Sierra Leone

7,976,983 (2020)

Working across Freetown was both inspiring and confronting. There was such determination to share stories in the face of many obstacles.
Getting there was an adventure. After the flights from Ethiopia, via Ghana and Mali, we were confronted by a dangerous boat trip. Life jackets or not, most of us were afraid as the tin hull of the boat hit the oncoming waves and ploughed through metres of floating rubbish.
The Kulafai Rashideen Islamic Primary School nestles in Susan’s Bay.  As you wind your way through the market with its crushing crowds, desperate bartering for food and slippery, muddy paths, the school emerges in the darkness like a cave on the hillside, for there is no electricity. There were hundreds of children crushed into one space, all curious about their guests yet so respectful. When the stories began, the only sounds came from the marketplace and the occasional cry of a distant baby.
Our second visit to the school months later was immediately after a devastating fire had swept through the area, with a third of homes lost and the remnant smell putrid. One mother said that during torrential rains, she had to sleep with her babe in her arms for fear her child would be swept away.
Students from the Wilberforce and Mayiba Community schools were also involved in the program and enjoyed the visits, the master classes and the involvement of their own teachers.
In the Thirty-ninth and Fifty-first collections the writers clearly love their country, and want to share their stories. As Salieu Kamara wrote in Little Turtle and Big Turtle,

‘There is no place like home’.

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