The hills of the Freetown peninsula fade behind us into the morning haze. Before us the road snakes through a panoramic landscape of palm trees and villages. As we pass through one village – marked only by an increase in dwellings and people by the side of the road – our driver slows, and shouts a greeting to a passerby. “This is my village,” he says as we pull away.
An hour later we slow and stop at an elderly single lane bridge spanning a wide slow river. Congregating traders gravitate towards the vehicle. “Chips?” says one, 30 plastic bags of fried plantain slices upon a platter balanced on her head.
“Apple, banana?” says another.
We get bananas.
Another hour and we arrive at our destination, a small hospital where we are to meet survivors of ebola. This part of the country was devastated by the virus. I am told of entire families who died and houses that still stand empty. But the staff we meet are inspiring. Doctors who have chosen to work here and are committed to developing their hospital, nurses and paramedical staff working to improve access to the services people need.
The day passes quickly – I am captivated by the stories. Survivors struggle with the loss of family and friends as well as the impact of their own illness – but many are studying at college, have ambitions for their small businesses, are training for promotion, supporting their families and building new lives.