Hannah Smith has been named Senior Prefect of Methodist Girls High School in Bo. We are so proud of this Child Reintegration Centre student, and how she has overcome insurmountable obstacles in her young life.
Senior prefect is a big honor, but also a huge responsibility, roughly equivalent to being the president of the student body in a US high school. As senior prefect, Hannah represents the students before the administration, organizes events, helps maintain discipline and academic performance, and mentors other students. Hannah was selected on the basis of a written examination, a verbal interview with the school administration, and her excellent academic performance.
"I am very happy for this position," Hannah says. "I can now talk to my colleagues in school on issues affecting their education and other related activities. This has motivated me to study more to maintain my performance in school.
Hannah comes from a very vulnerable family, and her childhood was not easy. For several years, she and her brother Paul were separated from their handicapped father, who was unable to care for them until his situation was stabilized with the help of the Child Reintegration Centre's family strengthening program. Hannah and Paul were reunited with their father Paul Sr after living for several years in the residential centre during a very precarious time for their family. You can read more about their story in our Fall 2018 magazine.
Hannah has always wanted to be a leader in her home, community, church and school. "My aim is to be president of Sierra Leone," she says. Her best friend Elizabeth is proud of her friend. "I am blessed to have a friend like Hannah," Elizabeth says. "She has helped me change my negative behavior to a positive one. She is like a mentor to me."
While the Child Reintegration Centre continues to provide vital education support, medical access, and family mentoring to nearly 600 children and youth and their families, the busy staff is also rescuing unaccompanied children from the streets of Bo. CRC Director Olivia Fonnie spent some time getting to know these boys, while their situation is assessed. The Child Reintegration Centre is collaborating with local organization Street Child UK, which estimates there are as many as 6,500 children living on the streets of Bo.
Mercy Hospital is pleased to welcome Dr. Aruna Stevens to the staff. Aruna is an original alumnus of the Child Reintegration Centre residential program who was rescued from the Bo street as a small child in the wake of the Sierra Leone civil war. Aruna graduated from the University of Sierra Leone College of Medical and Allied Health Sciences and completed his housemanship (residency) at the University of Sierra Leone Teaching Hospital Complex.
"Today is a start of a childhood dream that I had to be a doctor to serve people, but specifically my people of Bo and its environs. I'm very humbled for this opportunity and grateful to Helping Children Worldwide, the Child Reintegration Centre, the United Methodist Church Sierra Leone Conference, and Mercy Hospital," Aruna says.
The Child Reintegration Centre contacted Momodu and Momoh's Aunt Betty, with whom they had hope to live when they first came to Bo (see earlier story.) The CRC offered to enroll the family in care, so that she can bring the boys into her home. With the CRC's support. Auntie Betty happily agreed to take in her nephews, and Momodu and Momoh were reintegrated to live with her and their other two brothers.
CRC Director Olivia Fonnie, along with CRC staff David Musa and Mabel Mustapha, brought the boys to their new home, equipped with a brand new mattress and duffles, plus backpacks and school supplies so they can go to their new school, SLC Primary-Dambala Road.
CRC case managers Emmanuel and Abibatu visited the boys at school to see how they are settling into their new classroom. Momodu and Momoh are happy to back at school. They proudly shared their writing workbooks with Emmanuel and Abibatu.
The Child Reintegration Centre has launched its initiative to rescue street children, collaborating with local organization Street Child UK, which estimates there are as many as 6,500 children living on the streets of Bo. These children may have escaped violence in the home, or they may have been abandoned by parents who are too poor to provide for them. They are in desperate need of shelter, food, education, and a family to love them. This is the case with Momodu and Momoh, brothers identified by Street Child and rescued by the CRC.
Momodu, 14 and Momoh, 12, are from a family of 10 children, of whom four died. The family, originally from a village near Bo, began to fall apart when their mother fled the abuse of her alcoholic husband. She took her daughter, but left the five boys to fend for themselves. Momodu soon ran away, landing on the streets of Bo. He survived by begging for empty cartons from shop owners, which he sold to market women for a few cents. Sometimes he sold metal scraps that he gathered from garages.
Eventually Momodu tired of the rough street life and returned to his village, but the home situation had not changed. His father gave him and his brother Momoh a little money to travel to their auntie's home in Bo, where two of their brothers had gone to escape the turmoil of their home. Sadly, their aunt also turned them away because she had no room for them.
Alone and abandoned, Momodu and Momoh had nowhere to turn but the street. They washed dishes for a woman who sold food at night. In payment, she gave them a little food and money. They slept in market stalls, where they were discovered by Street Child UK, who referred them to the CRC.
The CRC staff brought the brothers into the interim home, took them to Mercy Hospital for testing, and began counseling. The CRC is tracing their family to identify a safe home for them. They want to go back to school, but for the time being, they are so happy to be at the CRC.
In the fall of 2019, leaders of Christian organizations gathered in New York during the United Nations General Assembly to discuss a collaborative effort to encourage the global church's support for placing vulnerable children in safe, loving families. Last week, the group met again to sign a Global Pledge to support all children thriving in safe and loving families. Melody Curtiss and Laura Horvath represented HCW to sign the pledge. The pledge will soon become available for all supporters to sign at globalchurch.org.
The Pledge: We believe God designed families as the best environment for children and young people to receive the love, belonging, and protection they need in order to flourish. Therefore, on behalf of vulnerable children around the world, we commit to support efforts which strengthen families, invest in family-based solutions, and combat the root causes of their vulnerability.
See pictures of the signing ceremony below.
Mr. Sandy, beloved driver for the Child Reintegration Centre, has retired. The CRC held a ceremony to thank Mr. Sandy for his many years of faithful service and gave him some parting gifts. He will be remembered for his good humor, kindness, and the special care he always gave to the passengers in his charge.
The United Nations has formally adopted The Resolution on the Rights of the Child committing the 193 member nations to gradually shift support away from institutionalization of orphans and abandoned children, to focus on reintegrating children to families. The resolution includes a commitment to ensure that children leaving institutional care receive adequate support for their transition to family-based care. The Child Reintegration Centre was an early adapter of family reintegration , ending the residential program in 2018 to focus entirely on reintegration and family-based care. Helping Children Worldwide is one of 250 organizations supporting the UN's resolution.