Jul 25, 2017
It is the rainy season in Sierra Leone and it is the rainy season in the West Highlands of Scotland. The sky is heavy and grey; the glen is just like Eyeore’s Gloomy Place with swarms of midgies for added measure. The vegetable plot needs weeding but I do not want to be the midgies’ feast. An indoor day is the sensible option. As I review my mental list of all the very boring tasks that are set aside for rainy, midgie infested, July days my grey day turns greyer. Then my i-pad pings. A message. Should I respond or should I start one of the boring tasks? Would a little distraction lighten the mood of the day?
The ping is from Kippy, founder of Heaven Homes, wanting to connect via messenger.
Was this the news I was waiting for? Indeed it was. Kippy wanted to let me know ‘The Box’ had arrived and had been delivered to Heaven Homes Primary School which is attached to the orphanage for survivors of ebola. This is the school where I had spent some time with Cyrilyn and Julia and where I experienced a very sharp (and on occasion embarrassing) learning curve. For example one day whilst discussing methodology with a teacher I remarked that there was quite a wide range of ability in the classes yet there was little evidence of group or individual work. The teacher agreed that group work was an interesting concept but not one they practiced. Would they like to implement it I wondered? ‘Implement it with what?’ was the response. Indeed. Inwardly I gave myself a shake. Outwardly, I smiled apologetically. Limited budget, limited resources inevitably limits methodology. The western teacher, the western parent, the western pupil expect well-resourced schools. How do you compare not having access to a computer with not having access to sharpened pencils?
I came home with plenty to reflect on. Local people knew I had been away. They asked questions about Sierra Leone and I answered. Giving a formal talk is not my style and asking people for donations leaves me stammering and apologising. As a fundraiser I am beyond hopeless. However fundraising was not necessary. People asked what was needed; people gave. Items arrived through the post. The postman hearing what was happening spread the word. Members of the crafting group, Loving Hands, were so very generous. I was given enough basic teaching supplies to last a year with some luxuries thrown in. My cupboard, which is now ‘The Sierra Leone Cupboard’, was full to overflowing. It was time to fill a box and make enquiries about shipping to the school.
Alice from Manor River Freight Services was so very helpful and patiently advised and supported me through my first ever international shipment. I was made aware of possible shipment dates; I was notified when the ship arrived at Sierra Leone, I was told when The Box was safely in the Sierra Leone Depot and advised when the recipient was informed it was ready to be collected and finally when a representative of Heaven Homes had taken custody of it.
And so, on this grey day when my pinging i-pad distracted me from boring tasks not only was there confirmation of The Box reaching the school but also a photo of the teachers examining the contents and the Headteacher forgetting momentarily to be a Headteacher and juggling with the included tennis balls. Half of the items donated are still in The Sierra Leone Cupboard. I was limited to a 15 kilo box by my local courier. Now that a safe route has been established it is time to fill another box and look forward to its arrival.
Box 2 has some interesting items to be included. Perhaps the items do not quite address resourcing needed to implement group teaching. Where do you start? Well, right here with three retired teachers who all cut their teeth on banda machines and are very enthusiastic about stepping back into collaborative mode and producing customised work cards… perhaps about 100. How many? You heard… 100 cards, let’s say in 250 days… perhaps 35 cards each, roughly one a week. We can organise working days.
As for the sky? Well, no blue sky materialised today. After all this is the West Highlands in July. It is the rainy month. Isn’t every month a rainy month in Scotland? Isn’t that why there are so many Scots words to describe rain? I wonder which of our rain words would best describe the torrential rain in Sierra Leone. Stoatin’ doon, perhaps. I wonder if it is stoatin’doon in Sierra Leone right now?
Midgie: tiny insect with fierce biting habit. Tourists think their ferocity is exaggerated until they spend some time in the West Highlands during the midgie season.
Collaborative mode: sitting round a table with tea and cakes, being bossy and school marmish.
If you have donations of new school text books, pencils or other school stationery that we can use to support Morag in her quest, please get in touch (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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