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Sierra Leonean boy-soldier wins award for Ebola fight

by
13 March 2015

by a staff reporter

PICTURE PARTNERSHIP/WESTMINSTER ABBEY

Rehabilitation project: P. J. Cole at Westminster Abbey on Commonwealth Day 

Rehabilitation project: P. J. Cole at Westminster Abbey on Commonwealth Day 

A YOUNG Christian from Sierra Leone, P. J. Cole, who runs a project that rehabilitates former child soldiers, has been given a Queen's Young Leader Award.

Mr Cole, who is 28, is the executive director of Lifeline Nehemiah Projects. The organisation offers education, training, and a safe house for young people in Sierra Leone. It is also currently involved in the fight against the Ebola virus. The award recognises young people aged 18-29 who are transforming lives around the Commonwealth.

During the Commonwealth Day Observance in Westminster Abbey on Monday, Mr Cole addressed a congregation that included the Queen and other members of the royal family. He talked about how the organisation was originally set up by his parents to help child soldiers.

Mr Cole said: "Today, a group of these former child soldiers with whom I shared my life are standing shoulder to shoulder with me. Ebola hit; and our friends, neighbours, and colleagues were dying. . .

"As the number of Ebola orphans rises, these children could be viewed as victims. But we take a different view. We are increasing our capacity to care for them. And, like the former child soldiers who will support and mentor them, we see them as nation-builders: young men and women who will be part of the solution."

New cases of the virus are still occurring in Sierra Leone, although the infection rate has slowed. Liberia released its last-known patient this week, after a week without any new cases of the virus.

Nearly 10,000 people have died from the virus in the past year - the vast majority in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says that there were 132 new cases in Guinea and Sierra Leone in the week to 1 March.

Ebola-virus workers die. A couple in Sierra Leone, Augustine Baker and his wife, who worked for a charity run from the home of a churchgoer in Hampshire for children orphaned by the Ebola virus, have died from it. The couple had three children.

The charity, the St George's Foundation, was set up by Philip Dean, of St Barnabas's, Swanmore. It originally cared for children left orphaned or homeless after the civil war in Sierra Leone, but, since the arrival of the Ebola virus, the charity has been focusing on taking in children left orphaned by the disease.

Mr Dean paid tribute to Mr Baker, who went out into Ebola-ridden communities to find children who were orphaned, or abandoned because they were thought to be at risk from the virus. "Augustine . . . has been particularly active reaching out to help Ebola orphans in affected communities. His loss will be very greatly felt by all of us."

Mr and Mrs Baker's children are all under ten. They are now in quarantine, but the Foundation has pledged to look after them.

Mr Dean said that he was "deeply concerned for these little ones", who are in an observation centre run by a German charity. "All we can do now is watch and wait."

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