We sat and listened to the horrific stories of these people from the war. The lady in the middle of the picture below in the wheelchair is the matriarch of the camp. She is affectionately known as "the Chairlady." Part of the psychological tactics the rebels used when they attacked her village was to tell her and the ladies she was with that they were 'politicians' because they danced when the president was elected and, therefore, deserved to have their feet cut off. The rebels left her and the other ladies upstairs bleeding and set the ground floor of her house on fire. They were told that the first one who came out of the house would be shot. Choking on smoke, they were forced to crawl out only to realize the rebels were long gone. The Chairlady didn't get medical help until 2 or 3 days later, resulting in her having to be amputated above the knees. She told her story with an amazing amount of dignity and courage.
At first, the Chairlady was reluctant to recount her personal history because, she reasoned, many people had come to see them before, taken pictures of them, and left without returning again to help. It was only because we were with Pastor Victor (whom she trusted) and had promised to buy them a bag of rice that she deemed our motives less self-ingratiating. Out of all my experiences on my first trip to Sierra Leone, the Chairlady's words struck me most deeply and have lingered with me the longest.
Although the government created these camps with basic houses, some land to farm, and arranged for amputees to receive prosthetics, a failed government has not been able to sustain them. The farmers cannot feed everyone in the camp year-round. As you can also see, the amputees aren't using their prosthetics. These two realities are related: they do not have enough to eat; therefore they beg for food; they get less money when they beg wearing a prosthesis; therefore they beg without their prosthesis. The other thing about prosthetics is that they need regular maintenance and adjustment for practicability and comfort--which does not seem to be happening. To add to these difficulties, members of this community also have to hike to the river and back for water, 1/2 mile each way. The rebels tried to build a better government by violence and all of this is the result.
We learned that ministry in Sierra Leone is slow, difficult, and complicated; so we want to start small. We also learned--especially from the Jui camp--that ministry needs to be holistic, addressing the physical, spiritual, intellectual and social needs simultaneously. Therefore, as our first, smaller project, I have been contemplating adopting this camp. Please pray for these people and this potential project. Wouldn't it be a beautiful thing to bring the peaceable, life-giving kingdom of heaven to earth by transforming this camp of about 100 people by providing a new school for children with laptops, a church, sustainable farming, a water well, and a clinic which prosthetists can work in conjunction with? Wouldn't it be a wonderful thing if we could give the Chairlady a reason to dance again?
Leaders 4 Life exists to bring the best in the world to bear upon this situation. I leave you with this amazing 5 minute prosthetics video by Dean Kamen--creator of the Segway--for those who have a few extra moments to be inspired to that end: http://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/82