Sierra Leone refugee community raises thousands for mudslide victims

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A month after a mudslide in Sierra Leone's capital last month left more than a thousand people dead, a tiny refugee community living in Australia has reached out to help the victims.

When a mudslide swept through the outskirts of Sierra Leone’s capital of Freetown last month, the tragedy was keenly felt more than 17,000 kilometres away.

Constance Jones was watching the news at her home in Adelaide when pictures of the disaster flashed on her television screen.

She immediately recognised the city.  

“I think it was about one o’clock in the morning, I couldn’t believe it. We just started ringing around, you know, phoning community members and saying, ‘have you heard what’s happened?” she said.

Siera Leone mudslides
August 25, 2017: Volunteers search for bodies after heavy flooding and mudslides claim more than 1000 lives.
AAP

More than 1000 people lost their lives, with several thousand more displaced.

Ms Jones, the chairperson of the Sierra Leone Community of South Australia, says the small community of refugees living in Adelaide quickly banded together in a show of support.

“It was so devastating. It was such a shock, knowing that we had so many loved ones at home.”

For Marvin Jones, the accident was deeply personal. He lost four cousins.

“Four died,” he said. “I have to send money to bury them. Others, they are missing.

“Because when the mud came, some people were just dragged, you know? Dragged to the sea, dragged to the forest, you can’t find them,” he told SBS World News.

Mr Jones says the mudslide and the extensive flooding that followed is another blow in a country still recovering from the devastation left by war and the Ebola virus.

Sierra Leone community in South Australia
The fundraising bazzar hoped to raise more than $10,000 to help the victims of the disaster.
SBS World News

“My heart is bleeding, I cannot lie to you.”

“Just imagine; war, Ebola, then comes the flood, Sierra Leone is a small country, just six or seven million people. We have suffered.”

In the aftermath of the mudslide, the Sierra Leone community of Adelaide met twice.

The first time was to mourn. The second time, says Constance Jones, was to take action.

A fundraising bazaar held over the weekend hopes to raise more than $10,000 to help the victims of the disaster.

Food stalls, music and an auction were held to encourage people to support the cause.

Exactly how the money will be spent will be a communal decision, but Ms Jones says the intention is that it will be a sustainable investment with long-term goals, rather than a one-off payment.

One possibility is starting or supporting an orphanage to help the children who lost parents during the tragedy.

“We’re thinking about supporting the orphans, the children that have been left behind,” she said.

“For us, I think we’re very fortunate to be here considering what our people have gone through back home.

“It’s about giving and sharing, it’s not just about us.”

About two hundred people attended the bazaar in Adelaide on Sunday.

Sierra Leone community in South Australia
About two hundred people attended the bazaar in Adelaide where food stalls, music and an auction kept the crowds entertained.
SBS World News

 

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