By Rod Webb

Last Saturday saw the seafront of Hastings transformed into a colourful beach party. Huge crowds of Sierra Leoneans from London and the surrounding areas were down in Hastings to make the most of the summer weather. Although intermittently overcast, the weather was hot enough for enjoying the usual beach activities like swimming, playing beach games and sitting around having a great time – and music!

PICTURE: Dave Young

Sierra Leone has its own Hastings, twinned with Hastings in East Sussex. But when asked why they had chosen our Hastings as a destination, this did not figure in their responses: 

“Because it’s a beautiful part of the world.”
“It’s nice. The beaches are lovely.”
“It’s a beautiful place. Good air.”
“It’s straightforward to come here, park up and join the rest of the group.”

When we asked one day-tripper about the purpose of the day, he explained that: “It’s an opportunity to have a reunion with friends and family. Not everybody can afford an extended holiday.” He went on to explain that Sierra Leonean families often meet up every month and this was an opportunity to do something different. Like many groups on the beach, this family was not attached to the main organised event but had been prompted to join in as an individual group.

The main event was organised by the Kono District Development Association charity (KDDA UK). This has been in existence in various forms since the 1950s, originally to bring together descendants of Kono District in Sierra Leone, an area of extensive mining in the centre of the country. Since the early 1990s KDDA UK has undertaken advocacy, and its members have aspired to provide support services both in the UK and Sierra Leone. 

Since 2010 KDDA UK’s members have focused on sustainable development and human rights in the Kono District, social and support services in the UK, and bring together descendants of Kono District in the UK and Sierra Leone. 

But on Saturday it was about an enjoyable day out with friends and family, and, for Hastings locals, an opportunity to experience a flavour of African culture and its sense of community. For anyone who missed this event, there is a chance to meet with a smaller group, just three bus loads, coming on 10 August, organised by the Hastings Sierra Leone Friendship Link.

For more information on KDDA visit www.kdda.co.uk or for the Hastings Sierra Leone friendship Link  www.hastingshastings.org.uk


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