Monday, March 31, 2008

Home is where the heart is - back in Kabala!

We are safely home; and needless to say; had an incredible & life changing journey.
Getting home was very hectic - almost missed some flights, and Jordan's jambee got taken away from him in Toronto - so we are happy to be safe at home at last. However, I know there is a big hole in my heart where my friends and family from Kabala are. It is hard to come home when you feel as if there is now two homes: a foreign one back here in BC, and one where you left your heart, over 3000 miles away in Kabala. I am already excited to travel back and be reunited with my friends & family there. No matter how far away we are; the people of Kabala will always be in our hearts. One of the most important things we learned from this trip is to look at what really matters: God;family;friends. Everything else comes after that. It is still amazing to me how these people who had never met us before could become our very best friends in less than 2 weeks. They opened their hearts to us and showered us with love & blessings from God on high. God is on the move in Africa - and in B.C. - because we will never be the same again. God Bless to our loved ones in Kabala & to all those who helped build this school - it has changed more lives than we will ever be able to fully comprehend.

In Christ;

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A cool day in Kabala (kitchen in progress)

Dear Kabala friends,
Today is Tuesday and we are moving to African time. This is a bit of a stretch to me, because I usually approach each day with an attitude of "what can I bring to this day" rather than "what will this day bring to me". I'm learning. Plans can change at any time. However, we are enjoying the people and each new day brings more familiarity with those we have already met and with the culture here. We are becoming a little less of a peculiarity, although we still frequently hear cries of "white man, white man" as we walk or drive through the town. Yesterday we teachers went to the school and we worked in the resource (supply) room. We unpacked the missing suitcase of supplies and spent the morning reorganizing the supplies that they have now. It's becoming impressive! We sorted it so that it could be stored in a most usable way. The teachers commented that although it's wonderful to recieve materials, they also need to be taught how to use them. We've done that for much of what we brought and organizing it by subject will help, I'm sure. It seems that Math supplies (manipulatives) are least abundant, and we can always add to their supply of library books. Tonight the three teachers are being interviewed on Kabala radio!!!! Steven, the gr. 3 teacher is also a radio dj, so he set us up. He is passionate about impacting all of Sierra Leone, not just the CRC school in Kabala. We're kind of nervous, but hey, why not? It might be translated into Krio as we go, if necessary. Anyways, for the rest of the week we are hoping still to help out at the school, but it is difficult because the classrooms are being re-cemented by contractors. This is a day to day discovery! We had hoped to paint the classrooms but the cement needs time to dry. So, everyone, we are enjoying a cool day for a change. Easter was a big day, with church, river baptisms of 34 children and adults and communion served from the seat of a motorcycle! We have pictures to prove it! So, we hope to update the blog once more before heading for home. Greetings from the team! Stay well, Evelyn

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Happy Easter

Happy Easter everyone! We are in the midst of celebrating Easter with the CRC in Kabala. They had a church service every evening from Monday to Thursday. Friday morning, all of the churchs in Kabala joined together for a celebration in the town centre. We had church on the main traffic circle in town. There was tonnes of singing and dancing and even a sermon as the motorbikes zipped around us. Unfortunately, we were outside longer than we thought and most of us got a bit of a sunburn.
This week we also had the opportunity to visit Loma Secondary School. This school was started by a christian organization in 1979, but the school has not heard from them since the war. We were asked to speak to the students at their morning assembly, which was much more inimidating than speaking to 100 primary students (and they laughed at my accent :). There classrooms are incredibly crowded. In one class, we counted 123 students. They sit three to a desk and fill the classroom from wall to wall. The classrooms have virtually no materials, so something like a scientific experiment or silent reading is completely out of the question. The principal told us that a teacher may be able to hold the attention of the students at the front of the room, but the rest of the class is probably daydreaming, bullying each other or even gambling. It really helps us understand why CRC Primary is considered a model school. JT Koroma told us that CRC Primary is one of the only schools in Kabala that is even giving out report cards to their students. This school is doing so much good in this community, but it will continue to need lots of support so that it does not become like everyone else.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Last day of School

We have spent the last week in the classes at the CRC Primary School. We have been quite involved as it is report card week for the teachers. We have all spent time in every class doing everything from reading stories to writting letter to SCS kids to parachuting and of course singing. We have all had Kumbaya stuck in our heads for the last 3 days! We have seen many differences but also many similarities. Primary school behaviour seems to be universal :) Today was our last day at the school as they are closed for Easter Break. We got to meet some of the parents of the students and we assisted in handing out report cards. The days ended with a 2 big football games...boys against boys and girls against girls. The kids were wearing their new jerseys. It was sad to see them go but we had a great time together. The teachers also got to spend some time over the last couple of days to share ideas and resources with the teachers of CRC Primary Kabala.
On a more personal note I have had the priviledge of staying with the Sesay family near the school. I am getting good at using a bucket to wash but I always make sure I use the outdoor washroom before dark (to avoid the spiders) They have 21 people living in their house and they all have interesting stories. There are only four children there that are the children of Kumba and Joseph. The rest are distant families members or kids from the villages who come to stay so they can go to school. They are an amazing familiy and I have learned a lot about sacrafice for the greater good. I talked to one of the boys who lost his father to the rebels and another who lost both parents to disease. We need more families like the Sesays who will create opportunities for children in the community.
On a lighter note we are all well and ready for our last week here.
Thanks for your continued prayers,
Leah Meyer
PS Sorry for no picture today

Monday, March 17, 2008

Its warm!

Wow the past weekend flew by. We all went to Yarah to attend church and experience 6 baptisms...pretty amazing! The road to Yarah is INSANELY bumpy and many times we doubted if we were going to make it. The title of this blog has two meanings. While we were in Yarah, Kumba make us some cake in the evening after we arrived. Jordan was especially giddy to eat the cake and said the now famous words, "its warm!" Also the weather here has been VERY hot although last night we had a pretty serious rain/wind storm. Today we went to the school and taught lessons about Canada and played with the parachute which made the kids crazy! We are having an awesome time although the mosquito bites are starting to add up.
God bless from sunny Kabala,

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Whitey Man

Today was an early morning, which turns out for the better as we don't get baked by the sun from the moment we wake up. We woke up at around 6:30 and had some breakfast. We then headed down for our first day at the school. School started at 8:20 with an assembly. All the kids lined up in rows for some singing and dancing. This was followed by J.T. Koroma, the headmaster, introducing us. All the kids were very happy to see us all there and greeted us with the open arms that all the Sierra Leoneons have showed us so far. The people here are truly amazing, and the lifestyle is very social. Krissi's homestay, Robert Jawara drove us to school this morning and we must have stopped ten times to greet people. We saw the hospital, the post office, the prison, the cemetary, and the district office on the way today. While at the school we unloaded and organized all the things that we brought for the school. These things consisted of: clothes, books, frisbees, bubbles, markers, pens, pencils, crayons, pinneys, and other small toys.

Tomorow morning we will be presenting all these things to the kids. Krissi, Hannah and I spent a large portion of the day taking pictures of each kid and asking them questions so the sponorship program can grow,while Evelyn gave out some letters she had from the students at SCS.

One thing that was brought to our attention before we came was that we would be reffered to as "Whitey man" and this is very true! Children run around the streets yelling "Whitey man whitey man!" But what saddens me is that they also say "Give me money." In Freetown we were told by a man that white people were only good for money, so if we did not have any we should leave. This image that the white man is only for money troubles me, but I hope to be a part of changing the way we are viewed in this beautiful country.

The trip thus far has been very eye opening and surely not easy. There have been many tears shed and lives changed. I hope that by the end of this trip we have made a positive impact on the school we have built, as well as the community that surrounds it.

With all our love,


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Travel is Complete!!

pic of us in Kabala, at the CES office balcony

We have safely arrived in Kabala after a couple LONG days of travelling. We haven't been in the same place for over a day yet, so we're pretty excited to finally be staying somewhere we won't have to leave in a few hours. Freetown was very interesting. The airport was an adventure on it's own: once we arrived, people were taking our bags for us without even asking, and once we were outside we were bombarded with marriage proposals and people asking for money. It was a very hard experience. When they were loading up our bags, one guy told us that "This is the way it should be: we work for you white people and you pay us." That's a pretty heartbreaking thing to hear, and I definately had a bit of a break down. After that, we arrived fairly late in Freetown so we checked into Jay's Guest house and we all got our own room! Melanie and our driver Bilalie went to go find some food and came back with chicken and fries! We woke up the next day and headed into town with Bobson, a CES Freetown Representative. We first went to exchange money which ended up happening right through the van window! After we got our money we went into town to buy some mosquito nets, as our own got lost at the airport. The driving in Sierra Leone is very exciting - there are no stop signs or stoplights, and you can drive any speed you want and pass anytime you want. It seems the only rule is that you have to honk constantly, so it's pretty crazy! Freetown was INCREDIBLY busy - people everywhere, both walking and driving, and there are markets almost everywhere you go. Nothing anyone explained to us could have prepared us for this trip, as it seems almost everywhere you go, poverty has hit really hard. It's crazy how Africa has the ability to break your heart & open it at the same time, but it does.

Yesterday I had another pretty crazy experience. When we were waiting at our guest house for the car to take us to Freetown, I went downstairs to talk to the guard and a couple of the workers. We sat there and talked for almost an hour, and afterwards one of them asked me to go to the market - which is something I shouldn't have done without asking, but as we all know, when I get really emotionally overwhelmed, I don't think very straight. (I'm sorry mistake). However, despite that, I am glad I went, because on the way back from the market, the two guys I was walking with told me something very hard to hear. They said I was the first white person they had ever met that had ever talked to them like friends, and the first white person to be really genuinely nice to them. This broke my heart - they told me how most white people they meet just come here to tour and the most they say is "take this bag up to my room". It's hard to accept that your own culture has made so many mistakes, but that's why we are here, to change the way we see the world, and the way the rest of the world sees us. How can someone I just walked to the market with call me his best friend? I don't know, but that's just how amazing these people are.

For now, we are safely in Kabala, with our host families. Everyone here is amazing, and we're excited to go to the school and meet the kids. We'll write more later!

With God's love from Kabala,

Monday, March 10, 2008

safely arrived

we have received word that the group has safely arrived in Freetown. They called from Lungi to say they were on their way over on the Kissy Ferry to Freetown. I can just imagine the sights and sounds of their first hours in Africa! It is a beautiful ride through the country over the water, and through the crowds of the city. Praise the living God! Hallelujah!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

New blogs forthcoming..

Sorry for the long wait. I am in the middle of my final thesis semester and am incredibly busy. It is going well. But as exciting as me being finished is that there are 6 people heading to Kabala in a few weeks time to spend over two weeks at the school. There are three students and three teachers from FVCHS and SCS. Hopefully they will be able to use this address to post images to the blog from. 
I'll include a few pictures from my thesis work because obviously I have no new photos since my journey to Kabala in January. One is a model of standardized rammed earth formwork I am working on. The other a sideways photo of a potential water tower design. Fragments of the larger picture of my thesis  which is becoming clearer to me and that I will hopefully be able to share with you as well. (sorry I'm too busy to change it now)