St Albans teacher returns to Sierra Leone after 45 years for charity event

Jim Standen in Sierra Leone in 1970

Jim Standen in Sierra Leone in 1970 - Credit: Archant

A man from St Albans, who first visited Sierra Leone in 1969 to teach maths, has returned to the country for a second time to volunteer as a photographer for a charity marathon.

Jim Standen, 68, first visited the west African country when he left university. He explained: “When I was young, I decided I wasn’t ready to settle down – so I went to Africa and became a teacher. I have to admit that at the time I had to look it up on an Atlas.

“It changed my life, changed my perspective on the world. I saw so many people with not a lot but with so much warmth, then I cam back to England where people complained about all sorts of things.”

Having not been back to the county he fell for 45 years ago, Jim jumped at the opportunity when he saw an article in the Evening Standard about the charity Street Child.

Jim said: “I decided to volunteer for the marathon. I’m too old to run so I’m going as a volunteer. We are expecting around 500 people. They’ve been doing it since 2008 and are very proud of the fact that they’ve never missed a year - despite the ebola outbreak.”

Sierra Leone has been ravaged by ebola in recent times with nearly 4,000 people dying from the disease since it first struck West Africa in March last year.

This year’s marathon comes a little later than planning - it was scheduled for May - but Jim says he still expects a good turnout.

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He said: “There are rumours that Sierra Leone’s president will be running. It takes place in his home town so it’s a good opportunity for him, but nothing is confirmed yet.”

Street Child was set up in 2008 with the intention of providing education and opportunity for the tens of thousands of children in Sierra Leone. More than 2 million people are thought to have been displaced during the county’s civil war.

Jim said: “As the old African saying goes, ‘when elephants fight, it’s the grass that suffers’, and so the innocent people of Sierra Leone were often in my thoughts during the dreadful civil war.”

To support Jim click here and for more information about Street Child, see here.