Having spent much of his career in education Mark has invested a considerable amount of time helping others to maximise their potential. He is a fervent internationalist, who is widely travelled. During his career to date as well as having worked in Jordan for two years, he has spent a considerable amount of time in West Africa. He initiated and oversaw a major humanitarian venture into war-torn Sierra Leone in 2000 and his logistical and regional knowledge is in considerable demand. He writes and lectures on a variety of subjects ranging from international trade to women’s health in the developing world. In 1994 he was elected a Freeman of the City of London in recognition of his voluntary work with the homeless.
Mark T. Jones on Sierra Leone
Sierra Leone is a small, yet remarkable country. A West African paradise in so many ways; a land of great physical beauty, abundant in flora and fauna and rich with potential. Its inhabitants are imbued with an extraordinary religious tolerance and a passion for learning. To its credit it is a nation that has chosen to be free of bitterness or rancour about the colonial era. Saloneans cherish life and are generous of spirit. It is as if these people are inspied by the example of Bai Bureh, Thomas Clarkson, Toussaint L'Ouverture and William Wilberforce.
Yet, the very name Sierra Leone is synonymous with images of forced amputations, conflict diamonds and child soldiers. In recent times a brutal war ravaged the land for just over a decade. The effects of this salamandrine conflagration have certainly laid the country low. The putrid stench of corruption now wafts through the corridors of power and sadly, the judiciary seems content to wallow self obsessed in its dotage. Issues such as child trafficking, deforestation and the blight of Female Genital Mutilation have yet to be addressed, whilst HIV and AIDS have begun to take their toll.
It might seem that a demi-Eden has been lost, but my experience of Sierra Leone tells me otherswise. Whilst the people may be materially poor, they are spiritually rich. The poems that follow are my musings and thoughts about the dark days, that God willing, are now at a close.
The Camp - Sierra Leone 2000
Did Peter Brueghel paint here?
Bestumped innocence sears my sight
How many tears could wash away such a sight?
Time affords us no such quantity.
Satan's flail has done its work
Limbs harvested and yet unused
Shattered lives as broken columns stand mute
A world unseen, some unseeing.
Did Hieronymous Bosch paint this ?
He surely saw it - a living charnel house writ large
Minds dislocated in the name of some perverted peace
Such a canvas leaves one dumb.
What God has given man has taken
A blasphemy of slash and burn
Pax Africa upon the altar
Seemingly little resurrectional hope for thee.
Did Salvador Dali paint here ?
He must have dreamt it - this fiendish site
Manmade, contorted out of shape and hate
These open wounds framed in guilt.
The War Lord - a poem written to be read by two people.
Cut, thrust, plunge
Slash, slit, stab
Starve, mame, shoot
Torch, burn, scar
The trumpets herald you with regal glory
Epaulettes glisten and medals gleam
Plunder, loot, steal
Blind, brand, rape
Curse, crush, kidnap
Smash, torture, kill
Your arrival is welcomed with carpets of steel
Ramrod backed your subjects hail you
Bind, bludgeon, bury
Garotte, impale, castrate
Order, imprison, enslave
Censor, cajole, destroy
Your scarlet cape billows as yuo sense fresh converts
Ever more shrill their praises grow.
Barren, bleak, blackened
Shattered, sterile, stricken
Torn, poisoned, defiled
Bloodied, emtombed, rotting
The prize presented on some stolen silver
A maggot riddled remnant of a once serene world.
Kingharman Road Girl
Fly-blown hopes lie caressing the curb
Her sores a nation's stigmata
Would a pye-dog lick thy wounds ?
Or skirt round you like the tide of your brothers and sisters.
If we could pause but for a moment and prise open your mind
We too would seek safety in cold stone
Stone far more loving than human hearts
Judgement passed, we hurry on blind, sightless, caring not.
[The traumatized girl described in this poem had been raped by rebel soldiers and had had her parents and elder brother butchered before her very eyes.]
Source: The War Poetry Website, War Poetry Africa: http://www.warpoetry.co.uk/Africa_War_Poetry.html