Half-way point. Eleanor Margetts, CAFOD Gap Year Volunteer in Cardinal Newman School, Hove shares her experiences of Sierra Leone

26th January 2014

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

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

Here we are, already half way through our experience in Sierra Leone. Crazy! Right now, I’m sitting with the other gappers in the courtyard of our accommodation in Kenema. It’s a lazy Sunday after a very busy week; we will be having lunch with Bishop Patrick this afternoon then free time.Well-deserved and appreciated free time!

Our last week with Caritas Makeni has been full of so many amazing opportunities that I’m struggling to pick which ones to write about. But I think that the major component of last week was our three-day stay in the rural community of Rufenka. We spent two nights staying with a family in this small village outside of Makeni. Humble is an understatement. But I will never forget the experience. It felt like I was living someone else’s life; how was I, a very average 21-year-old, living in a traditional community, eating fresh fruit just off the tree and sleeping in a mud hut?

Upon arrival, we were shown (very quickly) around the village and introduced to our accommodation. When we dropped our bags into our rooms, it was clear that we would definitely be immersing ourselves in the true culture! Myself, Julia and Emily had one bed to share in a room riddled with creepy crawlies! It was daunting to say the least, but all part of the experience. We survived.  That evening, we spent about 3 hours being welcomed by the community with local dancing. We tried our best, but unfortunately our (i.e. my) Britishness shone through and I looked completely ridiculous next to the amazing Sierra Leonean dancers! It didn’t matter though, it was all good fun.

We spent our first full day being shown some of the ways which the community support themselves. This involved a visit of the rice plantation (and a try at rice farming!) and the opportunity to watch them fish at the local fishpond. We were cooled down by fresh coconuts and cassava roots.  Honestly, the place was so full of fruit, I had no idea what I was eating half the time!

Eleanor and Neal working hard

Eleanor and Neal working hard

We also had the opportunity to work in the local primary school. I ran a session with the Year 6s which involved making bracelets and letters to send back to Cardinal Newman Year 7s in the UK (who had sent me with bracelets to give to the Sierra Leonean children). It was a simple and hopefully effective way of linking two communities of children together across the world. Hopefully they will take care of the bracelets for the rest of their lives! The children at the village school were so much fun; they chased us across the field as we attempted to leave with smiles and waves. This has been the highlight of the trip so far.

The Primary School in Sierra Leone visited by Eleanor and the other Gap Year Volunteers

The Primary School in Sierra Leone visited by Eleanor and the other Gap Year Volunteers

I have way too much in my head to be able to write a short, snappy blog, so I’ll have to stop here! But this account is literally just a snippet of what we got up to just this week; I’ve been having an absolutely incredible time and can’t wait to tell you more about what we’ve been up to here in Sierra Leone.

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.

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