Members of St James' Church, Silsden, to help Sierra Leone's child soldiers

The Rev David Griffiths with volunteers Evangeline Kelk, Derek Smithson, Joanna Kaye, Steve Loryman, Steven Anderson and Peter Kay

The Rev David Griffiths with volunteers Evangeline Kelk, Derek Smithson, Joanna Kaye, Steve Loryman, Steven Anderson and Peter Kay

First published in News

A group from St James’ Church in Silsden will soon travel to one of the most dangerous parts of the world to help improve the lives of its “child soldiers”.

Over Easter, seven churchgoers will be part of a group spending two weeks in Sierra Leone to help launch a job creation scheme aimed at young people forced to take part in the country’s civil war.

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 children traumatised by the country’s decade-long civil war, which ended in 2002.

The centre offers vocational training in skills such as IT, engineering, tailoring and carpentry and the Silsden group is going to help build new facilities.

Church volunteer Steve Anderson said: “Sierra Leone is still one of the poorest countries and the war has left some appalling social problems, but the economy is beginning to grow.

“Learning a basic skill is a lifeline, it’s the way out of poverty and despair.”

The team will travel with Christian charity Mission Direct. Previous volunteers have built hospitals, clinics and children’s homes.

The group from St James’ is aged from 16 to 66 and the congregation has supported them with prayers and fundraising events.

BA has also provided charity flights allowing each volunteer to take 70kg of aid.

Mr Anderson said: “We can’t wait to get out there, but we’re dreading it at the same time. It is going into the unknown – but they wouldn’t allow us to go if it wasn’t safe.”

St James’ vicar the Rev 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. This is a fantastic opportunity to make us more ‘mission minded’ as a church.”

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