Started off on Thursday with The Peoples Foundation of Sierra Leone Youth Conference, which was a 3 day conference centered around overcoming obstacles, Canadian and Sierra Leonian culture and traditions, and exposing our talents. It was so interesting hearing the different perspectives on societal issues such as dating, abortion, suicide, decision making within the family, and traditions/ cultural practices. I think that everyone, both Canadians and Sierra Leonians, left the conference with so much more knowledge, and left with a new perspective on how to overcome the obstacles within our lives personally and as a society. We also made so many new friends so saying goodbye on Sunday was not a very enjoyable time. Although little did we know that would be only one of many very difficult goodbyes, because for the rest of the week wed have to say goodbye to so many other people.
We also went to visit Yarah, which is a village about a 2 hour drive from Kabala on a very, very, very bumpy road. On the way there we stopped at Badala, which is a town that has a big Easter celebration every Easter Monday. Everyone goes swimming in the river and hangs out at the beach all day and when I say everyone I mean everyone! There were sooo many people there it was insane! In Yarah we went to visit a mine, called Dalakuro mine, which is a large mining village centred around mining for gold. The poverty that we saw there was overwhelming at times, but I think that our entire team walked away from it with a new understanding of what poverty can look like. In my journal I wrote, This mining village was full of people, and it was just hill upon hill of slums. The poverty I saw walking through there was unfathomable. It was ridiculously hot, very dusty, smelt like a mixture of feces, urine, body odour, and dirty water, there was garbage everywhere, people were bathing in dirty water, and many of the people that I talked to did not even have a job. But the crazy thing is, even amongst all that, I could feel a sense of community, and a sense of joy within every person there. I saw kids laughing and playing, and I saw mothers sitting and talking with smiles on their faces, and I saw people working together. I think that its easy to just think that because people are not as wealthy as us they are not happy but I now know that joy is in no way dependent on material wealth... in fact many times wealth has the ability to hinder joy, and wealth can hinder people from living in community with one another. Visiting the mine I also learnt that poverty does not define who people are. And poverty does not steal peoples ability to love, to be hospitable, to worship God and to be joyous.
Yesterday was our last day in kabala one of the most heartbreaking mornings of my entire life. We had to say goodbye to our families, to our dear friends, and to CRC Primary/Junior Secondary school. We had to say goodbye to people who have made us feel like one of their own, who have welcomed us in a way that weve never been welcomed before, who have loved us, and who we have all built lasting relationships with. As mr.melissen said, In order to go back to our families we must leave our families, which is so true, and I think thats why it was so hard. There were many, many tears, but instead of saying goodbye we said until we meet again, because it is not a forever kind of goodbye.
And now, on our 19th day in Sierra Leone, were sitting out on our porch at a private beach house in York (just outside of freetown) eating mangoes and oranges watching the waves hit the sandy beach. I will never forget my time in Kabala, I will never forget the incredible people that changed my perspective, I will never forget the dancing, the singing ,the church services, the insane amount I sweat each day, the culture, and all of these things have been engraved in my heart forever. Its easy to say that Sierra Leone has already stolen a large part of my heart
Photo of No.2 River (near York) by A. deGroot August 2012