Eleanor, CAFOD Gap Year Volunteer in Hove, is visiting Sierra Leone. Read her first thoughts here:

Our Gap Year Volunteer who is spending the year with Cardinal Newman Catholic School in Hove is visiting Sierra Leone as part of her Gap Year. This is her first blog since arriving in Sierra Leone and it looks like she is enjoying it…

Eleanor portrait (3)

Eleanor Margetts, CAFOD Gap Year Student, in Cardinal Newman Catholic School, Hove

Wednesday 17th January 2014I’ve finally find the time to write my first blog on the 5th day of our Step into the Gap trip to Sierra Leone. We’ve been really busy! Plus the 30-40 degrees heat just knocks it right out of you so I’ve done a lot more sleep than usual…

But to recap, after a short stay in Freetown (the capital city), we’re currently in the midst of our stay at Makeni, which is in the Northern Province. Up until today, most of our time has been spent doing inductions and meeting so many new people. Today was our first day on the field; we went to visit a small community called Mabamba about 20-30 miles away from Makeni. After about half an hour of extremely dodgy roads, we arrived.

We were taken to Mabamba by Caritas Makeni (a CAFOD partner) to see how the progress of the Livelihood project is coming along. This project essentially involves a whole lot of chickens! Communities are given the skills and resources to sustainably build and maintain a large chicken coup (of 400 to 500 chickens); Caritas Makeni are working really hard alongside the people to help make this project work. Currently, most communities are at the stage of constructing the coup itself but looking to move in the first chickens in the next couple of weeks.

Aside from the technical stuff, it was also incredible to visit (albeit briefly) a real Sierra Leonean community for the first time. The small setting is made up of a selection of traditional round, thatched mud huts as well as more modern rectangle buildings with corrugated iron roofs. My immediate impression was the number of free-range animals: goats, chickens and lethargic-looking dogs! The sound of the village was filled with bleating and clucking, which made a welcome change from the continuous engines and car horns we had been hearing in the cities.

We were lucky enough to be present at the right time to be there when some of the schoolchildren returned to the community. They were immediately very curious but also a little apprehensive and shy. So we decided to be friendly and approach them with a most welcome CAFOD football! The moment Neal pulled out his football was a truly magical one as I saw the children’s eyes light up! After that, we were all best friends! We kicked the ball around for a bit, but soon had to say goodbyes when we were bid farewell with dozens of kids waving and running alongside the car! It was lovely.

After my first taste of the rural African setting, I’m so excited over the next 3 weeks to experience more!

Applications are now open for next year’s Step into the Gap programme. 

It’s a unique and special way to learn more about yourself and the wider world we live in.                

For more information click here.

Sierra Leone is CAFOD’s focus for Lent this year. 

Find out more by viewing our parish resourceschildren’s resources, resources for secondary schools, and young people.

Eleanor and Julia in Sierra Leone traditional dress

Eleanor (R) and Julia in Sierra Leone traditional dress

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