Stories from Koinadugu

Excerpts from Fambul Tok Volunteer Sara Waldheim’s blog, Around the World with Sara. Follow her adventures here

Easter in Kabala

Easter Sunday presented a great opportunity to attend a church service, Sierra Leone style.  A Fambul Tok staff member, Rev. Emmanuel, invited me to come with him and his family to the Wesleyan church in Kabala.  What a wonderful experience it was.

Sara Waldheim and Fambul Tok staff Ibrahim & Desmond

Sara Waldheim and Fambul Tok staff Ibrahim & Desmond

When we arrived at the church, pre-service bible study was going on with men on one side, women on the other inside the church, and youth and children outside. At the end of bible study the pastor (not Rev) instructed us to go outside and line up since we were all going to process into the church and down the aisle.

The entire service lasted for 3 hours! The actual sermon lasted about 20 minutes and was very interesting. The time flew, however, and I was amazed we had been there that long.  Getting up to dance on a regular basis sure keeps the blood flowing and the boredom at bay.

Community meeting before bonfire

Community meeting before bonfire


The next morning, Easter Monday, I joined the FT district team on visits to two villages.  The purpose was to interact with members of the Outreach Committee and the villagers, making sure they were sufficiently sensitized for the sectional Bonfire to take place on Thursday, 24 April.

Then some of us were off to an Easter Festival taking place in a remote village.  Desmond, Jalloh, Ibrahim, Rev & his son, me and Mohamed made the journey.

When we arrived the place was already crowded, but still spacious enough to move around.  The village was in a fabulous setting by a river with a sand beach below a wooded area with hand made bamboo benches in the shade.  I could live there!  It was so peaceful.

Great turn out for the  Easter Festival

Great turn out for the Easter Festival

We wandered around people watching, sitting and listening.  People kept arriving by the semi-truck load all piled in the back, by motorbike, cars, vans and began pouring in to the park.  It seemed that one of the FT staff or Mohamed knew at least one member of the new arrivals. At one point the attendance estimate was well over 2,000.

When we left hours later, people were still arriving and a parking space was at a premium.  I loved every minute.

Bonfire at Kathawuya Village

The last bonfire I witnessed for this season took place in Wara Wara Yagala Chiefdom, Kayakor Section, Kathawuya Village.  This village is the place where Mohamed Savage, the man called Mr. Die during the war, made his last stand towards the end of the war.

One particular story touched me on a very deep level.  Not only because of what happen, but also because of how the victim told it.  This was a difficult story to hear and will be a difficult one to read, so go no further if you feel this may be too much.

Mr. Die and his men entered this woman’s village.  She had a babe in arms and one in her belly.  After harassing the woman, her child was thrown into the bush where she could hear it crying.  At some length she was allowed to go rescue him.

At that point Mohamed told her to choose: her child’s life or her life and the life of her unborn child.  She refused to make the choice.  He then took her child from her and threw him into the fire; she was forced to watch and listen as he burned to death.  The next morning she was commanded to go through the ashes and remove the remains of her child.

She said she would never forget what happened, but that she now has seven healthy children and she needs to cleanse herself of this trauma to go forward.  She realizes she cannot change the past, but she can’t let the past poison her life now, and the lives of her other children, by filling her heart with hate.  She is willing to forgive.

Building a Storage Unit in Koinadugu

Ibrahim in front of store

Fambul Tok district staff, Ibrahim, in front of store

One of the villages in Koinadugu needed a storage unit (called a store here) for their rice so they could sell it at a higher price later in the year, when supplies are low.  Without a storage unit, rodents and bugs destroy the crop, requiring the rice to be sold at a low price immediately after harvest, when supplies are high.

The section was told to show initiative by beginning the building of the store.  They needed the land, the sticks for roof support, and the mud bricks and all the labor to build the store.  Once they have this beginning accomplished, FT provides the nails, tin for roofing, doors, and cement to finish both the inside and outside. The villagers still provide the labor for completion.

On the Tuesday after Easter Ibrahim, Rev, Desmond and I gathered the supplies from a business in Kabala to deliver to the village.

Fambul Tok staff, Rev. Emmanuel, and local villiager unloading tin

Fambul Tok staff, Rev. Emmanuel, and local villiager unloading tin