First impressions upon my return were the constant challenges in coping with the lack of basics and the heat and humidity. I was worried that I would not be able to handle it again. After 6 months in luxury in Australia I had become accustomed to air conditioning, hot water, endless power supply, TV, stereo, my own car and a plethora of food, drink and supplies as well as endless coffee … these accessible commodoties spoilt me.
However, it is only in such circumstances that you realize the transition of life style is only possible by and through the Grace of God. I am constantly reminded that the power to be resilient is not my own but given to me as a gift (when asked) and that my own abilities are not really my own but God given ….I just choose whether to accept them. So I am once again reminded that there are definite blessings when we step outside our comfort zone!
Another first impression is the sadness here post Ebola; I have heard of so many deaths since my return. Ironically
not from Ebola but from lack of medical supplies, adequate hospital care, bad roads/drivers, environmental accidents etc. I felt like I was constantly saying “eternal be his/her memory” or “I’m sorry for your loss”.
Many of the deaths were preventable which makes them all the more tragic but with Ebola restrictions on medical staff and supplies, this makes a simple illness easily rectified back home, a fatal death here. It is easy to become overwhelmed by all the grief and loss. Visiting the widow of Moses Babin (my driver who died after I left last year) and discovering that she was 4 months pregnant when Moses died was a bitter sweet experience. Mrs Babin is now trying to cope with a new born (Mosela), 3 other children (Moses jnr, Christina and Eleni) and living conditions that are harsh even by African standards. The rains are coming and she is trying to manage the basics of sanitation, food and shelter. There is no welfare in this country, no food vouchers, or government widow pension. Her eldest is in high school but thanks to your donations we are able to pay his school fees so he can remain in school this year. She is by no means a unique case. I could write pages about each person I know here who is experiencing hardships. Not the kind that we have back home in terms of quality of life but the kind that relate to life and death scenarios. Yet $50 month could transform their lives….
Into my third and fourth week, I began to notice, Hope.
I can see how much people rely on Fr Themi’s help and the comfort they get from knowing he is here and they will be fed, clothed and educated by the mission. I see the thankfulness that people show when given a bag of rice, a second hand dress, transport money, or a book for their child. The projects here are thriving with the construction of the orphanages, the college chapel is now with power supply and the new school building at Waterloo will hopefully be finished before the new school year. The pre-primary building will have child size toilets by next month. The college is thriving and a buzz of activity with a new intake of education students adding to the growing numbers (despite Ebola set-backs). Year 2 students gave us a wonderful demonstration of the musical instruments they created in the Music, Movement and Drama class and donated all the instruments to the college (see pics).
The Orthodox Youth Fellowship has grown and continues to bear fruit as a result of the youth leadership program established last year and clergy guidance and instruction . The choir is a wonderful addition to the church and the girls have found their liturgical voice and their place in the Orthodox Church.
Last week our Orthodox Youth Fellowship was exposed to a lesson on the responsible use of social media by one of our college ITC lecturers. They also shared their dreams and aspirations for the future. Some of those were specific career goals such as being a doctor, lawyer, ITC technician, teacher and reporter. Some were theological goals and one particular member of OYF expressed his goal in a way that sums up the commitment these young people have to the mission, the church and Fr Themi. Dimitiros said “I would like to be a priest and at the same time for the Orthodox college, an accountant and also an IT specialist”.
There is of course still much to be done and we ask for your prayers and your donations.
As you know, Paradise 4 Kids is a grassroots charity with no administration costs. I personally see the money going straight to where it’s needed. The only people on salary in the mission are local Sierra Leoneans as such we are creating jobs and contributing to national development through employment and education programs.
Please support us so that we may continue to help one of the poorest countries in the world and be a part of these transformational changing projects by either donating or volunteering.
Eleni Athinodorou (AKA McDermott)