Sulaiman and his Grandmother: A Story of Transformation
There are an estimated 76,000 street-connected children in Sierra Leone (Street Child Report 2020). Every day in Sierra Leone, we witness a heartbreaking sight - children and youth walking the streets, traumatized, and living in deplorable conditions due to extreme poverty.
These vulnerable young people face various challenges. Some suffer from neglect and homelessness, while others are forced to engage in odd jobs and beg for food and money to support their families. They are often seen in unhealthy situations, digging through smelly, unsafe dumpsites, and collecting scrap metal to sell for a meager income.
Because of generous supporters like you, Helping Children Worldwide and the Child Reintegration Centre are committed to preventing family separation and its related life-long trauma by reuniting orphaned and abandoned children with families, strengthening them to become stable and independent.
Meet Sulaiman and his grandmom, Hawa.
Hawa makes her living as a petty trader, selling a variety of small items from the veranda of her tiny home in Southern Sierra Leone. Whatever she can find, she sells to the people in her neighborhood: palm oil, charcoal, firewood, fried potatoes, and plantains. Everyone knows Hawa by her nickname, “One-Five” in which she takes great pride.
“They call me ‘One-Five’ because I negotiate the price of everything down to one thousand five hundred Leones (1,500 Leones = 15 cents).”
Hawa has been a widow for many years. Her husband worked as a cleaner at a local clinic when he became infected with malaria and typhoid, a common occurrence among the working poor in Sierra Leone. Unable to afford medical treatment, he became increasingly sick and ultimately died of complications related to the two diseases.
Hawa and her husband cared for several of their grandchildren, but when her husband died, she became their sole provider and caretaker. When her son Ansu fell ill from a chronic skin condition, Hawa took in yet another grandson, Sulaiman, then just seven years old.
Hawa loved and enjoyed taking care of her grandchildren, but without her husband’s income, she struggled to provide for the family, who were crammed into a tiny, dilapidated mud home. Hunger and need were constant, and they all struggled.
Sulaiman loved his grandmother and cousins but struggled with grief over the separation from his father and the pressures of living in an overcrowded house where there was seemingly never enough to eat.
One day Sulaiman ran away from home, connecting with a group of street boys scraping out an existence. He soon learned that life on the streets was much harder than life at home, but he was ashamed to return.
Hawa was heartbroken when Sulaiman disappeared.
“When [he] went missing, I was crying every day. My eyes were red. I had so many sleepless nights worrying about my grandson’s whereabouts. I cried until my eyes were swollen and they were about to fall out. But one thing that I did not lose is faith. I did not lose hope. I was still praying.”
As the Child Reintegration Centre reunites orphaned and abandoned children with families, they are helping the families become stable and self-sufficient by providing them with mentoring, skills training, parent education, case management, and support for education and health care.
Understanding that the best place for a child to grow and thrive is within a family, The Child Reintegration Centre’s case management team works to reintegrate children separated from care, back into their own or other suitable families. During one of the CRC’s Street surveys, they met Sulaiman, and eventually brought him back to his grandmother, Hawa.
Hawa was overwhelmed with joy. “Oh my God! I couldn’t believe it,” Hawa recalls. “I nearly fainted when I saw Sulaiman back at home. You rescued him from the streets and made our family whole again. This changes everything for the better.”
The CRC helped Hawa re-enroll Sulaiman in school. Additionally, Sulaiman and his family receive support for school, access to healthcare at Mercy Hospital, ongoing case management, and the opportunity to participate in family-strengthening activities. The case manager assigned to the family regularly visits the home and Sulaiman’s school to provide ongoing support to help the family work toward interpersonal and financial independence and self-sustainability.
To help vulnerable families flourish, the CRC supports parents through family-strengthening services to build their capacity and resilience with parenting workshops, and microfinance programs where they learn small business and money management skills. Graduates receive a small loan to start or expand a small business. Acquiring these skills can truly help a family break out of the cycle of dysfunction and illiteracy that throws them into extreme poverty.
Hawa and her family have benefited from family strengthening workshops, including the Attachment Theory Workshop, which helps Hawa to heal the trauma of separation and other challenges Sulaiman has suffered.
Sulaiman takes his schoolwork seriously and aspires to have a job in the medical field one day. “I know my family is poor and uneducated, but I have dreams to make important changes” he explains. “I want to be able to lift them out of poverty with my education. I want to help other street-connected children to find safe homes. My country needs healthcare workers to help treat the many diseases we have. I want to be part of the healthcare solution.”
Hawa is so grateful to the Child Reintegration Centre for helping Sulaiman to come back home from the streets and join the family. “CRC was a Godsend,” Hawa says. “They came in when my hope was starting to fade away. I was beginning to think Sulaiman was never coming back. I will forever be grateful to the CRC and the donors. Because of you, we are one big family again”
The Child Reintegration Centre is dedicated to reuniting vulnerable children with safe, caring, and permanent families, and strengthening and empowering those families toward independence.
“With the CRC’s help, I have even become more empowered and motivated to keep doing my best to take care of my family. The name ‘One-Five’ is now shining more than ever. Your support restored hope to me”
If you feel called to give, you can make a quick donation that will help us rescue and reunite street-connected children with their safe, forever families, and strengthen them to stay together and become independent.
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