Author Archives: stjosephsmakeni

There’s no rest for the St Joseph’s staff and pupils.

Hello to everyone,

Here in Makeni we’ve been having a rather erratic weather, at least for me. One moment we have the usual blistering and humid weather, the next we have a pouring rain accompanied by extremely strong winds with thunder and lightning that go on for at least 45 minutes. Then everything returns to normal like there was never any rain or storm. But I have been told it’s getting cooler (which I disagree with because I am still sweating buckets) now as the rainy is at our doorsteps.

Anyway, I hope everyone is gearing up for Easter break or preparing for Spring vacation for those of you who are on the other side of the world. At St Joseph’s we have been busy as usual with lots of activities, renovations, graduations, book launches, etc. Please grap a cup of coffee or icy cold lemon water and enjoy our second edition of the newsletter.


University of Makeni (UNIMAK) had an Open Day on the 28 March. Since Sr Mary is the Director of the Institute of Special Needs Education (ISNE), St Joseph was invited to showcase the work done by our pupils. The teachers and pupils were up for this challenge. We displayed our work from the tailoring/sewing, woodwork centre and hairdressing units. The staff from the Audiology Department also brought their equipment to show how assessment is conducted, explained different types of impairments and disabilities. It was a great success because we were able to show that disability is not inability.

Ms Christian (right) sewing and tailoring teacher and her students.
Institute of Special Needs Education Team at St Joseph’s Sr Mary Sweeney, Andrew Dumbuya, Siddie Kanu and Samuel Sesay.

The Woodwork Centre students sitting on chairs that they had made.



Sinead Walsh, former Irish Ambassador in Sierra and now EU Ambassador in South Sudan and Dr Oliver wrote a book called “Getting to Zero” which gives details of the unfolding of the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone and two neighbouring countries. The book was launched in a packed UNIMAK quad and we were there to give her our support. The proceeds of the book sales are coming to us here at St Joseph’s. Thank you Sinead and Oliver, we are truly grateful for your contribution. The book is also available as an e-book at


What an exciting time for us here at St Joseph’s! 4 of our carpentry students have graduated from Sierra Leone Opportunity and Industrialisation Centre. They have a completed their 2 year Certificate Programme in Carpentry. Well done! We wish you all the best with your future endeavours. Remember these words as you go out there in the world
Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela.

Graduates and Mr Lavalier (the carpentry teacher in white shirt).


Our school hall has been looking rather sad with its roof falling apart and its walls looking extremely unattractive. Thanks to our donor, Friends of St Joseph’s, we are busy refurbishing it during these holidays. The work started on Monday and should be ready by the time school re-opens in two weeks’ time. Keep an eye out for the freshly paint walls and ceilings and cooler hall…

Also on the subject of renovations and refurbishment, we have many other projects lined up to make our school a clean and safe environment to stimulate teaching and learning for our pupils. Thanks to our donors!


We are happy to report that we have had smoke detectors, alarms and fire extinguishers installed throughout the school by the Makeni City Fire Force. On Tuesday, two senior fire officers conducted fire prevention training for all staff – night carers, watchmen/security, catering, administration and teachers, in total 56 staff attended. The training was very comprehensive and included theory and practice. You can see some videos on our Facebook page.

Staff taking turns on putting out fire.
Staff attending theory part of the training.


When the last day of approaches, our pupils are not only excited but are doing their chores, too. I was walking around the school and came across these hardworking pupils cleaning their dining hall and classrooms. So impressive! Well done boys and girls!

Thank you for reading our April edition of the newsletter which came out early due to holidays. Today is the last of the school for this term, we will be on Easter break for two weeks.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish you a blessed Easter with your loved ones. For those of you who are travelling, may you travel safely.

Also please do not forget to follow us on our Facebook Page, this is where we post more regularly of all the happenings in this vibey and never-a-dull-moment school-

If you would like to contact us, you can do so: +232 640 028 (office hours) or


A warm greeting from both of us Carmel and myself, Thabile.

My name is Thabile Cele from South Africa (Durban), the long- awaited Assistant for Sister Mary. I am volunteering under VMM (Volunteering Mission and Movement).  I am in my final year of study, doing MA in International Humanitarian Action in Uppsala University, Sweden. I am a secondary school teacher by profession. I have lived in Japan, Sweden, Ireland and Poland. I have visited a few other countries. My hobbies are travelling, running, writing and photography. This is the first time I am living in another country in Africa and yes, it is very hot here. This is also  my first development assignment. I look forward to enjoying my time  here in Sierra Leone.

 I would like also to introduce Carmel Bradwell from Ireland who joined St Joseph’s  family in January. She is a volunteer supported by Mission Cara. Most of her teaching career was spent in Special Education. She was the Principal of a Special Needs school in Ireland for 20 years. On retirement in 2010 she spent the following 5 years working with UNICEF on School Improvement Planning projects in Uganda. In 2016 she worked on a youth project in South Africa. She is now sharing her expertise with us.

Without further ado let’s see what has been happening in our school:


St Joseph’s was visited by members of World Hope International. They were in the area and decided to drop by and donated a cheque of 200$.  Thank you!

Michael Gething and Jim Roszell from World Hope International US.


St Joseph Staff visited the PATE BANA VILLAGE, a nearby area that was severely devastated  by the Ebola endemic,  during 2014 to 2016. This area saw lost up to 160 people including many children.  These orphaned children are now looked after by relatives. The purpose for the visit was to distribute school uniforms, books, etc. Rice was given for the families caring for the children.  Caritas Germany over this long period have been extremely generous since this terrible disaster for so many Sierra Leone’s people.

The excitement at Pate Bana after students and families receive their goods


Our school took part in this annual track and field competition, called here Sport Day . We were very happy that  the Chairman, Linda Freestone and her husband Chris , our great donors from “Friends of St Joseph” in England, that day.

Let the games begin…


Prevention is better than cure! We invited the Makeni Fire Department to the school to conduct a full assessment on fire hazards and make recommendations. The results showed that we need at least 32 fire extinguishers!  We had only 6 fire extinguishers! We also discovered that the last time we were wrongly given 6 extinguishers for use in vehicles. Thank God for our wise friends who saw to our future safety!

Sr Elisa leading Mr Alimamy, the Fireman to the kitchen area. 

The Head Teacher under examination.


To complete a full day’s work, Vera Jeschke (Caritas Germany) comes to our tailoring department to shop.  …Look what she chooses. What a great way to end her  visit to Makeni! Thank you Vera for all your encouragement and help.

Bobson is helping Vera to buy bags…great choice!


The IT Department has been busy with the installation of new computers and getting them to work in a network system so as to improve learning and access to information. Mr Siddie Kanu is kept very busy with his very interested students. We are hopeful that we will be able to do a lot more to make our computer room better for wider education for the students.

Students having their computer literacy lesson.

AUDIOLOGY DEPARTMENT – 8th -10th March 2019

On the 8th March, a public holiday celebrating International Women’s Day. The Audiology Department was out in full force.They spent 3 days going to surrounding villages screening and assessment of students who were suspected of having a hearing loss.  A total of 84 students were screened so as to be able to give children hearing aids.

You can imagine that Monica Tomlin, our Audiologist and trainer of teachers of Hearing Impaired was kept very busy with these children screened.

SiddieKanu (Audiology Department)

Samuel Sesay (Audiology Department)                                              


We had  the great pleasure and honour of welcoming the team from Irish Aid, accompanied by Irish Ambassador Catherine, who came to visit to see the progress and the improvement of  future the lives of our students. They visited various departments and classrooms.We are also happy to report that they enjoyed their meals in our dinijng room followed by a very comfortable night in our guest house.

Photo from left ,St Joseph’s Head Teacher Andrew Dumbuya, Director Gejoseneral (DG) of Irish Aid  Ruairi  de Burka  and Head of Irish Aid in Sierra Leone, Mary O’Neill. The team was headed by Irish Ambassador, Catherine Campbell (Right).


Celebrating he Feast of  St. Joseph, we attended Mass in the Cathedral.  This was followed by a celebration meal for all our pupils and staff. The Cluny Sister keep St Joseph as the Father from all those in their care. The Mass was celebrated by Father George Conteh and the students were actively involved singing and clapping. A great joyful celebration.

St Joseph’s Feast Day


The purpose of the visit was to see the progress of the renovations that are taking place. I also had an opportunity to learn more about activities that are taking place. Rice harvesting and palm oil processing are the main work at the moment. I took a walk around the farm with the farm manager (Alfred) who showed me all the food that the farm produces cassava, pepper, pineapple, sweet potato etc. It was a great experience as I got a better understanding of how the farm is supporting the school with produce.

Renovations at the farm begins

Thank you for taking the time to read, my first newsletter. I tried to give you a flavour of what has happened over the last two months. We will endeavour to produce a newsletter every month from now on. I would be delighted to receive your suggestions on how to make this newsletter as interesting as possible to you our benefactors and donors.

Please do let me have any suggestions that may help you understand the life we live in St Joseph School.

My email:

Thank you,


Something for everyone at St Joseph’s

Monica Tomlin, who is the school’s educational audiologist,  has written a description of how the school is structured to take account of the varying needs of its 200 students with an age range between 4 and 25! The school and staff do everything in their power to ensure that each student receives an education according to their individual needs.

Something for everyone at St Joseph’s School

Ebola crisis

The school has been shut since the start of the crisis but before they all went home the children and staff were given clear instructions about how best to avoid catching the ebola virus. To date none of the staff or children have been affected.

However the real problem for those who escape the ebola virus (or recover from it) is the poverty caused by the crisis. Many businesses have failed and some of the major employers have stopped their business and laid off all their staff. Many families no longer have any income and are really struggling.

Sister Mary and the other Sisters are doing everything they can to assist those families worst affected.

If you wish to help please donate using the Virgin MoneyGiving website in the UK. Already money donated here is making a valuable contribution.