TO BO - A SUCCESS STORY
RELEASE 16th December 2002
For the past 18 months
the Warwick District One World Link Committee has been collecting donated
goods to fill a container to send to their friends at the other end of
this community friendship link in Bo Sierra Leone.
groups, and firms have been generous. The final push has now arrived.
Tomorrow morning a team of volunteers will work flat out to load the container
in a matter of three hours so that it can then be dispatched on its long
journey to Sierra Leone. It is scheduled to reach the port of the capital
city Freetown on 15th January, and will then face a 140-mile journey over
a bumpy road inland to Bo.
The goods have
been stored in the Old Dole Office Building in Spencer's Yard Leamington.
They include school exercise and text books, reading books, pens and paper,
hand sewing machines, manual typewriters, and clothing. A large part of
the consignment will be taken up with second hand computers, which have
been over-hauled by a team of student volunteers from University of Warwick.
A number of surplus computers have been donated by Warwick District Council
for use by Bo Town Council. Most of the other goods will be distributed
by Bo One World Link Committee to local schools and community groups as
they are best placed to judge where the need is greatest and where the
goods will be put to good use.
The container itself is also a gift to Bo; and will be used as a storeroom
Secretary of One World Link, has just returned from a two-week visit to
Bo where he was received with great warmth and hospitality. He said, "I
have seen for myself how much the kind of things we are sending are indeed
needed. We have seen images on TV of burnt out buildings and people with
amputated limbs as a result of the civil war in Sierra Leone; but I also
saw how much the schools, the hospital, the roads, and every service we
take for granted has been run down by the effects of the war. It is very
important that these things are made better if further unrest is to be
avoided with all its tragic consequences. The people of Bo are generous
hearted, good humoured, and capable; and deserve all the help we can give
them to stand again on their own two feet. The Bo OWL Committee have begun
to build a Resource Centre for use by the whole community; and a lot of
the goods will be housed there e.g. in an Information technology Centre,
so they can be shared by as many as possible. The electricity supply is
intermittent and I experienced many "blackouts"; one thing they
still need for the computers is equipment such as UPS to protect them
from power failure."
RELEASE 5th February 2003
Members of Warwick
District One World Link were delighted to learn today that the container
of donated goods sent to our link partners in Bo Sierra Leone has arrived
safely, and that all the goods are intact.
included 91 re-cycled computers. Some were a gift from Warwick District
Council to Bo Town Council. Other computers will go to schools.
number of computers are destined for the Community Centre that the members
of Bo One World Link are building. They will form an Information Technology
Centre available to the whole community. This will develop into an internet
café as soon as the internet arrives in Bo.
our Secretary has recently returned from a visit to Bo, in order to review
and develop the various activities of the Link - not least progress on
the Community Centre.
He has told
us that " I was very proud to be one of the guests of honour at the
ground-breaking ceremony for the Centre, I laid the first spade of concrete
in the foundations, and the local Paramount Chief poured a libation in
honour of his ancestors who used to own the land. This was followed by
a performance of traditional drumming and dancing. I got so carried away
with the excitement of it all that I joined in with the dancing much to
the delight and amusement of the crowd. It is truly heart warming to have
witnessed the start of something constructive and good, after the cruelty
and destruction of the civil war"
We owe a debt of gratitude
to Janet Alty, (with more than a little help
from her friends, of whom Andrew Watts and Lee Hales deserve a special
mention) for co-ordinating the collection, storage, refurbishment and
despatch of this consignment, involving a considerable amount of work
(and house room) over a very long period of time - it has taken her the
best part of 2 years to get this completed! Thanks Janet! Thanks,
too, to Next Stop and The Big Cup for help
on the day with electricity and hot drinks.
Myers : My visit to Bo
It is difficult to describe in a few words
the rich, varied, and packed experience in what was my first time in Africa.
I was looked after well by our friends from the moment of arrival at the
heliport to final departure at the ferry port. Consequently, my anxiety
was low, I had no mishaps and I enjoyed myself throughout.
Minor ordeals were the steamy heat in Freetown, struggling and failing
to erect a mosquito net by torchlight, and the bone shaking road from
Masiaka (also known as Mile 47) to Bo.
Surprises were the tastiness of the food, the noise, electrical goods
in the shops. There were so many street sellers and stallholders I wondered
how they make a living.
Lasting memories include travelling the bumpy dirt track streets on the
back of Joe's motor bike (I must send him a pair of goggles), warm evenings
on the veranda, dancing to the drums, seas of children's faces before
me in schools, a football match, and a myriad more.
But, this was a working visit. So what came out of it? Lots of small things
rather than anything major, all helping to keep the chains of the link
together and to form new ones.
I came away convinced that exchange visits are crucial to the link. I
met so many people, I could not remember names or even recognise them
on a second meeting; but the fact that I did it is very important. I know
how much impact the visitors from Bo made when they came here. So, we
must maximise the opportunities for these to take place. We will only
be able to raise so much money to fund this ourselves however generous
our members and supporters are. We need to learn of as many sources of
funding as we can.
· I deposited
the first shovel-full of concrete in the foundations of the OWL Community
Centre, and the walls are now going up.
· I helped start links between two pairs of schools
· I helped cement the new link between Leamington and Bo Rotary
· I was guest of honour at the Kayoma Women's development Association
· I brought back a letter from the Chair of Bo Red Cross for the
Red Cross here.
· I found a good place to stay when family hospitality is not appropriate
· In Freetown
I met two Sierra Leone Government Ministers and the Directors of the British
Council and the Department for International Development
· I took photos and video to augment our display materials
(second from left) with staff of UBC School
All the rest is in
reports I have written under the headings of Community centre, School
Links, Civic Link, Community Links, and Koloseum. These are available
on request. *(contact details below)
I am very glad I had the opportunity to make this visit, and I hope I
have made a positive contribution to our cause.
The most difficult thing was to evaluate how things are in Sierra Leone.
I was given a good time. People I met had food to eat, and I ate very
well. There is cheerfulness about. If you are prepared to put up with
constant electricity cuts and well water, on the face of it life is not
too bad, even better than here.
Equally, it would be very easy to discover the bad things, the migration
into the towns and neglect of villages and land, the growing problem of
urban destitution, the collapsed infrastructure, only one state provided
dentist for the whole of Southern province.
I went to a comparatively less-poor part; I am sure that the expert evaluations
of Sierra Leone's dire plight are true.
Sierra Leone is a delightful place; but it is very vulnerable. The people
are delightful, yet corruption, exploitation and malevolence exist. It
could be such a good place if they set their minds to it, and the rest
of the world made it possible.--------------------------------------------------------------------------*
flies the owl across the sea
From one meaning to another?
Why flies the owl with wings drumming
To unseen messages from the forest?
How flies the owl through currents of contradiction?
With feathers of friendship, eyes of wisdom
And knowledge that no other being may find
Until the night is at rest and the new day yawns
Shakes off its dreams and takes a walk forwards
Guided by memories that came when no-one was looking
Sierra Leone December 2002.
Written by torchlight late at night following a conversation about
the different meaning of owl in our two cultures
(UK: wisdom - SL: eeriness)
from Bruce Knight on his trip to Sierra Leone
(16/12/2002 - 6/1/2003)
I had the idea of a
"singing" study trip to Bo way back in January 2002. The community
choir, Songlines, that I direct, was going from strength to strength,
and it had been a long time since I'd been abroad. Sierra Leone was a
natural choice - I had recently become aware of the Leamington - Bo link,
and I had always had a vague interest in the country because my mother
was born in Freetown back in the late 40s. John Myers and Janet Alty were
very positive and encouraging from the start, and gradually a plan started
to form. I would travel to Bo and learn local Mende songs, which I would
later teach to Songlines for a celebratory / awareness-raising concert.
The following months were spent raising funds, and making preparations
and contacts. The seed of an idea began (thanks to regular encouraging
meetings with John) to sprout into something tangible and positive. Before
I knew it, December was looming and I had my flight ticket in my hand.
John's visit to Bo in November had the effect of priming everyone before
my arrival, so when I eventually came into town there was a lot of interest
and anticipation surrounding my visit.
I was, of course, formally welcomed by the Bo OWL committee, but it was
not long before events became far more informal. I had been escorted from
Freetown by Alfred Kobbah, the musically talented son of Joe Kobbah. I
spent a good part of my time in Bo singing with Alfred and Albert Trye,
a choir leader from the Bo Methodist Church. Whilst in Bo, I was hosted
by Joe and Saffi, ex-OWL chair Mohammed Lapiere, and by Teresa and Josaya
Bangali. Many of my happiest moments were spent sitting out in Teresa's
yard, singing English and Mende songs with Teresa, her daughter Manjia,
and Teresa's best friend Cathryn. Teresa and Cathryn took me under their
wing from the start and made sure I was well fed, looked-after, and supplied
with enough Star beer.
It was not long that I discovered that most of the singing in Bo takes
place in church. I probably spent more time in church during those 2.5
weeks than I have in my entire life! Teresa, Cathryn, Alfred, Joe, Albert,
and later Father Peter Konteh introduced me to several different choirs
and performance groups, and I spent plenty of time making recordings,
learning songs and brushing up on my Mende pronunciation.
My experiences were diverse to say the least. I felt like a minor celebrity
in Bo, and at times the hospitality could become exhausting. As well as
learning songs, I had opportunities to teach. I taught each of the choirs
a song or two from the Songlines repertoire, and spent New Years Day as
the "special guest UK artiste" at Father Konteh's orphanage-picnic.
Teaching 300 children the okey-cokey is no mean feat! My most extreme
and unforgettable experience was at Bo prison on Christmas morning. I
was let in the prison as a guest, where I was delighted to see 100 plus
prisoners dancing and singing a Mende hymn. They taught this to me, and
I reciprocated with South Africa's rousing "Freedom is Coming".
It's rare I've seen men sing with such gusto and feeling!
All in all, the trip was an enriching and eye-opening experience. I was
constantly amazed be everyone's kindness and generosity. I've recently
started to go through my recordings, and start arranging appropriate songs
to teach Songlines. The plan is to share these songs with a wider audience
as part of a fund-raising concert on 16th July. So please keep this date
free for now, and I'll keep OWL members posted. If you would like to see
Songlines in action before this, you may want to come to their Warwick
concert on Saturday March 22nd. They'll be singing all manner of worldwide
harmony songs, and this year are delighted to be joined by Coventry's
Worldsong community choir. Tickets cost £5 and are available from
the Bridge House (01926 776438). Last year's gig sold out so you might
need to book early.
APPEAL TO ALL OUR MEMBERS
We are now facing a challenging time. The civil war is over; Sierra Leone
is on the long haul back to stability and economic viability. Our Link
which survived the Civil War intact but in a tenuous state now needs to
be built up; both for the reasons of international friendship and, because
of that existing friendship so that we can help Bo OWL to play its part
in that endeavour.
Therefore we want to re-establish school links and health links. On top
of that we would like to extend the links into other parts of the community.
If you have a place of work, or an organisation or group you belong to
which might be able to link with a counterpart in Bo, please now give
that a whirl. If you would like advice help or support to do it please
get in touch. If you know of someone willing to enter into an individual
personal or professional penfriendship then please let
Brian know - again support and advice available.
If you have any talents or interests that could be useful in terms of
reaching out into our community, please let us know.
We also need money to continue to fund exchange visits. All we ask is
just a £10 donation each year to become a 'member'.
We need lots of money to support Bo OWL to build their community centre;
the foundations have now been dug!
If you have any ideas of grant giving bodies or of other means for
fundraising please let us know. More information about all this will
come out at our public meeting.
Finally we need all our old members and we need new members. If you have
not received a renewal notice please get in touch; the loss of our treasurer
resulted in a temporary hitch in our systems. If you would like a batch
of our basic leaflet, which includes a membership application, let me
know. Do not forget our website www.warick-district.org.uk/owl , which
is one new way to give people more information.--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------John
visit by Lee Hales
We are very pleased
to say that we have been able to arrange for Lee Hales to go out to Bo
on March 31st for a 2-week stay. This has been made possible through the
generosity of The British Council in Freetown, who are paying a substantial
part of the cost, together with the hospitality provided by Bo OWL themselves.
Lee is a 2nd year student in Computer Systems Engineering at Warwick University
and has been giving technical support to Janet in refurbishing donated
computer equipment He will be going out to set up a set of computers in
a training or educational environment and ensure that at least 2 people
are able to operate and maintain them and train others in their use. He
will also assess their further IT needs.
Ngombu Bo OWL Secretary
shows John Myers how close
the new Centre will be to
David's office in the old Railway Station
We are delighted to
report that rapid progress on the building of the community centre is
being made. The latest estimate is that the first story should be up to
wall height by the end of this month. When John Myers officiated at the
groundbreaking ceremony in December, they were just starting on the foundations
The plan is to build a first story before the rainy season sets in. The
building can then start to be used and to prove its worth. Then we hope
to identify new donors encourage them to donate with the assurance that
it is already a going concern.
The completion of the first phase should result in a community meeting
hall, an activity space for youth training and community groups, and an
Information Technology room. The IT room will utilise some of the computers
we have sent out; and be the basis for an Internet Café once the
internet is available in Bo. The meeting room will be income generating.
If possible the IT area will also have journals and other publications
available for sale or reference.
The completion of the second story; will allow for a re-allocation of
space, and the addition of more activities, and the improvement of existing
ones. There would then be a resource centre (IT and printed matter), a
hall, a training space, an income generating guest suite with six rooms,
a shop and a bar. The use of space will be flexible maximise meeting of
need and income generation.
At present, we do
have a problem. The building of phase one is likely to cost several thousand
pounds more than we have raised. Twenty two thousand has been found for
the building; but it is estimated that another seven or eight thousand
may be needed. The Bo OWL committee are trying to economise whenever they
can and will be sending a progress report with revised costings before
the end of the month. Therefore we are launching a new appeal for phase
one. This includes a public appeal in the hope that we might attract modest
donations from a wider number of people entitled "A Tenner a Brick
Make your Mark in Africa". Please consider approaching friends and
family and any other likely person to contribute.
- make your mark in Africa.
So far we have not given the public a chance to help the people
of Bo help themselves. We would like invite individuals to donate
£10 towards the building costs. In return we will write your
name on one of the building blocks in the walls of the centre. This
will be a way of immortalising your name in another part of the
world that we are linked to in friendship. We will also have a book
that records the names of donors on display in the Centre.
from the Committee
Brian has maintained regular monthly postings to Bo and these are known
to have arrived at their destination safely. We are indebted to the British
Council in Freetown for this facility. However, we are disappointed that
the OWL POSTBOX is not used by more than a limited number of people. And
whereas the route is being used to get letters to Bo it is not being used
for return mail.
However, we have been getting letters back by other routes, usually brought
back by returnees who then post them on to us in the UK. Of course, both
John Myers and Bruce Knight brought correspondence back with them when
John Myers has been in regular contact by telephone, which is proving
to be mainstay of our communication with the Bo OWL committee. He now
uses and recommends 09055 860860 for all calls to Sierra Leone at 25p
Basically our funds are now very nearly exhausted, having paid the £24,000
towards the Community Project and the cost of the container of nearly
£3,000 (although some of the latter will be recovered from Fr. Peter
Konteh's supporters, who had the use of some of the space).
It has been highlighted that there is a potential shortfall of £7,000
in funding for phase one of the Community Centre. Bo OWL's undertaking
to review progress regularly and to send us reports will help us anticipate
exactly how much might be needed and when.
Whilst recognising that all our activities need funding it was re-affirmed
that the fund raising for the community centre and for exchange visits
are our top priorities. The committee has set up a fundraising sub-group
and is also looking at the idea of recruiting a volunteer with a dedicated
task in the awareness-raising/fund-raising area.
We have a volunteer,
Karen Marshall, who has started on a project to research materials that
would be suitable for use in Leamington Library, since they have agreed
to give One World Link some shelf space.
John Myers has circulated full reports to the Committee on the Community
Centre, School Links, Civic Link, Community Links, and Bo Koloseum, which
are available to others from him on request. He also gave a general feedback
at a Committee meeting on December 17th and has since spoken at the Unitarian
Church in Warwick on 11th March.
Bruce Knight had a good trip and provided a brief report to the Committee
on 20th January. He then gave feedback at a meeting in St Mary's Church
Hall on 17th February.
The major feedback will take place at the Open Meeting on April 10th.
A small sub-group has been meeting monthly to nurture and sustain the
links that have been undertaken by Castle Sixth Form Centre, Kenilworth;
St Anthony's, St Peter's and St Patrick's Schools, Leamington; St Mary's
School, Warwick; Brookhurst School, Leamington and Ferncombe School, Hatton
The main focus of their attention is to support teachers in using the
Bo Link in helping bring global aspects into the National Curriculum and
Citizenship, as well as encouraging penfriendships between pupils and
We want to set up a community-linking sub-group to take forward efforts
to involve a wider range of community groups in the Link. Some progress
has been made with a Rotary Club link.
Jane Knight, Bob Crowther and Nigel Roberts, a senior officer with Warwick
District Council, attended a meeting in London with the Commonwealth Local
Government Fund and the Local Government International Bureau.
It was also reported that Birmingham University has been commissioned
by the Department for International Development to do a survey of Sierra
Bill Evans is hoping to go to Bo in November and could possibly combine
this with a local authority visitor.
How to send letters
and materials to Bo
Put your letter or
package into another envelope or wrapping and send it to
c/o 31 The Greswoldes
This is a monthly service:
please ensure that materials reach the
OWL POSTBOX by the last day of the month
· There is a return name and address on your letter or packet
· Letters and packets are unsealed (British Council security requirement)
· No cash or 'things' are enclosed
Your letter or packet will then be forwarded to the British Council in
Freetown that has facilities for delivering to Bo Town.
They will be taken to One World Link in Bo and distributed
by them. (You may be asked to pay for the cost of sending bulkier
Further information and/or advice can be obtained from
OWL POSTBOX: Tel: 428635 or e-mail
A leaflet about penfriendships is also available - please ask for one.