I've been in Sierra Leone a week already. I am acclimatising to life here, I have to get used to this life again, after becoming so used to my life of luxuries in London. When I left Sierra Leone a year ago I thought running water, 24 hour electricity and choice, choice and more choices would forever seem like luxuries, I was wrong. Although they were luxurious for a while after a year back home they had become normal again. Bucket washes (we have running water here in Freetown but it's sporadic), filling up the water barrel with 5 gallon drums to have water to wash with, enormous spiders and absolutely worst of all mosquito's (which equals malaria!) all need to become my normality again now. It's all part of life here though and makes me realise how lucky I am, which is in even more sharp focus than at home. I have food to eat and am not hungry, I have good accomodation and a mosquito net to sleep under. I have electricity and water and I don't have to walk 2 miles to a well to get it. I have been to school, I was able to go to university, choose my career and I have a job, so many of these things are out of reach for people in Sierra Leone currently and back home they are common place and sometimes taken for granted. I hope in the future Sierra Leoneons will also be able to take all of these things for granted.
This week is going well. We are spending the week planning our assessments, it is really interesting and I am learning loads. We are going to be using participatory tools (observation, focus groups etc) to gain information from people within the community to learn more about life in the village. Following lots of discussions over the last couple of days we have realised we really want to get a deeper knowledge of community life and the people's views, as without this we will never be able to facilitate local people to create a health service that is useful and effective for them. So our plans have changed and we are thinking we will spend more time in less villages. This will be a completely new experience, I have never stayed in a village community, only visiting whilst on outreach visits. I'm really enjoying being a part of Health Unlimited with their philosophy of working together with communities to find solutions which are realistic and sustainable.
I need to start learning the local languages and fast, there are lots of languages spoken in the Northern area of Sierra Leone including Limba, Loko, Temne. I can manage greetings in Temne, as for the others not a word.
I also met with Abdul from the new midwifery school today. The school is officially opening on friday and I will be involved, both teaching student midwives and creating a link between the school and their clinical placements when they are in Kamakwie.