Today was a day of tragic proportions for the people of Freetown. Yesterday, after the rain devastation (which we were caught in, on the way back from our school in rural west district) I collapsed into a restless sleep. I was feeling rather helpless as to what I could do with Fr Themi away and kept asking myself “what would Fr Themi do if he was here?” I had heard that the stadium was filling up with homeless people who had lost all their worldly possessions and was thankful for the media coverage but I was unsure if the people were being fed and clothed. I tossed and turned all night, wanting to help but not sure how.
Early the next morning our Sierra Leonean mission worker Mr Kargbo AKA KDK was filling me in on the events that occurred overnight and in the same breath, without hesitation, we both decided the mission needed to respond immediately. Within 30 minutes I managed to round up three of our priests who responded to the call and we were in the car on the way to the stadium with over 50 bags of rice and blanket supplies. We were met by the Minister of Social Welfare and the media noticed one white woman three priests and our group from the mission and they were keen to talk with us. The Minister expressed sincere thanks to The Orthodox mission for the contributions and made note of the way the mission constantly and promptly, responds to support the needy in Sierra Leone.
It felt good to have the orthodox mission being publicly thanked and I knew that the speed in which we organized ourselves today was made possible through the helping hand from above. I was however, still mindful of the residents in the slums at Kroo Bay and was unsure if they were all represented at the stadium. When I mentioned this to KDK and the Father’s they responded without hesitation. Fr. Elefterios, Fr. Vios, Fr. Kyriakos, KDK, myself and several others from the mission convoyed over to the slums with more bags of rice in tow.
It was devastating to see people’s belonging lying in mud and witness the endless faces staring back at us, exhausted yet wanting to be heard. The contaminated river was carrying mattresses, chairs, clothes, school books, study notes, photographs, certificates all laying in the pools of dirty contaminated muddy waters. As we walked through the side streets, wet and muddy, people called out to us so we could see their situation. I held two babies in my arms today. Both were born yesterday during the height of the floods. One was naked as everything was destroyed in the rains and she was wrapped in a torn sheet.
The other, miraculously survived being born under water when the flood peaked late yesterday afternoon. The clinic and all supplies at Kroo Bay slums have been destroyed and people are worried about sickness and disease. I think the pictures tell the rest of the story I don’t need to add any more.
Just when we thought we had finished for the day and distributed rice blankets etc., I received word that three of our Youth Fellowship members were flooded out too, so I went to see what and how we could help. Mabel’s family lost everything including mattresses and clothes, Mabel’s school books, uniform school bag and everything relating to school was destroyed. Exams begin next week and her aunt, uncle and herself are forced to sleep wherever they can until they can afford to buy vinyl, mattresses, clothing and school supplies. The same with Maraitu whose family lost everything and she is now sharing space with pigs! Demitrios grandmother explained the flood took their mats and their rice but they managed to salvage some of the bedding.
Shanty homes are not built to survive such disasters and this is what makes people and life, so vulnerable here. Everywhere we went today, people were trying to salvage what little they could. They were not expecting any kind of help and instead of going to the stadium they chose to stay in their homes and try to recover what they could. Our Orthodox convoy brought some hope as the people of Kroo Bay slums told us that no one had come out to see them.
What Fr Themi has established here, is a grass roots presence where people can see Christianity in action. Today I felt like we walked the walk not just talked the talk and as I held two new born babies in my arms, I felt hope, and love and kindness both given and received by the people in need. God bless the people of Sierra Leone and Fr Themi, who made it possible for us to receive the blessing from today’s work. Thank you to everyone from the mission who helped us today it was indeed a team effort!
Ms Eleni Athinodorou