Sunday, April 24, 2016

April 7, 2016

Two weeks ago we hired William East-man Vandy to gather some of the local leaders of Lungi, a 3-hour road trip for us,to meet with us so we could discuss some of the local needs. Brother Vandy did an awesome job. There are 111 villages, 8 sections, and 5 wards in this area. We met with the Chief of all the tribes, 3 sub Chiefs, 4 councilmen, a representative of 3 doctors from the government hospital, the representative called "the Speaker" for the chief judge of all the villages and tribes, plus some community people. The Paramount chief called the meeting to order and said everyone should offer a prayer to themselves according to their religion. Everyone bowed their heads for about 1 minute and then business started. They wanted to know if the humanitarian aid depended upon people joining the church. We assured them that was not the case. Brother Vandy explained clearly we are all sons and daughters of God and our desire is to help our brothers and sisters in Sierra Leone. They were happy with that explanation. They asked if the church had been around before this and if so, what was done to help others. We explained that the humanitarian efforts of the church had been here in the past and was pulled out due to the Ebola and was previously focused on helping those in Freetown, Bo and the Kenema areas. We shared with them of the well/sanitation, education, and medical help given to those areas. They said they wanted to have a meeting of just those in the room without us to discuss the needs of all the people in these 111 villages. We agreed to come back in June to discuss their ideas. It was an excellent meeting with lots of questions and input. The meeting was closed with the same request for everyone to offer a prayer to themselves according to their religion. Then we were dismissed.

Now the rest of the story - a Tragic story: When we got there, there were a dozen or so motorcycles parked under a big shade tree along with a couple of benches. Brother Vandy told Don to just park under the shade tree. There was a 2nd shade tree not too far away and Don elected to park under that tree since nothing else was under it. We went up to the open Gazebo and a nice breeze was going through it. The men we were going to meet with were all there. We introduced ourselves and shook hands with everyone. There was a big long table on a raised platform and Behind it sat the Paramount Chief and a sub-chief. They brought out chairs for Don and I to sit to the left of the Chief facing him. Don told them we had to have a chair for Brother Vandy and they brought one and the 3 of us sat down. The other men were all sitting on benches at the edge of the gazebo. A long bench was brought in and placed in front of the table, but not on the platform, facing the Chief. The chief called the meeting to order and invited the 4 counselors to sit on the bench. Oops! Were we suppose to wait to be invited to sit? No. Brother Vandy said we did the right thing. Before anything else could be done a dozen women all dressed in the prettiest African dresses with white hats and white sashes around their waists appeared and were singing and dancing. They heard the Paramount Chief was going to be there and they prepared themselves to greet him. One woman entered the gazebo, bowed to the chief and stayed bent over. She came up behind him and said something in his ear, he reached back and stroked her face. Just then there was an explosion in the yard. I looked that way just in time to see a white SUV-type vehicle come to a halt under the shade tree. It sounded like gun shots and stuff was flying everywhere and the door to the vehicle flew open. I envisioned men getting out with guns and shooting randomly. Don yelled at me to get down at the same time pushing me to the floor. He yelled "get out of here". I began crawling as fast as I could to the small hallway behind the chief. Brother Vandy was behind me trying to pick me up off the floor (all 130 lbs. of him) He had his arms wrapped around me and was trying to lift me as I was moving. His hands were all over my breasts. I don't know how I got stood up but Brother Vandy grabbed me by my shoulders and said 3 times with his face in mine "just an accident" before I realized what he was saying. At the end of the hall where I was crawling was an open exit to a back yard. There was a man out there wailing and twirling and out of control. Brother Vandy went to him and grabbed him in a bear hug and comforted the man. The man had witnessed what had happened and could not deal with it. Once he was calmed, Brother Vandy and I went out thru the open gazebo. Don was out in the yard where many people were all talking, crying, and hands were just flying. Don ran up and told me to stay where I was at and told Brother Vandy to come with him. They flew to the truck and I saw two men jump into the back seat. Don sped off. I watched the scene out front as masses of people gathered. I had no idea what had happened. A woman came up to the stand where I was and sat down heavily in a chair next to me. I asked her if someone was hurt. She held up 2 fingers and said "two". I asked if anyone was dead. She held up one finger and said "one". I had no other information until Don got back. What had happened was a man had put his car in reverse instead of in gear to go forward and smashed on the gas pedal and flew backward and hit all those motorcycles. That is what was popping and making the gunshot sounds and what was flying through the air. There were two children under the tree and the vehicle ran over one of the children. Don saw a man running towards the road carrying a little girl. Obviously, he was taking her to the hospital. There was no transportation left except don's truck. When Don saw the man he yelled at one of the counselors to tell the man he would take him in the truck. The counselor ran after the man. Don Called Brother Vandy to go with him and for me to stay where I was. They jumped into the truck and two men also jumped in. I did not see the child. He sped off to the hospital, which was quite a ways off. Unfortunately, when they got to the hospital the guards at the gate would not let them enter. Don got them to let them in. When they got to the ER everyone was standing around doing nothing and Don ordered them to get a gurney to put the child on. Someone produced one and they laid the child on it. Still no one was doing anything to help this child. Don yelled at them and told them they needed to be doing something to help. Don looked at the child's eyes and knew she was dead (we have seen many livestock die and the look that comes over the eyes when they die and this was the look in her eyes) he then felt for a pulse in her ankle and there was none. Then a nurse appeared and asked "is there a pulse"? "NO". A doctor came sauntering in. They took the child to a back room. After a couple of minutes, Don went back and said to the doctor. "I just need to know one thing, is she dead or alive?" The dr. said "she has passed". Don went out and told the two men she had passed. One of the men was her uncle. Don and Brother Vandy came back and we had our meeting. I was sure that the meeting would be postponed due to what had just happened but no one seemed to be shaken except Don, Brother Vandy and me. Don told me that when he informed the 3 men the child had died, Brother Vandy did an African cultural thing that made Don uncomfortable. He came to Don and grabbed his hand with interlacing fingers and wept bitterly. When he got control of himself, Don sent him to the truck to grieve alone. He continued to weep and once he got control, they came back to the gazebo. Side note: Men and women do not hold hands because it means they are having sex. I wonder why people don't think these two are having sex when they have children playing at their feet. Men hold hands with interlacing fingers and it only means they are friends. It does not mean they are gay. Don cannot get the look of that little girl's dead eyes out of his mind. He is emotional when he thinks of her. The driver of the vehicle got out of the van, saw what he had done and jumped back into his vehicle and locked himself in. It is Africa's culture in situations like this that the person who did the damage is beaten by the assembled crowd until he is dead or is "damaged". The police arrive very soon after the accident happened and carted the man off to safety. At 7:00 p.m. District President Bai Sesay came to our apartment to discuss two food projects that were started before the Ebola. He personally did not know anything about it. He was one of the people who was suppose to receive seeds and animals but he was never contacted. He is going to go with us on Wednesday, April 13th, two meet with two Branch Presidents, who were not Branch Presidents at the time but , who did receive seeds and/or animals and garden tools. President Sesay also wants to do a very large chicken project and has the land to build a chicken building. We also discussed with President Sesay the PVA and the orphanage. See notes on 4/5/16 Y April 7, 2016 - Thursday

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