Emergency Flood Appeal

A Thank You from Everyone at EducAid

11th September 2017, 9:00 (BST)

 

Dear everyone,

Today, as we send this email, the 2017-18 school year has begun at all EducAid schools. Opening school this morning on time, as scheduled, was not something we knew would be possible following the devastating mudslide and recent flooding in Freetown. Our Lumley school opened its doors early this year to accommodate those students with nowhere else to go, but classes begin as scheduled this morning. This would not have been possible without your incredible generosity.

At the moment, EducAid has had 8 teachers who have lost everything in the floods, 3 students believed to have lost their lives, 1 student confirmed dead and almost 70 students displaced (we expect this number to grow as more of those unaccounted for are located as school begins). Thanks to your generosity, we were able to mobilise quickly to find accommodation, clothing, mattresses and replace necessary teaching materials for those staff affected. This has enabled our staff to begin the school year ready to serve our pupils. Additional funds have been used to account for and to monitor the health and safety of those students and staff staying in displaced persons camps around Freetown. Those students with nowhere else to go were brought to Lumley school where food, clothing, bedding, toiletries, medicines and school materials were provided. The funds raised will allow our school to continue to be a safe refuge and a home for our displaced students for the entire school year. None of this would have been possible without your extraordinary generosity.

Today, we start school again on time. We will provide a safe haven for those who have lost their families, homes and property. Today, we continue our work, through education, for a future brighter than this country’s past. We will do all of these things as a result of your support and the indomitable Sierra Leonean spirit.

Should you want to know more, we’ve been updating our website with information as it comes in (www.educaid.org.uk/get-involved/emergency-flood-appeal). If you would like to know more about our work, please sign up to our newsletter and blog from the bottom of any page on our website or feel free to reach out at any time.

With all best wishes for a good year wherever this email finds you and much appreciation,

Everyone at EducAid Sierra Leone

Emergency Flood Update #5

6th September 2017, 13:00 (BST)

This is rainy season and so the rains continue.  While the worst of the flooding occurred on the 13th, August is always a month of heavy rains.  The rains have continued and have continued to cause damage.  There have been several considerable floods in central Freetown since then that carried away more homes, vehicles and lives with the weight of the water.  A couple of nights ago, there was dangerous flooding in another part of the Freetown peninsula.  Another teacher lost his entire home but managed to escape with his younger brother, with whom he lives.  The brother was seriously hurt and is now under treatment.  We are optimistic of a positive outcome as he is with the Italian-run Emergency Hospital which offers high quality treatment and care.  We have also heard of 3 EducAid students who have been affected by further flooding, but have escaped with their lives. Others, though, have been less fortunate and bodies were once again found along the water ways out to the sea.

We have been able to locate 68 of our pupils affected by the floods on 13th, 3 others from other floods and are aware of 1 who lost his life and another 3 who are believed dead.  7 of our staff also lost everything on the 13th and one more last week.  We know that there are 5 others who were living in the red zone and we still have no news of them at all.  We have through your generosity and support been able to provide immediate relief to those EducAidians affected.  We will continue to seek clarity on others who may have been affected.

Our long term dream is of a Sierra Leone that is not buffeted from one disaster to the next.  Our dream is of a Sierra Leone where educated citizens are numerous and are therefore able to contribute to the decisions guiding the country’s future.  For now, a handful of Sierra Leoneans are educated and a handful control the resources and the decisions.  With an educated population, we will no longer be scrabbling at the bottom of the pile, ranking in the bottom 10 of the UN’s Human Development Index.  We continue our battle for a resilient, dignified, democratic and prosperous Sierra Leone.  While a skeleton staff remain in Freetown to receive and take care of those affected, the rest of the team are spending the week in Rolal.  We have 5 days of professional development, planning and strategising for how we can best achieve our vision and serve our students as we train them to become the change Sierra Leone so desperately needs.  The theme for our week together is a quote from Barack Obama: Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time.  We are the ones we have been waiting for.  We are the change that we seek.

As a family, we stand to serve our vision and we will continue to arm ourselves with the skills, attitudes and knowledge required to be the citizens and leaders that Sierra Leone needs if change is to come.

If you would like to support our immediate emergency relief activities supporting those in the EducAid family who were affected by the floods, please donate through the following link: http://www.educaid.org.uk/get-involved/emergency-flood-appeal/

If you are interested in knowing more about our work with vulnerable young Sierra Leoneans, please go to www.educaid.org.uk

If you are in a position to support us in the long term work for a sustainable Sierra Leone that will cease to be buffeted from disaster to crisis please consider making a regular monthly donation using this link: http://www.educaid.org.uk/get-involved/donate/

Emergency Flood Update #4

1st September 2017, 11:15 (BST)

Bearing in mind the scale of the damage and loss of life overall and our proximity to the disaster, I still find myself a little unsure of whether to be relieved or disheartened at how much our own EducAid Lumley family have been touched.  We have been able to rehouse and provide basic needs to the 7 staff who lost everything.  We have now traced all but 8 of our students believed to be in the ‘red zone’ and have identified 58 who were seriously affected with their families. These students have lost their homes, all of their possessions, and a couple of these are being treated for serious injuries in hospital.  We have had rumours of a further three who are now believed dead in the mudslide, but there is great difficulty getting clear information from this area still since anybody who has been able to get away has done so and so many were buried and will never be seen again.  36 of the 68 worst-affected students are now safely living in the school. As a result of everyone’s generosity, we have been able to provide basic clothing, bedding, toiletries, medicines and school materials.  We anticipate that the remaining students will be with us over the next few days. We continue our search for the remaining 5.

The horror that so many have faced is extraordinary and I find myself remembering my first trips to Sierra Leone during the war towards the end of the 90s.  I remember thinking to myself that those I was speaking to must have been elsewhere when the worst of the horrific violence was taking place because they were so normal and apparently unaffected.  And then the stories would start coming out and I would hear about the appalling things that they had seen, that had been done to them, that they had observed helplessly while they were done to their loved ones and so on.  I was bowled over by the resilience and grit of those I was with again and again.  This same awe overcomes me today as people tell in such matter of fact ways of the bodies and body parts strewn around what had been their homes, the disappearance of their nearest and dearest and the loss of everything they ever possessed.

We managed to locate Isha yesterday for the first time since the floods and she came to the Lumley school today.  With no tears or undue drama, she calmly told of how the waters took her entire home away and while she, her mother and siblings escaped to safety, they watched while their aunt and her four children were carried away while being powerless to help them.  In a western country, she would have photos stored on the cloud to remind her of her cousins and indeed of her own earlier years but in Sierra Leone, her history has been washed away along with her other meagre property.

We will start school again in September on time.  We will provide a safe haven for those who have lost their families, homes and property.  We will continue our fight, through education, for a future that is brighter than this country’s past.  We will do all these things because of your support and because of the indomitable Sierra Leonean spirit.

If you would like to support our immediate emergency relief activities supporting those in the EducAid family who were affected by the floods, please donate through the following link: http://www.educaid.org.uk/get-involved/emergency-flood-appeal/

If you are interested in knowing more about our work with vulnerable young Sierra Leoneans, please go to www.educaid.org.uk

If you are in a position to support us in the long term work for a sustainable Sierra Leone that will cease to be buffeted from disaster to crisis please consider making a regular monthly donation using this link: http://www.educaid.org.uk/get-involved/donate/

Emergency Flood Update #3

27th August 2017, 19:30 (BST)

The knowledge gap is closing.

We are slowly gaining a clearer picture of who has been affected and to what extent, and we also know more clearly what we don’t know yet. There is quite a significant number of children who have lost absolutely everything including family members and their homes. At the moment there are three EducAid children believed dead as they were in an area that is highly-affected and have not been seen since that day. Many addresses simply don’t exist anymore, so information about these children is still unclear. There is still a small number of children that we have been unable to trace and we know their addresses are in the ‘red zone’ so we remain fearful. Had people not looked after each other, raising the alarm and waking those who slept, the numbers lost would be much greater.

Stories of terrifying escapes through windows in the dark into the flood waters are plentiful. The stories of floating and stranded bodies and body parts are traumatising. The stench is horrific, the blood stains plentiful. The horror is very real in people’s minds as they try and piece lives back together again while dealing with their grief and shock. I am moved once again by the extraordinary resilience of those we work with. To say I am humbled sounds horribly trite, but I am struggling to find better words. And, the picture is clear: with no good housing options, people were living in ridiculously vulnerable situations so that when the mud slide higher up the mountain put pressure on the already significant water accumulating with the rains, a wall of floodwater hit the lower valley areas and took everything in its path.

Last night, massive rains fell on Freetown again, but the damage was to more central areas of the city where vehicles were washed into the central Samba Gutter, children were washed away and homes were once again washed right through taking and destroying all property. This is the rainy season. The risk of further significant damage has not passed yet. Our Lumley school is in a situation where it is hard to imagine it being flooded, so our priority at the moment is to ensure that all those in vulnerable shelters can leave them and come into the school while we work out ways forward for the coming months.

The girls are writing their shoe sizes, so we could go and buy the emergency supplies of clothes and necessities. Everything they are wearing is borrowed. They lost everything but what they were sleeping in. They are now safe in the school and focusing back on their studies – they are looking after each other and show great courage after their narrow escape from death.

This area was housing before last week, but the houses were washed away. Shelters built with mud bricks at a few yards distance from the river and only inches above the normal water’s height were quickly overcome by the force of the water. The girls in the first photo above were sharing a room at the back of the home in the picture. They escaped out of a window at the back just before the water took over the building completely submerging it and leaving a couple of dead bodies stranded on the roof when the waters subsided.

Your support is greatly appreciated and has already enabled us to get staff rehoused as well as providing immediate supplies of clothing and medicines. As the youngsters are keen to pick up on their studies and this gives them a positive focus for their days, we have also purchased school materials for them.

If you would like to support our immediate emergency relief activities supporting those in the EducAid family who were affected by the floods, please donate through the following link: http://www.educaid.org.uk/get-involved/emergency-flood-appeal/

If you are interested in knowing more about our work with vulnerable young Sierra Leoneans, please go to www.educaid.org.uk

If you are in a position to support us in the long term work for a sustainable Sierra Leone that will cease to be buffeted from disaster to crisis please consider making a regular monthly donation using this link: http://www.educaid.org.uk/get-involved/donate/

Emergency Flood Update #2

22nd August 2017, 15:00 (BST)

The chaos in the affected areas continues to dominate, but we are starting to be able to piece together the events of last week to determine where the greatest needs will be, so we can support each other in putting our lives back together.

Yusuf is our Deputy Site Coordinator and he lives near the Lumley School which is right in the middle of the affected areas.  This is how he describes the night of the flood:

“We were sleeping.  We didn’t even know when it started to rain.  The only thing that helped me was that I needed to go to the loo at at about 2.am.  It was raining heavily and the place I was living was surrounded by a very strong concrete wall to protect any water from entering in the compound. That fence was broken by heavy water that came so fast.  All I saw was water coming across the floor with great speed.  In a matter of seconds water was above my knee level.  I could not open the door because the water was coming so quickly.  I left the parlour and entered the bedroom to wake up my wife.  The water followed me in the room.  We could not get through the door. One of my windows was a steel window. We could not also pass through there.  I came to the one that was having only wire mesh and I had to spoil it and we jumped through there.  The only things we could secure were our phones. It is a long story anyway.”

The EducAid team has been working to locate as many of our students as possible since the events of last week.  Thankfully, some were staying elsewhere, visiting family and friends during the holidays and are safe.  Others have lost everything, and we know of a few who have lost their families. Those students needing immediate shelter are moving into the school where we are able to keep them safe.  The search continues as we work to gain a clear picture of the exact whereabouts of the entire EducAid family.  We are incredibly grateful for the generosity shown during this latest round of suffering.  We will continue to update everyone as the needs and priorities become clearer in the coming weeks.  At the moment, we are focusing on the emergency needs such as clothes and bedding.

#educationistheanswer  #solidarity

Please visit https://mydonate.bt.com/events/emergencyfloodappeal/446398  to give what you can.

Emergency Flood Update #1

15th August 2017, 17:00 (BST)

Our Lumley school is in the middle of the flood disaster area in Freetown. There are as yet no known EducAid deaths in the recent flooding and mudslides, but several of our staff have lost their homes and everything they own. Some escaped, swimming for their lives, and are not allowed to return to their homes. These devastating floods have caused hundreds of deaths, made thousands homeless and will have on-going repercussions for days, weeks and months.

Our Lumley school is on the opposite side of the mountain from the mudslide, and no large landslides took place on our side of the slopes. The extraordinary flooding that took place on Monday did hit our side of the mountain and took hundreds unaware in the middle of the night, leaving them trapped inside their homes. Bodies are still being recovered from homes in neighbourhoods around Lumley where many of our pupils live. The situation is continuing to unfold hour-by-hour.

This latest disaster is part of a bigger picture of vulnerability in Sierra Leone. Many people in the country are often unaware of the human role in these climatic disasters, often exacerbated by deforestation, poor environmental management, and the risks of building in vulnerable areas. The least privileged in Sierra Leone have few options. We continue to believe that an educated population, which understands its rights and responsibilities, is an integral part of a long-term solution in a country where one of the most optimistic statistics indicates a 59% adult literacy rate. Education must be part of the solution.

Any funds raised through this appeal will be used to address the immediate needs of our staff most affected by this disaster. Any further funds will go towards our on-going fight to strengthen Sierra Leonean communities through education. Please visit https://mydonate.bt.com/events/emergencyfloodappeal/446398 for updates and please give what you can to help. Working through small organisations like EducAid will ensure maximum impact of your donation. We thank you for your generosity.

#educationistheanswer #solidarity

If you would like to print off some materials in order to assist with a fundraising efforts you are making, you can download an A5 version of this update by clicking here and printing directly.