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Linda Sharp followed her faith, and that decision led her to working in a village in West Africa

PHOTO COURTESY OF LINDA SHARP - Linda Sharp, left, with one of the women from the village of Ferkessedougou, in Côte d'lvoire Africa. They are showing some of the pillow case dresses that came from Prineville. Mary Reed originally started the project, which has steadily grown, to help the children in the village.

It's a long way from Coto d'lvoire, Africa to Paulina, Oregon.

Linda Sharp has devoted 50 years of her nursing career doing missionary work with the people of a small village in West Africa.

Sharp grew up in the Paulina Country of Central Oregon. Her mother was the first Special Education instructor in Crook County, teaching until she was 62 years old.

From the time she could remember, Sharp had dreams of being a nurse when she graduated. She initially went to Oregon State University for pre-nursing. That year, her parents took in the first of many foster children.

Living with her foster brothers would have a lasting influence on her aspirations later in life.

Sharp then finished her program at what is now Oregon Health Science University School of Nursing. Immediately upon graduating from nursing school, she felt inspired by her many foster brothers to work with troubled youth.

She spent some time working at Oregon State Mental Institution, and she decided that she needed to have her faith more grounded, given some of the situations she encountered. She decided to attend a Bible school in Arizona.

"I fell in love with Arizona because it was warm," indicated Sharp. "It was while I was going to Bible school in Arizona that God said, "No, I don't want you to stay in the states."'

She followed her faith, and that decision led her to Africa. Sharp has been working in a village called Ferkessedougou, or Ferke for short. It is in the country of Cote d'lvoire, in West Africa. (Coast of Ivory in French) It is a village that has been less touched by outside influences.

"It's been 50 years since I went there for the first time," stated Sharp.

She immediately had to learn French upon moving to Ferke. She spent some time in Canada learning fluent French.

"Being that it was a French-speaking country, I had to learn French," she explained. "I first went to Quebec, Canada, then nearly six months in Paris, France, perfecting my French."

She arrived in Cote d'lvoire to have residents tell her that her she sounded like she was speaking English, because she had such a strong accent. She still uses expressions from her time in Africa when visiting Oregon.

Sharp has endured hardships while in Africa, including evacuations by the American and French Army when there was a coup in Coto d'lvoire. Not long ago, there was an Ebola virus outbreak in Liberia, and the borders were closed to contain the virus.

"I tell people, I have two families and two homes, and they both want me," Sharp said of her time between Africa and Central Oregon. She returns to the United States from April to October each year.

Mary Reed, a retired Special Education instructor at Crook County Schools, became acquainted with Sharp several years ago at a meeting for a group called Scribblers Writing Club. Sharp was working on a book for her late father, John Sharp, and thought the group would be helpful to her.

Reed worked with Sharp's mother most of her career, but this meeting was the beginning of her friendship with the next generation, and the two have become close friends ever since.

Reed first came upon the idea of making pillow case dresses several years ago. She attended a sorority meeting while in Arizona, and a woman spoke about making dresses from used pillow cases. Reed really liked the idea, and upon returning home, started collecting pillow cases and sewing her own dresses.

The idea took on a life of its own, and she soon expanded to making shorts for the boys in addition to the dresses.

"Now, people give me bins of material," exclaimed Reed. "People donate pillow cases and I sit and sew, and other people sit and sew."

It wasn't long before she was sending the finished dresses and shorts with Sharp to Africa each fall. Sharp would ensure that parents accompanied the kids, and would help them find a dress or shorts their size. They also favored homemade stocking caps.

"We have two seasons — it's either hot in winter or hot and dry," explained Sharp. "Why would they want a stocking cap? They love stocking caps!"

She indicated that the hats keep the heat off of their heads. Reed and her friend Lynette Brooks made 155 hats collectively to send with the next shipment bound for Africa.

Reed asked Sharp to come to a retired educators meeting to report about the pillowcase project.

"I asked the group if they would be willing to financially support this, because it costs $200 to ship each suitcase," she said.

Up to this year, they would send one suitcase with Sharp each fall.

Reed raised money this year from several different sources, including the Retired Educators, members from the Scribblers Writing Club and Gretchen Stack. They raised enough money to send two large suitcases with Sharp this fall.

"To get something new is a treat," said Sharp of the children of her village.

"It's grown, and each year it grows a little more," added Reed.

Sidebar

If interested in helping with the Pillowcase project, call Mary Reed at 541-447-6926

Knit hats are also needed


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