When Patrick Jamiru came to East Anglia he got his hands dirty. The children of St Francis of Assisi had invited him to join them in the vegetable patch for their Big Dig project for CAFOD.
The reception class and their year six buddies are transforming some of their playground into a vegetable patch so they can grow their own food to eat – just as Morlai and Samai have done in Sierra Leone.
Patrick is the director of Caritas Kenema, a longstanding CAFOD partner in Sierra Leone, and he knows Morlai, Samai and Mohammed, three of the children whose stories the children at St Francis of Assisi primary school have heard about.
CAFOD has been helping Patrick and his local community transform the wasteland of an old diamond mine into fertile land to grow rice. When they heard about this, schoolchildren at St Francis wanted to do something similar for themselves – putting their feet into other children’s boots – to better understand how they get their food.
Patrick comes from a family of farmers, so he know’s what he’s doing when it comes to using a spade and working with the soil – and he can spot good fertile land!
Patrick recognised that the land in Sierra Leone that was left in a dangerous state when after the last diamonds were found could be transformed to provide a sheltered environment for growing rice. He rallied the local community together and persuaded them that this land, with its good soil, would give them a better chance of surviving the ‘hungry season’. Several members of the community took on the project and now are doing so well it is even helping them earn a little extra from selling their crops.
Mohammed, age 14, only survived as a child thanks to the kindness of some passing strangers who shared their food. Today, he is farming the land the community have transformed and is earning enough money so that he can pay his school fees, buy uniform and textbooks so he can return to school to complete his education.
After hearing about Morlai and Samai in their assemblies, the children at St Francis of Assisi were inspired to create their own vegetable patch and eagerly welcomed Patrick. One sunny afternoon in February we sowed red onions and cabbages.
The students promised they will continue to look after their vegetable garden this Lent in the hope that they too will be able to grow food that they can eat.