It’s time. Time for the annual brushing or clearing of the uplands for planting. Time of year when the wells go dry and endless buckets of murky water are hauled by hand and head from the closest shallow stream. Time for many to be dreaming and talking and developing plans. Time for me to pack my box, say good-bye for now and head off to Lungi for the remainder of my stay in Sierra Leone. This morning the sights and sounds and sensations related to all these times have been jumbled up with thoughts of family and friends here and elsewhere as news comes from Cote D’Ivoire and Canada and as I start the always difficult process of saying good-bye. The girls have headed off to their granny for two days and I had our room to myself last night, recuperating well from the previous all-night drumming (preparation for the brushing). My small friends stopped by with buckets of water from the stream, in case I had any last minute “brooking” to do. The guest house has been a hub of activity as cdpeace staff and community members talk on-line with Canada and with the women here about economic development and youth gather to develop a three-year plan with Munafa M'Patie. We hold one last meeting about the nursery school (I’m told of a recent report recommending that all primary school communities develop a nursery school for 4 and 5 year olds) and then the Munafa M'Patie people also pack and head off in multiple directions. For the first time on this visit, I’m alone in the guest house and have a few minutes to simply breath and gather my thoughts, reflect on current experiences and anticipated directions.
As always, I am struck by the incredible ability of people here to find ways to overcome or mitigate the effects of circumstances beyond their control. Climate change affects subsistence agriculture and the response is to experiment with growing different crops, using a combination of time-tested traditional and newer methods. I was delighted to hear that a group of women farmers may travel to the north of the country to see how women there have organized in vegetable-growing co-ops and that women may soon start producing jam. Wells dry up and work begins on constructing a gravity-fed water system to bring fresh water from the local hill-top to the centre of the village. In the country as a whole, 59% of children are out of school and the community pulls together to develop a nursery school to support the youngest and most vulnerable learners. Conflict arises in mining areas and a delegation of local peace-makers manages to bring communities and others together to address grievances peacefully. Global factors (climate change, exploding cost of food, peak oil, unfair terms of trade, land/resource grabbing, etc.) will continue to throw blocks into the path of this and other communities, but the strength, resolve, humour, grace, hard-work, and ingenuity at play here and the connections made with friends like you who share common concern, compassion, and strength will go a long way in keeping this community thriving and flourishing.
At the start of this year’s visit, someone commented that my blog posts sometimes seem full of misery and despair. It’s true that life is challenging here, beyond the experiences of most of us in Canada and that worry and hardship is part of daily life. I hope, though, that the joy and light and inspiration that keeps me coming back also provides you, maybe vicariously, with some small hope or satisfaction.
I will be incommunicado for two weeks and then will be spending more of my time in Canada but will be returning to Mapaki, the home of my heart, every year that I can. A number of blog readers have been helping with various community support projects over the years…rebuilding cdpeace, health, education, agriculture, etc., and I hope this support can continue. Each day I see or hear about another initiative that could go far with small support (as I write this blog, I've just heard of one more initiative from a neighbouring area that I hope can be supported). There are numerous ways and means to contribute to the community; please drop a line if you want more information. Looking forward to seeing you soon. As always, thanks for reading!!