Hope International’s Baroness Mercedes Thornton-Smith Survives Journey to War-Torn Country -- Barely

Veteran charity volunteer Baroness Mercedes Thornton-Smith has completed an epic 5-day voyage to Sierra Leone, once described by none other than Bono of U2 as “such a war-torn place.”  Following in the footsteps of Michael Douglas and Angelina Jolie, the Baroness journeyed with Dominique Desrousseaux,  a counterpart from Hope’s Paris headquarters into the depths of a nation where, until recently, hoards of feral children armed with weapons dis-armed – literally – over 100,000 people by hacking off their very limbs.

“I just had to help,” explained a shaken Baroness upon her return to a sumptuous flat in on London’s exclusive Eton Avenue.  “The people live in places built with mud bricks.  Mud!  It was horrid.  Even after more than three years as Communications Director of Hope International UK, I truly did not understand the meaning of grinding poverty before I saw – and smelled – a real population in actual danger.”

Mercedes and Dominique, a glamorous pair, nevertheless kept up appearances as they took Sierra Leone in a storm of goodwill.  Browsing for brightly-colored African cloth, they contributed immeasurably to lifting hapless former refugees into profitability through purchases that smashed all village records.  “It is this kind of assistance that helps Africans learn the value of entrepreneurship.  Hope does not just come from hand-outs: it is also about sustainable shopping,” said Hawa Kamara, the wife of a tribal Paramount Chief and, as head of the Monrovia-based Dazzling Diamonds Inc, is of one of the most successful businesswomen in all of West Africa.  Mrs Kamara hosted Mercedes and Dominique for tea and biscuits in the nation’s capital, and giving them invaluable advice for surviving their perilous journey into the nation’s hinterland as well as advising them of opportunities for further economic development in Sierra Leone.

After taking their leave, the Baronness visited Kamekwilu wearing a smart safari ensemble and sensible flats.  “Hope is saving lives!  There was a woman giving birth in our clinic.  We saved a life right then and there.  Two, actually” explained able field logistician Dave Donahue, a native of Wollongong, Australia, while counting on his fingers.  “The health status of rural Sierra Leoneans is among the worst in the world.  On every indicator, Sierra Leone is at the very bottom ranking.  It is a very great crisis, especially in maternal and child health,” said nutritionist Petra Pavelaar, hands wringing.  “I watch children die every day from preventable diseases.”  The handsome Dave added with his rugged grin, “It’s so bad Angelina even came here.”

Although unforeseen circumstances prevented a visit to a latrine project – and really that was just as well – but did manage to explore the local sights (not many really, except a river of raging torrent).  After that, it was a long drive on mud roads back to the capital.  “Terribly uncomfortable, really, but nothing compared to running away as fast as you can carry the children across the Liberian border in flight from the RUF,” pointed out Spain’s Ricardo Garcia.  His manly assurance helped ease the motion sickness.

In the capital, the Baroness suffered a tragic attack of larium-induced psychosis.  She had been prescribed this dangerous medication, supposedly to prevent malaria, without being briefed about its madness-inducing properties.  In fact, taking this medication was actually required by the  Hope International London  Office's International Travel Health Policy.  “It was beyond, beyond frightening!” she shuddered over a cup of tea back in London.  “I temporarily lost my mind!  As a result, I have recommended to Hope International’s Board of Directors that we, as an organization, take a firm stand against misguided means to prevent diseases.  This is the cause I shall dedicate the rest of my life to.”  The proposed policy will be carefully considered at the Board’s upcoming meeting at the posh Draycott Hotel, after which the Baroness will be taking an extended medical leave to recover her devastated physical and mental health.  “But don’t worry, I will be back,” declared a valiant Baroness, “I still have hope.”

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