Christmas Gifts that Change Lives

Editor’s Note:  This is a guest post by my friend and former colleague, Alex Sancton. Christmas is coming. As is the materialistic madness that comes with it. But if you’re looking to avoid being peppered sprayed at Walmart or just want to find a gift that makes a difference in people’s lives, check out Alex’s story…

Dis na Salone (This is Salone)
By Alex Sancton

It was a Wednesday afternoon, week three of tagging along with World Vision Sierra Leone communications staff as we bumped around upcountry, gathering stories in Area Development Programs in Bonthe, Bo, and finally Kono.

Sierra Leone is an interesting place. Unique from village to village but unified with a sense of weariness after a prolonged, ten-year-war that left parts of the country, especially diamond-rich Kono, looking like an atomic bomb had hit. With the rebels naming their operation ‘Kill every living thing’, an atomic bomb is not far from the truth.

While things are slowly getting back to normal, the developmental impacts of the war have set things back significantly. People told me that this country was in better shape in the 1980’s than it is now. World Vision’s work in this country is more important than ever as poorly staffed and stocked (or non-existent) public health units try to take care of the thousands of children under five suffering from issues we have become familiar with – like malnutrition, malaria, and diarrhea from poor water sources.

And those are the common issues.

Enter 12-year-old Aiah Jimissa. We met Aiah on said Wednesday afternoon in the chiefdom of Fiama, located in Kono, about seven hours northeast of the capital Freetown. His father tells us that he was born with extreme bow legs (more commonly known as Ricketts), which affect his walking.

His father thought that sending him to school would be a punishment because of his condition—and as such, his status in the community. His aunt intervened however, and brought him to where she lives, closer to a school. Better, but still a two-mile walk. He told us how his feet would ache, and that he would always be late for school as he could only go so fast.

Enter World Vision and the Gift Catalogue.

“One day, as I was going to school on the road, I met with a man who introduced himself to me as World Vision Sierra Leone’s ADP Manager in my chiefdom. He felt sorry for me because of my condition. I was limping to school. He encouraged me and told me not to give up on school,” Aiah told us.

Michael, the ADP Manager, requested and received funds from the Gift Catalogue to buy a bicycle that Aiah could use to get to school.

“I didn’t know how to ride the bicycle, but my elder brother taught me. I used to spend one hour and thirty minutes walking on the road. It was always painful and I got tired by the time I reached school. Now that I have this bicycle I am at school in 25 minutes, and the pain is minimal. I am so grateful to World Vision,” Aiah said.

Here’s a video of Aiah riding his bike:

I’ll be the first one to say that it can be tough to make the link between gifts we purchase from the Gift Catalogue and how they are going to be used in the field. No longer. The link is simple. There is no more pain in walking for Aiah.


Funny stories. Good advice. Check out my books, “Simple(ton) Living: Lessons in balance from life’s absurd moments.” and “Balancing Priorities and Prioritizing Balance”. Click here to learn more and to purchase a copy. Thanks!

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