A new health link

A new health link

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.

Helena White and colleague with staff of the Yemoh PMU

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.

Read Helena’s report

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.

One World Link AGM, February 2017

One World Link AGM

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 speaking about Bo Children’s Hospital at the AGM

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.

Day of the African Child 2016

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 Parade

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.

Hello Bo! Skype call

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.

TTIP, Trade and the Developing World

OWLTALK on Thursday 5 September 2015

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.

A valuable and enjoyable visit

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.

Relaxing after a busy day

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.

A gift from Bo District to Warwick District
A gift from Bo District to Warwick District

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.

Re-establishing our links with Peter Penfold

Re-establishing our links with Peter Penfold

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.

Peter Penfold
Peter Penfold

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.

Planning in Bo – new initiatives

Planning in Bo –  new initiatives

In July 2016, Philip Clarke and John Archer attended a meeting in London of planners, architects and lawyers who had working relationships on land use and planning issues in Sierra Leone. It was an inaugural meeting of a potential group of professionals who could exchange experiences and develop opportunities for working together on planning related work in Sierra Leone.

HRH Prince Charles and Tom Perry (Prince’s Foundation) with John Archer and Philip Clarke

We learnt of an initiative by the Prince’s Trust Foundation in association with the New Urban Agenda support of the new Sustainable Development Goals in the Commonwealth. This was in its early stages and was developing ideas to trial in appropriate cities. We discussed the potential to trial such an approach in Bo.

We have been having further discussions and more meetings are planned. As we have good relationships with Bo City and District Councils, there may be real potential here to develop such approaches through OWL and to start to address the problems arising from uncontrolled land use.

Leamington Peace Festival new links

Leamington Peace Festival – new links

Over the weekend of 18-19th June 2016 OWL set up stall at Leamington’s Peace Festival. The festival promotes awareness of world and local issues and OWL has been involved for 35 years. Our stall served to both attract new members and connect with existing OWL friends. We also learnt about other links with Sierra Leone. For example, Coventry-based optician Alan Taylor is travelling to Sierra Leone this autumn with Vision Aid to help improve access to eye care services.

Our stand at the Peace Festival

We were also supported at the stall by local midwife Helena White who runs the African Maternity Link (theafricanmaternitylink.co.uk) which provides training and support for midwives in Sierra Leone. She works in partnership with OWL and will be visiting Bo this November. One of the benefits of being at the Peace Festival is hearing from people who want to get involved with OWL’s work – if you’d like to get more involved we’d love to hear from you. If you’re at the Peace Festival next year please make sure you drop by and say hello!

Mair Evans and Paul Atkins visit Bo

Mair Evans and Paul Atkins visit Bo schools and develop cultural links

After a lengthy period without formal contact between the linking primary schools in Bo and Warwick District due to the Ebola epidemic, our primary aim during our 16-day visit in January was to reconnect the classrooms and re-establish the dialogue between teachers.

Early learners in Bo

The welcome we received was overwhelming and the energy and warmth shown on each occasion very emotional. All the schools entertained us with singing, dancing and sharing of their work. We visited seven of the 14 schools, experienced nearly 100 classrooms and were humbled and grateful for the care and hospitality shown to us. We were able to take out learning resources and not only maintain the existing links but also develop new ones, for example, that between BDEC Messima and St. Margaret’s in Whitnash, that has gone from strength to strength.

As both of us have a background in the arts, we were also interested in exploring how intercultural understanding between our communities could be strengthened through artistic connections and projects. Sierra Leone has a rich heritage of dance, storytelling, music, poetry, visual art and crafts, and the visit gave us important insights into their culture and artists. We were able to meet a few practicing artists, who often have to develop commercial ventures to support their own creative practices. Now back in the UK we hope to develop artistic collaborations, knowledge sharing and projects between Warwick District and Bo’s communities.

Bo is getting back to normal

Bo is getting back to normal

John Archer, Phil Clarke and Richard Hall had a ten day stay in Bo in late November/early December.

Nice to be back in Bo! It was a great opportunity to catch up with friends and colleagues, see how Bo was getting back to normal after Ebola and find out how and where we could continue to develop our link.

And how is Bo? Well, what else but busy, thriving and energetic – as ever. We saw how the OWL Centre has been improved with solar lighting, how it is being used again for meetings and attracting visitors again, too. So, it’s getting back to normal. That’s great.

Our friends in Bo OWL are looking to the future and thinking about how to invest for the long term future of the organisation. That is something that we will need to discuss between us. But it’s very encouraging that there is now stability and a positive approach to the future.

Visiting Bo District Council: Richard Hall, John Archer, Joseph Bindi (Chairman of BDC), Vivian Senesie, (Chief Administrator of BDC), Phil Clarke

We visited many organisations. We met up with the Mayor of the City Council, Harold Tucker, and also contacted the District Council. Our meeting with the District Council revealed a very strong desire to work with us to help deliver services. We were given a very professional presentation on the Council’s Development Plan and we will investigate where we may be able to work with them to improve skills. We hope to develop that during the course of 2016.

It was very pleasing to see the Waste Management Project was still going very strong, with a well organised collection service in place and the development of small recycling businesses also in action.
We were able to visit some schools, notably UBC, to see their refurbished well, and the blind school, but as term was finishing during the week to enable a nationwide census to take place, we did not have as much contact as we may have done.

During a visit to see the Bishop of Kenema we saw evidence of the impact of Ebola. Outside the hospital was a memorial to all the hospital workers – doctors, nurses and technicians who had died working at Kenema hospital during the crisis. There were over forty names inscribed. That was both shocking and moving.

We visited the Owl bungalow, outside the western outskirts of town. It was gratifying to see it occupied, by Mary James, the widow of the influential and well-loved member of OWL, Raymond James who died some years ago.
We experienced much more of the life of Bo – the tennis club, the markets, the restaurants, all functioning very much as before, which was very good to see. A highlight was the visit to Maada’s Church on the Sunday to see him voted as “Gentleman of the year” – a well-deserved accolade.
It was a very good visit, recommencing direct relations after the enforced separation caused by Ebola and exploring opportunities for the future. I believe we succeeded in both and we look to the OWL link continuing successfully.