Modern missionaries from St Ambrose College in Cheshire have returned from a 10-day trip to poverty stricken Sierra Leone as changed men.
The 12 sixth-form students and six staff from the Hale Barns Catholic grammar school, founded by the Christian Brothers, went to the war-torn west African state to discover what life is really like for a people still emerging from a gruesome bloodbath. Their photographs reveal a triumph of the human spirit under appalling conditions.
Matthew McAuliffe, 17, from Altrincham, said: “Seeing the children’s smiles amidst such sheer desolation was a life-changing experience.” The party first flew into the capital Freetown to visit the bay-side slums, a sprawling shanty town built on the city’s rubbish dumps, extending further into the sea as new land is created from piles of rotting landfill.
Patrick Fitzgibbon, 17, from Sale, said: “It was an eye opening experience. It’s completely different to anything you will ever see in the western world. The slums were cramped, squalid, smelly, unsanitary and obviously a danger to the thousands and thousands of inhabitants.”
The party, who each raised £1,500 for the challenge, and took with them 20 containers of clothes, educational equipment and toys, then went to teach in the country’s second city of Bo, set in the heart of the interior.
Michael Barry, 17, from Timperley, said: “The welcome we received from all the children was simply fantastic. They were so happy to see us and it was such a privilege to work with them.”
Matthew Bibi, 17, from Altrincham, added: “It helped us learn a lot more about the developing world and about ourselves.”