Welcome to a world of passion and potential



We are all part of it: passionate and with high potential. The Schramm Connection wants to foster people with these features in Sierra Leone through different projects. This is our platform – welcome! We love to connect with you!

Wir sind alle Teil davon: leidenschaftlich und mit viel Potential. Die Schramm Connection will Leute mit diesen Eigenschaften in Sierra Leone fördern mittels verschiedenen Projekten. Wir freuen uns, mit dir zu connecten!

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To the hero of 2018: the nurse serving in rural Sierra Leone

Imagine yourself being a nurse, earning USD 110 a month, which makes you the main breadwinner of a family and extended relatives, married to a daily wage worker, who more often than not won’t find work. You have two children – a son and a girl, who you work hard for to keep in school, paying all formal and informal fees necessary. Then your employer, the government, posts you to a veryvery remote area, more than 8 hours from where your family lives, in an area with a different tribe and local language, with no warning, in the middle of a school year, and expecting you to resume work in your new duty station within two weeks. You are not given any relocation or transport money, but are expected to pay this out of your salary. You are also not given any salary increase – even though you could really use that, given you will have to continue to pay for your children’s home. You reach your new duty station via public transport and motorbike, and face a dilapidated staff quarter, barely any drugs available for treatment, and a community that is suspicious of this person from the capital. The chief sees you as his personal mistress, allowing him to sexually harass you, and given he is the local authority, who do you complain to?! The journey home to your family costs a third of your monthly salary, so you only go back once a quarter, and even though you wish you could bring your family to your new duty station, there are no schools in close reach – or the quality of the local school is not up to standards. Even to access your monthly salary, you have to travel 3 hours to the district capital, if you are lucky enough to be banking with a bank that has a local branch. To call your family, you have to walk 15 minutes to a spot that has network coverage. Once or twice a year a delegation from the district capital comes on supervision, and intimidates you with pages of checklists telling you a hundred things you need to change, of course with zero additional resources.
When you go back to visit your family, you know you are risking lives in the community where you serve, because no one is there to cover for you. Furthermore, when you finally see your children and husband again, you realize that he has found himself a mistress in the meantime, and you don’t appreciate the suspicious strangers walking in and out of your home, with vulnerable children being there.

Sounds grim, no? This is the reality for more than 500 nurses in Sierra Leone, serving in the most remote health facilities. 81% of all rural health workers are female – often having no other options but to comply to postings, as they lose their job otherwise.
I doubt anyone who is reading this post would agree to such work conditions, yet in Sierra Leone, these nurses still serve their communities in hard-to-reach, barely equipped health facilities, with small salaries and lots of demands placed on them. I have spent a lot of time in the last few months working with the government to better recognize, reward and motivate these health workers, and given that the majority of them are women, we spent time with communities, local authorities, health workers and policy-makers to discuss gender-specific issues. It is horrifying, and humbling, to hear all their stories, and to understand their struggle and their fight better. Female health workers in remote areas are my heroes of the year – and they deserve to be much more recognized for their sacrifice and service to this country. They are some of the strongest women that walk on this earth. I am sorry I have not seen your struggle earlier, and I salute you for your bravery and your service. You are heroes.

 

Sofa-Geschichten von den Lion Mountains

Was oder wie wurdest du erwachsen? Wann und wie hast du die Jugend hinter dir gelassen? Was war das Uebergangsritual? Fuer mich war das Zeichen von “Erwachsensein” immer ein grosses, schweres Sofa. So etwas macht dich traege, es wird schwieriger umzuziehen, es ist eine finanzielle Investition, es braucht noch mehr Moebel um richtig benutzt zu werden. Kurz: es macht das Leben komplizierter. Einige von meinen Freunden investierten schon mit 18 in grosse, teure Sofas – Ich mag mich noch gut an das Panikgefuehl in meinem Magen erinnern, wenn ich daran dachte, mich so niederzulassen. Ich habe daher im letzten Jahrzehnt entweder kein Sofa besitzt, oder das guenstigste Ikea-sofa gekauft (100 Franken, ein echtes Schnaeppchen), oder einfache Bamboo-sofas besitzt (weniger als 200 Franken fuer drei Sofas, auch ein echtes Schnaeppchen). Das Bamboo-sofa, das ich die letzten fuenf Jahre in Sierra Leone benutzt habe, hat Abel hergestellt. Er wurde ueber die Jahre ein guter Freund, und ich habe ihn an einige andere Leute weiterempfohlen. Er hat mir dafuer gedankt, in dem er eines seiner Kinder nach mir benannt hat. Es wurde aber ein Junge, also musst Naomi umgeaendert werden in die maennliche Form – was anscheinend “Nami” ist. Nami bedeutet auf Krio auch “Das bin ich”. Wenn ihn also jemand fragt, wie er heisst, dann antwortet er “Nami / das bin ich”. Etwas verwirrend, aber es scheint ihn nicht zu stoeren!

SOFA EINWEIHUNG

Also, zurueck zu Sofas. Nami’s Vater hat mein erstes wunderschoen farbiges Sofa hergestellt, das ich nun fuenf Jahre lang benutzt habe, und drei Mal gezuegelt habe. Ich habe kuerzlich herausgefunden, dass ich nochmals fuer mindestens vier Jahre in Sierra Leone sein werde, die Gruende dafuer erklaere ich euch sonst mal. In dem Moment habe ich auch realisiert, dass ich soweit bin – ich getraue mich nun in ein grosses Sofa zu investieren, mich niederzulassen (zumindest fuer vier Jahre), offiziell meine Jugend hinter mir zu lassen und das Gewicht eines Sofas auf mich zu nehmen. Eine Aethiopische Freundin hat ein grosses graues Sofa kreiert und zusammen mit Sierra Leonischen Schreinern hergestellt.
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Photo 1: Blen, die Sofadesignerin mit meinem neuen Sofa. 
 
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Photo 2: Die offizielle Sofa-Einweihungs-Sonnenuntergang-Snack-&-Drink Feier.
Ich habe gestern eine kleine Einweihungsfeier organisiert, mit Sonnenuntergang Cocktails, um diesen Anlass gebuehrend zu feiern. Jayne’s Kommentar: “Ah super, die letzte Einweihungs-feier die ich hatte war fuer einen Kirchenaltar – das Essen hier ist besser!”

JUNGE DAME

Obwohl ich den Eindruck habe, dass ich aelter werde (in weniger als einem Monat werde ich 30!), gibt es da auch andere Meinungen – vor allem an meinem Arbeitsort, im Gesundheitsministerium. In den letzten Wochen haben mich verschiedene Leute auf dem Gang mit “Guten Morgen, junge Dame” begruesst. Das passt mir aus verschiedenen Gruenden gar nicht, und ich habe diesen Leuten jeweils gesagt, ich bin nicht mehr so jung, und ueberhaupt sei mein Name Madam Naomi, was ja bekannt sei. Am Freitag habe ich mit anderen Leuten auf ein Meeting mit dem Gesundheitsminister gewartet. Der Vize-Gesundheitsminister kommt dazu und begruesst mich mit “Guten Morgen, junge Dame”. Ich blieb freundlich, aber habe auch ihm erklaert ich sei nicht mehr so jung, und er wisse ja meinen Namen. Er lachte und meinte “du kannst ja noch nicht 40 sein” – was ich zustimmen musste. Anscheinend sind alle unter 40-jaehrigen offiziell noch jung in Sierra Leone. Wenige Minuten spaeter laufen wir in das Buero des Gesundheitsminister, und er begruesst mich mit “Guten Morgen, grosse Dame”. Ich sag ihm, dass ich das besser finde als “junge Dame”, worauf er lacht und sagt “du kannst ja nicht aelter als 37 oder 38 sein, oder?”. Nachdem ich ihm erklaert habe, dass ich noch nicht ganz so alt bin, meinte er: “na, das heisst du bist noch ein Baby – ich habe gedacht du bist mindestens 37, mit der Arbeit, die du leistest”. Was ist so schwierig daran, mich mit Madam Naomi anzusprechen?! Mein Gesicht muss ihm deutlich gemacht haben, dass ich nicht sonderlich erfreut darueber war, “Baby” genannt zu werden. Als ich nach der Sitzung mich verabschiedete, sagte er “Auf Wiedersehen, schlaue Dame”. Besser!

BOOTSTOUR

Meine Abenteuerlust ist ungebremst, ob ich alt oder jung bin. Wir sind kuerzlich auf Besuch in den Distrikten, um unsere Distrikts Personalangestellten zu unterstuetzen und coachen. CHAI (wo ich arbeite) hat der Regierung geholfen, diese Reform einzufuehren, und das Personalwesen im Gesundheitswesen mehr zu dezentralisieren, naeher zu den Kliniken zu bringen, und damit die Transparenz und Rechenschaft zu foerdern, und gleichzeitig bessere Gesundheitsdienstleistungen anzubieten. Ich bluehe auf auf diesen Reisen ins Landesinnere, einerseits weil es sehr motivierend ist, die Veraenderung vor Ort zu sehen, und andererseits weil immer mehrere Abenteuer auf mich warten.
Auf unserem Trip vor ein paar Wochen mussten wir mit dem Boot auf die Bonthe Insel fahren, wo das oeffentliche Spital ist. Bonthe ist einer der entferntesten und am schlechtesten entwickelten Distrikten. Ich habe diese Bootsreise vor ein paar Monaten schon gemacht, aber immer nur mit einem eigens gemieteten Schnellboot, fuer 200 Franken, hin und zurueck, je 45 Minuten. Dieses Mal haben wir uns entschieden, die “Faehre” zu benutzen, die nur LE 15,000 kostet pro Person – weniger als 2 Franken, fuer die 90-120 Minuten Ueberfahrt, mit zwei Haltestellen auf anderen Inseln. Die richtige oeffentliche Faehre wird nicht betrieben und rostet vor sich hin, da die Betriebskosten zu teuer sind. Dafuer benutzt man ein hoelzenes Boot, das einmal pro Tag hin und zurueck faehrt. Die Regeln auf dem Boot sind klar angeschriben, und Bussen definiert. Ich mochte diese Regel am meisten: “Ich will kein Geschwaetz – Busse LE 50,000 (ungefaehr 6 Franken)”.
Wir sind also auf unsere Bootstour mit einer Ziege, einem Motorrad, 30 Passagieren und viel Gepaeck. Zwischendurch haben wir an einer “Raststaette” Halt gemacht – und konnten geraeucherte Shrimps, Nuesse oder Fische kaufen. Neben mir war ein junger Mann, dessen einzige Aufgabe war, das Wasser auszuschoepfen, das konstant stieg im Boot. Jede halbe Stunde war er wieder fuer zehn Minuten mit Wasser schoepfen beschaeftigt – meine Fuesse wurden kein einziges Mal nass, und wir kamen heil an.
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Photo 3: Am warten auf die Faehre in Yargoi. 
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Photo 4: Einsteigen! Das Motorrad ist auf dem Dach. 
 
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Photo 5: Ich will kein Geschwaetz – Busse 50,000. 
 
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Photo 6: Haltestelle, und Verpflegung mit geraeucherten Shrimps. 
 
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Photo 7: Auf der Bonthe Insel. 
 
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Photo 8: Am Schweizer Apfel essen, waehrend dem ich auf die Autofaehre nach Mattru warte!
 
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Photo 9: Das Team in Mattru. 
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Photo 10: Das Team mit dem Vize-Buergermeister in Bonthe.  
Ein weiteres Merkmal von Erwachsen-werden ist Weihnachten ohne Familie zu feiern. Wegen voellig ueberteuerten Fluegen, und anderen geplannten Reisen, werde ich dieses Jahr nicht fuer Weihnachten in die Schweiz kommen. Es wird mein erstes Mal ohne meine Familie sein – und ich spuere zu gleichen Teilen Respekt und Aufregung darueber, in Sierra Leone zu sein ueber Weihnachten und Silvester. Weihnachten hier sind viel weniger kommerzialisiert, was sicher erfrischend sein wird. Ich habe eine Woche frei, also falls mich jemand im garantierten tropisch warmen Wetter besuchen kommen moechte, nur zu – ich wuerde mich freuen!
Danke, an euch alle, dass ihr Teil meines Erwachsen-werden seit und Geduld mit mir habt!

Sofa-stories from the Lion Mountains

What is your own sign of growing up? What was the step that made you feel like you have left youth behind and moved into a new sphere? Like an initiation into adulthood – how does or did this look for you? For me, the symbol of settling down is a heavy, expensive sofa. It will make you want to move around less, it is a financial investment, it requires some other furniture to go with it. Some of my friends had the guts to get a sofa at the age of 18 – I remember the feeling of panic that grew in my stomach when I imagined having to buy a sofa myself back then!
So for the past decade, I have either not had any sofa, bought the cheapest and smallest Ikea sofa that was available (100 bucks, a real catch) or have lived off cane furniture the last five years (a whole sofa set for under USD 200, also a real catch). The latter is made by the apt Sierra Leonean Abel – Abel and Cain/cane, rings a bell? He has become a friend over the years, and I have recommended him and his business to many other people, to which he thanked me by naming his child after me. It was a boy though, so the name Naomi wasn’t fitting – he turned it into Nami (which in Krio means “this is me”). Nami is now nearly three years old, and he is talking, a conversation that goes like this:
Someone: “Hi little man, how are you?”
Nami: “fine, tell god tenki”
Someone: “and what is your name?”
Nami: “Nami”
Someone: “yes, but what is your name?”
Nami: “Nami!”
Someone: “yes, I know this is you, but what is your name?!”
Nami: “Mi name Nami!”
Someone: ??
I really feel sorry for inflicting this confusion on Nami – but he seems to grow up strong and healthy, so I am confident he will fight off any confusion easily.

SOFA INAUGURATION

So, back to sofas. Nami’s father made me the first beautifully colourful sofa in Sierra Leone, which has lasted me five years. I have recently found out that I will be in Sierra Leone for another four years – for reasons I cannot explain to you yet – and that was the moment I realized that I am ready. I am ready to invest in a sofa, to settle down (at least for four years), leave youth behind me and carry the weight of a heavy sofa around my neck (figuratively). An Ethiopian friend of mine designed and built a massive grey sofa with storage unit and colourful pillows together with talented Sierra Leonean carpenters and upholsterers.
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Photo 1: Blen, the designer, on the new sofa. 
 
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Photo 2: Snapshot from the official sofa inauguration sunset drinks and snacks event.
I had a little inauguration event of the sofa, to mark this significant event – to which Jayne commented: “Ah nice, the last inauguration event I have been part of was for a church altar – food is better here!”

YOUNG LADY

While I think I am growing up and growing older (less than a month to go before the big #THREEZERO hits me), clearly the folks in the Ministry of Health think differently. Several people have greeted me with “Good morning, young lady” in the corridor the last few weeks. Something about this really works me up, and I have replied quite harshly to all of them that I am actually not that young anymore and anyway, my name is Madam Naomi, in case they have forgotten.
On Friday, I was waiting with a group of other people for a meeting with the Minister, when the deputy Minister of Health came out and greeted me with “Good morning, young lady”. I tried to remain friendly, but also told him that I am actually not that young anymore. He laughed and said but I can’t be 40 yet – which I had to agree to. Seems like anyone below 40 is considered young in Sierra Leone. Few minutes later we are walking into the Minister’s office, and he greets me with “Good morning, tall lady”. I told him this is better than “young lady”, to which he laughed and said but I can’t be more than 37 or 38? When I told him I haven’t reached there yet, he said “well, that means I should call you baby – I just thought because of the kind of work you do you must be at least 37”. What is wrong with just calling me Madam Naomi?! My face must have clearly told him that I do not approve of “baby” – when I left he said “Good bye, smart lady”. Small victories.

BOAT TRIP

No matter if I am young, deemed young, or old, my thirst for adventures is never quenched. We recently went on supervision, to support district Human Resource Officers and assistants across the country to better manage and motivate the health workforce. CHAI (where I work) have helped government implement this reform to further decentralize the health system, and increase transparency and accountability, as well as improve service delivery.
I thrive on these trips, not just because it is very rewarding to see the change on the ground, but also because there are all sorts of adventurous experiences that make me feel alive. On our recent trip, we had to cross to Bonthe Island, which is where the government hospital is for Bonthe district, a very remote and challenging district for service delivery.
I have made this journey before, but always in chartered speedboats, which take you across in 45 minutes, but also cost about 100 dollars, one way. This time, we decided to take the “ferry”, which costs LE 15,000 per person – less than 2 dollars, for the 90-120 minute journey, with two stops on other islands in between. The actual government ferry is not used, as the fuel costs of running it are too expensive – so a wooden boat is used instead. The rules are clearly indicated on the top, with fines attached to it. My favourite one was “I don’t want palava – fine 50,000” / “I don’t want any gossip/big talks – the fine is LE 50,000 (about 6 dollars)”.
We headed off on our journey with a goat, motorbike, 30 people and bags on board. We stopped at a “service station” and were offered smoked shrimps, fish and nuts for sale. Right next to me, there was a guy solely responsible for draining the water that filled the boat in regular 30-minute intervals – whenever the water was just about to reach my feet, he started pouring it out again. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
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Photo 3: Waiting for the ferry at Yargoi. 
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Photo 4: getting on the ferry. Note the bike on top of it. 
 
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Photo 5: I dont want palava – fine 50,000. 
 
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Photo 6: pit stop on the way, to buy smoked shrimps. 
 
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Photo 7: On Bonthe Island. 
 
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Photo 8: Eating Swiss apples waiting for the ferry to Mattry, sponsored and delivered by Rachel!
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Photo 9: Team in Mattru, at the District Health Management Team offices. 
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Photo 10: team with the deputy Mayor on Bonthe Island. 
The other part of growing up is not celebrating Christmas with family – because of expensive flight prices, and other planned trips, I will not come to Switzerland over Christmas this year. It will be my first time celebrating without my family, and I am dreading it, while at the same time being excited to be in Sierra Leone for this celebratory season. I have some time off, so feel free to come join me here over Christmas! Beautiful warm weather guaranteed 🙂
All of you – thanks for bearing with me while I am growing up!

It wasn’t raining

It wasn’t raining when I arrived in Sierra Leone, five years ago today. British Airways was still flying back then (they stopped when Ebola broke out), and on my overnight flight from London to Freetown, to the new to-be-home, I met my first Sierra Leonean ever, and apparently fell asleep on his shoulders. I jumped into life in Sierra Leone with the same lack of physical and emotional distance as on this flight, extending trust and friendship far and wide, and largely being repaid with the same trust and friendship.

The second picture I took in Sierra Leone was the view from the Youyi building, that houses the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, where I was going to work for two years (I had no idea back then that I would still see that view everyday five years later). 2013-10-25 08.32.13.jpg

Today, it looks like this: IMG_2479

 

Seen much change? I know it looks fairly the same, so let me tell you of some of the other things that changed in those five years:

  1. They fixed the road in front of the entrance (go check again – see the difference?).
  2. Everyone is using email and whatsapp now (there was no internet in the Ministry, when I came five years ago.) Communication is much easier now – I remember how we struggled to get invitation letters for meetings to the districts. The Directorate of Primary Health Care had letter boxes for all districts, that would get emptied whenever the District Medical Officer was in town – no one really knew when and how often this would happen.
  3. The speed of implementation has increased. Maybe that is linked to the above point, or maybe I just know better how things work and how projects and reforms can be implemented.
  4. There is no more canteen downstairs. The Youyi canteen served me my first lunch in country (it was beans, plantain and fish) and has been a love/hate affairs for three years, before it closed down and was supposed to be re-opened by the sister of the then-President, but that never happened. Now we have a new President, but still no canteen.
  5. I have moved down one floor (did you notice the slight change of perspective on the pictures?). I started working on the fifth floor for 2.5 years, and have now spent the last 2.5 years on the fourth floor. The fourth floor is definitely more active.
  6. Mortality indicators have gone down and up and down. Ebola didn’t help us.
  7. I have a travel pillow now, so I don’t fall asleep on strangers’ shoulders in planes anymore.

What has not changed in the five years:

  1. My neverending passion for my job and Sierra Leone in general.
  2. My neverending fascination with my job and Sierra Leone in general.
  3. My neverending adventures in my job and Sierra Leone in general.
  4. My hopefully-ending-at-one-point frustrations in my job and Sierra Leone in general.
  5. My neverending gratefulness for the opportunities I have. Thank you.

I am glad I survived until my fifth Salone birthday – and look forward to more to come. By God in power.

 

Insomnia musings: Why am I in Sierra Leone?

I just recently returned from holidays in Europe, and enjoyed the long and warm summer days, the abundance of fruits, vegetables, hot pressure showers and cool baths in beautifully clean lakes, the consistent availability of power, selections of cheese and yogurt. The majestic mountains you can climb on well prepared pathways, free of potential snakes and malaria-infested mosquitos, the always punctual trains that get you anywhere in no time and let you read your book in peace and quiet, while even providing functional toilets. The spontaneous gatherings with friends on Friday afternoons sitting in the sun at the river, enjoying a wide selection of cocktails and planning the weekends, full of family and friends who have known you for ages and where you feel home, and happy. The endless sale sections, with beautiful catches and super tempting bargains, providing whatever the heart desires. The closeness of Europe, where you can travel to any major city in few hours from Switzerland, being inspired by the French laissez faire on one day, and enjoying hearty Austrian sausages the next day while watching the Alps eternally beautiful horizon.

I still get homesick whenever I see mountains in the distance – I realised that it is not the mountain itself that makes me homesick, but seeing them from afar, as this is how I grew up – seeing the outline of mountains behind every corner and from every hill.

It was all of the above that made me send a question to my trilateral friends back in Salone – Why am I in Sierra Leone? Remind me again. Life is so easy and beautiful in Europe. And I understand I only see it when I am on vacation, but surprisesurprise – I have lived and worked there before, for the majority of my life, actually.

My smart and wise friend answered, half as a question and half as a statement – “You know the answer to that.

And I do. It is more a gut feeling, than a rational answer. And that gut feeling is passionate enough to draw me back to Salone and keep me here, through good times and bad times. I am on a mission. I am living out my biggest passion, and I am privileged to be able to do so.

Make the world a more equal place, a more just place and a place where people have opportunities.

I studied the theory, I tasted what the classical path to a nice life would feel like in Switzerland, and I left, to find a place where I feel alive. And aye, have I felt alive, have I felt despair, excitement and sadness, heartbreak and jubilation, a whole rollercoaster of emotions.

One of my greatest strengths and weakness at the same time is that my memory blanks out negative experiences – I remember good things much more and better than bad things, to a point where my friend had to remind me that I was burgled twice, robbed twice, as well as sexually assaulted, when I told someone else that nothing has ever happened to me in Sierra Leone. I honestly meant my statement and it only dawned on me after she reminded me, that actually quite a few things have happened to me.

I have no regrets – and not just because I never liked the sentiment of regret, as I find it pointless – you can’t change what happened, just live with it. I have no regrets because I feel alive, with every fibre of my body and inch of my brain. Admittedly, sometimes I am tired, or suffer from insomnia (like now) but generally Salone makes me use all my senses, all my talents and all my risk-appetite, a very satisfying feeling.

My passion is that others can experience this thrilling feeling of existence too – whatever this entails for you. I am thankful for Mama Salone, for making me feel alive, and I am thrilled to be working towards making others feel alive too.

Presidential-stories from the Lion Mountains

What story would you like to hear today:
a) how I ended up being followed with a photographer and a journalist for week; or
b) how I spent four hours sitting at a table with the President of Sierra Leone, worrying about my hair; or
c) why I started making chocolate; or
d) how I got stuck for half a day in the jungle close to the Liberian border?
I’ll leave d) for another blog post, as it is a beautiful little story – but that still leaves you with three choices, so choose well! Sierra Leone is in the election fever – presidential and parliamentary elections were on 7th March, the run-off is on the 27th March, and the current president – Ernest Bai Koroma – can’t stand for another term after 10 years or ruling, so there will be a change of leadership. Politics in Sierra Leone have been largely dominated by two parties – a green one and a red one (no connection with what we assign with these colours), the one from the South-East and the one from the North of the country. Party membership is often based on tribes and origin, and not so much on policies. It is always funny asking strong party members about the main difference to the opposition party and guess what – both would say “we are less corrupt than the other”. But that is the only perceived difference, making political discussions here very interesting. However, this time around, a third party emerged, with a very eloquent, charismatic and smart leader (guess where my sympathies lay…), who has forced the conversation into a bit more of “what actually needs to happen to move this country forward, and who has the best ideas for that?”. For the first time in history, there was a presidential debate with the six major candidates, which was streamed live on all radio stations, TVs and internet – and I had a (very emotional) blast listening to the various candidates’ ideas for speeding up development of Sierra Leone. One candidate seriously promised to improve the whole health system within three weeks – that sounds like a task for superman and wonderwoman.
There was also this ‘obama’-moment, when the same eloquent, charismatic and smart candidate gave his closing remarks – giving me goosebumps with “you touch one, you touch all”. For those of you who understand Krio, enjoy it here: (well spent 3 minutes, trust me).

 

Pic: my living room, just before the presidential debates started! The TV belongs to Elias, in case you wondered.
Being the President of Sierra Leone is a multi-million dollar job (a year…) and a way more influential position than we know it from our countries, so it is no wonder that the campaigns are fought hard and with whatever the candidates have. It is common practice to pay people money and give them a t-shirt with the party colours and symbols to go out on the street and rally for a certain candidates. So the strength of the different rallies are a good indicator of how much money each party has. See here for some insights from my balcony:

​Pic: the APC party rallying today.
 
Anyway. I am sure you’d like to hear about b) how I ended up sitting at a table with the President of Salone for 4 hours, worrying about my hair. Well, the very next day after the presidential elections, I went to the same venue where the debates were held, attending the launch of the social health insurance scheme of Sierra Leone. You probably know that I have worked on this extensively in my first two years in Sierra Leone, but then Ebola changed everything and other people took over. However, the President wanted to launch this before the end of his term, to leave it as one of his legacy projects. There were about 500 invited guests in the Bintumani conference center, with a big stage and high table at the front, including a red satin chair for the President.
Pic: the Bintumani conference center with the high table, for the launching of the Social Health Insurance. 
​Now, quick explanation – Sierra Leonean events or programs or workshops or trainings or birthdays or award nights or anything that is significant in life should have a high table, where distinguished dignitaries sit and give speeches, before the beginning of the actual program. This can easily take half of the total assigned time of the program, or even most of it. Without it, a program is not deemed ‘official’ enough and lacking ‘the appropriate weight’. So, high tables it is.

Well, sitting at the very back, I enjoyed watching all the paramount chiefs (there are 144 nationwide, and they are the key leaders on the ground) walking in their fabulous outfits, enjoying the feeling of being where just 12 hours before, the presidential candidates were for their debates. The program starts and Ministers are called up to the high table, leaving the red seat for the president. I suddenly hear my name being called “Naomi” and a finger being pointed at me, with several hundred heads turning to watch the white woman turning red. The lack of alternatives led to me being called up to the high table, supposedly giving a speech on behalf of development partners and observing the etiquette required around a head of state. Needless to say, I was not prepared and worried about what I would say and do and how to not get kicked out of the country by the President because I could tell him I actually don’t think that Social health insurance is a good idea now. Apart from worrying about my hair (I didn’t wash it in the morning, shame on me…) and worrying about my posture (all the TV cameras make nervous), I tried to get the message across the chairman, that I can’t give a statement, due to non-preparedness.

Pic: us standing for the arrival of the President, in the middle of the table. I am the pale woman on the very left. 
 
You won’t believe how many nerves it cost me, to be sitting at that table for four unexpected hours – do you pretend you are taking notes, when they make inappropriate jokes about the opposition party? Do you smile when they all clap for the president, can you clap as well – even though you represent all health development partners? What face are you supposed to make on a high table, when the President says something you completely disagree with? You can see the dilemmas and mind battles I was having, while on a bigger adrenaline rush that any caffeine or similar pill could give you. I did say “Congratulations for a bold initiative” to him afterwards, and left it at that. Time for a glass of wine…
I think I have rambled on enough and we will leave story a) and story c) for another post…

Internat ahoi!

Nachdem die Bibliothek nun fertig gebaut und funktional ist, koennen wir uns wieder neuen Dingen widmen. Madam Chief und die SCHRAMM-Connection haben ein neues Projekt: ein Internat fuer Maedchen aus entfernten Doerfern.

Viele kleine Doerfer um Nyandeyama herum haben keine Sekundarschule, und um die Kinder in die Schule zu schicken, muessen sie zu Verwandten ziehen. Oft werden sie da als Haushaelterin/Putzfrau/Koechin benutzt, und haben nur wenig Zeit um zu lernen und zu studieren, ausserdem fehlen sie oefters in der Schule. Madam Chief moechte ein kleines Internat bauen fuer talentierte und motivierte Maedchen, um ihnen den Zugang zu hoeherer Schulbildung zu ermoeglichen. Das Land wurde vom Chief zur Verfuegung gestellt, wir brauchen also vorerst nur Geld um das Gebauede zu bauen.

Mit CHF 20’000 koennen wir einen guten ersten Bau ermoeglichen – das ist nichts fuer uns, oder? Jeder Rappen zaehlt und ermoeglicht einem Maedchen Zugang zu Sekundarschule – hilf uns hier:

Alle Spenden werden vollumfänglich der Schule zugute kommen.

Wer lieber per Bankueberweisung spenden moechte, sende mir bitte ein Email an noemi.schramm@gmail.com, oder einen Brief an Noemi Schramm, Schlossgasse 1, 8575 Buerglen TG.

Plenti tenki, sir and ma! 🙂

Praesidenten-geschichten von den Lion Mountains

Welche Geschichte moechtest du gerne lesen?
a) wie ich eine Woche lang von einem Fotographer und einem Journalisten auf Schritt und Tritt begleitet wurde; oder
b) wie ich vier Stunden lang an einem Tisch mit dem Praesidenten von Sierra Leone sass und mich um meine Frisur sorgte; oder
c) warum ich angefangen habe, Schokolade zu produzieren; oder
d) wie ich einen halben Tag lang im Regenwald festsass nahe der Liberianischen Grenze?
Ich spare d) fuer ein anderes Update, weil es eine nette kleine Geschichte ist. Aber das heisst, du hast immer noch drei zur Auswahl! Sierra Leone ist auch im Wahlfieber, es waren Praesidenten und Parlamentswahlen am 7. Maerz, und eine zweite Runde am 27. Maerz. Der amtierende Praesident – Ernest Bai Koroma – kann nicht mehr antreten, weil er schon zwei Amtszeiten hinter sich hat.
Sierra Leone’s politische Landschaft wird durch zwei grosse Parteien dominiert – eine gruene und eine rote (hat keine Verbindung mit was wir unter diesen Farben kennen), die Eine vom Suedosten und die andere vom Norden des Landes. Die Parteimitglieder unterscheiden sich oft in hauptsaechlich durch den Geburtsort der Mitglieder, und die Stammeszugehoerigkeit. Ich finde es immer wieder erheiternd, nach dem Unterschied zwischen rot und gruen zu fragen, und beide Parteien ruehmen sich darauf als “die weniger korrupte”. Sonst gibt es kaum Unterschiede. Fuer diese Wahlen hat sich eine neue Partei gegruended, unter einem eloquenten, charismatischen und erfahrenen Praesidentschafskandidaten, der die Diskussionen etwas mehr Richtung “Was ist wirklich noetig in diesem Land um die Entwicklung voran zu treiben und wer hat die besten Ideen dazu?”. Das erste Mal in Sierra Leone’s Geschichte gab es eine landesweit ausgestrahlte und uebertragene Debatte mit den sechs Hauptkandidaten fuers Praesidialamt. Ich verbrachte einen auesserst emotionalen und leidenschaftlichen Abend damit, den verschiedenen Kandidaten zuzuhoeren (und zuzuschreien, in gewissen Situationen). Ein Kandidat hat versprochen, das Gesundheitssystem innerhalb drei Wochen komplett zu revolutionieren – klingt nach einer Aufgabe fuer Superman und Wonderwoman.
Es gab aber auch einen echten “Huehnerhaut”-Moment, als der selbe eloquente, charismatische und erfahrene Kandidat seine Schlussrede hielt.
Fuer Leser, die Englisch (und Krio) koennen, hier kann man sich die Rede anschauen:
Foto: Mein Wohnzimmer, kurz bevor die Debatte startete! Der grosse Fernseher gehoert uebrigens Elias, falls ihr euch wundert…
Das Amt als Praesidenten von Sierra Leone lohnt sich – neben dem omnipraesenten Einfluss des Praesidenten, verdient er auf legale und weniger legale Weise jaehrlich mehrer Millionen Dollars. Das erklaert auch, wieso mit allen Mitteln um das Amt gekaempft wird. Es passiert oft, dass Leute bezahlt werden und mit einem Parteien-Tshirt bekleidet auf die Strasse los gesendet werden, um Werbung zu machen. Die Anzahl Leute, die an den verschiedenen Strassenmaersche teilnehmen, ist ein guter Indikator dafuer, wie reich eine Partei ist.  Vor zwei Wochen war der wohl groesste Umzug – hier sind einige Eindruecke von meinem Balkon:

​Foto: die APC Partei war auf der Strasse heute. 
Wie auch immer – ich bin sicher, ihr wollt etwas ueber die Geschichte mit dem Praesident und dem Tisch und meinen Haaren erfahre. Einen Tag nach der Debatte ging ich zum gleichem Konferenzzentrum, um an der offiziellen Lancierung der Nationalen Krankenkasse von Sierra Leone teilzunehmen. Ihr magt euch wahrscheinlich erinnern – ich habe viel Zeit in meinen ersten zwei Jahren mit der Entwicklung der Krankenkasse verbracht, aber dann kam Ebola und andere Leute uebernahmen die Ausarbeitung der Details. Nun wollte der Praesident die soziale Krankenversicherung launcieren bevor seine Amtszeit fertig ist, und das Projekt als sein Erbe hinterlassen. Es waren etwa 500 Leute eingeladen ins Konferenzzentrum, mit einer grossen Buehne und einem Ehrentisch, inklusive rotem Samtstuhl fuer den Praesidenten in der Mitte..
Foto: das Bintumani Konferenzzentrum mit Ehrentisch, bereit fuer die Lancierung der nationalen Krankenversicherung. 
​Kurze Erklaerung: Jeder Anlass in Sierra Leone, sei es Workshops, Ausbildungstage, Geburtstage, Preisverleihungen, oder was auch sonst im Leben wichtig ist, hat einen Ehrentisch, an dem hochstehende Gaeste Platz nehmen, und das Programm mit Reden eroeffnen. Diese Ehrentische und Eroeffnungszeremonien koennen gut und gerne den grossen Teil des Programmes ausmachen. Ohne diese Zeremonie wird ein Program als nicht offiziell genug, oder nicht mit der passenden Wichtigkeit empfunden. Die Ehrentische und Zeremonien muessen sein.

Ich sass also im Konferenzzentrum ganz hinten, und genoss das Beobachten der Gaeste. Alle 144 Chiefs waren da in praechtigen Gewaendern, und ich dachte gerne daran zurueck, dass vor 12 Stunden alle Praesidentschafskandidaten im gleichen Raum waren. Das Program beginnt und die Minister (Bundesrat) werden an den Ehrentisch gerufen, da hoere ich auf einmal meinen Namen – “Naomi” und einen Finger, der auf mich zeigt, sowie mehrere hundert Personen, die sich nach mir umdrehen. Eine Reihe von verschiedenen Umstaenden fuehrte dazu, dass ich aufgefordert wurde, am Ehrentisch teilzunehmen und eine Rede zu halten, im Namen der Entwicklungspartner. Schockiert und leicht ueberfordert gehe ich auf die Buehne und denke fieberisch daran, was wohl die Benimmregeln sind, wenn man den Praesidenten eines Landes trifft. Und was sagt man an einem Anlass, wenn man die Idee der Krankenkasse unausgereift findet und schlecht umgesetzt? Kann man das sagen, ohne den Praesidenten zu beleidigen (ich hab es nicht gesagt, keine Angst…). Ich hatte also vier Stunden lange Zeit um zu bedauern, dass ich am Morgen meine Haare nicht gewaschen habe, und auf meine Haltung zu achten, vor den Fernsehkameras. Darf man lachen, wenn sich die Ministers ueber die anderen Parteien lustig machen? Soll ich vortaeuschen, ich mache mir Notizen, wenn alle fuer den Praesidenten applaudieren und ich aber nicht mag, was er gesagt hat? Ihr seht – so unter Beobachtung hat jede Gestik auf einmal viel mehr Bedeutung. Ich habe mich dann freundlich geweigert, eine Rede zu halten, aber hatte die Moeglichkeit, dem Praesidenten spaeter zu sagen “Gratulatiere zu einer mutigen Initiative” – und dann brauchte ich wirklich ein Glas Wein.

​Foto: Stehend den Praesidenten begruessen, der sich in der Mitte gerade hinsetzt – ich bin die blasse Frau ganz links aussen. 
Ich glaube, ich habe genug erzaehlt fuer heute, und wir lassen Geschichten a) und c) fuer ein anderes Update…

Let them read – the library is open!

Nothing feels more satisfying and makes happier than seeing the outcome of an idea that the CIA school and the SCHRAMM Connection had two years ago. Persistent fundraising, generous donors, including Noemi’s old Kantonsschule in Kreuzlingen, and a lot of community efforts contributed to the newly built library at the CIA school in Nyandeyama. The library has received a first stock of youth and young adults books from a book drive in the US, and the SCHRAMM Connection will add textbooks to the selection. Madam Margaret Suwu organised shelves from the local supermarket, and the local carpenter is still working on more tables and chairs, that will allow the students to use the library as a learning and resource center. Watch for yourself: video