The children and staff continue to reap the harvest of the the CRC garden, and the CRC poultry project is doing particularly well. Since the beginning of August, the CRC staff and children carrying for these hens have gathered about 150 eggs. The eggs are being used to feed malnourished children who need high protein diets at Mercy Hospital. Additionally, some boiled eggs are given to Mercy staff to take on Medical Outreaches to local villages, where they are given to very malnourished children. The CRC also hopes to be able to give eggs to particularly vulnerable families in the CRC programs.
Mabel Mustapha has been the head of the CRC's Education Department for sixteen years. She attended a UMC primary school and Bishop Johnson Secondary school in Freetown, before attending Port Loko's teacher's college in Port Loko. She also studied community development at Theologica Training College. Mabel has one 26 year old son.
How long have you worked at the CRC?: “I started working March 2001. At the time I was a teacher for middle school. I was made the Field Supervisor and worked in a camp for displaced people from Kono. Kono was so destroyed that no one could live there. So many children were in the camp and not going to school so we built a four room school and taught them until they were able to move back to Kono. Then I started to work with the residential children and focus on their education.”
What do you like most about working at the CRC?: “I really thank God, it has really improved my life, I have really learned a lot about children and leadership.
What is your biggest accomplishment?: “The number one success is the 40 original children we started with in 2000. Seeing them pass through my hands and go on to university and come back to do great things for CRC. Also, I started as an intermediate staff and passed to become a senior staff. I think I really understand the organization, children, and partners.
How does it feel to see the children you raised grow up and become your coworkers?: “I feel so good. They have that respect and they really appreciate all that has been done for them when they were growing up.
Anything else you want people to know?: “What I want to say is, the reason why the team is working out well, is you need people who have vast experience to help build others up to continue the work. It is also good to have young people in the job. We pray that with what we have, we will continue to do good work for God.”
On September 11, the primary school-aged students in the CRC Residential Program received their new uniforms and school supplies in preparation for school to start on September 18th. This year, the children will be attending the UMC Kulanda Town school just a short walk from the CRC's front gate. The CRC has begun to develop a relationship with the school, which is already the academic home of many of the children in the Child Support Program. Residential students in classes beyond primary will continue to attend Njagboima School.
The rest of the children enrolled in the Child Support and Family Care Programs also reported to the CRC on September 11th to get their school supplies for the new school year. While some attend UMC Kulanda Town School, others attend different schools around Bo that are closer to their own neighborhoods. Just like kids all over the world, everyone is excited to start the new year off right with proper uniforms and new school supplies. We pray for academic success for all the CRC children attending school this year.
In August, when a number of residential children were reunified with their "forever families," the remaining children were given the opportunity to spend three weeks visiting their own "forever families," before returning to the residence. When they returned to the CRC, they were full of joyful stories of their time away at a "welcome back" breakfast enjoyed by the children and the staff.
The children shared their experiences with each other and with the staff. Norman Koroma expressed that he was very happy with his caregiver and family. He said that the children in his family thought he was from the US, because his English was so good, and that he was asked to help teach them better English. Isata Kallon shared that she loved everything about her family; especially her grandmother, and that she can't wait to be reunified with them. John Dakowa said his family was impressed with his English as well, and that he taught them also to speak some Mende. He loved going with his grandparents around the farm and seeing "plants like rice leaves." Abdulai Dakowa loved his holiday with his mother. He also made a friend he enjoyed getting to know and spending time with, and he liked the community church the family attended as well.
These opportunities to spend more quality time with the families with whom they will ultimately be reunified help the children to establish connections to their families, and to the communities in which they live, as well as helping to prepare them for how life outside the residence may be different from live inside.
Abu Bakarr Kanu is really on the road to recovery these days. He is SO much happier, maintaining his weight, healing significantly, and enjoying lots of quality time with friends and family. He is planning to go back to school in September, and will be repeating class five because he missed so many months of school while recovering from his burns. He will be attending UMC Kulanda Town School with the CRC residential children. This school is within walking distance of Mercy Hospital and the Child Rescue Centre, which will ensure that he is close to Mercy in case he needs care during the day. He will continue to stay at Mercy overnight.
Graduates of the CRC's Pilot Microfinance Program have begun making payments on their loans. As planned, most participants visit the CRC every Friday to make their payments, though some find other days easier to pay. Each payment is recorded for the CRC's records, and a receipt is given to the participant for their own records. Some pay a small amount toward the repayment of their loan each week, while others find it easier to make larger monthly payments.
Participants are engaged in a variety of different types of businesses. Some used their loans to launch a new venture, while others used the capital to build up existing businesses. CRC staff visit these businesses on site to also monitor their success.
Research shows that the best place for a child to grow up is in a loving family. In cases where that might not be possible even temporarily, the CRC Residential Children's program provides a safe living environment until the child is ready to either be reintegrated into their family, or into a loving foster family. This process is called reunification, because it reunifies the child with family and the community. The Ministry of Social Welfare for Children and Gender Affairs in Sierra Leone is increasingly encouraging reunification of children in residential programs with suitable families as soon as possible.
The CRC has a very intentional program to prepare children and families for the transition of reunification. For months leading up to reunification, natural and foster families are given many opportunities to attend formal parenting workshops and training held at the CRC, as well as fun social events designed to allow families to spend time together building a connection to one another. Children are given opportunities to visit their families in their homes and communities on multiple occasions leading up to the final reunfication, so that they can become acclimated to the home and environment of their "forever home." Counseling is provided to families and children before, during and even after the reunification happens.
Twenty children were reunified with their families on August 8. The CRC held a special celebration to send the children off with love and joy.
After a team of Child Rescue Centre staff visited Abu Bakarr's family to meet with his grandmother and stepmother, the two women came to Mercy to visit him and meet his caregivers. Abu continues to gain strength and recover from his wounds, and his medical team determined that he could return home during the day.
Abu made his first trip home last month and LOVED it! When he got back to Mercy he was telling the nurses all about his day and how everyone was so happy to see him. He was up bright and early first thing the second morning, dressed and eager to go.
Abu continues to sleep at Mercy and have his bandages changed, as well as eat a healthy breakfast prepared by the Mercy staff, and then he will go home all day, before returning to eat dinner and sleep. He will still get the care and monitoring he needs, while also getting time with his family.
SAC Coordinator Joseph Junisa recently visited Abu to deliver letters from the family of his sponsor, Jessica Mills. While Abu steadily heals from the severe burns he suffered, it looks like he may achieve his dream of going back to school in September, thanks to the careful ministrations of Mercy Hospital and the Child Rescue Centre.