Sarhun Village in Sierra Leone is pretty remote. Situated in Pujehun State, it’s eight hours down single track roads from the capital Freetown.
Unfortunately, because of its inaccessibility, people in Pujehun are often not at the top of the list for government and development agencies. But in this wild forested landscape, Tearfund partner EFSL (Evangelical Fellowship of Sierra Leone) has built a thriving ministry.
It started working in villages in the mainly Muslim Pujehun state in 2008. In 2010, EFSL received funding to help build water wells and toilets in 20 villages across Puhehun.
Cleaner and safer
However, instead of just building toilets, they used a new method – ‘Community Led Total Sanitation’ – a step-by-step process which Tearfund and other organisations use to help communities see the impacts of open defecation, and to stop it through good sanitation.
The villagers in Sarhun desperately wanted their own toilets and a cleaner environment. Following the programme, they learnt how they could use their own local affordable materials to build toilets that suited them, where they wanted them.
EFSL built a demonstration toilet, showing the basic design. Over the next couple of years, the villagers went on to build 42 – now the village has gone from a place where no toilets existed, to a place where almost every family has their own.
As well as the toilet building, EFSL also helped dig a well and install a hand pump in the village. This has revolutionised the community’s way of life. Before, the only source of drinking water was the river flowing through the front of the village.
As well as a source of drinking water, the river also provided for thirsty animals, and served as a communal bath. Coupled with open defecation, villagers were constantly getting ill from diarrhoea and cholera - sometimes with fatal results. Thanks to their new water pump, diseases like these are now a thing of the past.
The work Tearfund partner EFSL does has brought about positive changes in villages like Sarhun. However, it’s the community mobilisation that is responsible for the real transformations that are occurring across the country; local communities being inspired to provide an inside-out solution using their own strength and resources and to build a better future where they are – one where poverty is ultimately challenged and overcome.
A little history...
Tearfund has been working with partners in Sierra Leone since the 1990s, particularly in funding their emergency assistance to various communities.
Tearfund partners ran peace-building workshops following the civil war, providing counselling for people who had suffered terrible atrocities.
As the region becomes relatively stable, Tearfund is working with partners in long-term development work while strengthening their ability to prepare for disasters.
Tearfund’s partners are helping to repair and construct wells, build shelters, run health, sanitation and agricultural programmes and raise awareness about HIV.