A group from St James’ Church in Silsden will soon travel to one of the most dangerous parts of the world to help improve the lives of its “child soldiers”.
Over Easter, seven churchgoers will be part of a group spending two weeks in Sierra Leone, in West Africa, to help launch a job creation scheme aimed at young people forced to take part in the country’s civil war.
The project will also help children living on streets in the poverty-stricken nation. T
he trip was organised by the Nehemiah Children’s Home in Freetown, which cares for 140 orphaned and street children. It was set up to help children traumatised by the country’s devastating, decade-long civil war – effects of which are still being felt years after the war ended in 2002.
The centre offers vocational training in skills such as IT, engineering, tailoring and carpentry in the hope of providing a future that involves more than war and crime, and the Silsden group are going to help build new facilities.
Church volunteer Steve Anderson said: “Sierra Leone is still one of the poorest countries and the bitter civil war has left some appalling social problems, but the economy is beginning to grow. Learning a basic skill is a lifeline – it’s the way out of poverty and despair for these young people who literally have nothing.”
The team will travel with Christian charity, Mission Direct. Previous volunteers have built hospitals, clinics and children’s homes.
The group from St James’ ranges from 16 to 66 years of age and the congregation have supported them with prayers and fundraising events including coffee mornings and a Burns Night celebration to pay for building materials. BA has provided special charity flights allowing each volunteer to take 70kg of aid.
St James’ Vicar the Rev David Griffiths said: “I'm very excited about this trip. It’s an opportunity for the congregation to give up their comfortable lives for a period and work alongside those who are experiencing poverty and hopelessness. I believe this is a fantastic opportunity to make us more mission-minded as a church.”