Twin town’s in need of old walking sticks

A TWINNING group is on the look-out for old walking sticks so they can be sent to Africa to help victims of the civil war in Sierra Leone.

Hastings Sierra Leone Friendship Link has teamed up with film-maker Michele D’Acosta to try and collect as many walking aids as possible which will help transform the lives of amputees in Hastings’s African namesake.

Hastings Sierra Leone includes an area known as Amputee Village which is home to dozens of people either suffering from polio or who were injured as a result of land mines or being caught up in the region’s vicious fighting.

Robin Gray, secretary of the friendship link, explained: “Our community has been very generous in its support of efforts to help the villagers in Hastings Sierra Leone to rebuild their lives in the aftermath of the rebel war.

“But one very neglected sector of the Sierra Leonean population is the amputees, many of whom were deliberately maimed as children. Often they do not even have the simplest mobility aids, which makes earning a living almost impossible.

“It would be great if Observer readers could look out any unwanted crutches, walking sticks, white sticks or other mobility aids that the Hastings Sierra Leone Friendship Link could pass on.

“Their condition is not important – Sierra Leoneans are brilliant at make-do-and-mend. - they have to be.”

Everything collected will be sent out in early August through UNICEF and Mr Gray said he hoped the Observer’s appeal may even unearth some old wheelchairs.

The friendship link is planning a stand at the St Leonards Festival on Saturday, July 16 and at the Tesco Community Fair on Sunday, July 24, where mobility aids can be dropped off.

Alternatively people can email or call 01424 436603, to arrange collection.

The Observer’s editor-in-chief Keith Ridley said he hoped readers would throw their weight behind the link’s campaign. He said: “Something as simple as an old walking stick which is no longer of use and might be clogging up your garage or a cupboard could really change someome’s life. I would encourage everyone to have a look to see if they have any old crutches laying around and give them to the link. The generosity of local people is one of the best things about Hastings and the friendship link is something the whole town should be proud of.”