Scores of families in Hastings’ namesake in Sierra Leone received much-needed food aid in time for Christmas, thanks to generous donations.
The food was paid for from money raised by Hastings Sierra Leone Friendship Link and partner organisation Act-on-IT.
The food parcels supplied through a local food wholesaler in nearby Freetown, the capital of the West African country ravaged by Ebola, were distributed at the Hastings Twin Town Centre on December 23 to 100 of the most needy families.
They contained basic foodstuffs, including rice, cooking oil, sardines, tomato purée, corned beef, onions, rice, salt and sugar, which would support a family of four for about 10 days. Members of the Hastings Association in Sierra Leone managed the distribution which began with prayers and thanksgiving for the food.
Richard Homewood, chairman of the Hastings Sierra Leone Friendship Link, said: “We have been working hard to raise funds to do what we can to help, and we are very grateful indeed for the fantastic support we get from local residents here.
“This is our first batch of food aid. We will be sending more money to repeat this process now that the distribution arrangements are in place and have worked successfully to ensure the food gets to those who need it the most. It is the tip of the iceberg however and much more help is needed to support the community through the crisis.
“At the same time more than £6,000 raised by schools here in Hastings, East Sussex has been sent to the teachers in their link schools in Hastings, Sierra Leone where the teachers have not been paid since the Ebola outbreak closed the schools.
“This will provide each teacher with a gift of just under £30 to help them through the crisis. This was a fantastic effort by the teachers and pupils here and will be greatly appreciated by their colleagues in Sierra Leone.
“We are a committed team of volunteers and every penny donated to our friendship link gets to the community in the village. It is hard work though, as there are so many requests for donations today that we almost become immune to seeing these sad stories on television.
“But receiving emails from people whom we know personally really does bring the crisis home to you. It really is such a tragedy. The people of Hastings, Sierra Leone are close to our hearts and having seen first-hand how they struggle with things we take for granted in their normal daily lives it is hard to imagine the devastating impact that the Ebola crisis is having on them.”
Roger Mitchell, schools link liaison co-ordinator, said: “The teachers have struggled to carry on working in the community without pay, to raise awareness of Ebola and the precautions they need to take.
“The donations will help them and also inject much-needed funds into a struggling local economy.
Any donations that people can make will be passed on to where it can do most good. They can be made online through www.hastingshastings.org.uk or by cheque to Hastings Sierra Leone Friendship Link or HSLFL at HSLFL Treasurer, 33 Senlac Way, St Leonards-on-Sea, TN37 7JG.