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.
On Saturday 13th January 2018 we held our 2016/17 AGM in Pump Room Annex, Leamington Spa. The meeting was attended by 24 members, 6 friends and 4 distinguished guests. The distinguished guests were the Mayor of Leamington Cllr Caroline Evetts and Mr John Evetts and the Chair person of the District Cllr Alan Boad and Cllr Mrs Sarah Boad.
During the short formal part of the meeting Chris King presented the accounts for the year ending March 2017. He explained that during that financial year our bank balance had remained high due to the lag in getting activities restarted after the Ebola outbreak. This year (2017/18) we had already spent some £20,000 on various projects and the bank balance was now £10,000 less.
John Archer, in his Chairman’s review reminded us all of our aims and objectives and briefly outlined all the projects undertaken this year to meet those objectives. He reported that there had been considerable activity both here in the UK and in Bo thanks to the hard work of the main committee and the teachers group. He explained that the details of these activities were to be covered in the presentation that would follow. He thanked both the town council and the district council for their continued support.
Liz Garrett and Sunita Evans from the schools subcommittee presented photographs and a video as part of their review of the group’s activity over the last 12 months. This included a visit by a group of teachers from Warwick to Bo during which all link schools were visited and training workshops held. In June the group organised the very successful Day of the African Child celebration at Lillington primary school which was attended by 500 children who were representatives of all the schools in Warwick who have a link with a school in Bo. Later in June 4 teachers from Bo visited Warwick for 2 weeks. Recently topic work books have been exchanged by all link schools between Warwick and Bo. The group are now planning their next visit to Bo which will take place in February.
In the second presentation Paul Atkins, Mair Evans, Jane Knight and Phil Clarke reviewed their recent visit to Bo which took place at the end of November. They had a very successful visit which included preparation work for the teachers visit in February, a review of all the upgrade work undertaken at the OWL centre, a review of the ongoing waste project and the support given to the Bo children’s hospital following the District Chair person charity appeal last year. They also managed to meet with the Warwick hospital maternity nurses who were in Bo to help with training and to scope future requirements as part of their charity work. Phil Clarke was in Bo to help with the organising and the running of the Urban City Planning workshop run by the Princes Trust who is developing a tool kit for urban city development.
John closed the meeting by thanking everyone for coming and their ongoing support.
Can you imagine 500 primary school children sitting together in complete silence for a full minute? They had just listened to a poem “I am an African Child” and heard about the day in 1976 when schoolchildren were killed during protests in South Africa and they were sitting in silent reflection. The rest of the Day of the African Child was about celebration and learning. It started with a grand parade when pupils from fifteen schools trooped round the field at Lillington Primary School with banners proclaiming their links with schools in Bo, Sierra Leone, as part of the education programme of One World Link.
The children were then divided into groups for a series of contrasting workshops. In two rooms there was quiet as they listened to African stories told by teachers visiting from Bo. They were making plenty of noise in the drumming workshops as they learnt to play rhythms on djembes. In two halls 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. In the field outside children were having races bowling hoops, carrying water or balancing bags on their heads.
There were formal proceedings, too. The visiting teachers had brought letters from the Sierra Leonian children as gifts for their linked schools and received reciprocal gifts to take back with them. Pupils from each school presented petitions to our MP, Matt Western, to pass on to the Prime Minister to press for education for all children, everywhere. 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!
The evening was held in order to share news on progress with OWL members and friends. It was hoped that our teacher visitors from Bo would also be able to be in attendance, but, unfortunately, delays in their travel arrangements meant that they did not arrive until the day afterwards! Nevertheless , a good evening was held at the Pump Rooms in Leamington.
We were treated to a presentation by Liz and Sunita on the teacher visit to Bo earlier in the year, including a very impressive video montage that captured the essence of Bo life. We also had a charming demonstration of Sierra Leone children’s playground tricks from some All Saints pupils.
Helena White gave a very interesting illustrated talk on health and maternity issues in Freetown and Bo and updated us on her visit to the Children’s hospital in Bo which we are working with to help improve its facilities.
After a break for refreshments, John Archer set out the current position on working with the Prince’s trust on planning for growth in rapidly urbanising cities, using Bo as a test case for developing systems.
John also explained that Glenn Fleet and Derek Greedy had also recently visited Bo and Makeni to assist with the national roll out of the waste project, following its successful development in Bo.
As a natural progression of its friendship link with Bo, One World Link is now looking to establish a health link. Continuing in the spirit of support and friendship, Helena White was asked to investigate the possibility of this idea in her recent visit.
We visited Yemoh Town Peripheral Health Unit (PHU) just outside Bo town centre. This serves a community of approximately 17,000, conducts just under 1,000 deliveries and year and cares for around 2,500 children under 5. They run on skeleton staff (they have no trained midwives). One of the nurses is the daughter of Theresa Bangali, a long-standing member of the Bo OWL committee.
The unit has a half-finished building – walls and a roof – that is being used for children’s clinics. The existing building is mainly serviceable but an upgrade of basic equipment is desperately needed. A delivery bed – with only three legs and propped up at one end – had had three labouring women on the previous day.
Government supplies have been problematic, with a lack of some essential life saving obstetric drugs. We are now beginning to see malnourished children requiring administration of Plumpy’nut (a peanut-based paste for the treatment of severe acute malnutrition).
During our visit we discussed many aspects of the running of this small unit including the possibility of forming a link with OWL. We reiterated that the link is for sharing of skills and support, not for financial assistance or supply of large amounts of equipment. This was completely understood and we felt that just the suggestion of friendship and support was enough to lift their spirits and inspire them to improve things where they could e.g. asking a local carpenter if he would make a delivery bed with four legs to replace the one with three!
We also went to Bo Children’s Hospital, a not-for-profit unit on the edge of the town, for which the Leamington pantomime raised some £6,000. BCH was set up by Dr Lemoh, a Sierra Leonean, to offer further support for the children of Bo. It has two wards and an isolation unit which is unusual in Sierra Leone but absolutely crucial in view of the recent Ebola epidemic. It also has a basic lab for diagnostics, an x-ray and an ultrasound machine.
We met with Mr Wusu Sannoh, hospital director (former Mayor of Bo and long-standing friend of OWL) and Dr Sombie, paediatrician in charge. Both gentlemen were delightful and obviously felt passionately about the future of the hospital. They were keen to computerise their records so we are discussing a collaboration with Warwick Hospital to produce a basic modular system.
Sierra Leone is one of the most hazardous places in the world to have a child. Women have a 1:21 chance of dying in childbirth and 25% of children don’t make it to their 5th birthday. By sharing our skills and offering friendship and support where we can, we can improve these statistics and improve the healthcare for the people of Bo.
Helena White is a community midwife based at Warwick hospital. Her own charity, The African Maternity Link, established in 2012, sends midwives to Sierra Leone to teach and update the midwives in practical skills and evidence-based knowledge.
2016 was a busy and very satisfactory year. At the AGM we heard how activities bloomed at both the Bo and UK ends of the link as Sierra Leone emerged from the Ebola crisis. We welcomed teachers, committee members and the Chair of the district council from Bo and a return visit by teachers to Bo will take place in February.
Margaret Lemoh introduced us to Bo Children’s Hospital. This opened in 2012, having been initiated by her husband, paediatrician Dr Lemoh who came from Bo originally. The staff and management are all Sierra Leonian and it is now constantly busy. The small inpatients ward is full and they have a new isolation unit. Most of the conditions they treat are preventable (burns, malaria, measles and malnutrition for example) so they have longer-term plans for an outreach programme. One World Link assisted in the highly successful fund-raising at the Leamington pantomime. The hospital was chosen by Jane Knight as the beneficiary, in her capacity as Chair of Warwick District Council, and more than £6,000 was raised.
500 children celebrate the Day of the Africa Child, 2016
On Thursday 16th June St Anthony’s Primary School in Leamington Spa was host to 500 children celebrating the International Day of the African Child.
The participating children came from 15 primary schools in Leamington and Warwick, each of which has a partner linked school in Bo (Sierra Leone). The links are made possible through local charity One World Link (OWL) which has been promoting friendship and mutual learning between Bo District (Sierra Leone) and Warwick District for over 35 years. The school links are maintained through activities such as annual teacher exchanges, children sharing work and projects, pen friendships, school clubs, teacher and children’s friendships and teacher training delivered in Sierra Leone.
The Day of the African Child celebration saw children enjoying a joyous day of workshops to learn more about Africa and celebrate their links with schools in Sierra Leone. After a grand parade round the field in which the children processed with flags and banners proclaiming their school links, the children participated in a number of workshops – singing, dancing, music, sports, art and African storytelling. After a picnic lunch everyone gathered in the marquee for a Skype link with the Day of the African Child school celebrations in Bo. It was a special moment when 500 children here started waving and cheering as they saw children in Bo on the 40inch TV which had been set up specially for the video call. They heard a Bo school child delivering a speech about the value of the school partnerships, then sang a popular song in the Krio language called Tel am tenki.
As part of the Day of the African Child, schools had also participated in the ‘Send My Friend to School’ initiative which campaigns to give every child the education that is their right. At the end of the day everyone gathered in the marquee for the grand finale where all the children joined in the songs and dances they had learned during the day. MP Chris White received the pupils’ campaign messages, eloquently expressed by some Year 6 ambassadors from St Anthony’s.
Two speakers came to speak to One World Link and its friends. One was Yash Tandon, a distinguished academic, campaigner and international negotiator, and the other was Robert Elliot, a professor of economics at Birmingham University.
The idea of the evening was to give everyone an insight into TTIP – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. This controversial agreement between the US and the EU is seen by some as the key to unlocking wealth for participating countries, and by others as a license for multinational corporations to dominate governments and the public even more than they already do.
Robert Elliot started the evening by sketching out all the arguments in favour of free trade – and by extension of TTIP, which aims to remove barriers to trade between the US and Europe. He did this in a measured, sometimes quite technical way, taking us through mainstream economic arguments and evidence for the beneficial effects of free trade. It was quite clear that he was deliberately setting up a series of targets for Yash to tackle.
However, Yash took a different course. When it came to his turn he was more concerned to outline the arguments made in his new book “Trade is War” rather than tackling the specifics of TTIP. This made for something of a mismatch between the presentations, but was nonetheless very interesting. Yash’s argument is that trade has always been used by rich countries to keep themselves up and poorer countries down. In his view there is no such thing as economics or economists (though he does allow the existence of “political economists”). Economics as practiced by the likes of Rob, he inferred, was actually just a veil for power. Power is all that matters in these matters – exercise of power and resistance to power.
There was then a chance for Rob to respond and for questions from the audience. This was perhaps the most stimulating part of the evening. Audience contributions were well informed and to the point, ranging from technical queries about economic method to the plaintive question of “so what can we do to make things better”.
Again TTIP took a back seat. Yash elaborated on his previous arguments, backed up by his own experience as a negotiator in the Doha trade round and his impressive work as grassroots activist.
Rob continued valiantly to play the role of realist, quietly questioning some of Yash’s more idealistic/apocalyptic pronouncements. It was clear that Rob actually shared a fair few of Yash’s views.
In answer to the question of what we can do in the face of TTIP and other seemingly inexorable forces, the answer seemed to be to encourage local and small-scale trading initiatives as a bulwark against the multinationals. Modern technology means that small scale operators can be just as effective as the giants.
Since One World Link is built on the idea of local communities developing an unmediated relationship with each other, this message went down pretty well.
Our six visitors from Bo had a busy ten days of visits, meetings and social activities.
The three teachers visited their linked schools in Leamington Spa, building on their relationships with children and teachers. Joseph Bindi, Chairman of Bo District Council, making his first visit to the UK, saw how the local authority link works and met with officials in the Warwick council. Maada Fobay has been a friend for many years; as Treasurer of Bo One World Link he plays a vital role in the continuing success of the 35-year-long link.
In addition to detailed discussion on the future of One World Link in both the UK and Sierra Leone, we were addressed by Peter Penfold CMG OBE who was British High Commissioner in Sierra Leone during the Civil War and has a long and close relationship with Sierra Leone and its people.
In a grand finale to the visit, we were treated to a civic reception by Jane Knight, Chair of Warwick District Council and founder of One World Link. We were honoured by the attendance of Julius Maada Bio, former President of Sierra Leone.
We are now looking for ways to expand and fund our friendship links.
Peter Penfold CMG OBE was the British High Commissioner in Sierra Leone between 1997 and 2000 during the Civil War.
During the Civil War Peter became famous and widely respected throughout Sierra Leone for his work and support for the people of the country and was made an Honorary Paramount Chief. In his retirement, he has maintained close and active links with Sierra Leone, regularly visiting the country and supporting a number of causes close to his heart.
Peter has a long established link with OWL and our work, and we share many friends including those at St Paul’s School for the Blind in Bo.
He is currently engaged in a project around Bo with Lion Mountains Agrico Ltd to improve agricultural production, particularly by encouraging more efficient growing and processing of rice. You can find out more at www.lionmountains.com
Hearing about Peter’s latest work, and particularly its connections with Bo, we took the opportunity to meet with him in July. He will meet with us again when a delegation from Bo OWL visits the UK in October and will be speaking at an open evening we will be hosting during this time.