Grandmother and children living in Sierra Leone
Story – 13 March 2018

A life inspired

by Professor Ruth Finnegan FBA

In the late 1960s I spent what was to become one of the most intensely formative years of my life in the villages of northern Sierra Leone – Kamabai, Kabala, and above all, my beloved hilltop Kakarima.

My year amongst the Limba speakers, learning their language, and to a degree, their culture, changed my life. I see now how the arts and delights of Limba story-telling has shaped the style of my fiction-works as I try, mostly unconsciously, to echo the wonderful rhythms, cadences and oral immediacy of African story-telling in my own work.

In the years since, I have watched helplessly as the villages I love suffer through one heartbreak after another. Ten years of civil war ravaged this beautiful place – then the Ebola epidemic dashed all their dreams of recovery. I grieve for every child that has been left parentless and alone as a result.


 
I try to help where I can. These days I devote the main proportion of my literary and lecturing income to hands-on charities like SOS Children’s Villages, who have done so much to help the community make it through the dark times of the past few decades.

During the war, when the region fell to rebel forces, SOS was there to provide food and shelter to those fleeing the violence.  When the Ebola virus ran rampant, SOS helped to contain its spread and save lives. And for hundreds of children who were left orphaned or separated from their parents by the horrors of war and disease, SOS offered a home and a family in the SOS Children’s Village in Makeni.

Every child deserves, and needs, someone to love them. It is my hope that by helping SOS to give children a better start in life – a proper education and a loving family – I can contribute towards a brighter future for the country that has inspired me so much.
Ruth’s most recent novels include ‘Voyage of Pearl of the Seas’, and ‘Black Inked Pearl’.