Friendship Link Team prepares for a busy time in Twin Town in Sierra Leone

Two dozen teachers and volunteers from Hastings are preparing for a busy trip to our twin town, Hastings in Sierra Leone.

They will head off this weekend as part of the Hastings Sierra Leone Friendship Link to continue work on the Link’s strategic themes of education, health, creating livelihoods and community support. 

Isabel Hodger who is leading the team of teachers with the help of Roger Mitchell said: “The teachers have been working with the British Council and their twinned schools in Hastings, Sierra Leone to develop lesson plans and projects to share cultures through learning.

“The UK teachers all received the British Council Global Teacher Awards as a result and are keen to begin to use their new skills in Sierra Leone.“ 

Some of the children in Hastings, Sierra leone.

Alongside the teachers, volunteers from the Link will be working on major projects to improve sanitation and hygiene in schools, focussing on sustainable water supplies, toilets, improved hygiene facilities and waste management. 

Richard Homewood, Chairman of the Link said: “The Schools’ Sanitation Project is our latest initiative.

“Clean water, basic toilets and good hygiene practices are essential for the survival and development of children. According to UNICEF, every day, more than 800 children die, worldwide, from preventable diseases caused by the lack of these.

“It is acknowledged that Sub Saharan Africa, which includes Sierra Leone, lags far behind other continents in addressing the problem. In Sierra Leone the lack of these basic facilities in our twinned schools is impacting on their education and their futures. Children often miss out on education because they spend hours every day collecting water and are exhausted if and when they get to school and many older girls have to miss school on a regular basis due to the lack of menstrual hygiene facilities.

“While we can’t tackle the problem in the whole of Sub-Saharan Africa, we can improve the prospects for the future of children in the schools we are twinned with in Hastings, Sierra Leone by ensuring they have a sustainable water supply, good basic sanitation and hygiene facilities.

“Following a survey of all of the twinned schools, we have already funded work at four schools to provide sustainable water supplies. During the visit we will work with the remaining schools to identify what they need and how we can help provide it.” 

Teachers in the 27 partnered schools have already been working with their pupils on a Zero Waste project to minimise waste and increase recycling. Posters produced by the children in the UK will be taken and judged by the children in Sierra Leone at an International Pupil Council meeting during the visit.  

Work will also continue to improve facilities at the Health Centre in Hastings where there is a need for specific equipment but more importantly triage and isolation facilities. Survey work will be carried out during the visit and the scope of the work agreed so that fundraising can continue. 

Christine Boulton-Lane, Chair of the Link’s Health Committee said: “I am very much looking forward to working with the hard working staff at the health centre again. There is always much to be done but they are so grateful for the things we have been able to do over the years we have been working with them, even through the period of the Ebola emergency.“

The team will be working with the community to assess what other help the Link can offer including exploring including job creation to help people gain sustainable employment or create their own businesses to earn a living after they leave school. 

David Lewis, who is currently helping to develop future strategy for the Link’s Creating Livelihoods project to help relieve widespread poverty in Sierra Leone, said: “I am really looking forward to my first visit to Hastings, Sierra Leone where I will be seeking to identify opportunities for employment and the development of sustainable businesses. I will also be investigating the availability of vocational training through visits to secondary schools, technical institutes,  development NGOs, local charities and community groups. I will be working on identifying stakeholders for potential partnerships in the Hastings area in order to achieve the project’s ambitious objectives around securing the futures of future generations”. 

Mr Homewood adds: “Everybody is extremely excited by the challenges and opportunities this visit to our Twin Town presents. We have several projects underway all of which have the potential to make a huge difference to the daily lives of the community there. None of this can be done without the support of the community here in the UK and we are extremely grateful to the people of Hastings UK  and the surrounding areas  in helping us to achieve so much in Hastings, Sierra Leone since we first started working there at the end of Rebel War. There is an awful lot more to do and we need your continued support for the work to continue.”  

You can find out more about the Friendship Link and the work it is doing in Hastings, Sierra Leone at our website: https://www.hastingshastings.org.uk/

Digging a well

Why are we twinned with Hastings Sierra Leone?

The village of Hastings, Sierra Leone had been all but destroyed by the end of the Rebel War. In response to requests for assistance in 2001, LOAF Project answered the villagers’ plea. The Hastings SL Friendship Link was formed in 2003 and Hastings Borough Council recognised the value of the relationship which resulted in a formal twinning in 2007. 

What does the Link do? 

We raise funds so that the people of Hastings, Sierra Leone can buy the equipment and materials needed to help them rebuild their lives, their homes and their community in the aftermath of the country’s devastating rebel war.  

Improving sanitation is an important part of the project

Money raised so far in Hastings & St Leonards has enabled Hastings Sierra Leone residents to complete a number of important projects which are shown here. 

In 2010 Hastings Borough Council was awarded funding from the Commonwealth Local Government Forum to work with the Council in Sierra Leone to try to improve waste management and encourage recycling, composting and biogas production from food waste. This work has continued alongside the mainstream work of the Link.

There is however still a desperate need for improvements to sanitation, water supply and  waste management and a need medical equipment and supplies to tackle the malaria, dysentery, diarrhoea, dehydration and malnutrition and the high rates of infant mortality that are factors of everyday life in Hastings SL.

The Projects

Since 2001, initially LOAF and subsequently the Link have helped fund the following projects:

  • re-building 13 bridges around the town destroyed by the rebels, so that villagers could move around the village more easily, get to work and begin to lead normal lives again
  • building a multi-purpose Twin Town Community Centre, which now plays an important role in village life, with a resourced library and accommodation. In time we hope it will also become a source of income
  • projects to encourage improved waste management, recycling, and  composting to reduce pollution of streams and rivers and contamination of valuable farming land
  • doubling the size of the community health centre which has to serve 20,000 people in the Hastings area 
  • constructing a perimeter wall around the Health Centre to provide security and prevent ‘landgrab’
  • Providing medical supplies to help with care and treatment of mothers and babies and sufferers of malaria, HIV and other infections
  • More recently sending a shipment of protective clothing and hygiene equipment to help them continue their work 
  • digging wells at schools funded by their twinned schools in the UK.

Life in Hastings Village isn’t easy, but the people there are wonderfully kind, generous and welcoming. The lasting friendships made are enriching say volunteers

  • building units for biogas generation for cooking and hot water and to help reduce deforestation and pollution from wood and charcoal fires
  • repairing the Water Tower at the Health Centre, damaged by a tree fall – to ensure a water supply to maintain hygiene.  
  • digging wells at schools funded by their twinned schools in the UK.

Not just about rebuilding Hastings Village.

Twelve of our local UK schools have formed partnerships with schools in and around Hastings in Sierra Leone. 

The children write to each other, find out about life 3,000 miles away and even work together on projects such as gardening, water conservation, recycling and the environment, family life and social issues.

For several years there have also been teacher exchanges, partly funded by the British Council. Teachers from the UK have formed strong links with their colleagues in Sierra Leone and shared their skills and teaching methods. Sierra Leone teachers have also been welcomed back to the UK to see how schools work here and gain further experience.  

These exchange visits have touched teachers so much several of them have continued to fund their own visits to Sierra Leone to ensure the good work continues.

Remember you can download The Hastings Podcast and all our other audio clips and listen to them on the go on your mobile device…

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