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Child soldiers given hope by Silsden mission group
Helping improve the lives of ‘child soldiers’ is the mission for a group from St James’ Church in Silsden.
Seven churchgoers will be part of a group spending two weeks in Sierra Leone during Easter to help launch a job creation scheme aimed at young people forced to take part in the country’s civil war. It will also help children living on streets in the poverty-stricken African nation.
The trip was organised by The Nehemiah Children’s Home in Freetown, which cares for 140 orphaned and street children. It was set up to help youngsters traumatised by the country’s devastating, decade-long civil war, the effects of which are still being felt years after the conflict ended in 2002.
The centre offers vocational training in skills such as IT, engineering, tailoring and carpentry, in the hope of providing a future that involves more than war and crime. The Silsden group will help build new facilities.
Church volunteer, Steve Anderson, said: “Learning a basic skill is a lifeline; it’s the way out of poverty and despair for these young people who literally have nothing.
“Sierra Leone is still one of the poorest countries, and the bitter civil war has left some appalling social problems, but the economy is beginning to grow.”
The team will travel with Christian charity, Mission Direct. Previous volunteers have built hospitals, clinics and children’s homes.
The group from St James’ ranges in age from 16 to 66, and the congregation has supported them with prayers and fundraising events, including coffee mornings and a Burns Night celebration to pay for building materials. BA has provided special charity flights, allowing each volunteer to take 70kg of aid.
Mr Anderson said although the group is looking forward to the trip, there was some apprehension due to the country’s violent reputation.
“We can’t wait to get out there, but we’re dreading it at the same time,” he said. “It is going into the unknown. But they wouldn’t allow us to go if it wasn’t safe.”
St James’s vicar, the Reverend David Griffiths, said: “I’m very excited about this trip.
“It’s an opportunity for the congregation to give up their comfortable lives for a period and work alongside those who are experiencing poverty and hopelessness.”