Framlingham man “closes chapter” after return to Sierra Leone

Ian Holt visiting Sierra Leone in 2016, 27 years after his first visit in 1989. ANL-160428-103721001

Ian Holt visiting Sierra Leone in 2016, 27 years after his first visit in 1989. ANL-160428-103721001

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A wheelchair user from Framlingham said a chapter has closed on part of his life after successfully heading out to Sierra Leone nearly 30 years after his first visit.

Suffering with Friedreich’s Ataxia, a progressive neurological condition, Ian Holt, 50, has also endured 16 operations as a result of enjoying motorcycles and working in the building trade.

Ian Holt visiting Sierra Leone in 2016, 27 years after his first visit in 1989. ANL-160428-103734001

Ian Holt visiting Sierra Leone in 2016, 27 years after his first visit in 1989. ANL-160428-103734001

Having first went out to Sierra Leone in 1989 after applying through the VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas), he went on to work all over the world and hoped to impart some of his experience in woodwork, carpentry and gardening.

He stayed in the coastal town of Shenge.

“I was bees knees, the fact that I was broken, and I had bothered (to go back),” he told the Diss Express. “I kept hearing this word ‘courageous’. And to me it wasn’t courage, to me it is just what I did.

“It just elevated me even higher, the fact I was there, and after 30 years, broken, but came back.

I’m so pleased that I’ve had one of the best adventures of my life. It has allowed me to finish the story which started 30 years ago which I had never completed

Ian Holt

“I was a valued person, the only person ever to come back and visit.”

Mr Holt met some of the people he knew from his first visit 27 years ago — who was known as the “loony with the motorcycle who spent more time in the air than on the ground” — but conceded the country had changed since 1989.

He said he had hoped to pass on his knowledge to the area, but said the situation was “so dire”, any help he could have given “would have been wasted”.

“The civil war and Ebola has spoiled the country, and way of thinking,” he explained. “Because of war and Ebola, the poverty is bad. People are just living for today, trying to exist for today. There was no long term thoughts or future for them.

Ian Holt visiting Sierra Leone in 2016, 27 years after his first visit in 1989. ANL-160428-103804001

Ian Holt visiting Sierra Leone in 2016, 27 years after his first visit in 1989. ANL-160428-103804001

“I said to everyone ‘it is time for you guys to fight’. Not with guns, but you need to use the internet so the world gets to know what is going on.”

Mr Holt, who has been in a long-running battle with tenancy provider Flagship over issues with his property, continued: “I’m so pleased that I’ve had one of the best adventures of my life. It has allowed me to finish the story which started 30 years ago which I had never completed.

“It finished the chapter and closed the book. I’m so happy I went.”

Ian Holt visiting Sierra Leone in 2016, 27 years after his first visit in 1989. ANL-160428-103746001

Ian Holt visiting Sierra Leone in 2016, 27 years after his first visit in 1989. ANL-160428-103746001