The SLIMS campus is situated in a strategic place within their community. The 10-acre campus lies directly between a main road and a bustling market area. Thousands of people walk straight through the SLIMS campus to get from their homes to the market, carrying baskets and containers of a variety of wares, produce and food products to and from the market. There are also multiple basketball goals on campus that draw hundreds of young people onto campus each day that are not students at SLIMS. The medical clinic brings countless others from surrounding areas. The SLIMS staff truly acknowledges that SLIMS is far more than a school and medical clinic, it is a community gathering area, a safe place where the people of their neighborhood want to be; truly the heart of their community.
The campus sits up on a little knoll, perfectly representing the Biblical picture of “a city on a hill,” not just geographically, but also in life-impact measures. The property consists of a primary school, middle school and high school. There are two pit toilets that UNICEF provided (to service approximately 4,000 people per day). Stationed outside is a well that the medical clinic utilizes to draw water to flush toilets and service the patients.
Since its inception, SLIMS has experienced phenomenal growth and the campus now serves as the hub of its community, educating and serving the poorest children in their area. With new buildings in place, school enrollment for grades K-12 is around 4,000 with 130 Sierra Leonean nationals employed as teachers and administrators. In 2011, SLIMS was recognized by the government of Sierra Leone as the #1 school in the country based on the test scores of its high-schoolers. With no power source for permanent electricity and no running water, it has been astounding to see the school and medical clinic thrive and meet the needs of so many people.
SLIMS is strategically located in the poorest neighborhood in their section of Wellington. The intent has always been to holistically reach into the lives of “the least of these” by providing real human needs alongside an opportunity to share with them the greatest gift of all, Jesus Christ. The 4,000 students come from a variety of walks of life, most of them coming from extremely destitute families. According to SLIMS volunteer Kathryn Ericson, “In the United States, our kids are used to being entertained. The kids at SLIMS are so desperate to break their family’s cycle of poverty that they are extremely dedicated to their education.” The students recognize that obtaining an excellent education in their cultural context is the only way to break out of the cycle. They are very attentive and exhibit immense self-discipline in classrooms of 40-50 students.
According to the staff, the students are very proud of their education, creating an environment where behavioral problems are almost negligible. They sit in old wooden desks similar to those we used in the USA years ago. The desks are narrow and small, with some classrooms having 2-4 SLIMS students huddled together per desk, sitting up straight and attentive. Since the student body is primarily very, very poor, they don’t have modern laundry facilities, but they take such pride in their uniforms that the student body arrives with clean and pressed uniforms every day.
The staff at SLIMS are primarily evangelical Christians that have a passion for not only academic excellence, but also for ministry into the lives of their students to share the life-transforming message of Jesus Christ. The staff has prepared and executes a clear gospel dissemination strategy. Each day school begins with prayer and a Scriptural devotion. Scriptures are used daily by the teaching staff and the chalkboards are often seen with Bible verses written on them.
Upward Basketball and Young Life programs have also begun on campus and have created new and unique ways to bring the gospel to the community. The Upward Basketball outreach has allowed not only the student body, but other young people from the community to participate on campus. At the spring 2012 Young Life Camp, 209 kids and teenagers gave their lives to Christ (over 140 of these students were Muslims). These 209 new believers are now being plugged into the SLIMS church on campus, led and directed by a Jesus-passionate, gospel-centered Sierra Leonean pastor.
SLIMS opened a second campus in Grafton in 2008, a small town outside of Freetown known as “The Amputee City.” Grafton was a castaway city where amputated children were banished during the war to avoid being among the general public. Many have grown into young adults now and the city is cluttered with numerous tent cities. Following its vision to serve the most needy of the world, SLIMS has opened its second campus there. About 120 students are served there in a small, thatched roof facility.
The Medical Clinic
The on-campus medical clinic provides critical medial attention for the community. The clinic was opened when the school relocated in 1996 for the purpose of treating the sick and wounded orphans that were inundating the SLIMS campus. Now the clinic functions to serve all Sierra Leoneons in the SLIMS area, servicing approximately 40,000 people for either free or a nominal cost. The clinic is open 24 hours a day and is staffed with national nurse practitioners, nurses, midwives and aids. The 1,200 square foot building has no electricity and no running water, but about 1000 babies are born there each year! The medical clinic has also served to significantly reduce the number of nationals dying of malaria, Sierra Leone’s #1 killer. In a very medically-poor access area, the SLIMS medical clinic is providing unparalleled care for its people.
A volunteer, Sandie Glenn reports, “While I was at SLIMS in the fall of 2011 there were two little boys brought into the medical clinic. They were both diagnosed with malaria, one was 5 and one was about 9 years old. The younger child was so sick he couldn’t lift his little head up. We asked the nurse what was wrong and she said ‘He has malaria.’ We looked at her as if to say, ‘we’ll wait while you give him the malaria medicine.’ She looked right at us and told us that the clinic was out of the donated malaria medicine and that this child’s family didn’t have the money to buy it. In fact, his mother had died just the year before from malaria. In a panic, we asked her what we could do to help, thinking that there must be an insurmountable process or fee to obtaining the medicine. She said it would cost $8 for each of the boys to be saved. Of course, I gladly went and spent $16 and was able to give these two boys their lives back. The next day the little five-year old boy was running around! What a joy that Christ saw fit to let me serve those boys that day.”
Track Record & Measurable Outcomes
- SLIMS graduated its first senior class in 2009.
- SLIMS was tied with another school to be ranked the #1 school in Sierra Leone.
- SLIMS is a Christian school that openly shares the gospel of Jesus in a predominantly Muslim neighborhood with predominantly Muslim students.
- For the required government test to move from 9th to 10th grade, the nationwide average is below 50%. SLIMS had a 100% passing rate for their students for the 2010-2011 school year.
- SLIMS has seen incredible growth in its enrollment every year, serving more and more needy children in Sierra Leone, going from serving 0 to 4,000 students in 20 years.