St George Foundation

St George Foundation

St George Foundation

I was at a Victorian Christmas Carol Concert at St Mark’s Church. A wonderful production by the children of nearby St Mark’s Primary School, all in Victorian dress. The collection was for St George Foundation, something to do with children, but beyond that I took little notice.

On my way out I had a brief chat with Rev Ian Hedges, thanked him for a wonderful evening and said I was once again very impressed by the children of St Mark’s Primary School.

Ian was chatting to a man, and I do not know why, but we got into into conversation about piracy off the coast of Sierra Leone and the destruction of the inshore fisheries by EU-subsided fishing off the coast.

It turned out he was Philip Dean, founder of St George Foundation.

I knew the destruction was bad, but I did not know how bad. Philip told me how on the local market there used to be fish half the length of a man, now they were lucky to catch fish barely the length of a hand. The fish catch had plumetted. There is also a problem of illegal fishing by South East Asian boats which the government it trying very hard to stamp out, but they don’t really have the navy power to do so. I was shocked how close the fishing vessels came. A mere couple of hundred metres offshore . Fisherman find their nets are full of the detritus of Western civilisation. What was a sustainable fishing industry has been destroyed. The fisherman have now resorted to the more lucrative business of piracy. [see Somali-argh]

I suggested he contacted Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall who has launched a sustainable fishing campaign, with a tie-in Channel 4 series in the New Year. Maybe Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall would like to see what EU-subsidised industrial fishing has done to the sustainable Sierra Leone in-shore fishing. [Dumping dead fish in the sea]

Philip was in Sierra Leone and was shocked by what he found, a war-torn country, children living on the street, many of the girls forced to work as child prostitutes. Most people would have tut tut and gone home. But not Philip, out of his own pocket he decided to rent a house to house and feed the children.

He managed to find enough for a year’s rent, but he wanted to have a buffer of three month’s financial security and his resources did not stretch that far. He prayed and prayed. He cursed God when the money was not forthcoming, then an order came through (Philip has his own business), the money was exactly the amount he needed. He decided to take no profit from the order, it all went to cover the three month buffer.

Is there such a thing as divine intervention? Philip believes so. Taking children off the street does not make him very popular. One day he had to change his travel plans due to threats from local gangsters who were none to happy that he had taken their working girls off the street. As a result he found himself at a hotel where he would not otherwise be. He found himself chatting to the only White people at his hotel. It turned they did not expect to be there either, there had been a problem with their original hotel. He explained why he was there, and that he needed to build a house to house all his kids. They told him they were in Sierra Leone looking for a project to support. They offered to build his house for him, an offer he readily accepted.

Why therefore, I asked, was there no mention of your work when the collection was taken? To my surprise he said they already know. I looked at him in amazement.

He then told me when he got back from Sierra Leone he realised the immensity of the task in hand was not something he could support or finance on his own. He needed help. He set up St George Foundation as it was a name everyone could identify with and St George’s Day, 23 April, could be a focus for fundraisng.

He wrote to every school in Hampshire. The one that responded, and responded with enthusiasm, was St Mark’s. He told me how all the children at St Mark’s ‘adopted’ a child at St George Foundation. At Christmas they each gave a Christmas present. He said a pallet had been sent out by container in September and had just arrived.

One of his projects was rice growing. I never knew Sierra Leone grew rice, but apparently before the civil war the country was a major rice grower. In the war everything had been destroyed, including the tools. The World Bank did what it is best at, destroyed what was left of the local rice growing by dumping subsidised US rice on the country.

Thanks to the US, EU, and World Bank, the country has seen its two staple food supplies destroyed. Now dependent upon imports, the price has soared.

St George Foundation was getting through 1 tonne
a month of rice, something they could not afford. Hence the rice growing project, the surplus being sold to raise money.

St George Foundation not only provides a safe environment for the children to live, it also helps to send them to school. The good news is that two of the children may go to university.

They have also been able to reunite many of the children with their families.

A few of the children were brought over to England. A visit to Guildford happened to coincide with the Queen handing out Maundy Thurday money at Guildford Cathedral. Meeting the Queen the children must have thought they had gone to heaven.

I was very much reminded of Canon Andrew White, aka Vicar of Baghdad, and his love of the children of Baghdad and how he has rescued many from the streets, a small group he brought on a visit to England. I mentioned the work he does and suggested reading Suffer the Children.

As I thought of this I also thought of Paulo Coelho and his wife Christina and the support they give to the street kids in Rio.

As these words are typed, I think of Charles Dickens and how he higlighted the plight of Victorian children, which brings me back to the little urchins who made such a wonderful evening with their Victorian Carol Concert.

I am pleased to report that the collection for St George Foundation taken at the Victorian Christmas Carol Concert raised £200.

St George Foundation can be found on facebook.

Synchronicity: The coming together of inner and outer events in a way that cannot be explained by cause and effect and that is meaningful to the observer

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