Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Tuesday 1st November

Today was a special day. Not only was it the last full day but also Hattie's birthday! The common room was decorated with glowing balloons and a "Happy Birthday" banner.
In J. T. Reffell, we did our last singing, dance, drama and sports lessons for tomorrow's show. Vivian, Sarah and Lulu rehearsed with the choir; it was very successful as all students concentrated on the lesson and enjoyed themselves. Halfway through the lesson students from a different class tried to join in. However, the choir wasn't very happy about this and pushed them out of the classroom. During breaktime we played different games, which involved singing and clapping.
Ebs and Hattie got a group of twelve students and asked them to repeat all the work they had done with them throughout the week - songs and exercises they had taught them. We then introduced work do to with status within the animal kingdom. As all the children were specifically chosen they were more confident and did some very convincing work. They were extremely impressed and proud of how far they had come from the beginning; from when they struggled to work individually to now being able to become their own animal. Let's hope that they keep up the good work and keep developing into strong individuals.
Freya and Polly for the first time managed to get the exact number of pupils they asked for. They played a rounders match, which the children absolutely loved. The match went really well because the students really understood the game. They had a large audience of firemen and children who were very supportive.
Today was also the last day teaching at Ballanta. After yesterday's almighty traffic, the pupil numbers were a little more condensed. However, the academy was soon alight with the sound of music; Jazz Piano, Trumpet and Bass all pounding at the walls. Teaching has been a great experience; both being a teacher and also learning from the pupils. I think I'll be doing more practice from now on – it's very frustrating for the teacher if you don't!
To avoid the 'mystery of the missing muffin' being re-visited, we ordered 18 muffins (enough for everyone) from the bakery, and picked them up at 12 for enjoyment later tonight. En route, we passed a marching band, supporting Youth development. Lots of noise! Ballanta had competition, but duly triumphed.
Instead of going to JTR, I (Lizzie) headed on an incredible tour of Sierra Leone's medical services, kindly organised for me by Will and Lynda from IMATT. First I went to the military hospital, where the facilities were absolutely appalling and the standard of care so bad that as Will said, 'You wouldn't even want to send your dog there'. In a facility with no life support equipment, no running water and absolutely no sanitation it is hardly surprising that the death rate is so high. What was especially frustrating to see was how preventable a lot of this would be if a little common sense was used, but many of the staff were complacent and wouldn't have the initiative to push for higher standards. It was an exceptionally eye-opening experience and really brought home to me how incredibly lucky we are to have a National Health Service; despite its flaws that we often complain about!
In complete contrast, the next stop was the Italian NGO (Non-governmental organisation) Emergency Hospital (google the organisation – it's truly incredible what they do). The hospital was light, clean and airy unlike the darkness in the military hospital, and there were flowers outside instead of flies and dogs. Finally we went to the Aberdeen Women's Centre which deals mostly with cases of fistula, something very common in Sierra Leone and Africa as a whole. It was quite appalling to hear about what these girls (most 15 and 16) had gone through and I was upset to think that in this day and age people still had to suffer in this way. However at the centre these women receive life changing treatment. A really interesting day and a great chance to experience medicine in a developing country!
Fortunately we got Lizzie back unscathed (and hopefully without disease) for tonight's concert in the British Council, which was a resounding success. We were joined by students of the Ballanta academy, and collaborated with them in the choir, singing traditional African songs and the Sierra Leonean National Anthem. We all performed very well, and it was another great mix of early and recent music, occasionally interrupted by someone's phone, which was always in the wrong key. Afterwards, Mrs Cairncross was invited on stage to receive a gift, and warmly thanked everyone involved in making this trip a success. An excellent musical ending to the trip, in a prestigious venue, with the best piano we've played all week!
We have all thoroughly enjoyed this life changing experience. We also thank the staff at J.T. Reffell, especially Pearl, for organising this fantastic week; Kitty and all at Ballanta for allowing us to teach and learn all week; Mr & Mrs Meally, Mr Yates, Mr & Mrs Ladley, Mrs Cairncross, Lucy, Polly, and all supporters of the trip - we thank them from the bottom of our hearts.