God is our ever present help in times of trouble. Psalm 46:1
I hope that you are all well as the easing of lockdown begins in our country. Our shops are now open and our volunteers are working hard to sort out the donations we have received.
Our dry season projects in Ghana have been very successful and the beneficiaries have been very grateful for this opportunity to grow food outside of the usual farming season (the wet/rainy season) giving them nutrition and a marketable crop. Jacob’s Well Appeal, with your help, plans to support these projects for 2-3 years until they are well established and can thrive on their own.
Our partners will soon be starting the seedbank project again as the rains in Ghana have started and they will also be planting another 120 mangoes. It is hard work, as everything needs to be done as soon as possible to get the best out of the rains. Those who plant the earliest tend to get the best crop. We pray that the rains are good and the harvest plentiful. We have been planting mangoes for several years now and the first ones are starting to produce fruit. It is such a blessing!
Burkina Faso is struggling at the moment both with this pandemic and also insurgents coming on motorbikes into the country and shooting at schools, churches and hospitals – anything that they identify as ‘western’. Despite this, the people desperately need our help and I am so pleased to say that this has not stopped the medical centre in Banfora from being built – the second phase is almost completed. This will provide basic medical services for the most vulnerable people in society and physiotherapy for disabled patients. In Burkina Faso the cost of medical care prevents most people getting even treatable illnesses sorted out and if they survive they are often disabled and not able to work. This clinic will be free to those with no money and cheaper than the government clinics for those who can pay something. It is so desperately needed. It will also provide mental health services, which are very limited in West Africa. People with mental health issues are stigmatized and excluded from society. This includes epileptic patients. With suitable medication these patients can live a normal life within their communities.
We are planning to send another curtain-sider lorry to Moldova next week and our medical container to Uganda, which arrived at the end of April, has finally been cleared from the port, the delays due to coronavirus.
I pray that you all stay safe during this difficult time and thank you all for your support.
It is more blessed to give than to receive. Acts 20:35
I hope and pray that you are all safe during this difficult time of lockdown. Alistair is still working in Beverley 3 days a week sorting medical aid – our volunteers have all had to isolate and so he is safely on his own. We have received many offers of aid from the NHS and also from manufacturers including 200 beds. God is good even in this difficult time.
At the start of lockdown I was in Inverness babysitting my grandson so that my daughter and son-in law could both work. Now my daughter is on maternity leave and I am back in Bridlington. Meanwhile, despite our shops having to close and most of our staff are on furlough, Jacob’s Well Appeal has continued in its work and sent a container of medical aid to Ghana just after lockdown started.
Due to a generous donation from one of our supporters we have also been able to drill a borehole in Kalahi, a very poor village in Northern Ghana where we run a seedbank project. This will greatly help the community and we have also sent funds to plant mangoes in this area when the rains start –
– as well as sending funds to plant further mango trees in two poor communities that are desperate for help.
All our partners abroad are struggling with coronavirus and because of the lack of sanitation and health care they are really worried. There is no possibility of social distancing in these communities where people live day by day and have no financial security.
We also have had good news from Sierra Leone – they have received the tractors that we sent earlier this year. They are so very grateful for this generous gift from the donor and for all our supporters who make it possible for us to send this aid. You will also see they are looking smart in their safety clothes – we were able to send these after getting a large donation of this equipment which would otherwise have gone to landfill – all new and unused. We also sent medical aid for their health care clinic and educational aid.
I pray that God blesses you all and that you stay safe during this lockdown.
The strength of the righteous shall be exalted Psalm 75:10
Alistair and I travelled to Ghana in January to see the projects that Jacob’s Well Appeal have been working on. We visited several dry season farming projects, three smaller ones run by Saraha Advocates for Change (Ruby Yap and her team) using money from Ripon Rotary and a very large one of 8 acres that is run by C4C, which was supported by Skegness Rotary Club. We also have a further dry season project in Eastern Ghana which was supported by York Viking Rotary Club, which was so successful that they have helped us to expand that project further to now help 60 families in total. These projects help poor communities grow crops outside of the ‘wet’ season. Unlike the UK where it rains all the time, in Sub Saharan Africa it rains only from April/ May until October which is when the communities traditionally farm. They harvest October/ November and then live off this for the rest of the year. Often, before the rains, the food is running out. By encouraging them to grow crops through the dry season, crops such as peppers, tomatoes, cabbage, garden eggs (like aubergines but different!), onions etc they can have a much better varied diet and also hopefully enough produce to sell some at market.
The work is very hard and hot and at the moment we can only work in areas that there is already a source of water, but the communities are delighted with the results and are very keen to be part of this project. Without the training, help to buy the fencing and initial seeds as well as a pump or irrigation help they are unable to start gardening themselves. Hopefully with the initial input these projects will continue.
And our seed bank project has been so successful our partners, C4C, have had to hire warehouse space for all the sacks of corn! They will sell most of this to buy fertiliser for the communities to use at the beginning of the farming season. The rest will be used as seed. We have 150 women on this project ( helping 150 families) and the women all say thank you – ‘ with out this project we would never have known that we could also be farmers and grow crops for our families. This gives us food, helps pay to send the children to school and also pay the £4 per year government’s medical cover’. The health service is only free to pregnant women and children under 5 years of age. Everyone else has to pay £4 a year or the entire costs of treatment. This means most poor people have no medical care whatsoever.
See, I am doing a new thing! Isaiah 43:18
Happy New Year! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas – we were so fortunate to spend Christmas in Inverness with our family, including our grandson of 9 months. We are so thankful that we can celebrate this time of year with our family and friends. Just before Christmas, Ruby Yap our partner in Ghana visited us and was amazed at the amount of food we have and the wealth of the countryside in the UK. She has worked many years in Ghana though she comes from the Philippines. The area of Northern Ghana where she works is semi-arid and the people struggle to get a living out of the land. She was presented with an award for her ‘Impact Beyond Volunteering’ from the VSO, who paid for her trip to England. Ruby runs various projects for us including literacy projects, borehole drilling and repairs, agricultural projects and dry season farming projects.
Ruby is in the centre of this photo, taken when we visited the Shekinah Clinic in Tamale in Ghana and in the picture below, taken with one of the women who had successfully completed the literacy project and soap making training.
Alistair and I are travelling to Northern Ghana next week to visit the seed bank project and also our dry season farming projects and will also meet up with Ruby again. We will also meet with the medical staff at the regional hospital of Wa to see if we can arrange a medical container to this region of Ghana. In the district hospitals there is an acute shortage of medical items but it is difficult to get the aid into these areas due to logistical problems and issues with customs. Even slings have an expiry date on them now and the customs in the South won’t let out of date items through, even though the clinics in the North has no dressings or bandages for their patients. Given that many people have no running water and even clinics often have a plastic water tank they have to fill themselves, this creates great difficulties for everyone concerned.
After visiting Ghana we are travelling to the Gambia (on our way home!) to visit the hospital that received a container of medical aid last year. If this is successful we hope to be able to donate further aid to this country. Please pray for safe travelling for us and good health whilst we are abroad.
Now hope does not disappoint Romans 5:5
I am currently at my computer in Beverley, sat with several layers of clothing listening to thunder and rain outside. Life is so very different here in the UK. When it rains in Sierra Leone the rain is warm and when it stops you have beautiful sunshine but a lot of mud! We have had rain for several days now, there is flooding in Doncaster (not far away) and the sky is very grey and has been all day. Because of the almost constant sunshine, Sierra Leone is an excellent place for solar technology and were very fortunate to visit a charity called The Barefoot Women which trains vulnerable women to make solar lamps (basic course – 3 months), solar panels (by the end of a year) and then solar pumps (advanced course by the end of 2 years).
The photo shows some of the trainers and the solar powered lamp that the women learn to make first of all:
Sorry about the blurred photo – this shows the women learning solar technology so that they can build a solar panel.
This charity is situated at Port Loko, just outside Freetown and finds women who are disadvantaged or vulnerable – widowed, at risk of forced marriage or FGM, single mothers or dropouts. These women initially came from 33 local villages but now they come from the entire country to be in trained in solar technology. They learn to construct solar panels and solar pumps over 2 years. The training costs $1,000 per year, including food and lodging and the women do not need to be well educated but have to show good aptitude for the training and often come with no formal education.
The charity also runs income generating activities including carpentry, masonry, tailoring, bakery and cafe, soap making, welding and joinery. They have just started to build an internet cafe and also farm cashew nuts.
They deliver the bread by bicycle and below, is Nancy who started this amazing project.
We have the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ 1Cor 15:57
Whilst we were in Sierra Leone we visited the community of Moyolla-Lal-Raton in the PortoLoko district in the northern part of Sierra Leone. We had met Ahmed Fofanah in Hull before we went to Sierra Leone and he had asked us if we would visit this area. He comes from the village and is helping the communities through the Zaindriss Foundation he has set up. This is helping the community with a farming project which grows rice (100 acres) which they use to pay for fertliser for 25 communities, who then farm 25 acres each. They also plant groundnut with two women groups and the women who plant the rice for the foundation are also paid. This is helping the community but they are struggling as they have to hire a tractor.Through the great generosity of a local farmer we will be able to send them a refurbished tractor in November. Praise God!
We also visited the school that we are trying to support in this community. The children need uniforms and school materials as well as new furniture. We have been able to raise the money for uniforms for this year. They will be locally made (£1 for the fabric and £1 for the sewing) and we hope to raise money through the year by selling cards which you will be able to buy in our shops or through the office to pay for further uniforms and equipment next year.
As you can see in this picture, the junior school is not completed – the government has run out of funds and the children are all crushed into the building on the right which had only very poor wooden benches. When we send the tractors we hope to include some school equipment. We also have requested plans for the completion of the unfinished building to see if Jacob’s Well Appeal can help.
When we visit these places everyone is always so happy that someone is interested in them and wants to help. When you visit though it is very hard because sometimes it seems that the problems are overwhelming and we can only do so little. But each time God makes things happen and if everyone does their little it can amount to so very much. Thank you for all your support – it really makes a difference.
My God shall be my strength Isaiah 49:5
Whilst in Sierra Leone we visited many exciting projects that were bringing help into desperate situations. One of these was the Browne-Penn Special Education School, set up by Alice Brown and Mary Penn-Timity. Mary comes from Hull, having left Sierra Leone as a child due to the civil war. She returned only recently to her homeland and is working at the university lecturing in Social Work. Here she met Alice who is from the USA. They were quickly aware that there is no provision for mentally (or physically) disabled children. They are not valued in this culture and parents are encouraged to ‘return’ the children to the jungle – in other words leave them to die in the wild. They are seen as a curse on the family and neighbours which is why no one wants a school for disabled children to be build near them. If some one such as a politician has a disabled child then the community will accuse him/her of using black magic to get to their high position at the expense of the health of the child. In this difficult culture Mary and Alice have started a school in Freetown, the capital city and a day centre in Makeni, the largest town in the Northern Provence.
The school and day centre are wonderful places where the children are helped to express themselves with trained staff. There is a medical attendant who examines and accesses each child and the communities are gradually accepting the children. Jacob’s Well Appeal had sent the school some medical equipment on the container including sit-on-scales and an examination couch. We were also able to take some electronic tablets when we visited which had been generously donated. These are very useful for the school as some on the children are unable to write with a pencil and can use the tablets instead.
The school is now struggling with lack of space and Mary and Alice have recently been given some land by the government to build a purpose built building. We hope to be able to help them as they expand.
Whoever believes in Jesus shall not abide in darkness. John 12:46
Alistair and I visited Sierra Leone last month, spending just under 3 weeks there. We had a very busy schedule visiting government and charity-run hospitals as well as schools and agricultural projects. This is the first time that Jacob’s Well Appeal has visited Sierra Leone, having sent our first container there last year.
Sierra Leone is a beautiful country but is struggling with poverty and corruption. The hospitals we visited spoke of lack of resources with nurses having to buy their own gloves.The Ebola outbreak caused the death of many doctors and nurses and the health service is struggling to cope. They rely heavily on unpaid volunteers and the government hospitals are overcrowded – in the children’s ward in one hospital they even had paediatric patients sharing cots. One thing that all the hospitals were short of were oxygen concentrators which is something we will try to acquire and send on the next container, along with gloves, syringes, bandages and dressings and walking frames and wheelchairs. They also need prosthetic limbs. During the civil war the rebels used amputation to terrorize the people of Sierra Leone and the number of amputees is high.
In the capital they have recently build two new hospitals which they hope to start using very soon. These building are very desperately needed – a lot of the hospitals we visited did not have running water and had to rely on buckets (as below) to wash their hands. This makes keeping things clean very hard.
At the moment we are working with the Sierra Leone government to agree on a Memorandum of Understanding so that we can send medical aid in without being taxed. They can tax containers up to 50% of the value of the contents, and they will revalue the container if they think that we have put a low value on the contents to avoid tax. It is important that we get an agreement so that we will not have the risk of getting a fine or being asked to pay any tax.
The container we sent last year went through the Mayor of Freetown and we met with the Medical Directors of the hospitals of Freetown who were very happy with the aid that we had sent. Alistair was on the local TV talking about Jacob’s Well Appeal and the donation.
Next month I will talk about the wonderful projects that we visited in Sierra Leone.
With God anything is possible Mark 10:27
Alistair and I will be travelling to Sierra Leone at end of this week and we value your prayers for our safety and for opportunities to build a partnership with the people there. Jacob’s Well Appeal would like to work further in Sierra Leone and it is important that we are wise as to what we should do. We sent a container to Sierra Leone at the end of last year after visiting the mayor of Freetown, the capital city, in Hull (which is twinned with Freetown). We will visit the hospitals that received the aid to see what use it has been and whether we can help with further medical aid. We will also be visiting agricultural projects and a school for autism. Sierra Leone suffered a civil war from 1991 to 2001 and was then devastated by the Ebola virus epidemic which started in May 2014; the country was eventually declared Ebola free in March 2016 with 8,706 cases and 3,956 deaths according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Up to 40% of farms had been abandoned in the worst Ebola hit areas and it has taken a heavy toll on the already scare health workforce. Health workers were 20-30 times more likely to be infected and two-thirds of those infected died. They were also left very traumatised and fearful. Following this, on the 14th August 2017 a significant mudslide occurred in the capital city of Freetown. After 3 days of torrential rainfall a massive mudslide damaged or destroyed hundreds of buildings in the city killing 1,141 people and leaving 3,000 homeless.
Sierra Leone has a population of 7,000,000 with a life expectancy of 46 years at birth (afro.who) and has the world’s highest estimated maternal mortality ratio – women in Sierra Leone have a 1 in 17 lifetime risk of dying due to pregnancy or childbirth. Maternal deaths count for 36% of all deaths among women aged 15-49 and infant mortality is very high at around 89 per 1000 live births. This is a country that desperately needs our help.
It is the Lord your God who goes with you Deuteronomy 31:6
We are now half way through the year and the longest day is approaching – I feel like it has passed in a blur. When we were in Ghana earlier this year we visited a place called the Shekinah Clinic in Tamale, Northern Ghana. This clinic offered free health care to anyone requiring it that could not afford to pay the £4 per year for basic health care through the government hospitals. In some cases the clinic pays the £4 if they are unable to provide vital care that the patient could access through this scheme. They also help the mentally ill, housing some individuals who have been abandoned by their families and run a feeding program for the destitute in Tamale. They also bury the dead that are left in town when no one can afford to bury them. At the clinic we met an elderly lady who had been deserted by her family when she went blind and who now lives in one of the small accommodation huts provided by the clinic. Jacob’s Well Appeal is sending a 40 foot container of medical aid including a washing machine as their current one no longer works and so they have to wash all their sheets by hand. It also contains medical beds, bandages and disposable medical items such as gloves,walking frames, incontinence pads and colostomy supplies.
The houses the Shekinah Clinic provide.
We also visited a project paid for by the York Viking Rotary which was a dry season farming project. A very poor community in the Upper East Region of Ghana had asked them to help set this up last year. Our partners, C4C, provided training on how and what to grow in consultation with the Ministry of Agriculture. They worked together to put up a wire fence to protect the garden from goats (which roam everywhere and eat everything except during the wet season) and bought a bicycle water pump which pumps the water from the reservoir up into the hose to water the garden. The community also planted mango trees to provide that vital vitamin A.
The Bicycle Water Pump – Our translator and project manager Anas makes cycling in 35°C look easy!
Alistair and I are now preparing for a visit to Sierra Leone in early July. You may remember we met the mayor of Freetown in Hull, which is linked with Sierra Leone and we then sent a container of medical aid in November last year. We are now going to Sierra Leone to see what they have done with the aid we sent them and how we can work together for the future.