Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Meeting Grandma and the Chief

We went two hours south this morning early to meet up with Jeremy, Valda and Benjamin Kabia's grandmother, great-grandfather, uncles, aunts and cousins in the town of Makeni. In fact the great grandfather is a Temne Chief, Pa Koyo. We had a wonderful time of talking and visiting together. Mrs Kadiatu Kabia is very happy to be back in her home community, surrounded by children and people she knows.
We also met up with Karefa Jalloh, a former evangelist with CES, now studying at the teacher college. From there it was some errands of buying wheelbarrows, and wood preserver, and back two hours to Kabala. On the site, two of the classrooms are being filled with rock in readiness for the slab to be poured. We're making good progress.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

spinning tires

how one manages to high centre an off road vehicle in three places such that the all four wheels are spinning is beyond me! Some people from CES were coming to the school site to pump drinking water from the well (the water is the envy of the neighbourhood, and will have to be guarded more closely once the school children are there). Unfortunately, the driver failed to see the two foot deep ditch and managed to put both left tires into it. So the last three hours of our day were spent with as many as twenty-five people giving their "expertise" on how to get the vehicle out. In the end another vehicle and a rope was the only solution. I had to scold a few of them who, thinking I didn't understand them, were asking around if the white man was the one who put it in the ditch! The vehicle is back on the road with not too much damage I hope.
Yesterday morning we came to an agreement with the workers on the site for them to manually backfill their own portions of the building. With some complaining they are quickly filling the rooms. I think the kids may have done a better job on the weekend, and more enthusiastically. Seeing the amount of labour it takes make me think twice about building on slopes in the future without earth moving equipment. Things just take time!
We are continually congratulated and thanked for the work we are doing here, it is very rewarding work.

Monday, March 26, 2007

growing up in kabala

Many of you will recognize that face in the first picture. Nyima Koroma is growing fast and slowly getting over her fear of us. She stared at my Dad with big eyes but no tears like last time. It is exciting to think of the possibilities for her life with this new school going up.
At the SMC meeting on friday we decided to start with class 1-4 for the first year, still heading for a start date in september. It puts some pressure on the building but it will be motivation to keep things moving before rainy season. Today the crews have begun backfilling by hand. I think they were inspired by the children who worked so hard on the weekend, and realized that there previous hesitations and cals for a tipper truck were put to shame by these kids. So hopefully in a few days the first slabs will be started.
It is a relief for me not to have to take pictures all the time with my Dad here. So here is a picture of me with one of my adopted families - the Sesays. Actually only four of these kids are Kumba and Joseph's children while the rest are cousins and relatives who they generously take care of because they have lost family members, or their families live and work in the outlying villages. I am always invited over for "chop" (food) to various homes almost every day of the week, Sesays, Marahs, Momohs, Kargbos.
Finally, I am excited to say that I believe I have helped to set up the first wireless internet connection in Kabalatown! This town also is growing up! My Dad brought over a wireless router which now serves the CES and SIT offices here at Kawusu House. I am hoping that it will be able to serve their needs and those of the many visitors passing through the office, as well as other people working with NGOs here in Kabala. With some maintenance the office may be able to set up its own Internet cafe in the downstairs (my office). It is amazing to see the more rapid changes that are taking place in Kabala in the last months. Only 10 months ago there was no cellular network, now there are approximately 6 towers. No wireless... wireless. There is construction all over the town. I think that development and reconstruction has reached a critical stage after the war where people are finding the funds and desire to rebuild homes, schools, hospitals. It is an exciting time for the district of Koinadugu and the country of Sierra Leone.

Saturday, March 24, 2007


It was a good thing the WCB does't operate in this area or we would be shut down. Some 30 volunteers today on the site moving fill into one of the classrooms to allow slab to be poured. Twenty of them were children. Really good for community building and for generating excitement about the school project. Lots of laughing, kidding and singing as well as eating together. It's the weekend, Saturday evening in Kabala and all is well. We are looking forward to worshipping here tomorrow.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Day by Day...

Dennis on the blog again, letting Asher attend to other matters.
Asher's day usually begins with some early phone calls from someone who wants to drop off a load of sand or rock, finish a deal to transport materials or a discussion with the contractor about what needs to happen next on the site. On the site first thing this morning the transport from Freetown delivered 400 bags of cement and iron rod for the columns. The crews start right in with bending steel and creating the framework that the columns will be poured into. Once dry the bricklaying will begin. The photo is one of Mozel the contractor and Asher discussing various concerns about materials, payment, stock, delivery, fill or a myriad other details.
The unloading of the cement is an impressive display of grit and sweat. These guys are ripped and work steadily with the sweat pouring down. Once the day is launched on the site, its on to other details.
From there its back to the CES office to check emails and pick up a vehicle ans we're off to Yataya where a Sierra Leonian- Italian has done some amazing work for his home community, building a school, mosque, community centre, and now a clinic. All funded by friends and connections in Italy. He is from that village and is dedicating his life to make a difference there. The picture is of the communal meal we shared with good conversation and palm wine. Peter Konteh, JT Koroma our new headteacher and two news rporters from Freetown doing a story on his work there.
James Tamba Koroma (in blue) is the new headmaster of the school and I believe a real Godsend. Lots to say about him another time but I believe he will be a very good leader. He has a true teacher's heart and a dedication to the children of the north. He is originally from this community and is happy to be moving back here. I don't think he is that impressed with my cooking. The rice doesn't come out quite like they are used to eating it.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Asha! Asha! Asha!

Dennis writing on the blog today. Pretty exciting to be out on the school site with Asher and James first thing this morning. The crew was just rolling in and obviously very proud of what they had managed to achieve in the few days that Asher was away in Freetown. I must say it was an emotional moment for me to see that what has been dreamed together is actually starting to take shape here on the ground. You can stand and without much difficulty can imagine that soon you will hear school children singing on the school grounds before the day begins.
I met JT Koroma last night late when we pulled in from the airport at 1.30 am. What a treasure the community has in this man. We had the opportunity this morning to walk around the site together and I believe that he too is imagining himself the headteacher of this fledgling Christian school in Kabala. He has much experience, deep faith and the heart of a teacher. We are blessed. We talked for some time about what must happen next. We will meet on Friday with the SMC, the school Management Committee and do some planning together, talk about mission, about a realistic timeline, about relationship with the ministry of education and the myriad other things that will go into a September start if that is possible. We are planning as if it will and moving forward in that direction.
Everyone here at CES/SIT are so pleased with the work that Asher has been able to do. All I hear wherever we go is Asha! Asha! Asha!.. Well loved to be sure.
We are also planning a strategic planning session for some time next week; a couple of days of dreaming together about the future.
What can I say but that my heart is full!. The Spirit of God has been moving well ahead of us. The work of Paul and Mary for so many years, the work of CES deep in the heart of this place, are all part of the rich soil in which this school is being planted. It is humbling for us as Surrey Christian School and Fraser Valley Christian High School to be called to this partnership. May we be found faithful.


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

from the ground

Like I said before, one Mango had to come down to make way for the new school hall. The night before we had to burn out the current residents of the tree trunk, a huge nest of bees, to make the felling a little safer the next day. So as Norm was cutting down the tree, many guys stood around with arms up inside the tree trunk licking the honey from the inside. Nothing goes to waste and there is half a pail of honey sitting in the store right now, ready for cleaning. In a few days we hope to be ready to lay out the hall.

We began pouring the footings today, first laying in "ball stones" to fill the trench and then stepping the footings to grade with foundation blocks. By tomorrow we hope to have started laying some block. They have also bent steel and tied the wires for about a quarter of the columns we will need. These will be placed and leveled before the footings are completed. Things move fast when there is materials available. The mixer works like a charm and will save an immense amount of work as well.
I can tell the excitement is building in the community with many people from CES/SIT making periodic visits to see how work is going, and all the neighbours coming by to comment "ee fine school oh"

Friday, March 9, 2007

Building Blocks

I think that things will be progressing faster than even I imagined. On tuesday we staked out the outside of the building and began laying the lines for the first foundation. This is done by stringing the lines across and then spreading sand directly below the line using an improvised "mango-bob" Thursday and friday have been spent trenching for the footings. 11 pick axes and about 15 shovels working away. Never at the same time actually, they are always taking breaks while their partner works. The ground where we are building is very hard, and places have large patches of rock where we were planning on digging our footings. But this poses little problem for the structure and we will form up the footings with 1x12s. It has been good to look at the lay of the land and sort out the elevations of the classrooms etc as we are laying out and even digging.
We will likely have to cut one mango tree to make room for the school hall. That was after much convincing on my part that we shouldn't just cut them all down. For some reason most people see construction, and see trees and think everything should just be hacked down to prepare the site. Yes even that beautiful mango in the middle of the site. The security guards saw it and thought..."Charcoal!!" I think it will be a constant battle to save the trees until the building is finally up and the kids gather under the mature rather than the young trees for shade and will appreciate their fruit and their shade.
We have also been using a nearly brand new concrete mixer to make blocks, and have almost 5000 foundation blocks. More sand and rock are arriving every day.

The Well has been capped and I myself have already drunk the water from it. Still tastes a little concrety but that will be gone in a few weeks. Good water! We did not sink the culvert as far as was planned because it it a rock ways down. But there should be enough water, especially this being the dryest part of the year now. We are very thankful that it will save us having to truck water to the site in a truck from nearby streams etc.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

merely a flesh wound!

So I guess all good things must come to an end. I have never had any accidents driving a car, or now driving a motorbike...But... yesterday afternoon I took a spill on my bike. In fact, it would be more correct to say that I was hit by an animal on the road. I was heading home and a sheep came out into the road. I did my best to avoid it but couldn't. It didn't die instantly but I think someone put it out of its misery. The bike made it out alright, minus a scrape to the fender and the alignment needs fixing. Probably because my right leg and shoulder took most of the impact. My knee and elbow are cut open, and there is gonna be some serious bruising on my upper arm and lower leg. But nothing broken and I am walking around and riding again, although I am a bit stiff and will be watching out for more animals on the road. I drove from the crash to the hospital with the handlebars totally out of wack. I think everyone from the CES/SIT office heard something about it and were searching all over creation for me. Fortunately someone at the accident called joseph jawara immediately so he came quickly. And everyone was very helpful and sorry about the accident. Anyhow. A bit of pain for the next little while but nothing to serious.

And besides, how can I complain when things are starting to progress with the school. The lines have fallen for us in pleasant places. This morning they are staking out the site and beginning to lay out the first building from which we will square off the rest of the buildings to come.

Monday, March 5, 2007


so things have been resolved with this land dispute. Although it has now been more than a week since we first hoped to meet with the chief, it has finally happened this morning. Chief Ali Marah is quite a young man. maybe in his 30's. We met with many members of CES/SIT and the new school board as well as representatives from the Loma Secondary school board. The first thing the chief said was that he was 'disappointed' in the Loma principals actions. "I done vex by you!" Both JK Sesay and Francis the Loma principal had a chance to speak. My Krio is now good enough that I followed the entire discussion, although I didn't contribute. Basically what the cheif said is, "it doesn't matter where the stakes are or what drawing says what. I am the chief and the custodian of the land and I whatever I say is the way its going to be." And so it is! We will stake out the property lines tomorrow and begin laying out the building (now a week and a half later). But we are all very happy and satisfied with the outcome. After all the rains are coming and we have to get going.