What We Do
We make grants to pay the secondary school costs of the brightest poor children from primary schools in Mahera, Shenge and Foredugu. Although the new government in 2018 abolished secondary school fees, other costs are beyond the means of Sierra Leone's poorest families. The Head Teachers of schools in Mahera, Shenge and Foredugu villages select children from very poor homes who have achieved top results (a score of 280 or more) in the final primary school exams. In May 2019 we were sponsoring 20 children. We will pay their educational costs through secondary school provided they do well in the national BECE exam at the end of the third year (a score of 25 or less - the lower the score in BECE , the better the performance). The costs we meet include uniform, shoes, school bag, the best quality textbooks, examination fees and extra lessons prior to exams. Sometimes we provide students with solar lights for evening study and a mattress and mosquito net to prevent malaria.
Because we are well known in our priority villages, we are approached by many people seeking financial help. We were impressed by the commitment of Sidiki Kamara, whose village repair workshop is training 6 young men in motorbike mechanics. With this skill they will be able to earn a small income for their families. Their training was held back by a lack of handtools so we spent £600 on new tools. In 2017 one of Sidiki's trainees, Abu Bakar, left to set up his own workshop a few miles away in Rotifunk. He now has two apprentices. We have also helped him with handtools.
We also help disabled children and young people with equipment such as mobility carts, wheelchairs and bicycles so that they can attend school and have more personal freedom. Some of the youngsters are selected by voluntary organisations of disabled people such as DRIMS based in Bo. Others have been found in remote villages by our volunteers Chernor Barrie and Sulaiman Bah. In January 2018 and again in April 2019 Chernor and Sulaiman transported mobility carts and wheelchairs by boat to remote villages on Sherbro island and the Turtle Islands. Nobody on these islands had ever seen a mobility cart before. The photographs on the home page show two young people crawling in the dirt near their homes and then riding their mobility carts. The positive impact on a child's life from receiving a mobility cart or wheelchair is immediate and profound.
In the small town of Moyamba we provided furniture and equipment for the Mustard Seed Foundation children's home run by Roselyn Freeman. The Mustard Seed Foundation was set up by Roselyn's mother and provides a home for 24 children who are orphans or are disabled or have faced abuse and neglect. Since 2016 we have funded one specialist care worker to provide more support for the most severely disabled children living in the home.
We like thIs story:
A boy is walking along Shenge beach and spots an old man kneeling often and picking up one of the thousands of starfish that have been washed ashore. The old man gently throws them back into the ocean because the sun is out and the tide is so low that they will die if he doesn’t do this. The boy said “But old man, don’t you realise there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it! You can’t possibly save them all, you can’t even save one-tenth of them. Even if you work all day, your efforts won’t make any difference at all.”
The old man listened calmly and then bent down to pick up another starfish and threw it into the sea and said, “It made a difference to that one.”
Sponsoring the brightest poor children to get a secondary education
We set up the charity in December 2013 after witnessing first-hand the plight of the poorest children and young people in Sierra Leone. Many children were orphaned by the civil war which ended in 2002. Others were left with a single mother who has very little opportunity to earn an income other than through small-scale farming or petty trading.
Haja Kamara, the Head Teacher at Mahera village primary school in Port Loko district, introduced us to children who had achieved high marks in their final primary school exams - sometimes the best in the class - but who could not go on to secondary school because they had no way of paying school fees and many other costs. Primary education is free in Sierra Leone but secondary education is expensive, even though school fees were abolished by the new government in 2018.
So, in the small coastal villages of Mahera and Shenge and the inland village of Foredugu the Head Teachers of primary schools select clever, poor children who cannot pay secondary school costs. We have agreed to meet the costs of uniforms, shoes, school bags, best quality text books and extra lessons before exams through the six years of secondary school, subject to good performance in the national BECE exams at the end of year 3. We believe this contributes to the country's development in a small way by ensuing that some of the most able children grow into future professionals, role models and leaders in their communities.
It seems to us deeply unjust that girls and boys are prevented from fulfilling their potential to serve their communities simply because they are poor. We have been inspired by these children to set up this charity to help them. We hope you will join us in giving them the education and the chances they deserve. Fatmata was the first student we sponsored. Hers is the first photo here on our home page. We now support 20 students in this way.
Vocational training for unemployed young people
We also witnessed in Mahera the large numbers of young people in their late teens who were jobless. Often these young people had been forced by poverty to stop going to school at the end of their primary education. Their families had no land to farm and no fishing boats or nets. We were invited by Sidiki Conteh to visit his motorbike workshop under a large tree just outside the village of Mahera. Here we found six young men being taught the basics of motorbike repair and maintenance. These are skills which are in big demand in Sierra Leone, a country where motorbikes far outnumber cars. Sidiki can train his 'apprentices' but lacked the hand tools for them to practise their skills. So, we gave him a grant with which to purchase lots of tools. With their skills in mechanics these young men have a good chance of earning a modest living. Some, like Abu Bakar, have now moved on from Sidiki’s workshop and, with with a full set of handtools provided by us, is running his own small business in another village.
Mustard Seed Foundation children’s home
In the small town of Moyamba we came across Roselyn Freeman running the Mustard Seed Foundation, a charity set up 20 years ago by her mother. Roselyn now manages a childen's home for twenty four disabled and disadvantaged children . We found the children's beds broken and lacking mattresses, which had been destroyed by urine, so we awarded a grant for their replacement, with urine-proof covers. We also agreed to provide wheelchairs and tricycles for several disabled children so that they could get to school and become more active. More recently we funded a new physiotherapy room in an old classroom and helped Roselyn to equip it. We also pay the salary of an extra care worker who suports and trains the eight most disabled children. Salaries are low in Sierra Leone so this costs us only £700 each year.
We have also helped 52 disabled children and young people
When Kevin Curley, our founding trustee, visited Sierra Leone in January 2016 he met leaders of WESOFOD, a small local charity which helps disabled children and young people in the Mahera area. He agreed to provide equipment for three boys and three girls initially. They have all been disabled by polio in childhood.
We have now paid for a total of 52 wheelchairs, bicycles and tricycles known as 'mobility carts'. These aids to mobility have transformed the lives of these young people, enabling them to get to school independently and to have active social lives. No longer do they crawl through sand and mud to reach school or their friends’ houses. We respond to all sorts of needs, supplying crutches and even artificail limbs.
In Senneh’s case we also paid for a solar light for his room so that he can study after dark and mosquito netting for his windows. Senneh aged 17 is an orphan living in very poor conditions. No student can succeed if they cannot study after dark, which comes early in Sierra Leone, or if school attendance is prevented by malaria. Before we gave Senneh his solar light he would leave his home every evening and sit under a street light to study. But for about six months each year the rains make this impossible. His recent text reads:
‘I have received the money you sent. May God bless you and protect you and all your friends’.