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Page last updated at 17:30 GMT, Monday, 25 October 2010 18:30 UK
Twinned cities Hull and Freetown celebrate 30 years
The twinning of Hull and Freetown was officially established on 25 October 1980

It is 30 years since Hull twinned with Freetown in Sierra Leone. The twinning spurred a multitude of partnership projects including a long running church initiative that is still going strong today.

The aim of the twinning was to stimulate and foster commercial, educational and cultural links between the two cities, as well as promote friendship and understanding between Hull and Freetown.

Since October 1980, there has been countless number of developments that have fulfilled the twinning objectives including a cross-cultural women's photography project, schools partnership schemes, endless fundraising initiatives and the list goes on.

But the longest running project is a church partnership between the Holy Cross Catholic Church in Cottingham and Our Lady Star of the Sea Church in Juba, a suburb of Freetown.

The church link started over 25 years ago by the then Archbishop of Freetown, Samuel Ganda during his visit to the city and Father Storey of Holy Cross.

So far, the church and its congregation have helped to build a community in one of the poorest areas of Freetown including a school, church, medical clinic and bakery among other charitable social ventures.

School in Freetown

"One of the loveliest things that brought tears to my eyes when we were out there was when we brought out football boots," remembers Father Pat Day, the current parish priest of Holy Cross.

"We went to the school and we were dishing out football boots because the kids were playing football in their bare feet on dry ground."

Whilst the church community in Cottingham has been involved in numerous charitable initiatives as part of the partnership, Father Day maintains that the act of giving has not been a one way street towards Freetown.

Ten years ago Holy Cross was severely damaged by a fire caused by a break-in. News of the blaze had spread to the church community of Juba and within several weeks, parcels of African vestments and other items arrived on Father Day's doorstep, much to his surprise:

"You think: how can someone in West Africa that has nothing - a few years ago it was the second poorest country in the world - what can they do for us?

"When we had a major fire here at the church, we lost everything. We weren't poor we had money in the bank; it's just that everything had been burnt. But their first thought was: 'what can we do to help them back in England?'

Father Pat Day wearing his African vestment
Father Pat Day in the African vestment sent by Holy Cross' twinned church

"Now all the vestments we wear here normally are African: they're bright and colourful.

"I think that taught everybody here a big lesson… So we've benefited immensely," added Father Day.

There have also been yearly exchange trips involving the clergy in Freetown with the visiting priest leading an exuberant African service at Holy Cross.

"When their priest come here it gives me a chance to sneak away to spend time with my family and I don't apologise for that," said Father Day.

"They bring some of their own African traditions of how to worship: singing and a little bit of dance maybe. They celebrate joyfully and dance is a huge part of their worship."

One of the current projects run by the church is an education fund allowing children from very poor families in Freetown to receive scholarships for free primary schooling, as well as financing materials and equipment for schools.

Now Holy Cross is looking to develop another community in a different part of Freetown.

Sierra Leone remains bottom of UN's league for human development

"We have picked up a little place in Freetown; we have got it on its feet with the help of a lot of people here in Hull and in Cottingham and now we're starting to think: 'right, is there anywhere else out there that we can reach out to as well?'

"There are other huge poverty areas in Freetown and elsewhere in Sierra Leone.

"The first time I went it reminded me of Dante's Inferno. It was horrendous. There was no electricity; everybody had little tin cans outside their front doors with a little light in it and that's how they lived.

"Dante's Inferno still sticks with me and there's still huge poverty-stricken areas that may be we can help out in."

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Country profile: Sierra Leone
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