A West African country with a diverse climate, Sierra Leone is home to just over 7 million people and is one of the smaller countries in the world, covering 205 square miles. Sierra Leone gained their independence from the United Kingdom in 1961 and were declared a republic just 10 years later in 1971.
The five regions that make up Sierra Leone produce a variety of mining for gold, diamonds, bauxite and titanium, all naturally produced in Sierra Leone. Although Sierra Leone has a wealth of natural minerals, 70 percent of the population still lives below the poverty line.
A decade of civil war in the 1990s left the infrastructure of Sierra Leone seriously damaged. As a result, many water points and toilet facilities remain out of use today, which has added to a perpetual cycle of sickness and disease in the country. Sierra Leone was hit hard by the Ebola Outbreak in 2014, leaving their healthcare system broken, resulting in more deaths caused by healthcare neglect than from Ebola and highlighting the need for access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene.
By giving them clean water, our teams go further to give the living water.
The Water Crisis in Sierra Leone
According to WaterAid, more than six out of 10 people in Sierra Leone don’t have safe water and eight out of 10 people don’t have access to a decent toilet. As a result, over 1,200 children under five die each year from waterborne disease in Sierra Leone, a statistic that Water4 partner, Willamette International fights to end every day.
The Water Solution in Sierra Leone
Willamette International started operations in Sierra Leone in 2005 as Willamette Medical Teams. As the Willamette team focused on medical treatment, they quickly realized the number of people they were treating for waterborne illness and began pursuing safe water initiatives.
Led by Country Director, Peter Sheriff, and Engineer and Technical Advisor, John Campbell, Willamette International now has three teams in Sierra Leone that completed 94 water projects and changed 42,900 lives in 2017, and has completed over 300 bore holes in schools, churches, mosques and communities since inception. John serves as the intermediary between the government and Willamette, navigating the relationships between local and national government processes for the Sierra Leone Association of Non-Governmental Organizations and ensuring that the enterprise follows government policies through implementation projects.
The Willamette team is made up of a management and operational team. The management team has six employees and the operational team has three drilling teams that now function as registered entrepreneurs and enterprises. Each drill team has six employees, a business owner, manager, site engineer, three drillers and a Water Access Sanitation and Hygiene (WaSH) officer.
With each water project, Willamette focuses on the physical and spiritual health of communities, with the overall goal of the team to see communities transformed through living water and a relationship with Jesus. Another transformation Willamette focuses on is redirecting the relief mentality that has been embedded into the people of Sierra Leone, toward a development mentality by involving people to identify their felt needs and find possible solutions.
“We believe that our work is an access ministry through which unreached people groups and communities can be reached with the Gospel of Christ,” said John. “Community leaders welcome our teams into their towns because they want clean water; and these communities under normal circumstance would not allow the Gospel. By giving them clean water, our teams go further to give the living water.”
The Willamette team has seen tremendous growth in the communities they serve. Twelve churches have been planted in 12 different communities by Sowing Seeds, a partner organization of Willamette International, along with training 20 pastors in partnership with Grace Bible Institute in Freetown, Sierra Leone. In the coming years they hope to see more community transformation through the freedom of safe water.
By Emilie Hechtner / Sources: Wikipedia, Water Aid / Category: Countries