ICS Memories: My Wonderful New Family


ICS Team Makeni, Sierra Leone

It’s now been a month since I got back from Sierra Leone and I am finally getting around to telling you about it. I’ve been trying for a while to think of a way to sum up my volunteering in a few words but I don’t think that’s possible without over simplifying everything that I experienced.

Telling my friends and family here at home about everything I did, the people I met and got to know over the 10 weeks and all the trials I faced has been difficult, actually. Getting across an experience like ICS isn’t easy without losing people’s attention when you reminisce about places they’ve never been or a way of life they could never imagine. Or even worse, feeling like you are just “going on about it”.

I spent 9 of my 10 weeks living with my host family in Makeni, the largest city in the Northern Province of Sierra Leone. I was unbelievably lucky with the family I was placed with. My host mum, Aunty Zain, was so wonderful. She cooked the best food (seriously, it was amazing), she always made sure that the tailor didn’t overcharge us and just made me feel so welcome in her family.

Without her, I think I would have missed home an awful lot more than I did. Just knowing Aunty Zain was around, seeing me not as a stranger from another country but as her second daughter, helped more than she’ll ever know. P9010571.JPG

Honestly, no-one deserves happiness more than she does. Aunty Zain was known by absolutely everyone in the area. She volunteered at her church. She made the most amazing cakes and decorated halls for the weddings of people she barely knew. She fed the local children that sat around on the street biscuits. She looked after a crazy girl from one of the outer villages named Sio, who she practically adopted, fed and paid for her to go to school.

I’ve never met someone like Aunty Zain and yet she’s had such a hard life. Her family is distant from her and after all the time she spent looking after her younger siblings they no longer talk to her unless they need something. Her daughter is away studying social sciences at university in Freetown (she is rightfully very proud of her) so they don’t get to see each other often. Through all of this, though, she pours her heart into everything she does and is one of the most honest, hard working and brilliant people I have ever had the chance to meet. Saying goodbye to her broke my heart.

P7200264.JPGThe rest of my host family were also great, even if they were a bit crazy. In our house, there were so many people that I honestly still don’t know who was actually related to who! But, I had some very welcoming brothers and sisters who taught us a few great card games and – once they realised that my closed door meant I wanted to be alone – they were great company. One of the best nights I had with them was, sadly, my last. There were a lot of balloons, a lot of running around, screaming and throwing until I had to admit defeat and my bedroom was filled with the damn things.

Aside from these great, crazy people, I also got a strange dysfunctional family in the rest of the ICS volunteers. Honestly, I can’t say that I got tremendously close to everyone but I did make some friends out there without whom I probably wouldn’t have made it through the 10 weeks. The people who sat with me in silence when I needed a moment (or many moments) and left the socials early to come back to mine to play cards because it was getting all too much; they were the ones that kept me going.

Of course, I fell out with some of my fellow volunteers. Being in such constant contact with effective strangers was bound to lead to disagreements – and it did. Still, I will look back fondly on my time with these people and I’m sure that there will be moments when I even miss a few of them.

There is no other way to describe my time in Sierra Leone other than a real experience. There were ups and downs and moments I’ll never forget. People that changed my outlook on life and helped me realise more about myself than I ever could have done alone.

I’m going to do a few more of these posts as I work through the memories of my time in Sierra Leone, each focusing on different areas of the trip before I forget about it – unlikely as that may seem, I want to share some of the bad things as well as the good. If I wait too long I’ll end up romanticising it all and I don’t want to do my memories that injustice.


Home for the Weekend

So this weekend I have gone home to surprise my sister for the final night of her school production of Billy Eliot. My grandad and his wife are also coming down to see it so it should be a fun evening and a nice chance to see them again. This week has dragged. A lot of my lectures were rearranged which gave me horrid gaps of just sitting around. They weren’t quite long enough to really get into anything because I knew I needed to leave again. Oh well.

In other news… There really isn’t much news.

My shop last weekend cost me the grand total of £5.70, a pound of which was spent on a really yummy treacle tart. So yeah. Honestly, guys, living well on not a lot of money is pretty easy. My menu was as so:

  • Saturday: Paella
  • Sunday: Beef stew and chips
  • Monday: Chilli con carne and rice
  • Tuesday: Cold pasta bake
  • Wednesday: “Southern fried” chicken thighs
  • Thursday: Baked sweet potato and coleslaw

Hope you all have a great week 🙂


Happy Halloween….

So it is Halloween weekend and I am sure that students up and down the country will be going out to parties to celebrate. Now, this may surprise you if you know me – it may even surprise you if you don’t and only know me through this blog – but I am actually going out to a Halloween party myself tonight. Shock horror, I know.

I’m not amazingly excited, to be completely honest, but it a friend that invited me and we are planning on going into London the next day to shop for fabric so it made sense that I be in the same place as her. Whilst I am sure I will make a great Galadriel (it is a fantasy-book themed party and I couldn’t really think of anyone else), despite having been reminded that I am in fact far too short to be an elf, I reckon that I will spend most of the night just sitting on the sofa, trying to fend off her (EVIL) cats. I don’t drink and I don’t really know too many people going so I am sure it’ll be just great…

14885787_1390297527660728_1473391307_nI am well aware that I really don’t sound enthusiastic. Maybe I should be, but socialising just isn’t my thing. Let’s just move on, shall we? This week has been busy but I have absolutely loved having my sister around and I will miss her now that she’s back home again. I took her into town one day to the Choclate Cafe (one of the nicest places in Canterbury – insider tips!!) and we had an amazing foccacia and chocolate waffle. We did some baking (or at least tried to bake) and made ourselves so red velvet pancakes – cooked in my waffle maker! – and made a yummy marble cake for the bake off final.

Meals wise I had a good week, including a real fun Mexican house meal!  So here we go:

  • Saturday:  Beef burger, beans and chips24oct
  • Sunday: Sausage Cassoulet
  • Monday : Quiche (tasted MUCH better than it may look and was also big enough to feed me at lunch time through to Friday!)
  • Tuesday: Chicken wings and curly fries
  • Wednesday: Chicken Pasta bake
  • Friday: Risotto

My recipe of the week was homemade pizza.

If you go for things like this, enjoy Halloween. If you don’t, much like myself, then grin and bear it. It’ll be over soon and you can enjoy yourself as shops start to shove Christmas down your throat instead. Have a great day!