We left the interns off at the airport, got back in to our car and headed for the ferry. A dark Freetown awaited us at the other side of the bay. Amie, one of this year's national interns, called me to let me know that she had arrived to her own home safely. “Ah bo,” she sighed. “All man don scatter.” This year's Global Internship was finally over.
Two months before I had been loading on to this ferry with three young Americans (a fourth was to come later after fighting her way through the aviation black hole known as Accra, Ghana). The eight weeks in between had seen our group of eight (Four Americans, two Sierra Leoneans and two leaders) involved in all kinds of activities - organising early morning exercise, reorganising our store full of resources, facilitating seminars on leadership, teaching Sunday School, hosting bible clubs for about 700 children in various villages, running camps and retreats for young adults, taking over the running of our Children's Village for a weekend, spending time with local families on their farms and in their homes, teaching biology, helping with our Sponsorship program's constant flow of correspondence and so on and so forth. This year's group did an excellent job, bonding as a team and developing meaningful relationships with the children and young people they came to serve.
One of my own personal highlights of this time saw us reach a village called Wubangie with a three day bible club for kids, the first time we have ever tried that there. Wubangie is a big enough village to make you ponder whether you should describe it as a small town and the Chief, though a Muslim himself, was incredibly welcoming and gracious towards us. Over two hundred children were there to excitedly greet us each day and we shared the story of Jesus with them in three parts. Children in Sierra Leone are excellent at mimicking the actions of anyone put in front of them, something encouraged within the education system here where rote learning is king. When you realise that 200 kids are ready to naturally repeat your every action it helps break language barriers in half and makes game time a whole lot of fun. We would bring all the older kids for games to a dirt football pitch and there were times when you felt like a kind of human puppet master or maybe the Pied Piper of Hamlin – running, jumping, dancing and singing with your every movement copied by over a hundred kids. The kids brought so much energy to what we were doing, something which we fed off, ensuring three exhausting but memorable days.
A part of the internship I always enjoy is called New Skills. This sees us connect interns with children in our Village Partnership Program and their families. The intern will hang out with their new friend and their family a couple of times each week and do whatever they are doing – fetching water, cooking, doing laundry, farming, hanging out. Each year I discover new relationships with families in the villages where we have placed interns and this year was no exception. On one day I joined the two interns serving in Ngolala for a hike to their New Skills family farm where we had planned to plant groundnuts with the boys in the family. We left Fanta, the older girl, cooking the day's dinner, something she does every day after school. It was pretty hot and when we reached the village to meet up with the boys I realised that we had probably seriously underestimated how much water we would need. The farm ended up being miles away, even though the boys would keep assuring us that we were almost there, and we relied on the milk of coconuts we cut down on the way to fend off dehydration. We planted our groundnuts, hung out with the boys, kept an eye out for coconuts and had a pretty great time doing it.
It's funny to think that this is the fifth intern group I have been directly involved with. They are always different and I have learned a whole lot from one group to the next. I won't be involved in quite the same way next year but right now I feel like the last two months were good ones to end on.