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Sierra Leone Marathon 2014

Why I am taking my family to Sierra Leone

In June 2012 I will be taking my wife and two young children to a country which, not so long ago, was one of the most dangerous places on earth.

 

You may wonder why I would do this; to which the answer would be, to watch me run a half marathon, of course!

 

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Some of our participants have already begun their marathon training in Makeni!

 

The Kiln Sierra Leone Marathon is the first ever marathon race in Sierra Leone, organised by a small UK charity, Street Child of Sierra Leone (Street Child).

 

When we talk to prospective runners about the marathon and where it will take place, one of the first questions we often get is: Is it safe? People generally have heard of Sierra Leone and not for positive reasons:civil war, child soldiers, blood diamonds, amputees, the list of negative aspects goes on…

 

It's unfortunate that, 10 years after this bloody civil war ended, Sierra Leone is still struggling to dispel the image that seems to be imprinted in the mind of most westerners.

 

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 Not what you would typically think of when someone says Sierra Leone...

 

 

I have travelled regularly to Sierra Leone but I will never forget my first trip, less than two year ago. I had a strong emotional reaction to the reality of life at the edge of human existence, and the very need that people have for basic stuff: clean water, basic health care and education.

 

I was very impressed by the incredible passion of the social workers at HANCi, our local partner organisation. As well as  the positive attitude and determination of the people, the love the kids have for going to school.

 

I loved the wonderful simplicity of life; for example the way people treat nature, as a place of dwelling rather than just another resource for economic growth. I realized: There are a lot of things that can be improved in Sierra Leone, and there are things we can learn from Africans, things that we may have slightly wrong in the western world.

 

I remember so well the first trip to Tambakha, a place so remote, so poor, so completely different, and yet with so much potential. If only kids would learn basic literacy, numeracy and English. Consequently, Tambakha is the region where Street Child in the last 18 months have built 15 schools, and are supporting more than 2000 children in education.

 

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One of the schools Street Child have helped establish in the region of Tambakha

 

Sierra Leone is a safe place to travel. Sure, the transport network is not great, health care provisions are basic and one would need to take vaccinations for most tropical diseases. But I have found the people in Sierra Leone very friendly, positively curious of westerners, and not at all pushy. In all my trips I have never been harassed, and haveneverencountered any violence or aggression.

 

I am so confident in Sierra Leone as a safe place to travel that I am going to take my family there in June. My children are very excited! They have heard so many of my stories that they are ready to check the place out for themselves.

 

So the first week of June we will be spending a family holiday in Sierra Leone. I am very much looking forward to taking my wife and children to this place I have talked so much about and to see their reaction to the country. My kids have seen a bit of the world (last year we spent a family holiday in Jamaica), but they will find a very different world out in Sierra Leone. Of course, it will be difficult for them to see the extreme poverty, but I think they will realise (probably better than adults) the beauty and simplicity of the place. Alec (10 years old) is very much looking forward to playing football with the boys and Rosie (almost 8 years old) can't wait to help out at one of the street child centres and give the kids presents she will bring from the UK. We will be visiting the centres, definitely go to visit the newly built schools in the region of Tambakha, and hopefully we will spend some time on one of the manybeaches. Oh those beaches! For good reasons they are considered the best beaches of Africa. Oh and of course, I will be running in the first ever (half) marathon of Sierra Leone!

 

I am confident that at Street Child we have started something truly amazing. Something huge. Something that you can be a part of! Come and join us for the visit of a lifetime. Run the marathon, half marathon or 5K in Sierra Leone and raise money for our projects. Come and see for yourself!

 

Bart van der Vliet

 

See here for some more information about safety in Sierra Leone:

 

1 Comments:

Ben Hodgson said...
I'm off to Ladbrokes to put £50 on Michael Shearer to win the marathon by a country mile!
February 16, 2012 12:02

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