October 27

Sharing in Life’s Moments

While I’ve always believed that everyday moments make the best memories, I also cherish the special occasions that mark the milestones in life or carry-on treasured traditions. During my stay in Sierra Leone, I’ve experienced countless everyday moments—when someone chooses to share their story during a casual conversation or recounts a funny anecdote that reveals their sense of humor. There have also been some opportunities to share in celebrations or periods of mourning. It would be impossible to write about all of these, but I will do my best to give you a taste of what I’ve been so privileged to experience.

Abass is a fleet driver who grew up in a farm and walked 3-miles to school everyday.  He continues to self-educate by reading books, watching YouTube tutorials, and volunteering to teach others.  Abass has a wealth of information and many PIH guests have enjoyed his private historical tours of Freetown.

Since my last blog, PIH has taken action on Ramatu’s care and witnessing this organization help individuals in need like Ramatu has been quite a learning experience. Behind this unyielding commitment are people who truly care and are willing to take a leap of faith. And through this determination to do the right thing, Ramatu made it to Ghana safely and has been receiving the best care possible to heal from her bedsores and get fully prepared for undergoing surgery to repair her cervical spine. I hope to visit her during her recovery period next month and share some moments with her as she undergoes rehab. None of this would have been possible without a man named Dr. Bailor Barrie who is the co-founder of Wellbody Clinic which is now ran by PIH. He is the one who championed Ramatu’s case and brought our attention to the urgency of the specialized care she needed. This is par for the course for Dr. Bailor as I would strongly encourage you to read more about how he has always fought for the health and wellbeing of his fellow-Sierra Leoneans.

https://www.smh.com.au/world/fighting-for-health-and-against-corruption-the-optimist-of-sierra-leone-20171113-gzkltc.html

I’ve been through many highs and lows during this journey, and one of the biggest factors that helped me through is the community of Filipinos that surrounded me with fun, food, and fellowship. There are over 150 Filipino expatriates working in Sierra Leone and around one-third actively socialize with each other in the city of Freetown. Several of us gather at on weekly basis (or more) at a house that’s located in between my residence and office which is very convenient. There are plenty of birthdays or anniversaries to celebrate and I’ve enjoyed every occasion to eat, cook, dance, and sing karaoke. Surprisingly, I’ve spoken my native language of Tagalog more than ever—including the time I grew up in the Philippines!

A fab forty celebration, seafood feast, sweet sixty serenade, and dance parties at Lumley Beach are just a few ways the Filipino community gets together.

On my previous blog, I posted a picture of a guy named Mani who is also called “Christmas” and a few weeks after that picture was taken, Mani lost his Dad. The funeral was held in the city of Koidu, where his father served as the Mayor and touched many lives while he passionately advocated for education. It was surreal to have been invited to a funeral that included a full parade with thousands of residents paying tribute to this great man. Among the distinguished guests were Ernest Bai Koroma, the former President of Sierra Leone, the current Mayor and other officials. Solemn Christian prayers and hymns accompanied by a full band were met with the lively beat of African drums and the chants of traditional dancers. Every seat was filled, and the crowd spilled out of the gate as people gathered to give their condolences and get a glimpse of the beautiful mausoleum built by the family to honor their patriarch.

Mani and his older brother, Tony, lead the paul bearers of their father’s casket.

There could be volumes of biographies written about the people I’ve shared life with these past few months. Just last week, I attended a creative writing session at Communications Training and we had an exercise of writing about our biggest hero then sharing it in small groups. I was brought to tears when I heard a young lady’s tribute to her mother for all the sacrifices she made to provide for her children and ensure their education. I had always admired Shadia for her skills in Finance and sense of fashion style, and now I am blessed to have connected with her grateful heart.

Sharing our compositions about “My Biggest Hero” at Communications Training

My heart is also grateful for the people who work hard to add a touch of comfort to my daily life. John is one of the cleaners that goes out of his way to make me feel at home during my visits to the rural area of Kono. He turns simple accommodations into a cozy home and attends to many details that make a huge difference. In my current residence in Freetown, many of John’s colleagues are equally as dedicated. Kuyati is in school with hopes to move up in the organization and Sulai is already serving as a training facilitator. I’d like to come back in about 10 years to see everyone again… some will have gotten married, had kids, and perhaps they’ll be working a different position in the organization. And we’ll laugh about the memories we made during many of the everyday moments we shared.

Selfie of Shadia and me before the Professional Development Program (PDP) workshop.