Sierra Leone water project: Tribal communities work together to improve health

As we emerged from the canoe on the banks of the Sewa River, singing in the distance told us that this was going to be an extraordinary day. We were in the bush an hour east of Bo, in central Sierra Leone. Hiking up a trail to the small forest village of Lowama, we saw a procession of about 50 villagers coming toward us singing praises to God, thanking Him that their prayers had been answered. It was an unexpected but exceptionally warm welcome to a small contingency from Latter-day Saint Charities who had come to teach villagers about hygiene in preparation for a water well being constructed in their village.

In a picturesque setting of mud-walled, thatch-roofed homes and open cooking fires, we listened to rice being pounded for the evening meal and observed beautiful children everywhere as we were escorted to the chief's home. We visited with the village elders in the shade of an open porch. The chief told us how much he appreciated our efforts to help improve his community. While Bo is the second largest community in Sierra Leone with more than 130,000 people, most people live in rural villages that don't even appear on a map. Here, people have no paved roads, electricity, or water systems.

More than 400 families rebuilt Lowama following a lengthy and devastating civil war that ended in 2003. In this community, some women and children make a long trek daily to haul drinking water from a neighboring village. Cooking is done over open fires on hot coals of wood briquettes made by the villagers themselves. Most families keep the coals alive 24 hours a day, as it is easier than restarting them.

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