This is a new category on our website, aiming to highlight the work of Orthodox missionaries around the world. I am starting with the work of Paradise Kids 4 Africa, as it was my privilege to see this work in action in Sierra Leone when I was there in 2011 (volunteering as a nurse with the charitable organisation Mercy Ships).
Paradise Kids 4 Africa (PK4A) is the Australian support arm of the work of Reverend Themi (Archimandrite Fr Themistocles Adamopoulos), an Egyptian born Greek raised in Melbourne. Back in the 1960’s he was the founding member of Australian rock band “The Flies”, support band to “The Rolling Stones”. Fast forward and he turns to Christianity and goes back to his cultural and spiritual roots, Orthodoxy. He chose to become a monk, then a priest and then a missionary. Working among the poorest of the poor became his purpose in life. He went to Africa and worked in Kenya and now in Sierra Leone. The people of Sierra Leone are indeed among the poorest of the poor according to the United Nation’s Human Development Index. The HDI is a comparative measure of life expectancy, literacy, education, standards of living, and quality of life for countries worldwide. It is a standard means of measuring well-being, especially child welfare. Australia is listed as 2nd, while Sierra Leone is 180 out of 187. This puts Australia in the category of Very High Human Development, and Sierra Leone in the bottom category of Low Human Development.
Eleven years of brutal civil war, often fought with child soldiers, has left Sierra Leone in utter devastation, with an almost total absence of infrastructure despite its incredible wealth in natural mining resources. Although the country has been peaceful for the last seven years, the wounds of war dominate the country’s daily life: there are thousands of orphans, amputees, disabled, homeless and unemployed. Life expectancy is around 41 years for men and 44 for women. Many children have no access to schooling, millions live in inhumane conditions, and health care is unaffordable for the poor and substandard at best. For example Sierra Leone has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world (i.e. mothers who die in childbirth).
With support from Paradise Kids 4 Africa, Paradise 4 Kids (the US support arm) and supporters in Greece, Rev Themi is working hard to make a difference.
Since 2008 much has been done:
– in Freetown, the nation’s capital: a Mission headquarters known as the “Paradise Kids House”. Surrounding the Mission Headquarters is a small Chapel and a College of higher education teaching Early Childhood, Computer Studies, Communications, Journalism, Media Studies and Teacher Education; At another location in Freetown, primary and secondary school with approximately 2000 children and an adjacent church; At the Women’s Jail a Tailoring School to help rehabilitate women for their future outside of jail; the sponsorship of a small Hospital called the Good Shepherd Clinic.
– in Waterloo, a town on the outskirts of the capital: St Moses the African Orthodox Village with housing for the disabled, a school, a guest house, a church, a priest’s house and a Medical clinic.
The focus in Sierra Leone is education and training. But Rev Themi does not stop here. His long-term vision is for a prosthesis clinic to give a new lease of life to the amputees. “We’ll need a lot of money for this, but with God nothing is impossible” he says.
To find out more about the work of Rev Themi and PK4A, have a look at their website: http://pk4a.com