Friday 1st March

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During today’s workshop attention again turned to some of the complexities of the Mende language. Mende is a descriptive language and is less abstract than English. This can serve to restrict the extent to which individuals can express what they are thinking and feelings. The Krio language can also be limiting. Often when someone is asked ‘How are you?’ in Krio, people will simply reply with ‘I tell God Tanke’. Rather than produce an elaborate response to this question the individual often opts simply to thank the almighty that they are still here. Perhaps this is understandable in a country such as SL where mortality rates can be very high. In light of some of the limitations of the language, counsellors in SL must make the time and effort to assess their clients sensitively and thoroughly

Discussions during the workshop also identified additional cultural barriers for some individuals seeking help from counsellors. Sister Angie revealed that research that she has been doing with stakeholders across Sierra Leone found that individuals (particularly Males) don’t see counsellors as a valid source of support because ordinarily they would seek the advice of the elders in their community. It seems however that attitudes are starting to change.

Five o’clock signalled the completion of the workshop – our final workshop in SL for this year. This has come at just about the right time. After two weeks on the road, energy levels are just about spent. Our efforts have been supplemented by the enthusiasm of the participants that have attended the workshop, but the travel and heat do take their toll. It has been great to take ACT training to three different locations over the course of the trip: Freetown, Makeni and Bo.

At the close of the workshop there was time for a ceremony to mark the award of the certificates. We then had a group photograph. I swapped email addresses with many of the attendees and I look forward to staying in touch with them in the future. I think it is fair to say that attendees were inspired by Hannah Bockarie’s contribution to the facilitation of the workshop. We are hopeful that some of the people who attended the advanced workshop in Bo will be in a position to contribute to the facilitation of future workshops.

The team had a celebratory dinner to mark the end of the workshops. After dinner, a special court was convened to hear charges be levelled at each of the members of the party in turn. There were forfeits to be completed to atone for the particular crimes that people were deemed to have committed. It was a fun way to look back on the trip and remember some of the funny moments. Corinna, for example, was charged with the heinous crime of deleting a photograph of herself from another person’s camera; Beate was charged with going for a run on two separate mornings and making the rest of us feel bad for not doing anything; Ibrahim was charged with accidentally driving off without letting Iain get into the jeep, Hannah was charged with constantly forgetting to lock her door when she got out of the jeep. Me? Well, I was charged with shamelessly promoting the MSc Global Mental Health programme at the University of Glasgow to anyone that would listen!! We all pleaded guilty to our charges and accepted our punishment.

Tomorrow, we head to Buret beach for some rest and relaxation. We will then journey on to Freetown for our last night in SL before returning back to the UK on Sunday.

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