Progress in our Health Link

It has been a challenging start for the OWL health link but we have managed to find quite a few positives from the adversity of a global pandemic. The main acticity initially was maternity training but this has expanded to improving the health care facilities within a Peripheral Health Unit with a functioning laboratory, enabling faster, more accurate diagnoses of common diseases.

Progress in our Health Link

It has been a challenging start for the OWL health link but we have managed to find quite a few positives from the adversity of a global pandemic.

Yemoh town lab
Yemoh Town laboratory – now able to analyse blood samples and test for malaria.

Sierra Leone responded to Covid-19 in an impressively immediate and robust way that was successful in keeping the numbers of Covid related deaths to a minimum. They are continuing to be vigilant and as a result have just been taken off the ‘red list’ for travel which means many of our friends can now travel home more freely.

Through the increased use of internet platforms such as Zoom, the UK and Bo OWL Health Link committees have been able to keep in regular contact, discussing the priorities for health care improvement in Bo and the best way to go about supporting that.

One of the main areas highlighted as potentially improving the health care facilities within Peripheral Health Units (PHU’s) was a functioning laboratory, enabling faster, more accurate diagnoses of common diseases, particularly TB, leading to correct treatment and faster recovery times. Offering this service within the PHU environment also encourages people to seek help earlier leading to more effective use of medications available, also relieving the pressure on Bo government hospital.#We were lucky enough to be in receipt of a small legacy earlier this year and, with the incredible enthusiasm and drive from one of our visiting committee members – Johannes, used it to convert the old labour room at Yemoh Town Health Clinic to a basic laboratory, enabling these tests to start taking place.

The Ambulance

We have been working with the District Health Management Team (DHMT) to try and establish government support to meet the basic running needs of the lab. This is still an ongoing process and we are looking to review the running of this facility before rolling this idea out to other PHUs that have been earmarked by the DHMT for improvement.
However, we do receive regular updates from Lansana Deen, the Chief Medical Officer at the clinic, on the use of the new labour ward facilities and this little one was one of twins!
Another encouraging report was on the continuing availability of an ambulance. Getting people to the right help at the right time can mean the difference between life and death. A baby who had to be resuscitated at birth, and continued to struggle, was transferred recently.

A newborn baby – one of the twins

Looking to the future of the OWL Health Link there are several avenues that we are looking at and discussing in more detail. The OWL ethos is based on friendship and sharing of information and skills and we are keen that the health branch should retain this. We are therefore going to be initially looking at using Zoom to deliver training sessions on topics requested by the health staff of Yemoh Town Health Clinic (and other PHU staff), Bo government hospital and Bo children’s hospital. As Helena is a midwife the first sessions will be based on dealing with obstetric and neonatal emergencies but we will be looking to expand this to other disciplines, in particular paediatrics and tropical diseases. Our UK committee has been discussing this idea of rolling out training to other relevant areas with Jayne Blacklay, from the governing board of Warwick hospital, who has been very positive about this idea.

Helena is Health Coordinator for OWL. She is a midwife with years of experience training midwives in Sierra Leone.

Health Link

Health Link

Yemoh town lab
Yemoh Town laboratory – now able to analyse blood samples and test for malaria.

Our health link has grown out of a midwifery training programme run by our Health Coordinator, Helena White. This has expanded to improving the health care facilities within Peripheral Health Units. A generous legacy provided funds for the conversion of an old labour room at Yemoh Town Health Clinic to a basic laboratory, enabling tests to start taking place. We have been working with the District Health Management Team  to try and establish government support to meet the basic running needs of the lab. There are further propects of providing training by digital link.

Update on the Bo One World Link Centre

The Bo Owl Community Centre has been refurbished and its facilities upgraded. OWL now has legal ownership of the land on which the Centre sits.
There is a possibility of an arrangement with a company to install an IT hub at the OWL Centre providing high quality internet, satellite TV and IT training facilities.

The Bo Owl Community Centre on Mattru Road has provided a focus for the activity of OWL in Bo since its completion in 2017.

Recent attention has been given to upgrading and additional maintenance and clarifying the legal ownership status. Whilst the building has been in the practical ownership of Bo OWL since its completion, finalisation of the transfer of land ownership had not been completed. After recent negotiations by Wusu Sannoh, the chair of OWL with the original land plot owners, this matter has now been resolved and legal title now rests with Bo OWL. This is an important basis for planning for the future of the Centre. Wusu and the Committee have been looking at how the building may operate and continue to provide a community role in future years. The building has now been repainted both internally and externally and wall and roofing repairs undertaken.

In order to secure the short-term reliability of power another generator has been acquired. To work in parallel with this and provide a sustainable source of power, a programme of solar power provision is under way. the first phase of this has already been undertaken, providing a power supply to meet all the first-floor requirements for lighting, fans, charging and refrigerator through additional pv panels and associated infrastructure.
Looking ahead, the view is that to maintain and develop its position, further investment in the Centre is needed. Wusu and the UK OWL committee are in discussion with an IT company who are interested in developing an IT hub at the OWL Centre. This could provide high quality internet, satellite TV, IT training facilities and other benefits from updated technology. This is a potentially exciting project and together with the forthcoming improvement of Mattru Road could raise the profile of the Centre considerably and develop it into an attractive destination for social and educational purposes in the city.

Refurbished exterior, Bo OWL Centre,

To implement this project, an additional power supply is needed, which can be provided by a second stage of solar power provision. This has now been funded and it is hoped that this can be put in place at an early opportunity. With a generator for back up, this will mean the Centre is wholly self sufficient in power supply and will be able to function effectively as a high-grade IT hub

The Centre also provides accommodation, primarily used by visitors from UK OWL, but which can also be used to generate income from other travellers to the city. The rooms have had basic upgrades, with new window mesh, door locks and some cosmetic improvement, though it is recognized that further work is required to washroom facilities to provide suitably attractive accommodation.

Good progress has therefore been made in upgrading the Centre, though further work is still required. Whilst it has not been used as widely as in previous years, this is largely down to the current Covid situation. However, with the current plans for its further development, we are hopeful that it will once more be a destination of choice for many in the city and support the aims of OWL.

The Day of the African Child – a virtual celebration

For the second year running we had to adapt our plans for celebrating our links and promoting Education for All. There has been no need for a marquee for two years and much disappointment from the lack of physical celebrating. However, perhaps learning from our Bo colleagues’ need to be always resourceful and positive, we planned a Zoom Event with surprising success! We were able to ‘meet’ our MP. We hosted many other OWL, British Council and Send My Friend guests and children in Bo were able to participate for the first time.

The Day of the African Child – a virtual celebration

Schools from across Warwick District and in Bo met online to celebrate the International Day of the African Child, 2021

The ‘Day of the African Child’ is an international event, celebrated every year on 16th June, to raise awareness of the continuing need to promote children’s rights and to improve education to African children. One World Link has been celebrating this event with schoolchildren across Warwick District since 2009. Usually, we arrange a large day-long celebration involving over 500 local children. 2020 and 2021 were – by necessity – a little different. Since the Corona virus prevented us from getting together to celebrate this day, schools in Bo and the UK met up in Zoom meetings.
For the second year running we had to adapt our plans for celebrating our links and promoting Education for All. There has been no need for a marquee for two years and much disappointment from the lack of physical celebrating.

DAV 2021 zoom call
The online call bringing schools together

However, perhaps learning from our Bo colleagues’ need to be always resourceful and positive, we planned a Zoom Event with surprising success! It is actually quite easy to note the advantages:
We were able to ‘meet’ our MP at a convenient time for him, despite last minute changes for us- we saw him at 9.15 instead of 2.30 as originally planned! We hosted many other OWL, British Council and Send My Friend guests without any travel miles, important when our theme is about reducing our impact on the environment (UN Sustainable Development Goal 13: Climate Action). Teachers were able to choose which parts of the day to take part in; some did the whole day with virtual singing, drumming and dance workshops, others came to just the campaign assembly. We possibly doubled/tripled our reach to over 1000 children participating from their classrooms, since this was open to the whole school. Most importantly, our children in Bo were able to participate for the first time, sharing wonderful poetry performance and drama skits.

Sharing a classroom 3000 miles apart
Sharing a classroom 3000 miles apart

Pupils at St Joseph’s Primary, Leamington engaged their virtual audience, including Matt Western MP when describing this years Send My Friend campaign. Here is their summary:
Our task for the campaign is to think about all the challenges children face that prevent them accessing education and then think about what your ideal school of the future would need.
Some examples we have considered are:
• solar water pumps to prevent dehydration,
• well trained teachers that are able to teach the many needs within a class,
• adults educated in equality to make sure no-one is left out,
• enough resources including stationery and technology
• trained health professionals in school to help with physical and mental health,
• free medical supplies such as sanitary towels to help all feel comfortable,
• barriers around schools to prevent dangers from outside
• schools that are kept safe from flooding
• and a germ force field to kill all illness so schools never have to close again.

All of these ideas require one thing – MONEY! Therefore, we are urging our Government to increase our aid to education and encourage other nations to spend more, much more, on global aid.
We would like to ask our MP to ensure that our Government will do what it has promised in terms of funding education around the world – ensuring that all children can receive a quality education.
OWL education is continuing to develop Global Citizens for the future.

Update on OWL in the UK and Bo at the AGM

OWL 2020-21 AGM

Despite the continuing restrictions on our activities due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a great deal of activitiy in both Bo and the UK. In Bo, the OWL Centre has been fitted with solar panels and has been redecorated. Schools in both Warwick District and Bo have embarked on tree planting and joined online to celebrate the Day of the African Child. Teachers’ visits have had to be suspended and we are hoping that they can be resumed in the coming year. Meanwhile there have been further developments on the health link and, at local government level, on urban planning and waste disposal. See the minutes of the AGM for full details

The Alfred Kanneh Memorial Cup

The Alfred Kanneh Memorial Cup

The winning team receive the Kanneh Cup, Feb 2020, presented by Mrs Tiangay Kanneh

Alfred Kanneh organised a friendly football competition between all fifteen One World Link schools in Bo. It was held in February 2018 during a visit by teachers from the UK. The schools were divided into two zones and each school brought two girls and two boys – the event was a fantastic showcase of the unity of the OWL schools.

Alfred was a teacher at BDEC New Gerihun Road and the Public Relations officer for the Bo teachers committee but sadly he passed away later. The competition was held again in 2020 in his memory, now named the Kanneh Cup, with the trophy awarded to the winning team by his wife and children.

Here’s hoping it can be played again soon and can continue to represent working together.

OWL’s History – in the County Archives

Over 40 years of records going back to our origins have recently been stored at the Warwickshire County record Office.
Newsletters, press releases, reports and photos all dating back to 1981 related to the work of One World Link are now available for the general public to access.

OWL’s History – in the County Archives

Over 40 years of records going back to our origins have recently been stored at the Warwickshire County record Office. Details of events, campaigns, visits and a variety of other activities related to the work of One World Link are now available for the general public to access. Jane Knight explains.

As time leaps forward, year by year, I have been increasingly aware of OWL’s long history building up especially as it passes its 40th Anniversary. With that history are all the records of its progress.

Because of Lockdown, I spent more than normal time taking part in Zoom sessions with old friends and colleagues around the world. They raised quite a lot of concern about what happens to all our experiences and records once we are gone? There is always the dread that they will end up on someone’s bonfire at the end of a garden.

Sorting OWL's historical papers
Sorting OWL’s historical papers

I have no spare space to spread out where I live, and the pressure on me to do something about preserving OWL’s archives was mounting. Where to sort? and would anyone want the piles of documents etc. anyway?

By good fortune, my son James who knows OWL well, was willing to let me use his large garden shed which is furnished with shelves and a table tennis table. As his family are moving on, he handed it to me and members of the OWL committee to use as a temporary workspace.

And so on October 6th, Paul Atkins, Kip Warr and myself delivered 2 big boxes of newsletters, press releases, reports and photos all dating back to 1981, to the Warwickshire County Records office.

It was a great relief after we started, to find that WCC were actually interested in what we were doing and they welcomed the materials with enthusiasm. We just hope they will be used in the future.

We came across many letters sent through the years from key friends in Bo.
A special feature is the ‘War file’ which contains personal experiences of the Sierra Leone Civil War in the 1990s. They were related to us in hasty phone calls made from Bo and Freetown by teachers and friends. Bishop Koroma (then Father) told stories of near escapes when he was expected to, and trying to get teacher’s pay out to all the Catholic schools while the war was going on.

One of the file’s contents was a letter from Johannes Mallah senior (later Chair of Bo OWL), recounting in detail his terrifying experiences being ambushed by rebels on the way to a meeting in Kenema.

Delivering OWL records to the Records Office
Delivering OWL records to the Records Office

It was a fascinating experience working out suitable categories for sorting, and reading and sifting through a huge variety materials which capture the exciting progress of One World Link in the Bo and Warwick Districts.

There are accounts of exchange visits, across wide sectors of the communities from councils to teachers and midwives which led to strong friendships and practical benefits for 40 years. The partnerships and cultural exchanges, based on principles of equality, have changed the lives of many of us, here and in Sierra Leone.

Remaining in the shed, are records of many of OWL’s contributions to the UKOWLA (UK One World Linking Association) conferences and campaigns to spread the linking idea across the UK and there are records of more Global activities (Towns & Development) to promote linking and local government and local community cooperation for development in the South and across Europe. I am still hoping to lodge this small collection somewhere for posterity. So do contact OWL if you know of any possibilities?

Jane Knight is the founder of One World Link

OWL Newsletter, November 2021

November 2021

In spite of Covid restrictions and lockdowns a lot has been going on, especially in education.

  • Chairman’s Notebook
  • A report from Bo 
  • The Bo One World Link Centre 
  • OWL puts plastic waste to good use in Bo 
  • OWL Health Link – progress at Yemoh Town Clinic
  • Our History – now in the County Archives 
  • TheEducation Supplement
    • UK Teachers’ Visit to Bo, 2020
    • Climate Action Project 
    • Campaigning and Environment 
    • Cultural and Training Activities 
    • My first visit to Bo – the most incredible experience. 
    • The Day of the African Child – a virtual celebration 
    • The Alfred Kanneh Memorial Cup 
    • OWL Schools’ Trees Project 

Johannes Mallah Jnr visits Bo

Johannes Mallah Jnr visited Sierra Leone in April 2021 to follow up on OWL work and have a face to face meeting or discussion with our contacts, partners and friends in Bo. He updates us on the OWL Centre, Yemoh Town clinic, the Children’s hospital and the Government hospital.

Johannes Mallah Jnr visits Bo

Johannes Mallah Jnr visited Sierra Leone in April 2021 to follow up on OWL work and have a face to face meeting or discussion with our contacts,partners and friends in Bo

Johannes Mallah Jnr on flight to Sierra Leone

When I arrived in Bo, OWL Bo Chair, Dr Wusu Sannoh gave me a warm welcome. I handed letters, parcels and extended OWL UK greetings to OWL Bo members and friends.
OWL BO Centre
went to the OWL Bo centre the following day to see the status of the centre and find out about the challenges and way forward.
Whilst in Bo, I helped out to ensure the OWL centre electrical and interior painting work is completed before returning back to the UK.
I made contact with a solar technician in Freetown to fix power at the OWL Bo centre and there is currently a solar power light at the top floor and the ground floor power work is expected to commence soon and be completed in October or early November 2021. This will cut down on the running cost of the centre as it is expensive to run the centre on a generator due to irregular electricity power supply in Bo city.
There is road project work going on along the Bo Mattru road where the centre is located and when this project is completed, it will add more value to OWL Bo centre.

Yemoh town lab
Yemoh town lab


Yemoh Town Clinic Lab
I visited Yemoh town clinic with OWL Bo chair, Dr Wusu Sannoh and we met with Mr Deen, nurses and other staff.
I helped out together with other OWL Bo members to ensure the lab equipment and kits are purchased and to ensure the work commences before returning back to the UK.
The lab is currently running and OWL UK will continue monitoring its operation and provide support in other areas at the clinic in the future.
Bo Government Hospital:
had a meeting with Dr Augustine Eric Fombah , the medical superintendent at Bo government hospital inorder to find out about their current constraint and for him to list areas which they require help or support.
OWL UK is in touch with Warwick hospital in the UK to establish a link with Bo government Hospital and the discussion is ongoing but slow due to COVID.

A Newborn baby


Bo Children’s Hospital
I also visited Bo children’s hospital and I met with some of the nurses and staff on duty that day. OWL UK is in touch with the hospital partners/trustees in Australia to collaborate and work together in supporting the health link in Bo.
Covid Situation In Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone has been removed from UK red list countries and the government is still encouraging adults to take their covid vaccines. The COVID cases are very low and there is ease in restriction around the country but citizens are also encouraged to put on face masks in public buildings or offices.


October 2021 Newsletter contents page

2021

Restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with lockdowns in the UK and Sierra Leone, prevented face-to-face meetings and visits from January to April
May – Johannes Mallah Jnr visited Bo

Restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with lockdowns in the UK and Sierra Leone, prevented face-to-face meetings and visits from January to July.
Committees held digital meetings and this permitted joint meetings between the Bo and UK committees for the first time.

April – Johannes Mallah Jnr visited Bo
June – Schools in both countries celebrated the Day of the African Child digitally
September – UK archives were lodged with the Warwickshire County Records Office