Bumping to Bumpetoke

Posted on Aug 14, 2013

Leaving Jaiama we travelled south and west from Kono towards Kenema before passing through Bo, Sierra Leone’s second City. Bo is a bustling place with an impressive Chinese built 25,000 all-seater football stadium on the outskirts. We hurried through its busy urban centre and on to Moyamba before striking south on unmade roads towards the small fishing village of Bumpetoke.

This three hour stretch is a challenge for any vehicle and our 4 x 4 came into its own. Our excellent driver skilfully dodged every hole and when the road switched from horizontal bumps to semi vertical wall of death he surpassed himself, balancing the car on two wheels as we clung to the roof.

Bumpetoke is a very poor village community. People live in basic mud built thatched houses without water or electricity. Water is accessed communally from the well in the centre of the village, with a second well available at the new Millione school.

Bumpetoke Village
The people’s poverty did not dampen their hospitality. We were entertained like kings with spectacular singing and dancing.

Bumpetoke WelcomeDance
Soon afterwards a troupe of masked dancers arrived unannounced from the neighbouring village. In a grand entrance they performed a high energy greeting, hoping their kids would also get access to the new school.

During our visit one of the Action Aid workers took me aside to add her thanks to Millione for financing the school. She said “Jerry, you have no idea how much this means to the people here”. But I think I did. I could feel it in the smiles of the children, the comments of the teachers, and the hands of the elders as they squeezed mine in theirs, words neither possible nor necessary.

Fishing is the principle economic activity. The catch is smoked then sold to traders, often from neighbouring countries.

Bumpetoke Fish packing

Many children currently do not go to school because they are needed to help with fishing or other family activities, or because parents do not see the benefit, or because they are ashamed. The existing school was very rudimentary. Part of it consisted of two large classes outside under the mango tree, each with a blackboard and several rows of desks. A single teacher spun from one to the other teaching them simultaneously.

The Millione school was under construction and due to be finished before the rainy season got under way in earnest. It will open its doors in September for the following school year.

Bumpetoke Student
Local pride in the new school will boost attendance. In parallel Action Aid are working with the villagers to kick start basic economic activity. In one instance tiny loans have been made to women to buy soap and transform it into powder for washing clothes, reselling it in the community.

Bumpetoke soap trading

The Millione school sits alongside initiatives like this both as an educational advance in its own right and as a symbol to the community of what can be achieved. The people of Bumpetoke face a long journey, but it has begun.

As we got back into the 4 x 4 the head teacher told me he dreamed of having a small resource centre in the school where the kids could use books, maps, rulers, slide rules and other learning materials. He was hoping I would be able to make his dream a reality. I told him it was not part of the original budget but I would see what we can do.

If you would like to contribute to the costs of learning materials for a resource centre at the Millione Bumpetoke school please email us.

See other photos of Bumpetoke in our gallery

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