Bulkley Valley Christian School (BVCS) has made some first steps toward helping out its sister school in Nanfayie, Sierra Leone.
Chris Steenhof visited the village in the northern part of Sierra Leone at the end of January. The trip was essentially a fact-finding mission.
“It was an eye-opening experience, for sure,” he said. “I was pretty struck by the needs of the community; there are two very significant needs. The town itself does not have a water source within the community so they have to walk to their water source, which is about a kilometre-and-a-half to two kilometres away.
“The more significant need, I would say, would be the educational need. They have teachers who are volunteers, teachers who struggle with literacy, who are trying to teach kids how to read and write, who struggle with reading and writing themselves.”
Steenhof said his school is committed to helping solve both problems.
“I think solving the water problem is not complicated, if they had some money they could drill a well; but partnering with people in the country itself, who are doing work in the area of literacy for teachers, is something that we can get on board with,” he said.
“We’re not sure exactly what that looks like at this point. Education in any developing country is an important way of furthering the development and we’re an educational facility ourself so that would be an area we would want to be involved in long-term. It’s not a short-term solution, it’s not something you solve in a year, it’s something you solve over 30, 40 years; we’re committed to that.”
But it’s not a one-way relationship, he noted, saying he was struck by the resourcefulness and passion of the people to improve their community.
“I came away a changed person, so they can offer us something as well, it’s not just us giving them stuff,” said Steenhof.
While in Nanfayie, Steenhof presented the village with a Smithers flag, the town’s coat of arms and a letter from Mayor Taylor Bachrach.
“That was a pretty neat experience; it meant a lot to them,” Steenhof said. “They end up giving you their best, which is pretty overwhelming because they don’t have a whole lot, but what they give you is, they’ll give you the shirt off their back and the best of what they have because you are their guest.”
In return, the people of Nanfayie presented him with a goat, which he ended up travelling with as he toured the countryside.
“We had eight people jammed in this Land Rover, which I guess for them is nothing, but we had three chickens, a goat and eight people in this land Rover, it was quite something.”
The goat and chickens ended up being part of a big feast the village put on at the end of the visit.