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This week alumna Siobhan Doyle returns as a guest blogger to tell us about her trip to Sierra Leone. Siobhan is a Spanish with International Development Studies graduate who has embarked upon a new adventure with the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development’s (CAFOD) Step into the Gap programme. In her blog, Siobhan tells us more about her most recent trip with CAFOD…

“Spending two and a half weeks in Sierra Leone was an incredible experience which allowed me and my fellow gappers to see first-hand the work CAFOD and its partners do. We visited three partners; Caritas Freetown, the Kambia District Development and Rehabilitation Organisation (KADDRO) and the Missionary Sisters of the Holy Rosary.

Emergency response – In August 2017 there was landslide on the outskirts of the capital Freetown, which killed over 1,000 people and displaced thousands more. We visited communities which had been affected by the flooding which came with the landslide.



Mathew, volunteer.

“We could see the yellow stains on walls from where the water had been in houses, it was over 6ft. We met a young volunteer, Mathew, aged 21, who showed us around what was left of his house; the roof was collapsed and there was mud and debris all over the floor. He had lost his parents, brother and sister. Caritas Freetown organised a group of volunteers to clean and do minor repairs on houses, allowing people to move back into their homes.

“Mathew said: “If this burden was left on us alone, some of us would have died long ago from the stress, or at least abandoned our homes – for where were we to get the money to clean up? Thank you for your timely intervention. CAFOD did well in choosing Caritas Freetown to do the work we needed. Thanking you is not enough. If a disaster happens again, do not forget Caritas. And we will never forget the young people.”


“We also visited three rural communities in Kambia, where KADDRO works on access to water, sanitation and health, savings and loans groups, ways to make a living projects and women’s breastfeeding and pregnancy groups.

Working in partnership – When we travelled to the communities, the roads were bumpy and winding; it felt much more rural than what I consider to be rural in England. When we arrived, every community greeted us with such a warm welcome with lots of singing. The children were so excited to see us too.



James had his house cleaned by young volunteers.

“It was so great to see how dedicated the communities were to making these projects work and how CAFOD, KADDRO and the communities all work in partnership. I studied International Development at university, so it was great to see this work first hand.

“One of the groups we met was the WASH (water, sanitation and health) committee in the Yeli Kunthai community. Before KADDRO’s intervention, many did not have access to safe drinking water, they would usually need to walk to the nearest stream which could be two miles away. KADDRO helped to install a borehole in the community so they no longer had to walk to drink unsafe water, and they had more time to spend on their farms.

Learning to repair, fix and mend – Alusine Sankoh, who is 25 years-old and lives in the community working as a mechanic for the borehole, said: “Even if it gets hot, we can go the pump and freshen up. That never happened before.”

Alusine Sankoh at the borehole

Alusine at the borehole.

“Alusine told us that he had received training, from KADDRO, on how to repair the borehole. This meant that should anything go wrong, he would be able to repair it. He was so happy to have received this training, having dropped out of school to become a motorbike taxi when he was younger.

“When his father died, Alusine returned to the community but struggled to find work as he had missed out of a lot of his education. With the training provided by KADDRO, he is now not only able to repair the borehole in his community, but also the boreholes in other communities. This work meant that he now had additional income and this had helped him to make a living.

“I felt inspired by Alusine’s story and his determination to work as a mechanic. It was great to see how a borehole can also provide someone with a source of income, as well as safe drinking water. It shows the true reach of these projects and how they can have knock-on effects on all aspects of people’s lives.”

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