Derby Christians help slum-dwellers in Sierra Leone

image captionTed Swindale gives Usmanne her Health Care Training certificate

Like Comic Relief's celebrities, a team from Derby has spent time working in an African shanty town.

The group of eight from Derby Community Church (DCC) were operating in the slums of Freetown, Sierra Leone.

They included three medical experts, as the aim of the enterprise was to teach basic healthcare and hygiene.

Focussing on areas which lacked clean water, sanitation and any form of refuse collection, the group said education was its priority.

For Ted Swindale, a founder member of DCC, it was his ninth visit since links were forged with Sierra Leone in 1999.

The country was still in the grip of the civil war, which ended in 2000.

For Mr Swindale said: "It was all about sharing skills with the community rather than just money."

He added: "People in Partnership scheme enabled the building of a school for 700 pupils.

"This was what the community really wanted after the civil war which left so many orphaned."

The present government has introduced free healthcare for children under five and for pregnant mothers, but for Mr Swindale there is still a need for teams such as his to promote good health practices.

image captionAccess to clean water is an ongoing problem

Although the country is mineral rich and among the world's top 10 diamond producers, it is still ranked among the lowest on the Human Poverty Index.

While they based themselves in a Baptist church, the volunteers were clear they were not there to evangelise.

As Sarah Frost, a paediatrician at the Royal Derby Hospital confirmed, they regarded their work as humanitarian.

For this trip the group liaised with the charity Links International.

Mr Swindale said Nelson Mandela has been so impressed with reports of their community healthcare programme he has asked for it to be taken to his home village.

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