Our second day was a Saturday and we were invited along for a morning of worship – 4 hours (!) full of joy, prayer, singing and discussion. It highlighted the spirit of optimism, hope and thankfulness in a community battling against poverty, despair, and a history of civil war and Ebola.

We spent the rest of the afternoon playing Ludo, Chinese Whispers and chase with the kids and handing out gifts of donated clothes, shoes and hand-made Christmas cards

As the week progressed and we spent more time with the kids, including a day on Bureh Beach and a trip to Victoria’s Park – an oasis for kids in the centre of Freetown, with a pool, slides and swings – we got to know each and every one of the 15 very individual personalities. The children in the photos we had seen over the years had become very real people, with very real hopes and aspirations of becoming journalists, accountants, doctors and pilots. It is clear that the children have a huge appetite for education and learning in a country where schooling cannot be taken for granted.

Educational malaise a great obstacle to economic development

The country’s educational plight was to become even more apparent during a visit to the kids’ schools. We met the principals of the primary and secondary schools, who strongly advocated the philosophy of “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” The kids were excited to learn, but there is no money for education. Parents cannot afford uniforms. Children turn up to school starving. One teacher had been working for the past five years without a salary, such was her dedication. Classes can reach sizes of up to 80 children, which is clearly unsustainable.

On our final day we attended an end-of-term celebration which lasted the entire day. As reluctant “guests of honour” we handed out prizes to the newly appointed prefects. Back at the home that evening there was an emotional twighlight farewell with the children and staff, but we left full of hope that we could work together for a better future.

On our last morning our driver, now good friend, Ibrahim drove us to River No. 2 beach, once the setting for Bounty’s “Taste of Paradise” TV adverts. It really is paradise, stunningly beautiful, unspoilt, and deserted. And somehow symbolic of an incredibly beautiful country with an immensely deep well of potential which has yet to be tapped in the wake of the devastating civil war and the Ebola crisis.

Join us at MercyHome Freetown as we embark on this exciting journey to help 15 children realise their incredible potential.

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