Sierra Leone holds first post-Ebola camp

The Sierra Leone Conference has wrapped up its first post-Ebola children’s camp at Harford School for Girls here. The program ended with a thanksgiving service at the city’s Trinity United Methodist Church.

The one-week camp of mainly United Methodist children was suspended in 2014 and 2015 amid the world’s worst Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which caused more than 11,000 deaths worldwide, the majority of them in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, according to the World Health Organization.

Olivia Fonnie, director of Christian Education and Specialized Ministry to Children for the conference, said about 210 children attended Camp 2016 held July 25-31, the highest camp enrollment she has seen as director.

“The children are excited after having missed out on camping (the two previous years),” she said.

“One of our responsibilities in the church is nurturing the children for Christian life, and we believe that bringing the children together for a week and teaching them the word of God and Christian ways, creating the opportunity for them to meet new friends and learning from one another will shape their lives for the future.

“We also believe that children coming from the cities and meeting others from remote rural communities, who struggle with very few opportunities, will (help them) learn to appreciate what God has given them,” Fonnie said.

Glad to be back

For 11-year old Augustine T. Jimissa, a second-time camper from the Albert Academy Secondary School in Freetown, camping has always been something he looked forward to because it provided him an opportunity to make new friends and experience new ideas.

He said children learn to be honest and kind to others, and he hopes to take the virtues he learned at camp back to his home and school, adding that he will try to live a holy life and be more polite to people.

The children at the camp were divided into four houses — Hannah, Paul, Ruth and Joseph — and everything they did was on a competitive basis.

Jimissa likes soccer and, though it was the peak of the rainy season in Sierra Leone, he and his friends found time to go out and play his favorite game.

“We had a schedule for inter-house competitions. Those of us who were not chosen to play in the main teams would organize ourselves into mock teams and play on the outskirts when the real house teams were playing in the field,” he said.

Nelson Sinnah, 9, said he loved participating in activities that taught kids to work hard, because he thinks most are spoiled back at home.

He said he made friends from Bo, Freetown and other places and hopes to keep in touch with them after camp, although he doesn’t know exactly how he would do that.

Like Jimissa, Sinnah said camp will change his life after he goes back home. “I will be kind to others. I’ll stop all my bad attitudes and change them to good.”

Learning about God

Asked what he would tell others if he were to invite friends to attend a United Methodist children’s camp, he said he would tell them that they should not be scared of leaving their homes to attend camps and that they would have fun.

 “Our teachers teach us more about God. We make new friends. We do lots of activities. There is time for everything — time for Rise and Shine, breakfast, devotion and other activities.” 

Tity Conteh, an 11-year-old first-time camper from Kabala United Methodist Church — one of the conference’s newest mission areas — enjoyed camp activities such as playing handball and soccer.

She said the camp taught her to show kindness, be helpful and show concern for one another. She said she will take home those messages to her mother and will invite her friends to attend Camp 2017.

Eleven-year-old Emasu T. Laggah from Dele Preparatory School in eastern Freetown said she enjoyed the competitions, especially the quizzes, because they taught campers to accept that in competitions, there are winners and losers.

She said the quizzes challenged her to go and read more about the Bible, her country’s history and current affairs.

She encourages all children who have not had the opportunity to go camping to get involved next year, so that they may learn about hospitality, love and the Bible, just as she did at Camp 2016.

Jusu is director of communications for The United Methodist Church in Sierra Leone. News media contact: Vicki Brown at (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org. 

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