Friday, October 30, 2015

Sew for Sierra Leone: Joan Keeps Going



Back in April we wrote about the ladies from District 9 of the Inner Wheels Club. They had hand-made over 400 sleeping bags that eventually contributed to the largest shipment of donations that we’ve ever sent to Sierra Leone. This is what I wrote at the time:

“Great fun was had by the ladies from Inner Wheel Clubs. From all across District 9, UK (Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire) they got together to ‘Sew for Sierra Leone’ on 26th February. They were busy creating over 400 cotton sleeping bags, requested by Miriam for the youngsters at EducAid’s schools and Interim Care Centres.

Friendship and service are key elements of membership in Inner Wheel, a worldwide service organisation for women, and this event provided an ideal opportunity for both. There was plenty of chat and large quantities of tea were consumed as ladies gave their time to sort, cut, stitch, iron and pack for EducAid!”

It seems as though one of those ladies never stopped – Joan has gone on to create a huge number more. This inspirational and committed woman has managed to find an unlimited source of cotton, and must’ve been working non-stop since 26th February. When Miriam went to visit her on 17th October, Joan had made another 125 sleeping bags, and she is on the case to make many more before the container leaves London for Sierra Leone in December. What a tremendous achievement! Thank you so much Joan, our youngsters will be so grateful! Thank you to Ernie, Joan's husband, for all the help and support you must’ve given during the time – it all counts!

This is another incredible story of how our committe community helps us to provide a comfortable and caring home for our youngsters.



You can read more about the shipment coming to Sierra Leone here. If you would like to contribute, you can find out what items we are trying to collect for the shipment in that same post. If you would like to discuss contributing something else, please do get in touch by sending an e-mail to this address, and we can discuss how best to support you.

If you have not watched our new video, you can do so on the homepage of our website or on facebook. Please do share this post and the video to help spread our message.


EducAid – Learning for Life in Sierra Leone

Thursday, October 29, 2015

EducAid Community Working Together: Lloyd Igunbor & Carolyne Beckett

Lloyd Igunbor – one of Miriam’s past students from Salesian College, Battersea – has spent the past couple of months organising and packing a container full of donations destined for Freetown. He has been travelling around the country picking up donated items from collection centres – usually friends and family of the charity – in preparation for the final shipping date in December. As you can imagine, this is no small feat, so he has asked Miriam to spread the word to help drive some high quality donations to ensure that the container is full of things the schools really need.

Whilst working in one of the Ebola testing labs in Sierra Leone last year, Carolyne Beckett met Miriam through one of Miriam’s old schools friends, Julia Yelloly, who was on the same team. She visited two of EducAid’s sites, and was introduced to some of our wonderful students. Upon her return, Carolyne felt compelled to assist EducAid in any way she could. Earlier this month, Carolyne started to organise a fundraising drive on Facebook to help fill up the container. Based in Bristol, Carolyne has asked all of her friends and family to donate what they can from the area, which will then be transported down to Lloyd’s collection centre in West London.

Here is Carolyne’s facebook post:















As this shows, EducAid relies heavily on the generosity of our donors. Our students are always extraordinarily happy to receive new clothing. Many of you will know that we do not make our students wear uniforms, but we do insist that their clothes are clean and in decent repair – we are at school at the end of the day!! – so these donations really do help our students in this matter.

If you are able to contribute anything to this wonderful fundraising effort from two of our community, you can contact Farah here and she will send you in the right direction. For those living close to Bristol you should coordinate with Carolyne, and for those living in the London area you should coordinate with Lloyd. Just for the sake of clarity, here is the list of essential items:

  • Second-hand clothes and shoes (esp. flip flops/crocs) ages 3-adult.
  • Boys and girls underwear
  • Black shoes (a requirement to take exams) ages 11-adult.
  • Books - non Euro-centric (i.e. not full of skateboards and microwaves etc) e.g. fantasy/factual/thought-provoking
  • Educational resources esp. children's encyclopaedias, dictionaries, 
  • thesauruses
  • Blank CDs and DVDs (for recording lessons for remote teaching)
  • Old laptops (2010+ software please)
  • Old microscopes and other resources for teaching at secondary level
  • Sharable hardwearing toys e.g. Balls (deflated) and treats

As if organising this donation drive wasn’t enough, Carolyne is also doing a fun run in November then to prepare for the Filthy Girl Mud Run. If you are able to sponsor her directly for her run, you can do so from this link.

Carolyne sums up her post like this:
"Any money or gifts donated will go directly into helping the children. EducAid is a corruption-free zone whose trustees cover any administrative costs.
Come on Facebook let's make a difference!!"

Thank you very much both Carolyne and Lloyd for your amazing work in bringing this together. Without the committed efforts from the EducAid community we would not be half as strong as we are!

If you have not watched our new video, you can do so on the homepage of our website or on facebook. Please do share this post and the video to help spread our message.


EducAid – Learning for Life in Sierra Leone




Thursday, October 8, 2015

Miriam Presents Medals to 820 Naval Air Squadron
















Members of the 820 Naval Air Squadron invited Miriam Mason-Sesay to their Operational Medal Ceremony at Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose last week. Not only were Miriam and her son, Kofi, in attendance, but Miriam was invited to present the medals to the serving officers. The 820 Squadron had been deployed on the RFA Argus to Sierra Leone for 6 months during the Ebola outbreak.

Commander Ross Spooner said that “personnel from 820 were tasked at very short notice to a place that was, at the time, full of uncertainty and fear.”


The fear of the deployment was encapsulated in a facebook post by one of the deployed men’s partner:

“As you all probably know by now my husband is on board RFA Argus which is in Sierra Leone dealing with the Ebola crisis.
We are all feeling pretty helpless back home here especially as we get to hear some of the stuff not reported on the news.
The lads on the ship are all working really hard in challenging conditions working 8 hours on 8 hours off with no set date for their return.”

820’s mission in Sierra Leone was to assist with the logistical operation in combatting the spread of Ebola. Assisted by 3 Merlin helicopters, the Squadron was able to reach several parts of Sierra Leone that were simply too difficult for supplies to reach by ground. Among their expeditions, the Squadron came across some of our students who quickly invited them to have a look at our schools.

Struck by the plight of youngsters during flights into Port Loko, one of the worst-affected towns in Sierra Leone, Petty Officer Diccon Griffith decided that the ship was able to further help the fight against Ebola.

“Each and every face I saw seemed so happy that we were there, many of them quoting the slogan that is seen stickered on many of the UN vehicles out here – togeder, we de fet Ebola – together we will fight Ebola.”

Lead by Diccon Griffith, members of the Squadron decided to undertake a sponsored charity row in support of some of the children that they had been responding to – we were incredibly touched when the Squadron contacted us to let us know that they would like to donate the money raised to EducAid schools.




In addition to the substantial amount of money raised, and unbeknownst to the charity, the crew had been co-ordinating a fundraising drive in the UK for essential daily items. When the Merlin arrived a few days before Christmas the children were elated. When they saw Santa and some elves jump off it, they were ecstatic. The crew delivered over 300kg of clothes, washing materials, and dried foodstuffs to EducAid. Bearing in mind the travel restrictions in place, many of these items were absolutely critical to the on-going health and happiness of the students.



















The generosity of the women and men aboard the RFA Argus is hard to overstate. Not only were these courageous people putting their lives on the line for another nation, but they were so committed to genuinely helping the cause that they gave their own possessions, time, and money to help EducAid bring Sierra Leone one step closer to eradicating Ebola.

We are forever in your debt, 820 Squadron, and you will be forever in our minds.




If you would like to read the BBC News article, please follow this link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cornwall-34416829

Monday, October 5, 2015

World of Children Education Award Winner: Miriam Mason-Sesay


















This month, Miriam Mason-Sesay was bestowed an honour that few are worthy of. The World of Children award is an extremely prestigious and unique organisation that scours the plantet each year for the most effective change-makers for children worldwide, thus improving the lives of the most vulnerable.

The World of Children describes itself as an organisation that, since 1998, has invested $7 million in cash grants and programme support to more than 100 Honorees. They estimate that they have touched the lives of 30,000,000 children around the world, with those children being rescued, rehabilitated, educated, given counselling, and receiving urgent medical care.

The World of Children was founded by Harry and Kay Leibowitz. In 1996, Harry had a vision for World of Children when he was recovering from cancer surgery at age 55. Watching the Pulitzer Prize announcements on TV, he noted that while there was a Pulitzer for art and literature, and a Nobel for the sciences and peace, and an Oscar for films, there were no awards for those who were tirelessly serving children in need.

That realisation was a catalyst for Harry, and he subsequently founded World of Children with vital support from Starr Commonwealth. Harry then pledged to dedicate the rest of his life to creating a prestigious awards program, to support social change makers helping children in need around the world.

Harry Leibowitz believes that you don’t have to be Bill Gates to make a difference. All you need is a genuine desire to help. As Harry puts it:

"One little hand by one little hand by one little heart, we will fulfil that sacred duty given to us by our forbearers—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—for every child we can reach."

The World of Children say that each of the 2015 Honorees has created life-changing programmes that benefit children in countries around the world. They are working on a wide range of issues, including homelessness, teen pregnancy, and life-threatening medical issues.

At this year’s Awards Ceremony, World of Children Award will present the first ever Education Award. Asked about the decision to add an Education Award to the program, Leibowitz shared that the Board of Governors recognises education as a key component of elevating young people out of poverty, out of trouble, out of dependency, and on to a better life. He pointed out that 60 million children worldwide do not receive even basic education and that, in view of the magnitude of the issue and the large number of education-related nominations the organisation receives each year, it was vital to establish an education award category.

It is without a doubt a huge honour for Miriam to win this award, but one that we are sure you’ll agree that she wholly deserves. Miriam will be travelling to New York City next month to receive her award, and the event will provide the platform for Miriam to raise awareness and funding to continue the growth of our charity.

Congratulations to Miriam, and to the whole EducAid organisation without whom the high-quality impact would not be delivered. International recognition significantly helps those that are involved at EducAid to keep doing what they are doing, but it will not take our focus from what really needs to be achieved: the sustainable and holistic education of vulnerable children in order to raise them out of poverty, and to create a prosperous and corruption-free Sierra Leone.



If you would like to read more about the World of Children Award, or indeed other winners, you can find our more on their website: www.worldofchildren.org

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Sweet Salone........Lurching from one crisis to another

Wilkinson Road flooded with cars swimming
through the flood waters.
Credit: M & R Ropiecki
Extraordinary scenes in Freetown for the last few days. 
Sierra Leone is back in the news again!
For a good reason this time?
Sadly not!
We had gone off the international media radar for many years, when the film Blood Diamond brought us a little negative publicity and reminded the world of the extremes of violence that had occurred during the 10 year war. As potentially positive news of economic change started to hit the media, we had the dramatic knock back of the year long Ebola crisis last year. Before we have even got to the end of that (despite the Western media having forgotten about it), massive floods have hit and there are currently close to 9000 people in Freetown displaced by serious flooding, damaged homes, landslides and so on.
Is there a common thread to all of this?  They seem so unrelated.  
By my analysis, there is a common cause, a constant source of vulnerability and I believe that the extremes of all that we have experienced would have been massively reduced if our population were educated.
The floodgates are open!
Credit: M & R Ropiecki
President Momoh, 25 years ago made the announcement that education was a privilege and not a right. (n.b. This has not changed in any real way in the intervening quarter of a century!)  This was a significant trigger for the student protests that were then militarised by Foday Sankoh - not the only but an important contribution to the starting of the war. There were then enormous numbers of marginalised, uneducated youth who had had nothing to lose by joining the fighting.  
When Ebola hit the country in early 2014, the confusion it caused was due again to the lack of education. There was a complete lack of trust in the sources of information and no means to verify which of the potential explanations was genuine.  There was often a panicked dismissal of government advice so people continued to hide and treat their sick and bury their dead, making themselves and their communities incredibly vulnerable.  
Now, with the floods, to me it is all of a piece. Education does not stop rain but.....
Freetown is massively over-populated as people abandon the provinces for lack of employment opportunities and lack of basic services such as education and health.  Families lose their land because they don't know their rights.  People build in vulnerable parts of the city because they don't have their own land and there is no properly enforced planning.  Environmental protection laws can be bypassed with a brown envelope.  
The injustices that are perpetrated against the people, the lack of equitable law enforcement is not even understood by those who are on the receiving end of it.  Were they to be educated, they would understand the rights they are not accessing.  Were they to be educated, they would know who to ask what questions to know why such a small proportion of what is allocated to the provincial district councils ever reaches them?  Were they to be educated, they would know that accepting no services is not normal in most countries.  Were they to be educated, they would know what happens elsewhere and demand justice and basic rights for themselves as happens in other countries.
My heart goes out to those who are suffering now but this is once again a symptom not the real problem.  We will help with rice, medicines, blankets and tarpaulins but these are sticking plasters on a deep deep wound.
In EducAid we believe that the best way of strengthening communities to reduce vulnerabilities to all sorts of crisis is through education.  
If you are interested in knowing more about EducAid's work with vulnerable young Sierra Leoneans please go to www.educaid.org.uk 
If you are in a position to support our work, please go to the Donate page of the EducAid website or direct to the EducAid MyDonate page  It is hard to imagine where your money could have greater impact!
Thank you in advance for your generosity.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Rearrangement of the school year after Ebola

Let's keep focused!
Multiple, multiple changes to the academic year have had extraordinary knock on consequences for Sierra Leone's children.  To start with, during the whole Ebola crisis, students missed 8 months of schooling. This, in a country where academic standards tend to be horrendously low and education is itself already in crisis and has been for many decades, was a terrible blow. When schools finally reopened in April, we were given new term and public exam dates.  They have changed several times but we have ended up with holidays through the rainy season: July and August to be swiftly followed by public exams - not sure of the logic on that but it seems to unnecessarily disadvantage children who are already very much on the back foot. These public exams  are the gatekeepers to the next stage: a child who fails the National Primary School Examination can not proceed into Junior Secondary School.  A child who fails the Basic Education Certificate Examination can not proceed into Senior Secondary School.  This means that to avoid children dropping out of education completely, considerable efforts should be made to prepare the children well but how can this happen when schools are shut across the country for weeks and months at a time and then the exams positioned just after the break?
In the last couple of days, we have heard that the nationwide census will take place on 5th December and that all schools, colleges and other learning institutions will once again shut for 2 weeks.  Why? Because the teachers will be employed by the authorities to undertake the census itself.
Every time schools shut the routine is lost, children get caught up in survival activities that take them away from their studies often forever, girls get pregnant, learning time is lost etc etc etc
To us, it is obvious that the solutions to Sierra Leone's problems are nearly all to be found in protecting and investing in real education. Apparently, there are not so many who share our view.....
In EducAid, we have kept our exam students engaged throughout all the other school shutdowns and have worked hard to protect all the children's chances of achieving their full potential. They are in the small, lucky minority.
If you are interested in finding out more about EducAid's work with vulnerable young Sierra Leoneans, please go to www.educaid.org.uk 
If you are in a position to support our work, please go to the EducAid Donate page or https://mydonate.bt.com/charities/educaidsierraleone 



Monday, September 7, 2015

Lucy Howling - Mellor Rose Queen 2015-16

Hello, I’m Lucy! 

This year I am Mellor Rose-Queen. The tradition of crowning a young girl as Rose Queen developed in the farming communities of Northern England as part of the celebration of and thanksgiving for the growth of the food crops. Today, in Mellor, this tradition continues but the role of the Rose Queen and her team is to raise money for a charity of the Rose Queen’s choice. I chose the charity EducAid. I chose this charity as I know what they do is amazing and would love to be able to be a small part of helping children fulfil their dreams. I have only been Rose- Queen for two months and I feel proud of what I am doing.


The events we are hosting are for all ages. The first event we are hosting is a Fashion Show! This event includes Mums from my team modelling clothes from a local shop. People can buy the clothes and accessories and 10% of the funds go to EducAid. People also buy tickets to come to the event. There is a bar and raffle, as in all of our events. Other events include an Oktoberfest, Threatles concert, Mellor’s Got Talent, a Children’s Bear Hunt, and many other exciting fund raisers! Thank you for taking the time to read this. It would be great if you could support me when you can!

If you would like to know more about EducAid's work with vulnerable young Sierra Leoneans, please go to www.educaid.org.uk and if you are able to donate to support our work, please go to one of Lucy's events, or to the Donate page on the website or to https://mydonate.bt.com/charities/educaidsierraleone
Thank you in advance for your generosity!



Thursday, July 9, 2015

Musa Koroma B.ENG. – From Sierra Leone to St. Petersburg
















Opportunity, chance, and fortune can play such a big part in Sierra Leone sometimes. The proximity of absolute poverty to daily life means that only the smallest bump in the road can lead to genuinely terrible consequences. Musa Koroma, on leaving Bo School due to unpaid school fees, faced a bleak future that so many bright and talented young people in Sierra Leone face: a system unable to support them in their pursuit of bettering themselves. Complete with a drive and ability to forge a constructive and positive future, but without the tools that we consider as an absolute human right, Musa was faced with very few options.

Opportunities, however, come in all shapes and sizes. Living with an aunt in Freetown, teaching her children on the promise of renewing his school fees but without holding up her end of the bargain, Musa bumped in to some students without uniform.

“I asked one of them whether they were university students, they told me that they weren’t but that they were students of EducAid Sierra Leone. One was so bold and told me all the details about how the school operates and what are their fees.”

Entrepreneurialism, a passion and ability for education, and a natural inquisitiveness brought Musa to EducAid. He was filled by a desire to better his situation, and he knew that education was the key. By all accounts, he was immediately identified as the kind of student that we look for: self-driven, and able, and humble.

In a letter to his sponsors, Robert and Kay Vincent from the UK, and Miriam and James of EducAid, Musa thanked them for their support upon news of his latest achievement: Musa has just graduated with a bachelor degree in Civil Engineering from the St. Petersburg State University in Russia.

“A journey started 15 yrs ago finally has ended with honor, glory, pride, hope, jubilations and the triumphant of joy of being part of a family like my family, the EducAid family, the family of Robert and Kay Vincent all these years. In my thoughts as deeply rooted in me from the day I became an EducAidian I knew that only the best comes out of the most sacred mind of men and women in our generations of academic pursuement and EducAid family my alma mater had always being in that center of seeing those who want to be of values in a society to achieve their dreams and my dream of becoming an engineer has been achieved today. Today I have defended my degree in civil engineering and architecture. This didn't come as just a dream but the enthusiasm and the use of confidence instilled in us by the teachers of EducAid and the country director of our beloved institution, Miriam Mason-Sesay. We were thought to know and believe that hard work pays and that no one is born to remain subjected to the abject lineage of poverty and disease. I have the highest esteem of love and commitment to both my country and my school and with the amount of values of leadership qualities inculcated in me through holistic learning from EducAid and the people I have mingled with in Russia from all kinds of back grounds, I have the privilege to say that I'm strong enough to defend myself, my country and the most lovable people around me. The teachers like Gaza, Mr. Bangura, Mr SIK, the late SS DEM, Dr. Sean, Mr. Bailay, Mr. Deen, Miriam Mason-Sesay, and many more gave us the heart that we can be whosoever we want to become in this life. They inspired us, they gave us the key to succeed with pride and the love of humanity. They told us teamwork matters and is the fastest way to attend to a destination. Words are not enough to describe the type of hopes you guys instilled in us, but just like to say thank you guys for all your sacrifices and the love.

Yesterday we defended our degrees in the presence of representatives from the ministry of education Russia, Deans of faculties and rector of the university. They were impressed by our presentations and the hard works all these yrs. At the end we were all awarded scholarship to continue with masters in the following academic yr. We all defended excellently and the dean made a party where I showed some Sierra Leonean moves (dance), lol. It was one of the happiest days in my life and I just wanna say to Kay & Robert Vincent, Miriam, James Boardman, and all the staff members of our alma mater, EducAid beloved THANK YOU GUYS WE MADE IT AT LAST.”

A beautiful signoff from Musa, and a wonderful story. Congratulations to Musa for his achievement, and best of luck as he continues his educational career in Russia. All of the EducAid staff and community are so very proud of what you have achieved.

We will keep doing what we are doing to help those in Sierra Leone who do not have the possibility to better themselves, and Musa will be the leading example that we point to when they lose faith in what they are working towards.

This week I read the Annual report that is submitted to the Charities Commission, and it reminds me of all of the amazing things that EducAid does to help some of the most vulnerable people in the entire world. If you would like to take a read, you can do so here.





Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Progress of the Vaccines















Back in January, I wrote a blog post about the on-going vaccine trials that were providing hopeful signs to find a permanent preventative drug against Ebola. We can all agree that this is the most permanent way for the global community to prevent another outbreak of this virus. As Ebola recedes, and Liberia is declared free from the virus, how have those vaccine trials that we laid so much hope and financial capital in ended up? According to the WHO, not as well as we had hoped.

Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, WHO Assistant Director-General for Health Systems and Innovation, said in a news briefing in Geneva: "The best news is we are going to zero cases, there is absolutely no doubt about that," she said.

“Two experimental Ebola vaccines - developed by GlaxoSmithKline and jointly by Merck and NewLink Genetics - being tested on volunteers may not yield sufficient data on efficacy as case numbers fall. It is not clear whether it will be possible to have even a hint of efficacy from these two vaccines," she said, noting that they already had been proven safe.

To have efficacy we must see if people are actually protected, as the number of cases is going down it is not clear whether there will be a strong robust answer to this question at the end of epidemic," Kieny said.

This is, fortunately, not the whole story. As you may remember, Bavarian Nordic, which struck a milestone deal with Johnson & Johnson in October for the development of their Ebola vaccine, was working on a 2-dose vaccination approach for Ebola using different vaccines for the first and second doses. This approach is known as heterologous prime-boost. The two vaccine candidates are known as Ad26-EBOV and MVA-EBOV. Bavarian Nordic, and Johnson & Johnson, have received a 50 million euro loan from the European Investment Bank (EIB) to help it develop a vaccine against Ebola.

This latter partnership has been collecting samples of the live virus in blood, urine and other bodily fluids in order to continue the testing. Considering the uncertainty surrounding the efficacy of these drugs, it is highly unlikely that we will see human trials of these drugs until absolutely necessary. However, the continued investment by the EIB shows a determined and long-term approach to creating a useable vaccine.

The continued investment and prevalence of live virus samples will enable these companies to do what they can to make sure that we are better prepared for the unfortunate situation when Ebola arises. Let’s hope, for all of sub-Saharan Africa that Ebola doesn’t become a major issue in the future, but at least big Pharma will be in a position of knowledge, rather than chasing ghosts as they were this time around. If you would like to read the full update on all of the antivirals, you can do so from the WHO website here.

There are many lessons that can be learnt from this Ebola outbreak, and the speedy preparation of antivirals is a major one.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Liberia declared Free from Ebola















Yesterday, Liberia became the first of the three countries at the centre of the Ebola outbreak to have been declared free from the virus, after 42 days of no new cases. In response to the WHO announcement, the government encouraged the country to have a day of celebration, as can be seen in the photos.

This is a truly landmark day for what has been the biggest outbreak of the virus ever. It’s important that we pay our respect to those that have suffered from the disease, and for those who have maintained their strength and composure in battling it. It’s a great day for Liberia, and we hope that the day will come for Sierra Leone very soon.

Unfortunately, that day is not yet here. Schools are back, and the reports are that attendance is picking up from their initial low numbers. At EducAid we were at 80% on our first day, and numbers have been steadily rising since. It’s been an incredibly busy time at EducAid, so we want to say thank you to all of the staff that have made this first few weeks as smooth as it has been.

Today, an Italian nurse operating in Sierra Leone has been confirmed - a severe warning that those still in the firing line of Ebola are still severely at risk.

On a positive note, numbers of new cases have not increased since the schools have opened. This would suggest that, not only have the schools been well-prepared for their re-opening, but also that the general population have learnt the all-important lessons of combatting Ebola on a local level. Those showing symptoms of the virus are being reported quickly, enabling rapid and efficient treatment and quarantine by the Ebola teams still combatting the spread of the virus.

We should draw a lot of hope from the announcement in Liberia – if nothing else, we know that it can be done. The combined effort from the government and NGOs, as well as from the population itself, has enabled the country to eradicate this pervasive and destructive virus. 

Sierra Leone is in a different situation: geographically, it sat in the centre of the three affected countries, and that certainly impeded the efforts to slow the outbreak. For now, we must be patient. We must continue to be cautious, and we must continue to work against the spread of Ebola.

Onwards and upwards for Sierra Leone – our day will come soon.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Kabiru Mansaray: “There are others not as fortunate as us."
















The Guardian website published a video last week covering some of the difficulties that Sierra Leonean students were facing when returning back to school. Fortunately, a student at EducAid highlighted just why our value-based fees our so important.

As is common throughout all national schools, students are required to pay school fees, buy school uniforms, and regularly contribute to the purchase of educational materials such as books and paper. This is not how we do things at EducAid. To be a student at one of our schools requires only three things: excellent behaviour; excellent attendance; and, excellent effort. Kabiru Mansaray, an EducAid student, very eloquently describes how disheartening it has been since preparations for his final year exams were interrupted by Ebola.

“Schools in Sierra Leone have been shut for almost a year because of the emergence of the Ebola disease. Education was difficult in Sierra Leone before, but now it is very tough. Ebola has affected all areas in this country, but most especially the educational area.

Many many children have lost their parents. We have issues with women’s education, and those who cannot afford to go to school. I can tell you the situation about education in Sierra Leone because I have gone through the experience of it being difficult. I was a young boy; I used to go out in to the street to do street trading. My mother could not afford to pay the school fees or school materials, but I am hoping to forge ahead with my education up to the University level. I was supposed to take the exam last year only to find that Ebola is in the country, and the government decided to postpone the exams. It was a bit discouraging for me after working very hard, and my exam has been postponed for a very long time; but currently I thank God for my current state because at this school we do not have to pay fees, but there are others that are not as fortunate as us.”

At EducAid, we actively strive against a culture of expectation and dependency. Our students know just how fortunate they are that we have such a generous and loyal community in the UK, and around the world, who contribute towards their education. Kabiru recognises this, and shows such empathy to those who are not able to return to school. He makes us very proud, and gives us the strength to continue doing what we’re doing.

Ebola has been an incredibly tough time for us all at EducAid. Kabiru is a shining example of how we can transform lives with our teaching methods, please consider helping us to get Sierra Leone back on the right path.

This video shows how important EducAid’s method of schooling is. Not only do we foster a genuine social responsibility in our students, we also provide them with top-quality education at a price that everyone can afford. Because we are an independent school, we are able to encourage those girls who may have become pregnant during their time away from school to return to us. Rather than allowing Ebola to destroy yet another life, we can give these young girls an opportunity to succeed.

Education is the key to success in Sierra Leone: more than just key skills, we teach a practical syllabus of equality and humanity – the most important lesson of all.

£15 will send a student to EducAid for a whole month – that’s a pizza and a bottle of wine for us, but one step towards a livelihood for them. Please give generously; we need your help more now than ever. Donate Here.


Friday, May 1, 2015

Our trip to Resonate Connect

Wednesday night, a cracking team of EducAid trustees, staff, donors, and volunteers travelled to Manchester Cathedral to meet over 100 businessmen and women from all around the City. Resonate is a 3rd Sector recruitment company, and they had invited us all there to launch their new business-to-charity skills platform that would facilitate the private sector in engaging with social projects.



A Q&A session with Sir Howard Bernstein, the Chief Executive of Manchester City Council kicked off the evening, with the challenging questions marking the enthusiasm and engagement of the businesses present. We heard from the Sir Bernstein about his opinion of the crossover between business and charities – a matter close to his heart.



Next, we heard from Alex Swallow, CEO, about Resonate Connect, Resonate’s brand new platform for connecting businesses that want to engage in social and charitable causes by providing professional skills and knowledge.

In simple terms, this is a fantastic idea! So often, and as we have experienced in the past, small charities are overwhelmed with their primary focus of work, and so unwilling to waste valuable resources on things that seem periphery to the core mission, that it becomes counterproductive. Often, websites are overlooked, finances are difficult to manage, marketing and communications are rarely deployed, and internal administration procedures are messy and difficult to implement. These are challenges that all small charities face, and are things that require complex and professional skills not readily available to most. Resonate Connect is a platform to connect charities like these with employees of companies that can fill these gaps. If you or your business is looking for ways to contribute in an effective and efficient manner, you should certainly look in to the platform – check it out at www.resonate-connect.org.uk.




















After that, 5 charities were given the opportunity to present our relevant organisations to the 100 or so business that were present. We heard from some great charities: Volition, Manchester Cathedral’s programme to get the unemployed back to work through volunteering projects; CALManchester, a charity rasing awareness and providing support to the victims of the biggest killer of men between 18 and 35, suicide; the Factory youth Zone, a youth facility helping disadvantaged young people in the Manchester area, and; 4Hub, A Social Enterprise that helps charities and social enterprises to be more successful and sustainable.



Each charity was asking for something different; EducAid was specifically asking businesses to sign up for Payroll Giving, an innovative way for employees to donate to charities in a time and tax efficient manner. Adrian Carr gave an engaging and inspiring presentation that really showed EducAid in it’s true light, and we found that people were extremely receptive.

We spent the evening chatting to potential businesses and employees about the possibility of signing them up! Everything crossed that we hear back from some of them!

All in all, it was a great night for Resonate and for EducAid. It’s fantastic to meet so many generous and active people in Manchester, and we think that it’s a great initiative to be involved in.

Thank you to Resonate and Manchester Cathedral for hosting us, and thank you to everyone who came and participated.




Sunday, April 26, 2015

Political Instability in Sierra Leone















The West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP), a special consultant to the UN Economic and Social Council, has issued a warning in the wake of the contentious, and potentially unconstitutional, sacking of the Vice President of Sierra Leone, Alhaji Sam-Sumana.

There are various factors at play, but the most threatening and sticky claim made against the president, Ernest Bai Koroma, is that he has broken the 1995 Constitution - a document that he swore his life to protect. As with anything like this, it is not a straightforward situation. There is a reasoning to argue that the President had not, in fact, acted unconstitutionally as the vice-president was dropped from the party by the president, and could not hold the office without membership to the All People’s Congress party at the time. This is something that will be decided by the Supreme Court of Sierra Loene. The opposition party, the Sierra Leone People’s Party, have their own agenda in causing the instability and smearing of the President. They are spreading their version of events and organising demonstrations to corral their voters in advance of the 2017 elections.

Regardless of the political tactics, there is general discontentment and fear within the public that the President has overstepped his mark, and is in danger of eroding the Consitutional rule of law that marked such a significant step forwards after the brutal civil war. This is certainly a dangerous precedent to set in a political system so immature and early in it’s developmental stages.

Rather than summarising a very concise and informative piece, I have included a link to the full article below. I will leave you, however, with the Conclusion:

“Political tension in Sierra Leone continues to rise amid a worrying hike in the number of new Ebola cases. The current political context threatens the fragile peace and security of Sierra Leone's emerging democracy, amidst the complex Ebola emergency. The expulsion of Alhaji Sam-Sumana from the APC and subsequent dismissal as vice president has stirred immense confusion in the country with reference to the 1991 constitution that stipulate the dismissal of a vice president with two-third votes of the parliament. However, the constitution also requires that the office holder should belong to a registered political party. In the light of this and the pending case at the Supreme Court, citizens are hopeful that the Court delivers a win-win verdict that clearly reflects the provisions of the constitution. This is imperative to prevent the country from plunging into further chaos.”

We will keep you informed of any developments in this matter, and the outcome of the Supreme Court case.



For the full article, please visit this link.


Friday, April 24, 2015

The Challenge of Getting Students back to School


















Schools are open, but attendance is low. There are several things affecting the cautious and slow return to school for Sierra Leone’s youngsters. Roeland Monasch, Unicef’s Sierra Leone representative, who described the reopening of the country’s 8,000 schools as “a major step in the normalisation of life”, but Alison Schafer, World Vision’s mental health and psychosocial support specialist in Freetown says that “reopening schools is not just a one-off event. It’s going to be a months-long journey.”

Below we look at some of the reasons behind the slow return of students, and whether we can expect the numbers to return to normal.

Fear

Parents are, understandably, nervous and fearful of allowing their children back to schools to mix freely with other students. It’s a realistic concern, and one that we share to a certain extent ourselves.

The fear that parents are feeling was exemplified when we opened two of our schools; we had to have major community meetings with the Paramount Chief and Deputy Director of Education to convince parents that the drinks we were giving the students while they were taking their questionnaires and literacy tests we not a plan to give them Ebola. The paranoia that this invisible and indiscriminate killer has left is astounding.

School children across the country have been met at the gates with infrared temperature checks, chlorine washes, educational programmes to reinforce Ebola prevention techniques, and more stringent rules surrounding playing and touching one another.

Ebola is still in the country and, going against the previous announcement from the Ministry of Education, the schools have opened before the country has been declared Ebola free. We will be watching closely the news and figures surrounding new cases, and whether they are linked to the reopening of schools.

At EducAid, our staff have been actively engaged in fighting Ebola from the outset, so we have the facilities and training to minimise the threat of an Ebola outbreak. Having said that, the utmost caution and discipline will be taken at every step.



Family Economy

Due to the widespread destruction that Ebola has caused, more than 8,600 Sierra Leonean children lost one or both parents to the disease. Family finances and the general economy are at a desperate low, with many children forced to find work to support themselves and their families.

“It will be hard for struggling families to sacrifice even that small income and send their children back, especially girls,” said Alison Schafer.

Fortunately, EducAid does not charge any fees, nor do we require any of the potential financial barriers to education such as clothing or educational materials. As you may well be aware, our fees are: excellent attendance; excellent behaviour; and excellent effort.

In an article by The Guardian, Sylvester Meheux, a headteacher in Rokel, says that in many cases the students “have been trading and are now used to having a little bit of money.” This makes the challenge of bringing these students back to school that much more difficult, and bringing this new-found independence back in to the schooling environment.

This is a challenge that we will face on a student-by-student basis, and one that we are prepared for.




Birth Rates

Teenage pregnancy has been a huge problem, and one that we wrote about in two previous articles: Teen Pregnancy & Sexual Violence – Unseen Consequences of Ebola (Part 1 & Part 2). This group, girls that have already lost so much to this disease, will not be allowed back because the government has refused to lift the ban on pregnant girls attending school.

Fortunately, we will not have to abide by this ban if we find that some of our girls have fallen into this trap. The Ministry of Education is digging it’s heels in on this item for government schools though, and we know that many futures will be lost with this decision. In a country where women are already at such a disadvantage, they are being punished for actions for which they should either share responsibility or, unfortunately, share absolutely no responsibility or blame in. To read more about this, do read the blogs linked above.



Disengagement

Disengagement is potentially one of the biggest problems that we will have to encounter. Like child students across the world, a year out of education – under any circumstances – will make it incredibly difficult to return to the structure of school. Add to that the lost skills and investment in the school and examination system, these students will need so much support to get them back to their studies.

“Amid the relief and excitement of returning to school”, says Alison Schafer, “there would also be fear and anxiety – which was why World Vision had helped train more than 1,000 teachers in psychosocial support skills. Although children may be concerned about the possibility of catching Ebola in the classroom, they are more worried that they’ve forgotten everything they’ve learned,” she said. “They’re anxious about whether they can ever catch up.”




People in the country are quietly positive, however. Many people in Sierra Leone do recognise the importance for education, and it has become a something positive in the world since the civil war. Increasingly, children have better access through both government and NGO lead programmes.

“The turnout is small but we hope more will come by the end of the week,” said Sylvester Meheux, Rokel’s headteacher. “Some children have dropped out but the bulk will return.

The problem is, of course, the longer that they stay away from school, the harder it will be to get them back. With nearly a year out of school already, every day it gets more difficult.

The good news is that EducAid will be reopening our schools on the 27th April. We are a lifeline for so many children, it will be good to get back on to our mission. The excitement within the schools is palpable, and our staff have been busy preparing for the students return. Not long to go now!







Tuesday, April 21, 2015

EducAid Schools to Re-open


















With new Ebola cases having steadied at around 1-2 per day, the President, Ernest Bai Koroma, and the Ministry of Education have decided that it is now time to re-open schools in Sierra Leone. Whilst this is a huge morale boost for the nation, and a significant step forwards, we are still facing a very delicate situation. The decision goes against what was announced in January of this year by Dr. Minkailu Bah, the Minister for Education, when he said in a radio interview that schools would not be reopened until the World Health Organisation had declared that Sierra Leone was free of Ebola. The expedited schedule of reopening schools is something that we are both excited by, and nervous of. As an independent institution we are not bound by the government-prescribed schedule, but we also do not want to be a school that acts outside of the spectrum of other schools which would only further alienate our students who’d have to stay at home whilst their friends went back to school.

Despite a fantastic effort from everyone in the region – both domestic and international health and aid organisations – we have not yet been able to declare the country as Ebola-free. In order to achieve this feat, as is defined by the WHO, Sierra Leone must undergo a period of 42 days with no new cases.

The danger of re-opening schools while Ebola is present in the country is obvious: the increased movement of people within close proximity, and the playful nature of students at school would provide a hotbed of transmission that could lead to a new spike of cases in the outbreak. It also puts the young most at risk.

We have been able, over the last few weeks, to start bringing back our past pupils through our own quarantine system so as not to endanger in any way those who have been living with us throughout. As we observe how things go with the government schools we will be able to determine whether it will be ok to terminate our quarantine arrangements and bring all our children back in safely. We feel more vulnerable than other schools because of most of our schools being residential.

It is essential to maintaining the safety and integrity of our schools. It has been our key objective throughout this outbreak to ensure that our staff and students are kept safe from Ebola, and we will not allow this to be undermined so close to the end of it all.

There is not a final date set for the opening of EducAid, but it will be very soon. The students are waiting anxiously to rejoin their friends and get back on task.



Please do consider donating to help get our schools and students through this difficult time. If you have a spare 5 minutes you should read our previous post, ‘AJ & Kai making us Proud in Magbeni’. Theirs is a story that most accurately demonstrates the real change that we are making in this country, and really does make us feel very proud.

There will be a real need for some healing in this country, and if you think you could help us in any way please do get in touch via our website.


EducAid, Learning for Life in Sierra Leone.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

AJ & Kai Making us Proud in Magbeni

One cornerstone of our mission, and something that EducAid has always been immensely proud of, is being an intrinsically Sierra Leonean organisation, and being cemented in the centre of our communities. From the very inception of the charity we committed to establishing our roots in Sierra Leone - not to fall in to the trap of many NGOs - but to empower Sierra Leoneans themselves to initiate their own change. This week, Miriam’s visit to our school at Magbeni revealed an initiative devised by some of the staff there that encapsulates this very fact, better than we could ever describe it. This is Miriam’s account:


“I visited Magbeni yesterday and found myself incredibly touched by their latest activities at the school. On the suggestion of AJ, our site coordinator there, and his deputy, Kai, the staff members have been ‘taxing’ themselves for a development fund. Their idea was to use this time and money in order to be able to do things they perceive as necessary within the school. To reiterate, this was an initiative dreamed up entirely by AJ and Kai – what a fantastic and entrepreneurial thing to do.

During the height of the Ebola crisis they contributed 1 Friday each and built 10 large group work tables and 20 benches; they put in a new ceiling in the library as well as laying a new floor. This week I met a new building that has been built as a library - it is nearly finished. Their attitude is so lovely and encouraging, I was really impressed.

The work that they have undertaken within the school is not the end of it. AJ (in blue) and his deputy, Kai, are both past pupils, and they are so incredibly committed to the EducAid beliefs and really lead the team. The photos of the two of them is with their other construction project, something that they have persuaded the community to help them with i.e. a couple of outside classrooms that can accommodate everyone in the village. They are determined that they, and the community that we are helping, will not force EducAid to carry the whole burden. It is a very very unusual attitude, and in great contradiction to the usual dependence and sense of entitlement that people often feel when they’ve been reliant on charity and aid for such a long time. It really reminds us of how much work that we’re doing to change things here – not just education, nor housing and food, but real social change. I’m so proud of those boys and long may them keep it up!”



I can do nothing but to reiterate Miriam’s words here. It is an immensely powerful story and one that signals such positive change in these communities. Through our educational morals we have inspired others to come together and work for the greater good. Go AJ, Go Kai, and Go Magbeni!

We’re beginning to accept our students in to our schools – running through the necessary precautions as we always have - and classes will be up and running again very soon. This is such a great story to propel us off in to this period of hard work, we can say nothing but thank you.


It is when one considers the compassion and generosity of these small acts that we can really appreciate the impact of the hard work that we do. It reiterates our mission and motto: Learning for Life in Sierra Leone.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Sewing for Sierra Leone


It is from the generosity of so many that we are able to continue our efforts in Sierra Leone, and can deliver such needed change in a country with so little amongst its general population.

EducAid is not just a network of schools that provide education, we also provide the residential and pastoral care that so many of our students desperately require. Our needs are great: financial donations enable us to keep buy educational materials, pay our 180 or so staff in Sierra Leone, and to keep our students fed; material donations are also very much needed. As shown in the post about a huge shipment of clothes and educational materials sent to Sierra Leone, we can see how much we rely on the generosity of our loyal donors. Again this has been shown this week, with District 9 of the Inner Wheels Club coming together for an event they called ‘Sew for Sierra Leone.’ Below is a brief report written by one of the ladies in charge of this fantastic effort.

“Great fun was had by the ladies from Inner Wheel Clubs. From all across District 9, UK (Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire) they got together to 'Sew for Sierra Leone' on 26th February. They were busy creating over 400 cotton sleeping bags, requested by Miriam for the youngsters at EducAid's schools and Interim Care Centres. Friendship and service are key elements of membership in Inner Wheel, a worldwide service organisation for women, and this event provided an ideal opportunity for both. There was plenty of chat and large quantities of tea were consumed as ladies gave their time to sort, cut, stitch, iron and pack for EducAid!

EducAid is District 9's chosen International Service charity for 2014/15 and members were keen to provide some practical help in addition to their on-going fundraising efforts. Members of the public gave tremendous support too, arriving at Inner Wheel club meetings beforehand with bags of sheets and duvet covers for members to transform.

A donation of washable printed labels was received from Beaconsfield company Ooh La Label, who heard what was happening and wanted to get involved. Showing the Inner wheel logo, these were attached to the completed sleeping bags. A Rotarian, Alan, generously helped to pack and transport the completed items at the end of the day, to be added to his next shipment of aid bound for Sierra Leone.”




This superb effort by the ladies at District 9 of the Inner Wheel Clubs again shows us how much can be done when people come together and work towards a single goal. Donations from their community, effort from the Inner Wheel Clubs organisation, and work from private companies have ensured that EducAid is receiving some vital bed-clothing for our students.

We can’t reiterate how essential these kinds of fundraising efforts are for our work in Sierra Leone. Not only does it provide vital items for use by our students, but it also spreads the word of the work that we are doing in Sierra Leone.

Many thanks to all of those who supported this effort through their hard work, organisation, and generous donations. Without your efforts we cannot continue to do what we do so effectively.