ON-GOING links between North Devon and a tiny republic in West Africa are being strengthened with the visit of four volunteers from a Barnstaple church. David November, David Hunt, Rob Honeysett and Ray Toms flew out to Sierra Leone last week to continue

ON-GOING links between North Devon and a tiny republic in West Africa are being strengthened with the visit of four volunteers from a Barnstaple church.David November, David Hunt, Rob Honeysett and Ray Toms flew out to Sierra Leone last week to continue aid work designed to help the country to get back on its feet after 10 years in the grip of a bloody civil war.While spending two weeks in the former slave port capital city of Freetown, the Grosvenor Church volunteers are dividing their time between two projects that were set up after tens of thousands of rebels and militia fighters were disarmed by a UN peacekeeping force in 2002.The Lifeline Nehemiah Project is a home set up to house and educate boys and girls who were orphaned by the war. "The project currently supports around 60 combatants from the age of 12 to 25, most of whom were taken by rebels and taught to shoot and kill," said David November, from Bratton Fleming, who is visiting the country for the seventh time since 2005."Their families were killed and they were drugged by the militia. Many find it hard to remember what happened but have rehabilitated well thanks to the project. "Some are still in further education and training, and one has recently gained a degree and is now a librarian."Currently in the top six of the world's poorest countries and bottom of UN's league for human development, there are still problems in Sierra Leone despite the recent peace.The volunteers will also help sew the seeds of change at an agricultural project. Thanks to South Devon-based Suttons Seeds, they have taken 24kg of vegetable seeds to plant beside the country's staples of peanuts and rice."The Grosvenor Church has been supporting both projects since 2004 and volunteers have been visiting Sierra Leone since 2005," said Mr November."The roads are dreadful and there is little electricity and few telephone lines but it's a beautiful country," he added