Today we met the Reverend in Freetown to finalize plans for building bunkbeds for the shelter children and preminilary plans for a proper toilet facility. We are excited as both projects will be an enormous improvement for their personal hygiene – 21 boys currently sleep on the floor in the church and 8 girls plus Rev. Spencer’s wife sleep in one double bed. A certain blessing for overall health and physical comfort.
We also distributed some clothing that was donated by parents of students from The Marin School in Sausalito, CA. One boy whispered, “Now I will have a clean shirt I can wear to church.” To see their serious faces as they buttoned up new shirts, to hear them talk and compare the crisp whiteness, a humbling scene.
Tomorrow we will be purchasing sets of academic books for the children. At present, most classes have only one copy of a book per class (For example, teaching The Tempest in literature class with one book for the teacher).
Last year students of Makrapodis Secondary School boasted the highest scores on the BECE (Basic Education Certification Exam) of all schools in the rural district on the Eastern Peninsula of Freetown. Without a passing score on the BECE, students are not allowed to continue secondary education. 100% of Makripodis students passed their BECE last year, an incredible accomplishment for these students, many of whom were rescued from forced labor and street prostitution as a result of being orphaned at a young age. This was achieved by selfless teachers who have worked for two years straight with no pay, no electricity at the school, thereby requiring students to study by candle or kerosene, and with woefully insufficient materials.
Being at the shelter again today – as always – is a humbling experience. Orphans who have been taken in and are living with love, compassion, and opportunities for education never seen before.
Near the completion of our meeting today with Reverend Spencer, Ashley leapt up from her seat and went to the window: A 9-year-old boy named Ibrahim walked slowly through the field admiring his new shoes we gave him today. Ibrahim was given to Rev. Spencer from the Ministry of Social welfare when he ran away from home, barefoot and with one change of clothes to his name; his parents did not enroll him in school, instead forcing him to sell petty supplies on the street. When Ibrahim did not make enough money, his parents beat him severely, so Ibrahim ran away. Ibrahim kicked his feet out left and right in the grass, swiveling his head, oblivious to the heat and sun above. Ashley snapped some pictures through the steel bars in the window, a great silence enveloping the room, Ibrahim’s body growing smaller, smaller, never taking his eyes off the bright whiteness of his new shoes.
- Ashley and kids, Ibrahim far right