Devastating mudslide kills hundreds in Freetown

Mudslide kills

“It is indeed a sad day in Freetown.”  These are the words of our in-country director, Ishmeal Charles, as he and others from Caritas-Freetown were on site to aid the survivors from a deadly mudslide that occurred early Monday morning, August 14th

Hundreds Killed –  Thousands Homeless

Local reports have the death toll from this horrific mudslide as high as 300 and nearly 3,000 families and children homeless.  These numbers are expected to rise in the coming days as rescue and recovery efforts continue. The BBC reports that many may have been asleep when the mudslide occurred and 60 children are possibly among the dead. 

Charles described the scene and his feelings,

The rain started since about 4am this morning.  Now we have seen so many people losing their lives and houses.

My pain, my agony and tears are all over all our faces.  So sad Sierra Leone is from one trouble to another.

Seeing so many people trying to protect their houses, old, young and children.  To sad to be real.

We are out here in the field.

The rainy season in Sierra Leone lasts from June to August, with heaviest rains in August.  The rains and inadequate drainage system often result in frequent flooding in Freetown during this time.  In 2015, 10 people were killed by the floods and thousands left homeless.

Rebuilding lives after the mudslide

Summarizing the situation Charles said, “It has never been this bad. I have lived here all my life, this is the worst I have ever seen in my lifetime.” He continued, “We are not able to describe well the terrible conditions.”

Click here to listen to Charles describe the situation.  The interview starts at 18:28.

In the days and weeks ahead we will be working with our in-country partner Caritas-Freetown to help those who are suffering from this tragedy rebuild their lives.  Please stay up-to-date on our efforts by following us on Facebook and Twitter.

Interfaith efforts produce lasting results

Interfaith Rice Distribution

The people of Sierra Leone have shown that religious differences do not need to create crises but rather religions can come together and help solve a countries crisis.

With a religious breakdown of approximately 70% Muslim and 30% Christian, Sierra Leone has twice in recent history shown the world how religions can work together.

Civil War

In 1991, a brutal decade long civil war began in Sierra Leone. The impact on the population was unimaginable. Women being raped, families displaced, and young boys forced to become child soldiers. Many were offered the choice of “short-sleeves” or “long-sleeves.” Accordingly either their hand was chopped off or their arm was cut off up to their elbow. Nearly 50,000 people lost their lives during the conflict and 27,000 became amputees.

In order to help bring this suffering to an end, in 1997 the Inter-Religious Council of Sierra Leone (IRCSL) was formed. HealeyIRF Advisor, Reverend Father Peter Konteh, was one of those religious leaders who helped establish the Council. The IRCSL was an integral part of the peace architecture.  It facilitated dialogue between the Government of Sierra Leone and the rebels of the Revolutionary United Front. In 2002, the civil war ended.  The cooperation, however, continued as interfaith groups worked to support those individuals impacted by the war.

Interfaith efforts help end Ebola crisis 

When Ebola came with a vengeance to Sierra Leone in 2014 the interfaith network sprang into action and began community outreach. In Sierra Leone, religious leaders are trusted and their advice followed. In particular, their outreach and social mobilization in their communities is credited with saving lives and helping bring the Ebola epidemic to an end.

Now after Ebola, interreligious cooperation and dialogue is a focus of our efforts to support Ebola survivors.

Recently a rice distribution on June 10th to Ebola survivors in Tower Hill again brought together interfaith groups. The Catholic Church, Islamic Community, Christian Pentecostal Church, and the Buddhist Community provided rice to 1,251 vulnerable individuals from all faiths.

As Father Peter said at this event, “All the world’s religions have one thing in common – love.”

Sierra Leone and its people continue to demonstrate that interfaith efforts, based on love, have lasting results.

Pictured above front row (L-R): Archbishop Edward T. Charles-Catholic Church, Apostle Dora Dumbuya-Christian Pentecostal Church, Sheik Fomba Swaray-Islamic Community.  Back row (L-R): Ishmeal Alfred Charles-HealeyIRF, Father Peter Konteh-Caritas-Freetown, Victor Ndanema-Lanyi Foundation, Steve Fomba-Tzu Chi Foundation, Ben Parra-HealeyIRF.


Getting along with one another isn’t meant to be difficult.

–Sally Fitzgibbons


The Story of Esther

Esther joins orphans

The Story of Esther

Our program manager received an urgent email from Sisters Agatha and Bernadette, caregivers at our Interim Care Facility (ICC) in Cline Town, Sierra Leone.

“Please Megan, help us to save life.”

Visiting a village outside of Freetown, the Sisters were approached by a young girl begging for food. The Sisters are very accustomed to this but this child seemed sicklier than other children they had seen. Questioning those in the village about the child, Sisters Agatha and Bernadette learned the following about young 12-year old Esther.  

May 2017 email from Sisters             

Everybody in her family and community believed she was a witch. As such she was rejected and cruelly treated by all, but most especially by an extended family member who took her in after the death of both parents. 

From an interview with her, we found she was a sickly, needy child, and highly traumatized. Esther lived only on the charity of a few individuals and when her health allowed looked for food and medical care but was often left starving.  Since her mother’s death, Esther had been working like a slave for a lady who only offered her a little to eat.

We asked the lady to allow us bring to her with us to the ICC so that we could help her. She willingly accepted.

A medical examination showed that Esther is a diabetic and that her blood sugar content is very high.  We were advised on the type of diet she needed and we are all helping her to keep to it. She has been put on an insulin injection for life and must take two injections daily. 

Truly, we may be able to give our time, love and all the care and attention she needs, but all will not grant her relief from the awe she feels daily. Only eating the right food, which costs money, and taking the right medication will. There is a need for example, which everyone is stressing as essential and urgent, which is the instrument used to check the blood sugar. We would be very grateful if you can help us in any way possible to help us save this poor girls life.  Any form of help will be highly appreciated and nothing will be too small. 

Thank you from Esther 

What a sad beginning for Esther. Now her story is changing and she has a life surrounded by people who love her. With HealeyIRF assistance, Esther is getting the medical help she needs. During our visit in June we delivered the medical equipment and supplies that the Sisters requested. The attached photo shows Esther is happy and her health improving. 

Upon our return the Sisters sent the following message.

You have granted so much hope to Esther for survival. She was so pleased to get sugar-free sweets/snacks and to eat like other children. She is also appreciative that she got the blood sugar testing kit.

Esther is very grateful for all the beautiful things you sent for her. She loves the bag set too so much and that has given her the zeal and confidence and she wants to go to school now.

Love conquers all

The Story of Esther is truly the story of the power of love.  Thank you Sisters Agatha and Bernadette for not only the love you give to Esther but also to all the orphans at Cline Town ICC.

Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead.

-Oscar Wilde




It’s all in the name….

Descriptive phrases

Its all in the name….what would your truck be called?

Throughout many countries in Africa, there is a custom of painting names or sayings on trucks, buses, and public vans.

Sierra Leone is one of these countries where people place these descriptive names and phrases on vehicles. During our last visit I paid closer attention to these sayings and wanted to share some of my favorites.

Life is it or Change is Inevitable

Simple statements but true and

when one is stuck in Freetown traffic a truck with the phrase –

Patience is bitter but the fruit is sweet

can really lead to thoughtful conversation as patience is not an easy virtue but one does feel better if patience can be exercised…

One of my favorites was My Wife is My Hero and then the next day I saw My Husband is My Hero. How nice it is to see people express their happy relationships for all to see!

Some vans sought for us to Be Honest and others cautioned us to Fear Judgment Day.

Still recovering from Ebola, I thought Hard Times No Friend was particularly poignant but was balanced out by No Place Like Home.

I’m not sure if these phrases have any personal connection to the driver, but maybe they do and they are fun and certainly can get your mind off a Freetown traffic jam.

I also like to think what would my truck be called? I think it would be…

Make Something Good Happen

What would your truck, van or bus be called?

A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.

-Mahatma Gandhi


Update on Conrad H. Hilton Foundation Grant to Aid Capacity Building in Sierra Leone

Capacity Building


We only got these Sisters to stand still for this one picture! They were very excited to get started on their new challenge to aid in capacity building for health care development in Sierra Leone.

In May 2016, HealeyIRF received a 3-year $525,000 grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. This grant is a key component in HealeyIRF’s plan to create a self-sustaining and locally managed Charity Health Network in Sierra Leone. With 78% of the population living on less than $2 a day, building a network providing free or low fee-for-service healthcare interventions is critical to improving health outcomes for vulnerable populations. Particularly since, nearly 40% of all healthcare services in Sierra Leone are provided by private and faith-based organizations. 

Capacity Building for Health Care Development

Developing an administrative workforce to support this network is the purpose of the grant. Nuns in Sierra Leone will train in non-traditional roles.  These areas of study include, public health, management and finance, logistics and production, psychology, biotechnology and microbiology. After receiving their degrees, they will support the Charity Health Network.

During our March trip to Sierra Leone we met with some of the Regional Supervisors and scholarship recipients (pictured above) participating in the program. Nine Sisters have collected their scholarships and an additional nine have received notification of their award.

Fields of Study

One participant is seeking a Master’s Degree in Business Administration at the Institute of Advanced Management & Technology (IAMTECH) in Freetown and another is taking an online PhD course of study in Organizational Leadership at Regent University in the U.S.  Further, one Sister will be getting a Bachelors Degree in Business at IAMTECH and a Clinical Mental Counseling Online Course at Warden University is the field of study for one of the program participants.

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.

-Nelson Mandela