement in the Commonwealth champion the very best examples of planning practice in the Commonwealth.   

One World Link’s work was “Highly Commended” by the Commonwealth Association of Planners (CAP) in its 2019 Awards for Outstanding Planning Achievement in the Commonwealth announced in Ghana on Saturday 9th November.  Entries for this award were received from around the world but One World Link was the only UK entry to be even shortlisted.

The photos above show:
– Members of One World Link together with councillors and officers of Bo City Council at the end of the Planning workshop
– Clive Harridge (Secretary-General, Commonwealth Association of Planners and Warwickshire resident) presents the Award certificate to John Archer and Philip Clarke from One World Link at the Town Hall, Leamington Spa.
– Prince Charles with Tom Perry (Prince’s Foundation) and John Archer and Philip Clarke (One World Link) discussing One World Link’s work in Bo

One World Link, the friendship link between Warwick District and the city of Bo in Sierra Leone, has been working with Bo City Council for several years to develop a plan to guide the growth of the city.  Town planners from Warwick and Leamington teamed up with Prince Charles’ Prince’s Foundation and planning consultants Turley to deliver training and support for colleagues in Sierra Leone and have run several joint training workshops to help develop a plan for the city.  

Philip Clarke from One World Link said: “It is a great honour for our work to be recognised in this way.  Bo is currently a city of 175,000 people but, like many middle-sized African cities, is likely to grow massively in the next few years to three times this size by 2045.  Sierra Leone does not have an effective planning system, so developing any type of meaningful plan for the city is challenging to say the least.  We were, however, hugely encouraged by the way that local people in Bo, with no planning training, embraced the ideas behind developing their own plan.  It was really important that the ideas for how Bo should grow should come from them.  Hopefully the recognition from this award will give them further encouragement to take this important work forward.”

One World Link will be travelling to Sierra Leone in January to undertake further training and continue to support this work.

Clive Harridge, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Association of Planners and a Warwickshire resident, presented the Award to Philip Clarke and John Archer at the Town Hall, Leamington Spa and said:

The Commonwealth Association of Planners Awards champion the very best of planning from across the Commonwealth. The Award winners were selected by an eminent independent panel of judges and I am hugely delighted that the work One World Link and its partners have been undertaking in Bo has been Highly Commended.  It was a real privilege for me to present the Award in person to Philip Clarke and John Archer.  The planning work in Bo which is ongoing is of the highest standard and is being used as a model for others to follow across the Commonwealth.”

The Commonwealth Association of Planners (CAP) represents over 40,000 town planners from 28 countries throughout the Commonwealth.  The annual CAP Awards for Outstanding Planning Achievement in the Commonwealth champion the very best examples of planning practice in the Commonwealth.   

Local teachers connecting classrooms with Bo

Local teachers connecting classrooms with Bo

In February 2019, three teachers from local primary schools, Maureen Greyson of All Saints, Leek Wootton, Louise Letchford of Emscote Infants, Warwick and Helen Newbold of St. Paul’s, Leamington took part in a Connecting Classrooms schools exchange programme, visiting and teaching in their linked schools in Bo.  The team were accompanied by Paul Atkins from the OWL committee.

Although Maureen had considerable experience working in Africa, this was a first time for the other two. It was a challenging experience, working in class sizes of up to 100, in excessive heat and without any of the modern facilities that they are used to. However, this was offset by the welcome and support from their host schools and our long-established friends in Bo. The teachers also ran a series of workshops focusing on ‘Critical Thinking and Problem Solving’, one of the core skills being championed by the British Council who helped fund the trip.

Our theme for the project work was based around one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals of Climate Action and the workshop looked at ways in which plastic can be reduced and spreading this message to teachers and pupils in the schools in Bo. In addition, a field trip was organised involving two pupils and one teacher from each of the partner schools and they visited a variety of waste management and recycling sites in Bo.

They also managed to see something of the country, visiting a rural community that was the home to our, then chairman, Maada Fobay, where they were welcomed in a most overwhelming manner. For the teachers, this was a life enhancing experience that will have a profound effect on both their personal and professional lives.

A multi-purpose visit to Bo

When Mair Evans and Phil Clarke went to Bo in January-February 2019 they made a lot of visits to good friends of OWL as well as participating in a planning workshop (see News from Bo). They met with:

  • Department for International Development in Freetown who are please with the progress of the waste project
  • Home Leone project “Destiny Village”, a sustainable movement that envisages the end of slum living in Sierra Leone
  • The Chair of Bo District Council, to discuss developments in local government
  • Yemoh Town Clinic and Bo Childrens Hospital, to see the progress they are both making
  • They also linked up with the visiting teachers, visiting linked schools and St Pauls School for the Blind

See their report

A final visit to Bo

A final visit to Bo

Jane Knight reflects on thirty-seven years of One World Link.

In 2017, on what must have been about my 20th visit to Sierra Leone since 1981, I announced that I would not be returning as I am getting too old.

So, imagine their surprise when I turned up in Bo again at the end of last October! However, I had to go back to say good-bye to to Bishop Koroma whose health had deteriorated so badly in 2018, and he had ended up blind and very fragile.

Jane Knight’s first visit to Bo, 1981

I am sorry to say that he died 6 weeks after I left. I have lost three of my closest Sierra Leonean friends whom I first met in 1982, and who guided me through the years of establishing our One World Link partnership. Had they lived in this country, I am sure they would have lived much longer.

Going back 37 years after my first visit to Bo brought back many memories. Armed with a few contact names given to me in England from OXFAM and others, I spent 2 weeks asking various individuals if they would be interested in a friendship link between the people of Bo District and Warwick District? Would such a link (based on equality) be possible or desirable? It took 2 more visits in 1982 and 1983 to be confident that the answer was yes. In the early days there was much stopping and starting as people lost interest and communications were limited to snail mail and hand delivered letters via the early visitors, and the progress was small but it was there.

At least the first exchange visits between Bo and Leamington helped to recharge everyone’s batteries and the link started to grow.

OWL Centre under construction in Mattru Road in 2004 – a practical manifestation of the link.

Even today, the expectations especially in Bo were and are wide ranging. Doubts about changing the relationship between people in such different worlds, long influenced by donor recipient attitudes wrought by colonialism and charities over the years are slowly being eroded… White people are now being taken on as real friends with trust and love shared by many across the divide. We now have rich and inspiring partnerships between teachers, medical staff, and local government officers and members. From hesitant one to one school links, we have teacher training programmes across many of the primary schools in both Districts, and health worker and local government planning and waste schemes. The latter is reaching out country wide. And then there are the personal engagements and sheer love between all the OWL members.

On a practical level, there have been some dramatic changes, and in other ways nothing has changed. Most dramatic has been the development of mobile phones (by-passing any significant development of land lines). On my first visit to Bo, I had to queue at the post office and wait for the telephone operator to connect all the cables and plugs until ‘Hey Presto’! I heard my husband’s voice crackling down the line from England. Now, not only does everyone (even in the villages) have a phone, but they can call for free and send pictures of everything that is happening, on Whats App.

On my first visit the pound was worth 2 Leones. On this last visit, it was Le10,000.

Jane Knight and President Maada Bio, 2018

The challenges of keeping OWL alive despite disappointments and frustrations remain, but our link survived the civil war and Ebola. There is further optimism now because of the political change last year from the Northern dominated APC government to a new President (Maada Bio) from the Southern region (SLPP) party. He has brought optimism that the country will at last, go forward. When I first arrived, the country was being stripped of all its wealth by the dictator, Siaka Stevens. During this last visit, Bo OWL arranged for me to meet the President (the last one I met was President Tejan Kabbah just after the civil war). This was a dramatic end to the experience of arriving in Sierra Leone, knowing no-one, and now leaving with a handshake from the President!

Bishop Koroma – Friend, mentor and patron of One World Link

Bishop Koroma – Friend, mentor and patron of One World Link

Fr Fabian, Fr Patrick Koroma and Jane Knight, 1985

Fr Patrick Koroma, Bishop of Kenema and one of the original supporters of One World Link, died in November 2018.

Jane Knight met Fr Patrick in 1982, during her second visit to Bo, in the very early stages of setting up the friendship link. He had been ordained for just 4 years. Straightaway, he seemed to appreciate the potential value of the linking idea, and from then onwards, he helped us to think through the issues arising from trying to cross cultures and understand each other, with amazing wisdom and lots of laughter.

He became a parish priest in Bo and was later appointed as the first African Bishop of Kenema where he was tasked with rebuilding the diocese which had suffered some of the worst pounding from the civil war. Later he was confronted with the terrifying outbreak of Ebola. He worked fearlessly with some of our contacts and the local hospital and agencies. He cared for victims even when they died, making sure that everyone had a name attached to their grave, so that they could be found by their relatives and not become anonymous.

Bishop Koroma and local councillors with visiting experts Clive Harridge, Richard Hall, Glenn Fleet and Phil Triggs

Since the beginning of the link he has been an excellent host and friend to many visitors from the UK. In this photograph you see him with members of the One World Link team who worked with Bo City Council in planning for the development of local government services.

After ten years of illness he died in 2018. One World Link has benefitted from his friendship and wisdom and will miss him.

Read Jane Knight’s personal recollections of their long friendship

First and last visits to Bo

First and last visits to Bo

A founder’s farewell and the foundations for a health link

Five visitors from One World Link went to Bo in Sierra Leone.

They were 2 midwives, a health visitor, an OWL founder member, and a young 13 year old – son of the leader, Helena White.

Jane Knight was the first visitor to Bo in 1981, when she invited the people of Bo District to join hands with Warwick District to form a friendship link. Helena is a local midwife who has trained many midwives and birth attendants in various Sierra Leonean clinics and hospitals.

Since 1981, strong school and local government links have been formed with some church, youth, library and individual links coming and going.

Staff of Yemoh Town Health Centre with OWL midwives

 

Baby in Bo Children’s Hospital

 

The visitors meet President Maada Bio

 

The visit established  that skills relating to mother and baby survival, and child health care and development, were possible areas where training with partners from Warwick District would be welcome. Anyone interested in joining the team in Warwick District should contact Helena White (helenawhite@hotmail.co.uk). Read her report

Meanwhile, young Will White went out and about making football links, from which he may be able to build up the interest of his peers.

Jane Knight, on this, her last visit, was able to see the enormous progress made in all aspects of the 37 years of OWL’s existence. For example 10 years ago, she was involved in the initiation of a waste management programme for Bo, supported by Warwickshire County Council. This small initiative has now grown into a huge programme funded by the British government (DFID) to bring effective waste reduction and management to all the major cities in Sierra Leone including the capital city Freetown. How small acorns can grow!

The highlight of the visit was a meeting with President Maada Bio who was elected last March, and he is already making significant changes to this beautiful country. He has introduced free education for all and has made commitments to improve roads which have been left to the ravages of rainy seasons for years.

When asked whether health would be a priority for him, he responded that education could not be properly implemented without good health for all. He grew up in a village, lost his father when aged 4, had an illiterate mother, but has now several degrees and is an ex Brigadier. Hence his commitment to education as a priority. The President visited Leamington in 2016 and it was a great thrill to see him now in post – such a great triumph for democracy in Sierra Leone.

This first health group visit was very fruitful and Helena and her colleagues, Sarah Galloon, and Katrina Moss, will be happy to recruit other health specialists to join them to contribute with skills and resources.

Jane Knight sadly said goodbye to long standing friends in Bo and hopes that OWL will continue for another 37 years.

OWL will be hosting and sending out planners, more health experts and teachers next year.

Anyone who wishes to become a member or get involved should contact OWL secretary, Alan Moss, at alan.j.moss1@btopenworld.com

November 9th, 2018

Day of the African Child 2018

Day of the African Child 2018

Five hundred children, from 15 schools in Leamington and Warwick, met for a day of celebration and learning, the “Day of the African Child” on 15th June. They gathered in a large marquee and listened to a poem “I am an African Child” and heard about the day in 1976 when school children were killed during protests in South Africa

Each of of the participating schools has a partner school in Bo (Sierra Leone) thourhg One World Link (OWL) which has been promoting friendship & mutual learning between Bo District and Warwick District for 37 years. The school links are maintained through activities such as annual teacher exchanges, children sharing work & projects, pen friendships, school clubs, teacher & children’s friendships & teacher training delivered in Sierra Leone.

The Day of the African Child celebration saw children enjoying a series of contrasting workshops. In two rooms there was quiet as they listened to West African stories told by Sierra Leonean guests. They made plenty of noise in the drumming workshops as they learnt to play rhythms on djembes.

In two other classrooms there was drama as they acted out a cliff-hanger story about a boy stuck in a tree surrounded by crocodiles, a snake and a lion; how could he escape? Nearby there was vigorous dancing and in a marquee there was equally enthusiastic singing. On the field children were enjoying football (the favourite sport in Sierra Leone) and an obstacle race.

There were formal proceedings too. Pupils from each school presented ‘Send My Friend’ children’s rights posters to our MP, Matt Western, calling for schools to be made safe havens for children all over the world. Finally all 500 children joined in the songs they had learnt earlier in the day – what a loud and happy sound to round off the day!

Liz Garrett (OWL Schools’ Co-ordinator) said, “It is unique & incredibly special to have so many Leamington & Warwick primary schools linked with schools in Sierra Leone. Strong bonds & friendships have grown between school communities & it is a joy to see children & teachers from the UK & Africa learn from each other & work together mutually.”

Matt Bown, Headteacher of the host school, St Pauls, commented: “St. Pauls children and staff had a very memorable day. It was a delight to invite so many children, staff and parents from local schools to join us in this celebration. We were blessed with lovely weather and lovely people, the perfect combination to focus our thoughts on the ‘Day of the African Child’ and what it really means.”

One World Link is very grateful for the support for this event received from Warwick District Council Arts Development Strategic Project funds.

John Myers – 80 at 80

John Myers has been an active member of One World Link for many years. He moved to East Sussex 5 years ago but has stayed on as a long distance supporter making occasional visit to OWL events in Leamington and staying in touch with old friends in Bo.

On achieving his 80th birthday he decided to mark his 80 years with a fund raising 80 kilometres walk across East Sussex from Lewes to Rye over 5 days. He chose to support One World Link so that all the people who know him in that connection would have an opportunity to help him raise funds for OWL. He set out on 30th June and arrived in Rye on 4th July and is very grateful to all those who have already shown their support.

His online donation page is open for further donations until 4th October, so whether you know John or not he would be very grateful for any donation you feel moved to make using MyDonate.

Finally, here is a picture of witnesses to his walk as he passed through the Pevensey Marsh!

Teachers visit Bo 2018

Three teacher visitors had their first time experience of working

with their partner schools in Bo. Siân Atkins from St. Margaret’s C of E junior twinned with BDSE Messima, Claire Wright from Wellesbourne twinned with RC Model and Tim Bladon from Ferncumbe twinned with UMC Lower In addition Paul Atkins and Tim Hussey visited all the remaining school schools to ascertain how the link was progressing and to highlight any issues. Tim also introduced Bo to the making, eating and racing of pancakes which introduced a hilarious competitive spirit.

Paul also made a visit to the Secondary schools that currently have a connection with One World Link and to see how they felt their relationship was progressing. It appears, at this stage, that there is a more positive response from the Bo end than here in the UK. It is now for discussion how best to develop a programme that is mutually beneficial.

Paul made a visit to Kenema to visit bishop Koroma, as his health has been deteriorating recently, in order to send regards from all who know him in the UK. Whilst there, Paul also visited the missionary hospital in Panguma.

All finished the rewarding visit with a short period of rest and recuperation at Bureh beach before returning, their lives changed for the better, to the UK.

Tim made a video of the experience – see below