Freetown’s long road to recovery

Kathleen O’Brien works in the schools team and travelled to Sierra Leone with the Step into the Gap volunteers earlier this year. 

Entering Sierra Leone’s capital on a quiet morning, I could hear the happy cries of children echoing out of the glassless windows of the Malamakaningo pre-primary school.

This was a stark contrast from a year ago. In August 2017 the school was used to shelter people who had lost their homes in a disaster from which Freetown is only beginning to recover. Torrential rain battered the city for three days, and in the early hours of August 14, floodwaters and landslides ploughed through the areas surrounding the capital, killing 1,141 people and displacing three times that number.

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Step into the Gap: How Cambodia changed me

Rod travelled to Cambodia with the Step into the Gap programme to meet CAFOD partners and the communities they work with.  One year on from his trip, Rod reflects on what it all meant to him.

Rod was a part of our gap year programme.
Rod reflects on his trip to Cambodia with CAFOD.

The way in which Cambodia changed me seems to come into view and then fall out again, oscillating in the busyness of life. When I was speaking to people about my trip to Cambodia almost every day, when it was my life, the changes it had made to me were more obvious. Now, to a certain extent they have become more blurred, because I am not thinking about the trip so much. But they are also clearer because I am able to look back at how it changed me from a distance.

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Step into the Gap: Inspired by education

Isabel Marsh, who is currently on placement at St Cassian’s Centre, reflects on her time in El Salvador before she embarks on her fundraising journey 0 the Colchester half marathon.

Less than 12 hours after arriving in El Salvador, our group set off for the University of Central America (UCA) to meet with one of CAFOD’s partners. The UCA is a private university, meaning they are able to charge fees for students (but there are several scholarships and bursaries available) and are not reliant on government funding. This has meant the University has more autonomy and does not need to follow the views of the government, providing it with an independent and non-biased voice.

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We were led to the Social Outreach Vice-Rectorate, for our meeting with Omar Serrano, the Vice-Rector. We spent the morning with Omar and his colleague Eduardo. Omar shared with us about El Salvador – its history; politics; society and social norms and economy.

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Step into the Gap: Reflecting on my time in Freetown

CAFOD volunteer, Chris Burkette, who is currently taking part in CAFOD’s Step into the Gap programme and is on placement at Walsingham House, reflects on his time meeting communities in Sierra Leone.

I know for so many people it can be rare to explore outside of Europe, but for many people here in Sierra Leone, it is even rarer that they journey beyond their communities.

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This week has been awe-inspiring, faith-driven and hope-filled. Each day I walked with and alongside members of the towns that made each community so unique.

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Step into the Gap: Protection for children, young people and women

CAFOD volunteer, Aleks Adamczyk, shares about the time she spent with the Mary Barreda Association in Nicaragua. Aleks is currently completing the Step into the Gap programme at St Mary’s Academy Blackpool. 

How did the torture and killing of a married couple lead to eight thousand Nicaraguan children, teenagers and women being helped every year to stay safe, free from violence and exploitation?

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Inspired by Mary Barreda and her husband Felipe, who during their lives responded to God’s call to serve the most vulnerable people in their community, the Mary Barreda Association was founded almost 30 years ago by three women who have carried on this legacy.

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Step into the Gap: An inspiring week in Kambia

CAFOD Step into the Gap volunteer Siobhan Doyle, who is currently completing her placement at Newman University, shares her experience of meeting CAFOD’s partners in Sierra Leone.

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We have spent a week in Kambia visiting CAFOD’s partner – The Kambia District Development and Rehabilitation Organisation, KADDRO for short. The staff have been so welcoming and so willing to answer all of our questions.

We visited three rural communities in Kambia where KADDRO works on access to water, sanitation and health, savings and loans groups, ways to make a living projects and women’s breastfeeding and pregnancy groups.

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Step into the Gap: What struck me most on my Step into the Gap visit

CAFOD gap year volunteer, Aleks Adamczyk, who is currently on placement at St Mary’s Catholic Academy, Blackpool, reflects on meeting CAFOD’s partners in El Salvador and Nicaragua.

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Step into the Gap: Occupational therapy in San Salvador

Step into the Gap volunteer, Sophie Aulton, who is currently completing her placement at Leeds Trinity University, shares her experience of spending time at a project in El Salvador.

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One project that I really enjoyed seeing, and perhaps which spoke to me the most was the Occupational Therapy for senior community residents that took place in an area just outside of San Salvador.

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Step into the Gap: Planting, Harvesting and Saving in Sierra Leone

Kayleigh Margetts, one of the Step into the Gap volunteers, who is currently on placement at The Briars retreat centre, shares her experience of seeing CAFOD’s partner work in Sierra Leone.

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In our second week, we travelled to Modia in Gbinleh Dixon chiefdom to visit the cassava farm and the vegetable garden that belonged to the community.

After having a wonderful experience meeting the community of Maforay the day before, all of us were excited to meet this new group of people with inspiring experiences and an incredible culture.

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Step into the Gap: Hope and Sustainability in El Salvador

CAFOD gap year volunteers, Ciara Hogan and Sophie Aulton, who are currently on their placements at The Briars and Leeds Trinity University, reflect on hope and sustainability in El Salvador.

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