Group of kids wavingExciting day today. Last month I was in Sierra Leone and today, the two short films I produced on Red Cross programmes out there go live on the web. So, I know it’s a shameless plug but I hope you check them out.

Because I’m telling you, I’ve never worked so hard in my life – being a first time producer I had no idea what I was letting myself in for – it’s a really labour intensive job. But I loved every minute.

Sierra Leone’s decade-long civil war ended in 2002 and since then the Red Cross has been helping people recover and build peace in communities that were torn apart by the conflict. I guess all civil wars are brutal and this one certainly didn’t buck the trend. I watched Sorius Samura’s documentary Cry Freetown before I went – it’s truly shocking. I was told this before I watched it and I was in two minds about whether I wanted to see it or not. In the end I felt I should – because if I was going to make films about the difference the Red Cross programmes are making to people’s lives post-conflict, then I had to understand the need for the programmes in the first place, to try and understand something of what the people I would be interviewing had gone through.

I made one film about the Red Cross’ community animation and peace support (CAPS) programme and the other about the child advocacy and rehabilitation (CAR) programme. Shockingly, children as young as six were recruited to fight in the conflict, and the Red Cross does a lot of work with children traumatised by their experiences.

LandRover driving into village

I had five days in Sierra Leone – although a lot of time was spent bumping around in a LandRover with just a day filming at each location for the CAPS and CAR projects. Oh, I also tweeted my way round the country, so if you want to know more you can check out my journey on Twitter.

The whole experience in Sierra Leone was pretty intense as there was so much to do and we were running around from dusk till dawn everyday – not to mention dealing with the heat, dust and lack of showers and flushing toilets. Ash, the cameraman, has just spent the last five years in Afghanistan and took it all in his stride, I’d like to think I managed the same. Though I did have one mini-panic when our hosts stopped by the roadside and bought some huge furry rodent thing for supper. I mean I’m a polite, culturally appropriate aid worker and I know that you never refuse an offer of a meal. Fortunately, my host found the look on my face quite amusing and assured me I would not be expected to partake of the feast.

Man performing in drama about the conflict

Back in London the editing process was also intense. We had five hours of footage and I had to get it down to two five-minute films. When you’ve worked so hard to get the material it can be tough culling it down. One bit I found hard to let go was Ella – a Red Cross worker – talking about the Ant Lions! I’ve no idea what they are but Ella is such a great character, with a wonderful way of talking and I loved the image she conjured up with her ‘Ant Lions’.

I’m gonna leave you with another of my favourite quotes which unfortunately didn’t make the final cut. This is Emmanuel Tomy, secretary general of the Sierra Leone Red Cross, talking about the annual peace festival, which uses music and dance to bring people together.

“Sing with your former enemy, dance with your former enemy. It’s not always easy but it has happened.”