Response to Mudslide Crisis in Sierra Leone
After initial discussions, our Crisis Response Team deployed to see how we could engage with the relief effort.
Brad and I arrived in the capital of Sierra Leone just a week after the initial flooding and mudslide. Our first port of call was to visit our friends at Heaven Homes. We wanted to see the children and find out from the aunties if they could take in any more. These four ladies and the team around them form part of the incredible support structure for the orphans. They are doing an amazing job taking care of the children’s needs each day.
Even in our short time there we saw how these ladies cared for the children, not only providing food and practical care, but also playing and laughing with them. The aunties spoke openly and honestly about their capacity to take in more children. Together they decided that they could take up to 10 children if we found orphans who needed a new home.
Armed with this information we then began to work our way through the levels of command dealing with the crisis. Eventually we connected with Child Welfare and were able to offer them the 10 spaces. We were impressed by the level of vetting and checking that happens before children are moved away from the area and given a new home. This disaster happened during the Summer Holidays. Many children were staying with relatives in the city and therefore those who had survived the flooding and mudslides actually had family to go home to in the provinces.
Operation Orphan has been built on relationships. From fundraising to corporate giving, from project work to global expeditions, we believe in the power and strength of relationship. Therefore, not only did we connect with the relief effort from the top down, we also connected from the bottom up. Through another local connection we were introduced to a group of people who had not yet been connected into the wider relief effort. There was about 100 people living in a tin building, perched on the edge overlooking the mudslide. This was to be where we were based for the week.
Most of my time was spent with the children. We played games, we looked at photos of my family, they played with my hair (ouch!) and most importantly we smiled and laughed. Meanwhile Brad connected with various government and aid workers ensuring that these affected people got the help that they needed. Over and over again he heard that one of the most important things was the psychosocial needs.
The moment I will never forget was caught on camera as Brad handed out the blankets we have taken with us. At the front of the group was a lady who was 9 months pregnant, her story was heart-breaking and you could see it in her eyes. She had lost her three children in the mudslide, and you could see she was a shell of a person. It was such an honour to be part of giving her the gift of a beautiful hand knitted blanket and ensuring that she got the medical attention that she needed.
We learnt so much on this trip. We only did a very little, but for the few we helped it was life changing. The gift of a colourful hand knitted blanket does more than you could ever imagine for someone who has lost everything. Thank you to everyone who has knitted and and continues to knit us blankets. This is an invaluable resource, one which we could not buy or make ourselves!
We will continue to develop our Crisis Response. We want to be there sooner in a crisis and be able to provide more for vulnerable children. If you would like to help us grow this, please click the link below.