It had been seven years since my last visit to my home country, Sierra Leone. For many reasons I wasn’t able to plan a visit in the intervening years, but was really excited to be finally making the trip after such a long time. I was planning to visit family and friends as well as the young girl I sponsor through World Vision. After a smooth flight from London I landed at Lungi Airport on a wet, muggy Sunday evening.
I spent the next few days seeing family and friends and preparing for my visit to meet my sponsored child. The people were as warm and as friendly as I remember and getting reacquainted with old friends has been wonderful, visiting the neighbour and her family across the road brought back great memories.
On Wednesday we headed off to my sponsored child’s community through the mountain villages of Regent, Charlotte and Bathurst. At Charlotte I caught a glimpse of the first site of my old school, Annie Walsh Memorial, which was actually based in a church built more than a hundred years ago. We passed several markets en route and at Moyamba Junction decided to cut through the Sierra Rutile mines to save time. The manager at Mattru Jong sent a staff member on motorbike to meet us at the mines so we wouldn’t get lost and he led us safely to our destination. As we arrived there was a welcoming party to greet us, I felt very much like a VIP, and it was obvious right away that a lot of effort had gone into planning my visit.
I was welcomed to the ADP and Mr Jalloh explained the itinerary for the day. First stop was a visit to the local chief to pay my respects and explain my reason for visiting. We chatted for a few minutes and the next stop was the home of my sponsored child, who ran out to greet me, she had been told I was coming and her whole family turned out to see me. I felt truly honoured to be a part of their community even for such a short time. We exchanged gifts; I gave my sponsored child the pens, pencils and other stationery items I had brought for her. I also brought her a couple of books, ‘Alice in Wonderland’ explaining that it was a very popular children’s book in the UK and ‘Olabisi’s Party and other stories’, a book of short stories for eleven to thirteen year olds. I also gave her a postcard of London showing Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, the River Thames, Trafalgar Square and other landmarks. She was very happy to see where I live.
She showed me her school report and I saw that she did very well in her end of year results and was second overall. She read for me from a book I had sent her last year ‘Chike and the river’ one of my favourite childhood novels by Chinua Achebe. It was great to be able to see her wonderful progress in person.
I talked with my sponsored child’s family a while and got on very well with her mum, I gave her the gifts I had brought for her and she returned the gesture by giving me a few gifts of her own; coconut oil, a live chicken and batik blouse. My guide took lots of wonderful pictures of me and the whole family to remember the occasion. We said our goodbyes and drove to the school where we were met by the headmaster and my sponsored child’s class teacher. They were warm and friendly and explained that the school closed for the summer holidays last week, and would resume in September. I gave the teachers the scrap books, colouring pens, pencils and postcards I had brought for the pupils (hopefully I can plan my next visit so I can get to see them during the school term).
We then visited three different projects in the village; a traditional birth attendance centre, a health centre and staff building with classrooms, an office and a store. It was great to be able to see my small contributions making such a difference to remote communities in Sierra Leone, people who would otherwise struggle to meet some of their most basic needs. World Vision’s activities are growing and my hope is that they can continue to reach other groups that so urgently need help in the country. Now that I have seen the hard work of local staff I will make sure that I continue to do my bit for as long as is necessary to help World Vision support these communities. This visit has been particularly poignant for me because I was born in Sierra Leone, and feel that it’s important for me to put something back into my country of origin.
My visit was over, in a flash it seemed, but I’m already thinking about my next trip, I definitely plan to return.
If you have any questions for me about my trip or what life is like for children in Sierra Leone please post them below or on World Vision’s Facebook page.
Mia Koso-Thomas is a long-term supporter of World Vision. She grew up in Sierra Leone but now lives in London working as a legal consultant. She has blogged about her return to Sierra Leone and meeting her World Vision sponsored child.
*Mia has not used her sponsored child’s name in order to protect her identity