May 23 2015 Latest news:
Monday, August 25, 2014
British Ebola victim William Pooley told of Sierra Leone’s poverty and his brushes with the country’s political elite shortly before he was struck down by the potentially deadly virus.
In a moving email printed in the local village newsletter, he described in vivid detail his first impressions of the west African country which he had travelled to for a six-month volunteering stint at a hospice in the capital Freetown.
The nurse, 29, from Eyke in Suffolk, was helping to treat locals suffering from Aids, a disease which, according to the UN, 57,000 people live with and remains a lasting legacy of the country’s decade-long bloody civil war.
At one village meeting Mr Pooley was confronted with armed guards, singled out by dancing “devils” because of his white skin and sampled the hospitality of the well-heeled locals made rich from the country’s controversial diamond mining industry.
In an email printed in Inside Eyke, he said: “After pushing through a crowd outside the house we were ushered inside by police with AK47s.
“The host, rich and influential thanks to diamonds, had his house boys serve us cans of ice-cold, European lager.
“The deputy leader of the APC (All People’s Congress) was there, apparently the second most powerful politician in the country.”
He told how he was treated to a show from the “devils” – locals in an assortment of costumes, their faces painted or covered with wooden masks.
He said: “The devils danced wildly to drums and gourd shakers and drew quite a crowd....As the only white face in the crowd, the devils singled me out for harassment.
“In order to escape from under their hay and frock skirts I had to give them small change. It was all in good humour.”
But it was not all colourful entertainment and Mr Pooley also revealed the poverty and poor sanitation which blight so many lives there.
He said: “The houses are all mud-sand and palm thatch, the water is from one communal well and, of course, there is no electricity.”
The account was printed by his mother Jackie Pooley, who said her son had been touched by the tales of “horror” of those caught up in the country’s civil war, which ended in 2002.
In a testament to her son’s dedication, she wrote: “Above all, though, he finds the people there friendly, funny and hospitable, and is settling into his work, which is to provide home-based palliative care, generally for cancer and Aids sufferers, a facility which would be absent were it not for the hospice.”
Chris Mutten, a councillor on Eyke Parish Council, where Mr Pooley’s mother Jackie works as a clerk, said everyone is hoping Mr Pooley will fight off the disease.
He said: “He is a good lad. He has been doing a lot of good work, his heart is in the right place.
“His family are very proud of him, he has been all over the world and his work is all voluntary. He trained as a nurse and he is doing his bit for society.
“He went over there to provide palliative care and to help local villagers. He is a very brave man.”
Mr Mutten said the nurse’s family are well-known locally and runs Pooley Removals firm in Woodbridge.