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On Tuesday 12th May 2015, Malton Coachworks Technician Nick Gordge returned from his first trip to Sierra Leone.
Nick was asked to embark on the trip on behalf of the Company who have been supporting the charity ‘A Call to Business' for many years as part of our ‘Corporate Social Responsibility Programme'.
A Call to business was founded 15 years ago by Paul Szkiler, Uncle to Malton Coachworks and Classic Sportscar Centre, CEO James Szkiler and first began work in Sierra Leone during 2006. At that time UN sanctions and roadblocks were in place following the eleven years conflict that had torn the country apart. The Charity believe in challenging cultures and changing mind set through social impact investment work and believe business has a key role to play in alleviating poverty and social ills. A Call to Business Trading Ltd was established and now have a range of business in Sierra Leone. These include a micro finance company that has 11,000 clients and has to date lent $3.7 million of micro business loans. The Company has traded successfully through the Ebola crisis and continued to work in Quarantine cities. Other more recent ventures include a print and publishing business and a brick manufacturing company. A Call to Business now employ over 100 staff in Sierra Leone and have successfully set up a self-sufficient orphanage and school in the rural village of Rogbere. Since James Szkiler' last visit in 2008 a whole community has been developed and this is where technician Nick Gordge spent most of his trip.
Nick was tasked with maintaining machinery and vehicles and also teaching students basic mechanical skills in the school. Malton Coachworks is currently exploring the possibility of sponsoring a garage in Sierra Leone and Nick will prove crucial in the development of this. Nick will be heading out again in late July/early August to continue with the progress he has already made.
This trip has been a success, not only a benefit for the Charity and local people, but it was a life changing experience for Nick. Below are some brief questions put to Nick upon his return, which give a real insight and reaction to his first trip to Africa.
Our latest News page will continue to publish developments out in Sierra Leone.
How did your visit come about?
"I have always been interested in voluntary work abroad, but due to work and family commitments it had never been an option for me. I was at a low point in my personal life and had been through a stressful break up when I was asked by James if I was interested in spending some time in Sierra Leone in a support / training role for the Charity".
How did the reality of vising SL differ from your original perception?
"I was extremely surprised that even though the people in Sierra Leone face so much hardship they manage to stay positive and happy. I was made to feel so welcome. The people I met really valued my help, I didn't really think that my visit would make that much difference, but it did. The main road infrastructure was better than I had anticipated".
Has your experience helping, supporting the people in SL changed you?
"Yes very much, it has changed my outlook on life. We, in the UK take so much for granted. The people I met in Sierra Leone do so much with so little. They are so grateful for any help or support they receive and it makes you put your own problems into perspective. They are always happy and I didn't meet anyone with a negative attitude. I have changed my diet and eating habits completely. I've lost a lot of weight since I returned, and I have a much healthier diet now".
Have you ever been involved in any other charity work?
"Voluntary MSA / Motorsport, but this ties in with my own hobbies. I have never been involved in anything as important or as rewarding as this".
You went to SL as an advisor to help them improve their workshop facilities. How did this work out?
"The visit was a trip to help identify necessary equipment required for the workshops, to train the staff and plan future support. We did manage to repair the brick machine, a piece of machinery that can manufacture between 6 - 7 thousand bricks per day. We repaired concrete mixers that had been stood idle for 6 years, and we rewired generators that had been tripping out. I taught basic machinery maintenance to the staff and we repaired a water pump that failed during my visit. Rather than let the staff watch me carry out the work, I tried to stand back and supervise / support them through the process. I was very aware that we had a lot to do and not long to do it. My next visit is currently being planned".
You have put yourself forwards for a second visit, what will this entail?
"Finishing off projects already started. The machinery is old and unreliable and the staff require training on how to maintain and use it. There is difficulty ordering and sourcing parts. A same day / next day delivery that we take for granted in the UK, is unheard of in Sierra Leone. You can drive for 2 hours to try and locate a part only to find out that it isn't right. We had to carry around carrier bags full of notes to pay for the items. There was so much to do that we didn't have time to complete all the work necessary from the inventory. Since I returned to the UK I have been trying to source parts myself on various websites, as this is easier than doing it during the visit".
Did you get chance to visit any other community projects in Sierra Leone?
"Yes, I visited a school, an orphanage, brickworks, a woodwork shop where 2 or 3 locals make furniture for the school. I visited ‘A Call to Business' HQ which consist of the main office, a small printing shop, media and broadcast office, finance / loans department which funds loans to small starter businesses in the local area and the Church".
What was your overall impression of SL & the people you met through the Charity?
"I am extremely impressed with the work ethic of the people I met in Sierra Leone. The ones who receive support are thriving, they are well presented, hardworking and reliable. They are proud people who appreciate the help they have been given. I would have been happy to have helped change the life of one person I met, but I really feel that during one short visit I have helped make a difference to many lives. I can't wait to return".