By Viviane Brackenbury
If you have had a good education you know it can improve your life chances. If you are a parent, you want the best education for your children. You also expect your children to be safe at school.
Parents in Sierra Leone are no different. Many earn less than $1 a day. Yet they invest in a uniform, black shoes, a pencil and exercise book to send their children to school.
In June this year I worked as a volunteer in the local clinic for ‘Help Madina’ (UK reg charity 1147700, www.helpmadina.org.uk). Madina is a village in the north of Sierra Leone. My sister, Dr Veronica Sawicki and her husband Dr Rohit Sethi set up the charity to provide healthcare and facilities to benefit the community such as wells for clean drinking water.
My sister persuaded me that I could make a difference too. I live in West Dulwich and work at King’s College Hospital. I have been going to the Madina for 5 years and have trained the local nurse in basic eye care. I have also organised a link with the Baptist Eye Hospital Lunsar 90 miles away to provide cataract surgery for local people who are blind.
The people of Madina let us know what is important to them. We ask for information about their chosen priorities and Help Madina decide whether to help raise the funds. Recently we funded their request for radios so that the teachers could broadcast lessons during the Ebola crisis when the children were not allowed to go to school.
During my visit in June Head Teacher Janet Samura invited me to see her primary school. The school is in danger of collapsing. Despite this, the children continue to attend the school. They are ambitious and want to be teachers, doctors and pilots. Their parents cannot afford the £8000 for repairs, an extension and a new toilet block. They would be very grateful for your donations for the building work.
Will your donation and the renovations make a difference to the children’s education? Yes. For example, classes 5 and 6 share a room. The two teachers compete for the children’s attention at a time when they are preparing for the secondary school entrance exams.
Communities like Madina don’t want to rely on outside aid. However, until they can improve their standard of living through education, they will need it. Your donation will help put them on the road of self-sufficiency.
You can donate through www.helpmadina.org.uk. The charity’s activities are funded by donations. Volunteers pay for their travel, food and accommodation. This means 100% of your donations go to the project.