At a medical outreach clinic in Kahungabu Village, the Mercy team encountered Amos, a one year old boy suffering from vomiting and abdominal pain. The child had been enrolled in the nutrition program, but was failing to gain weight. Amos was diagnosed with an inguinal hernia (groin area) and an umbilical hernia (belly button area) and surgery at Mercy Hospital was recommended.
Umbilical hernia is common in the developing world and may be the result of a congenital weakness in the abdominal muscles, or caused by severe coughing that leads to increased abdominal pressure. Various risk factors can cause inguinal hernias, including premature birth. Left untreated, umbilical and inguinal hernias can lead to severe health complications in children.
Amos was transported to the hospital, where he was admitted. The surgery was successfully performed by Chief Medical Officer Dr. Amara and Mercy's surgical officer, Lawrence Kargbo. His family didn't have any money for the surgery, but Mercy treats patients regardless of their ability to pay, so there was no charge for the treatment. Amos spent some time in recovery before being released. He and his mother returned later to say "thank you" to the staff of Mercy for their compassionate care.
The CRC is pleased to welcome Assiatu Tarawally and Andrew Forbie to the staff. Assiatu is joining the team of case managers who monitor the CRC students' academic progress and well being. Andrew is the new Monitoring and Evaluation Officer who will collect, analyze and report data to help the CRC improve programming, and communicate progress to partners. Andrew will work with M&E Project Lead Sam Bundren to establish a data management system.
Assiatu graduated with a bachelors degree in social work from Fourah Bay College in Freetown, Sierra Leone. She served an internship at Don Bosco Fambul, a Christian ministry that cares for street children in Freetown, and also volunteered for Project Pikin. Assiatu is the youngest child in her large family, who live in Freetown. Assiatu is a committed Christian who enjoys reading and dancing. "I love gaining new experiences, dealing with challenges, and finding a way out," Assiatu says. "I have a passion for children, and I want to contribute towards nation building."
Before coming to the CRC, Andrew served as Governance and Research Coordinator for People's Foundation for Humanity Development, a Sierra Leone-based NGO. Previous to that, he was a data collector for the World Food Programme in Liberia. He holds a bachelors degree in sociology from the University of Sierra Leone, and a secondary education teaching certificate from Milton Margai College.
Andrew is married and has three children and one foster child. He enjoys traveling to new places with his family and listening to music. He is a devoted Christian evangelist and musician who plays the keyboard and drums. "I am excited to work at CRC to represent and promote its mission, vision, core values and Biblical principles," Andrew says.
The Child Rescue Centre is encouraging Senior Secondary school graduates to consider vocational or technical education if they don't do well on the college entrance exam. Throughout West Africa, graduates of Senior Secondary School (high school equivalent) sit for the West African Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE), to determine their eligibility for further education. Upon receiving their results, CRC students are welcomed to apply for a Promise Scholarship for university or votech programs. Many CRC students who scored high on the WASSCE have pursued university degrees including medicine, engineering, journalism, applied science, or social work. However, the test is difficult and many students don't earn scores that will gain them entrance to university.
The CRC aims to remove any stigma about votech education, and help every student become a self-sufficient, contributing member of their community. CRC Director Olivia Fonnie and other staff members recently met with graduates to encourage them to consider vocational or technical training.
There are many successful individuals who do not go to college; they went to technical or vocational school," CRC Case Manager Victor Kanu explained. CRC graduate Amara Foday used his scholarship to attend welding school, a highly sought-after skill in Sierra Leone (read about Amara here) and is now enjoying a career in the booming Sierra Leone construction industry. CRC students have successfully completed vocation and technical education programs including catering, tailoring, and auto mechanics.
The CRC is offering extra tutoring and preparation classes for the students who decide to take the WASSCE a second time.
Although the western church has historically been a driving force in the proliferation of orphanages, it is poised now to become a huge part of the solution to the problem." - Krish Kandiah, Home for Good
Helping Children Worldwide was honored to be at the table with global child welfare leaders for the "The Global Church’s Response to Children Without Parental Care," in conjunction with the 2019 UN General Assembly on September 23rd in New York City. The group met to strategize how to engage the global church in the family reintegration movement, which seeks to place every orphaned or abandoned child in a safe and loving family. Melody Curtiss and Laura Horvath represented HCW in the meeting with other leaders of child welfare and faith organizations, including World Vision, 1MILLIONHOME, Catholic Relief Services, Home for Good, and the Christian Alliance for Orphans (CAFO). Many of the participants were present at HCW's Rising Tides policy conference last month.
The meeting was organized by Krish Kandiah, Founding Director of Home for Good, and Elli Oswald, Executive Director of Faith to Action. Krish encouraged the assembly that the global church could become a "champion for children," and fulfill the Biblical promise to "let your light shine before men that they should see your deeds and praise you," by leading the movement to find loving families for all children. "Although the western church has historically been a driving force in the proliferation of orphanages, it is poised now to become a huge part of the solution to the problem," Krish concluded. Doug Leonard, World Council of Church representative to the UN, assured the group that they "can be a vehicle for advocacy to the UN on behalf of every child's right to grow up in safe, stable families."
Presentations by the participants framed the challenge:
HCW is an endorser of the Key Recommendations. Plans are underway to share the impact of the meeting with other Christian organizations, and develop language to communicate the mission and purpose of the group to share with church leaders across denominations.
Above: Krish Kandish (second from right) and Elli Oswald (right) convened the meeting of child welfare and faith leaders.
19 year old Isata was admitted suffering from severe abdominal pain, which was diagnosed as acute appendicitis. Her appendix was successfully removed and she recovered. Isata was in the examination hall when appendicitis struck. Fast-thinking friends rushed her to the hospital.
Jeneba was admitted for vaginal bleeding and diagnosed with ovarian cyst and fibroids. During surgery it was discovered that her ovaries were severely damaged, requiring the removal of one. Jeneba is doing much better post-surgery, and in gratitude, promised to name her first child Mercy.
Sesay, age 18, collapsed and was not breathing when her family brought her to the hospital. She was diagnosed with severe anemia caused by malaria and typhoid. The Mercy statistician donated a unit of blood which was administered, and she made a full recovery. Her family was amazed at how quickly she recovered after receiving a transfusion.
Is there anything more exciting than getting new school supplies? Child Rescue Centre case managers visited Manguama village to deliver backpacks and school supplies for the children who are enrolled in the CRC. Earlier this month, the staff held a workshop at the CRC compound to inform new parents about the CRC's education policy, and also distributed school supplies to the children.
You are all Christian leaders. You do the uncomfortable thing because it is right. You do the hard thing, the right thing. It is possible, and it can be done. You can move those children to loving homes, we have done it, so it can be done!
Last month, HCW’s Child Welfare Programs Liaison Mohamed Nabieu (Nabs) presented about his experience growing up in an orphanage to a special panel at the 1MILLIONHOME/Agape Family Reintegration Workshop in Nairobi, Kenya. Nabs, Ruth Wacuka and Peter Mthui (both from Kenya) shared their experiences as "care leavers," children who age out of institutional care without being placed in a family. The care leavers are on a mission to help child welfare advocates understand the impact of growing up in an institution, and encourage the the reintegration of families. The panel presentation was extremely well-received by the workshop participants, prompting many follow-up questions.
Having grown up in different countries and orphanages, the stories of Peter, Ruth and Nabs are unique, but they share many similarities. They are passionate and compelling advocates for children in institutional care, and their stories are gaining a great deal of interest among child welfare programs around the world. The trio will be presenting again at the World Without Orphans Global Forum in Chiang Mai, Thailand this October.
Helping Children Worldwide is partnering with the 1MILLIONHOME Foundation to prepare and host a week-long Family Reintegration Workshop in Sierra Leone in 2020. When 1MILLIONHOME learned that the CRC was the first Sierra Leonean orphanage to successfully complete this transition, they offered to help support the workshop so that the CRC staff can train other orphanage directors and government officials to learn how to transition their own programs to family-based care.
The care leavers had five minutes each to tell their stories, excerpted below:
The care leavers’ presentations were followed by an audience Q&A.
Nabs: “[The Child Rescue Centre] continues to support the children’s education after they leave the orphanage, but now they live with families, building bonds, trust, and relationship. [The CRC] continues to support the child. We have done something very simple. Everything stays the same, we have just changed the sleeping location of the child. Our organization is now focused on family empowerment, micro finance training, and case management. We are building the family’s dignity to care for their own child. When a family becomes empowered, they are then able to mentor other families.”
Ruth: “I recommend Singing to the Lions (A Guide to Overcoming Fear and Violence in Our Lives, by Catholic Relief Services) a 10 week program to address trauma. Living in care and exiting cause trauma. Children need one on one counseling with a therapist. So many out there are still not able to talk about their experience.
Peter: “We are good at reacting, not pro-acting. Rather than thinking about how to fix what is broken, let’s focus on the kids in institutional care now - how can we get them home and end the cycle of trauma sooner?”
Nabs closed the care leavers presentation with words of motivation and encouragement. “We must address the cause, not the symptom. We rescue these children from the crisis, but we don’t address the cause of their crisis. Then when they go back home, they’re back in the crisis. You are all Christian leaders. You do the uncomfortable thing because it is right. You do the hard thing, the right thing. It is possible, and it can be done. You can move those children to loving homes, we have done it, so it can be done!”
“We are all broken, but it is well,” Nabs concluded.
Peter, Nabs, and Ruth had the opportunity to meet with 1MILLIONHOME COO Michele Schneidler and pastor and author Francis Chan, who was also a presenter at the conference.
Life is difficult in Sierra Leone for teenage mothers and their babies. Although Sierra Leone has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in the world, there is a strong social stigma against teenage pregnancy, and many families ostracize their daughters if they become pregnant. Most schools will not allow pregnant teens to remain enrolled. Family rejection leaves many young mothers unable to provide their children with adequate food, clothing, and medication.
The Child Rescue Centre and Mercy Hospital recently collaborated to provide local teenage moms with desperately needed baby clothes and supplies. CRC Director Olivia Fonnie, Guidance Counselor Rosa Saffa, and CRC Secretary Claudia Mani visited the maternity wards of Mercy Hospital and Bo Government Hospital to deliver many bags of donated items. More than 100 mothers and babies benefited from the generosity of the two organizations. Olivia, Rosa and Claudia prayed with the young mothers as they distributed the clothing, shoes, blankets, and other items.
"I gave birth to twins girls and their father went out to find clothes for the children first thing this morning and returned with some old ones saying he did not have enough money to purchase new ones. I give God all the thanks and appreciation for such wonderful gifts I received today, and may God continue to bless the providers,” one of the grateful recipients said.
Because teenage pregnancy is impacting the lives of so many young people, the Child Rescue Centre teaches an effective program called "Honoring God With Your Body" based on basic Biblical principles relating to sexual responsibility. HGWYB covers topics of abstinence, navigating compromising situations, appropriate and inappropriate behaviors, modest dress, preventing premarital sex, sexually transmitted disease, HIV and avoiding pregnancy.
This month, the Child Rescue Centre staff completed microfinance training for a third group of CRC parents. Thirty-two men and women participated in the 10 week training. The 17 session training covered saving, money management, creating and maintaining a budget, financial planning, responsible borrowing, loan management, and other topics. At the end of the training, the staff conducted a capstone project and review to ascertain the participants' learning.
Representatives of three local banks were invited to help facilitate the training. The bank representatives talked to the participants about their services and instructed them how to open an account. The training especially stressed the importance of learning how to save money to prepare for emergencies and unexpected expenses.
On September 17, a festive celebration was held for the new graduates and their families. Local government representatives attended and spoke encouragement to the graduates. Micro loans were distributed to the graduates to start their new businesses. We look forward to hearing their success stories!