Monday, July 27, 2009


Missionary of Charity - project completed at last

The Missionaries of Charity in Makeni – now at last officially expanded with the construction of the newly completed perimeter wall. This report is a little late in coming but I have called Sister Rykter and she is happy that in the end everything worked out ok. Life in Sierra Leone is tough as one quickly realizes and doing business in Sierra Leone is just as tough. Experience in the development industry in Canada helps but….

So the story is that the builder Mr. Sheik hired for the job – see the previous article – quit after about 80% of the work had been completed. No amount of persuading using the Paramount Chief, Councilor Ismail Bangura both signatories to the contract or other influential locals could bring Sheik back to the job. Just finding him was difficult. He claimed that the specifications were too onerous and he wasn’t making any money (typical claims) and essentially that Sister Rykter was too much of a pain in the butt. The last point was probably true based on my experience since she was always highly critical, a constant nag and nothing would be good enough. Sister Rykter operating in Makeni with minimal funding has to be resourceful, insistant and strong even in the face of a weak position having limited money. She relies on guilt - a strong driver in all religious circles. I understand this having had a Russian Grandmother whose family historically lived in poor surroundings somewhere east of the Urals.

Fortunately I had kept a tight grip of the cash and we still had about Le3 Million of a Le15 Million budget which was sufficient to complete the job using another local builder who perhaps owed Sister Rykter a favour. Sister decided that the wall was not high enough and the razor wire was insufficiently placed. Such an improvement of the specs needed more cash but I had determined that the specs that were agreed were sufficient. A non-religious disagreement ensued and needed some firmness but in the end the wall was completed to everyone’s satisfaction. I could see that the unfortunate souls living at the Mission enjoyed a greater freedom of movement and especially the children were thankful for the safe space to play.

I left Sierra Leone in May but I will be visiting Makeni again in September on another unrelated assignment (more about that later). However I hope to see the children and even Sister Rykter again.

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