Saturday, May 7, 2011

May 7

[Another quality post by Ross...]

Good night’s sleep. Feel refreshed. Breakfast sandwich and coffee, bike tuning, gear sorting, and we set off on our bikes to see some of CAUSE’s work in the area.

A quick aside: You already have some flavour of this from the trip so far, but a quick overview of CAUSE Canada's work in Sierra Leone is in order to provide context to today’s activities in particular. If you have been following this blog you know that CAUSE Canada (CC) was founded by Paul Carrick with my sister, Beverley, 26 years ago. CAUSE has been working in Sierra Leone for 22 years and had a presence here through the 10-year civil war. I’ve always thought of CC as a thinking person’s NGO because I have always been impressed by their foundation of good values, well-thought-through development principles and planning, their excellence in execution and stewardship, and their total commitment to working in partnership with local leadership and communities. They are committed to long-term relationships and holistic, comprehensive approaches to development.

CAUSE's work in this area includes clean water and sanitation projects, agricultural and reforestation initiatives, women’s literacy and empowerment, micro-enterprise training and loans, and the CAUSE Kids sponsorship program. CAUSE Kids is a program where individuals abroad sponsor and can correspond with an individual child through their primary school and junior high school years. While the individual child is connected to the sponsor, CAUSE’s commitment is to the entire school. The target is to have all the children in the school sponsored, but all students in the school benefit from CAUSE’s commitment to that school through the provision of daily breakfasts and lunches, uniforms, books, teacher support, desks, clean water, latrines, payment of school fees, and ongoing monitoring and support on an individual student basis by trained SL (university-educated) staff.

The first stop of the day takes us through downtown Kabala to the CAUSE Resource Centre (library, computer training, other) to meet with my family’s two sponsor children, Yaramaya Kamara (11) and Mohamed Conteh (8). We chat for a while, play handslap, and I take Mohamed for a short ride on my bike.

Our 35 km ride for the day takes us to three remote villages in the beautiful mountainous area outside Kabala. Hot uphills, more technically challenging downhills. Koromancilia is a beautiful village with a CAUSE Kids school and a number of agricultural initiatives. It is also where Jon’s family has a 
CAUSE Kid, Hawa Conteh (8). Being Saturday, school is out, but we meet Hawa and much of the rest of the
village under the shade of a beautiful mango tree. I chat with a beautiful pregnant woman and reflect on the purpose of our ride, the birthing hut program, which we will visit as we move south on the tour.

All the CC initiatives will contribute to reducing maternal mortality; however, proper nutrition improves general defense against disease and clean water reduces infections. Girls with more education marry later and have fewer children. This village is also the site of a brand new CAUSE Kids school funded by friends in Montreal.

Next stop: Affee. Besides seeing the school, we visit CAUSE-sponsored
community rice mill project. The project includes a rice drying concrete pad and a mill which is just being installed today! The mill will be able to process 1500 kg/hour! We write “Old Guys 2011” in the wet concrete.

En route to our final stop, Sulemaniya, Jon takes his second spill of the trip. He will survive with some scrapes and bruises. We visit another school, and a CC-sponsored community rice paddy. We have a blast playing with the kids. They run alongside us shouting “bye, bye, bye, bye” as we leave the village and head back to Kabala.

Tomorrow, it's church Sierra Leone style!

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