CRC Case Manager Victor Kanu recently visited the home of former residential student Abdulai Dakowa, who is now enrolled in the Family Care Program. His mother Saffiatu is so grateful to be reunited with her son.
Saffiatu enrolled in the CRC's first microfinance class, and started an African soap business with the small loan she received upon graduation from the class. She joined the local "osusu" (lending group) and has been able to turn a profit and save money to support her little family.
Victor found that Abdulai is doing well at home with his mother, brother and sister. He helps with cooking and some domestic work, and participates in morning devotions with his family. His mother says that Abdulai is practicing his Christian life at home.
"I wish to express my sincere thanks and appreciation to you for the valuable assistance your organization has rendered to me in the upbringing and education of my son Abdulai at this very difficult time," Saffiatu told Victor. "This offer to us has contributed so immensely to the future of Abdulai," she says with gratitude.
I consider myself lucky, and hope to help other people by the grace of God.
Ernest lost both of his parents by the time he was 10 years old and was staying with a distant relative who used him for unpaid labor, when he was referred to the Child Rescue Centre by the Ministry of Social Welfare, where he spent his early childhood.
As a teenager, Ernest was reunified to live with extended family in the community, as mandated by the Sierra Leonean government. After completing Senior Secondary School, he applied for and was granted a Promise Scholarship to become a lab technician. Ernest graduated with a diploma in laboratory science in June and sat down with CRC Case Manager to talk about all the CRC has meant to him over the years.
The CRC has played a great and important role in my life, by helping me to achieve my dream. When I was breaking down from school, they helped to build me in my education. When I was weeping and mourning the death of my mother and father, the CRC made me laugh. When I was silent, the CRC helped me speak. Thank God for that. I consider myself lucky, and hope to help other people by the grace of God.
It meant alot to me to be awarded a Promise Scholarship. It is this scholarship that has made me who I am today. The scholarships has helped me to achieve my dream. It builds up my leadership skill and my level of understanding in terms of reading and writing, and has increased my level of understanding in knowing God and the things that we are doing on earth. As it is written in the book of Ecclesiastes 3:1, "there is a time and a purpose for everything on the earth."
The CRC has supported me at the post-secondary level by providing education materials like text books. The attend CRC allowed me to attend the Global Leadership workshop, provide transport for me, provided health facilities, and made provision for computer classes. They also helped me with my assignments and counseled me to take my education into good faith.
My future career plan is to further my education and become a histopathology or public health officer. I hope to have a job and get married and have a family. My advice to the JSS and SSS students is for them to study very hard and know that there is no easy thing in this world and to note that if you suffer today, tomorrow you will not suffer. But if you do not suffer today, tomorrow you will suffer in life and that is the time you will find life very hard to live in the world.
Ernest has been interning as a lab technician at Mercy Hospital while finishing his laboratory science diploma. "My future plan is to become a histopathology or public health officer," he says.
Baindu Simbo is a single mother with four children, three of whom are enrolled as Child Rescue Centre students. Baindu has a disability that has made it difficult to care for her family, but was eager to join the microfinance program to learn business and budgeting skills.
"I really enjoy working with Baindu Simbo," CRC Case Manager Victor Kanu says. "During the training and the followup monitoring visits, she always gives honest information. I am proud of her for paying her loan and sustaining her business."
Baindu has already repaid her initial loan and interest, and her business is doing well. Through her success in the microfinance program, Baindu has gained confidence, and her community admires her for her determination and achievement.
“I give thanks to the CRC for supporting me to launch my business," Baindu shared. "I find pleasure in producing my Africana soap,” she says with pride.
Case manager Victor Kanu visited Baindu at home, where she demonstrated her soap making process. "I find pleasure in producing my African soap," Baindu says.
Promise Scholar Musa Massaquoi recently graduated Njala University with a Bachelor of Science with Honors in Social Work. Musa lost his mother at a very young age and was raised by his father, a subsistence farmer, in a village near Bo. Education was always a problem, but he persevered through the obstacles posed by extreme poverty and achieved his dream of graduating from university.
Child Rescue Centre Case Manager Victor Kanu talked to Musa about his journey to achieve his dream of getting an education.
"Since I was schooling in the village, things were very challenging for me. I lost my mother when I was in Class 2. I continued to struggle until I sat to the National Primary School Examination (NPSE), wherein I scored very good grades. Upon enrollment into Junior Secondary, my education became a problem. My father depended on subsistence farming and had other children and relatives to care for.
I was driven from school for not paying the fees. I was really ashamed and felt dehumanized in the eyes of my colleagues.
In JSS 1, I was driven from school for not paying the fees. I was really ashamed and felt dehumanized in the eyes of my colleagues. It was through the merciful grace of God that I was noticed by the CRC during their assessment. I was recommended by one of the church members, and later enrolled into the program.
As a recipient of a Promise Scholarship, the CRC created several positive impacts to help me actualize my dream of success towards my education. The CRC changed my life through their moral ethics and Christian values, helping me become obedient, dedicated, honest, open-mind, humble, and hardworking, both in academic and other facets of life.
I learned good judgment, responsibility, and good study habits. The CRC trained and guided me to be an upstanding citizen with moral values, trust, and dedication to serving my people.
I am convinced that life without the support of other people is of no importance. This will really come to play when that individual is yet to achieve his or her dream, and their chances are limited. This is very common in Sierra Leone. I happened to be one of those many children that felt the pinch of poverty in Sierra Leone. The CRC saw fit to invest in me, as I went from high school to university.
And today I am one of the flag bearers of change in Sierra Leone and the world at large. This opportunity brings me to the forefront of building my human resource capacity. This is very essential in developing any state. Becoming a social worker today is a blessing in disguise. And if there are any other humanitarian organizations that have the same vision in Sierra Leone, they are going to make a sound meaning in our society and the world at large.
Dreams die slowly when opportunities are absent.
The CRC provided financial assistance for relevant learning materials, supported lodging for the first year of my university education, counseling support, and medical services.
My advice to colleagues, brothers and sisters: to focus on their academic work to maintain this wonderful opportunity, as many others are yearning to enjoy such a chance. They should be dedicated, hardworking, obedient, God-fearing and honest in all their undertakings, and they should think of their background, so as to step forward to completely change the lives of their families and communities of origin. They might be the only hope."
Francess Batty's father was one of the hundreds of heroic health care workers who died caring for Ebola patients. (The Ebola heroes who are giving their lives for others, January 16, 2015, The Telegraph.) While working as a community health worker at Princess Christian Maternity Hospital in Freetown, Samuel Batty contracted Ebola from a pregnant woman, and transmitted the disease to his wife. Both Samuel and his wife died, leaving their four children orphaned.
Francess, who was in her second year at Njala University, became the provider and caretaker for her younger sisters and brother. At the recommendation of the Ministry of Social Welfare, the Child Rescue Centre reached out to the family and began providing them assistance. Francess, who was already a student at Njala University, applied for and was granted a Promise Scholarship, so she could complete her degree and continue to take care of her younger siblings.
In June, Francess graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in accounting with honors. In an interview with CRC Case Manager Victor Kanu, Francess expressed her gratitude for the help and encouragement she received during a very desperate time in her life.
"In the first place I want to appreciate Child Rescue Centre for taking me this far. Since I lost both parents during the Ebola saga, CRC has been my help so I want to express my thanks, and may God bless the CRC. With the help of CRC, I can be proud of being a graduate from Njala University.
I thank my sponsors Matt and Beth Reed, and pray for God’s abundant blessings for them. Also my appreciation to the staff, especially the guidance counselor [Princess Kawa] who played a great role by advising me to make good use of the opportunity given to me by the CRC and to always be a good example.
The Promise Scholarship that was awarded to me has helped me so much in achieving my dreams, since I was in second year and now I am a graduate. In addition to my tuition, the CRC has been providing me a monthly stipend to pay my transport fare, provided textbooks, and relevant learning materials for me to study hard.
As I have got my first degree, my future career plans are to further my studies to acquire my master’s degree, and also gain a good job for me to take care of my younger ones, because I am the eldest in my family.
In five years from now, I hope to be in another level. I would like to be a role model in the society, having a good job or even have plans to gain further scholarship.
For the younger ones who are in JSS and SS, my advice is for them to focus on their studies, be good boys and girls and to make good use of the opportunities CRC is offering to them, which is a huge blessing.
Francess, left, in her graduation gown, and with CRC guidance counselor Princess Kawa. "I want to be a role model," Francess says.
As a young boy, Amara Foday enrolled in the Child Rescue Centre's Child Support Program, but dropped out of school at the end of Junior Secondary when he failed to pass the difficult BECE national exam for promotion to Senior Secondary.
It's not an unusual occurrence for kids who come from backgrounds of extreme poverty in Sierra Leone, as they may be too disadvantaged to succeed academically by the time they start school, hampered by a host of problems associated with poverty like early malnutrition, chronic illness, itinerancy, or family dysfunction.
In spite of these obstacles, Amara persevered in his desire to learn a marketable skill. He had stayed connected to the CRC and applied to the CRC for a Promise Scholarship to attend vo tech school. The CRC was pleased to offer Amara a scholarship to pursue vocational training at Sierra Leone Opportunities Industrialization Centre. Amara used his scholarship to become a welding technician, a highly sought after skill in Sierra Leone as construction keeps pace with the population increase.
Amara has now completed his welding program and will officially graduate in December. He is currently working with a team in Freetown to demolish the houses destroyed by mudslides last year.
As he discusses his future, Amara has already started thinking about how to give back to his nation of Sierra Leone. "My career plans are to own a private welding and metal workshop to employ and train youths on metal work, and with that I can contribute in nation building, " Amara told CRC Counselor Victor Kanu. "The CRC has impacted my life in many ways, but more especially to make me to become somebody in the society by achieving my goal to be a welder and becoming independent," he added.
"My advice to a student hoping to earn a Promise Scholarship is to stay focused and work very hard in order to achieve the good result to develop ourselves and the country," Amara counsels aspiring scholars. "The CRC Promise scholarship means a lot to me, as it has helped me transformed my life, contributing to my family and the country as a whole."
Amara hopes to open a private welding and metal workshop to train youth like himself, "With that I can contribute to nation building."
On Saturday, July 14th, the Child Rescue Centre hosted a big multi-purpose event for many of the students enrolled in the CRC programs. All the kids who attended were measured for school uniforms, and also had the opportunity to write to their sponsors. And of course, there was lots of time for sports, games, and socializing!
Uniforms are mandatory in Sierra Leone schools, and the expense is just one more obstacle in the way of poor families who want their children to get an education instead of going to work. The Child Rescue Centre provides each enrolled student with the proper school uniform, shoes, belt, backpack, books and school supplies, without which they would not be allowed to attend school.
There are nearly 100 schools approved for attendance by students enrolled in the CRC, and every school has a different color uniform. It's a marvelous sight every morning to see the sidewalks and pathways of Bo fill with children garbed in every hue of blue, green, red, gold, burgundy, pink, white and brown as they head off to school. The tailors are going to be very busy over the next two months!
The Children’s Voice service organization of the Child Rescue Center held an outreach activity at the Paul School for the Blind on July 5.
The children came together and decided to give food to the hungry as it is one of the fruits of a Christian. They bought food items and took it to the school. On the arrival of the children at the Paul School for the Blind, the students were very happy to see them.
The students were told to assemble at the hall. Choruses were led by Isatu Kallon of the Children's Voice. Prayers were led by Edwina Davies. The presentation was by Anita Mansaray, who is the president of the Children’s Voice.
Vote of thanks was giving by the proprietor Mr. Conteh, who appreciated the gifts very much, as it came at the right time. The matron of the above Institution also thanked and blessed the children.
- Victor S. Kanu- CSP/FCP Assistant Coordinator and Lead Facilitator for Microfinance
Fourteen-year-old Hannah Smith attends the Methodist Girls High school in Bo where she is enrolled in Junior Secondary 1. Hannah and her younger brother Paul were enrolled in the residential program, and were recently reunified to live with their father, who is disabled.
Hannah’s school organized a quiz and debate competition for 16 children across 3 classes (JSS1, JSS2, and JSS3), to observe the African Day of the Child commemoration, with the objective to identify competent pupils in the school. Questions were designed and selected for all junior secondary school subjects.
At the end of the competition, Hannah Smith emerged as the victor in the debate category for JSS 1 and a certificate was presented to her in recognition of her participation and achievement.
“I was really happy,” Hannah said. “The reason I’m so happy is that when I stood for the competition and won it, my friends were all very happy for me. I studied hard to bring success, encouraging other children in my community, the CRC program, and in the school to be bold and study hard.” Hannah shared her thanks and appreciation for the teachers in the school for helping to prepare her.
Hannah also gives credit to the CRC staff as well for helping her to be successful. As a result of CRC support and what they had taught her, Hannah benefitted from their stories, reading, devotions, and preaching of the gospel.
One of the school’s teachers, Mr. Ibrahim Sillah said “Hannah Smith is one of our best students in the school and it was not a surprise she came out as the victor in the competition. And as for her performance in class, she came in second in the first examination, first in the second examination and we hope she will earn the best result in the ongoing examination!”
- Deborah Kanneh, Family Care Program Coordinator
Sponsors Gaylew and Roger Hutchison were excited to hear Hannah's news. "We're very proud of Hannah!" Gaylew exclaimed. Roger shares his wife's pride, "We're so very proud that she is our sponsored child." Hannah displays her certificate, joined by FCP Coordinator Deborah Kanneh, and her teacher Mr. Sillah.
The best place for the child is in the home. Orphanages are the worst place for them.
On June 26, 2018, the Child Rescue Centre held a solemn, yet joyful ceremony to celebrate the reunification of the twenty remaining residential students, who went to live with their "forever families."
The CRC is in the forefront of the international movement to move children out of orphanages, as UNICEF and other child-focused organizations across the globe recognize that caring families are far better at raising emotionally and mentally healthy children than institutions.
The event was attended by the children and their families, the CRC staff, Bishop John Yambasu, Mrs. Olivia Fonnie, and representatives from SOS Children's Village and the Ministry of Social Welfare.
Even though there were some emotional moments, the overwhelming sentiment was joyful anticipation for the children as they go to live with their "forever families." The parents were assured of the organization’s support for their children, who will remain enrolled as CRC students, and come to the CRC compound to attend activities and stay connected.
The following dignitaries and honored guests spoke:
Bishop John K. Yambasu, Sierra Leone Annual Conference
This is an occasion for thanksgiving to God after almost 18 years. From the very humble beginnings near the market, up to this time. Until we appreciate ourselves and what we have done, we cannot appreciate God. I really want to appreciate CRC staff, you are nothing but the best. We have gone through so many transitions together. Children have come and gone, staff have come and gone. It has been a struggle. Many people when they come to a job, come to serve themselves. But this is not correct. We need to serve humanity and serve God.
We are not really closing the residence. We will still maintain a transit home for emergency cases that the Ministry of Social Welfare can recommend to us. This will only be a short-term and temporary transit home.
It is a blessing to be a parent, and it comes with so much responsibility. I give these caregivers the advice to treat the children in your care as if they were your own children. If someone looks at your family, they should not be able to know who is your real biological child and who is not. With love, we will come to help empower you to be the best parents you can be.
I want to say thanks and appreciation to Social Welfare. They have been working with us since the beginning. We are smaller than some of the other NGOs. But we are a strong faith-based organization, and we became the best child care organization.
Nobody can do this work alone. I want to thank all the staff, the UMC staff, Olivia, Rev Charley, and our partners at HCW. All of this started with me and Rev. Tom Berlin. Then we started getting one partner church, than two, and now we have 17 partner churches. I want to thank them so much for all their support over the years. It is really not easy for them to raise money for us, they work so hard. They are the only ones supporting us and we are so grateful to them.
We have had some bitter experiences with reunification in the past. We used to have the children in the home for so long. They would stay until they were 18 years old. Some came in at 7 years old and would spend 10, 12 years in the home. Once they left they had a hard time because outside there was no control. They were not able to adjust well and they fell into trouble.
Of course, some really did well. This man here, 18 years ago, was one of you here, one of the first children in this program. Now he is the Director. Honestly, I don’t want to embarrass him, but we have had 5 or 6 Directors and he has been the best one. He takes this as his family, as his home and he wants only the best for it. Its not about money.
Many of the children here have gone on to do great things: doctors, architects, and many work here at CRC. That’s the profit we get. That is the greatest benefit we get from this work, to see all the wonderful things the children will do.
Mabel Mustapha, Reunification Chairperson and Education Manager
Today is a very important day in the history of our organization. This is the last reunification ceremony. The children will finally be reunited with their families. There have been many reunifications, the first one was in 2012, but this will be the last. For me, I am happy because we started this two years ago with training and preparing the families. So we know the parents and the children are both ready for this because we have helped to build a bond for these families.
Olivia Fonnie, CRC Supervisory Chair
I would like to speak directly to the parents. Because I am a parent and I know how difficult it can be. Please, let us have patience with them. One day your child may come to you and ask for something that you do not have in your hand. Please be patient with them and gently explain to them that things are different in your home and that you don’t have everything they might have at CRC. Use your stipend wisely and for the benefit of your children for their schooling. Thank you for taking them, God will surely bless you.
Mohamed Nabieu, CRC Director
Anything God asks you to do, do it to the best of your ability. Do it so you can sleep well at night with a clear conscience that you did your best. We made sure that all of you are biologically related. The best thing for a child is to be raised in the home with their real relatives.
I am proud of where I came from, I am so thankful for all the CRC has done for me. After the war, I was separated from my family and there was no choice other than to go to the orphanage. Up to date, I still struggle to know my extended family because I never was able to connect with them. It really bothers me.
80% - 90% of children in orphanages have a living parent. They go into orphanages because of poverty. Why are you doing something for somebody when they can do it themselves? Children need to know their roots and be with their forever family. Parents need to have the opportunity to raise their own children.
Your children are precious to us but they need to be with you. We will continue supporting them so you can be a family. You are going to have challenges. Here in the home there is a strict schedule. There is a time for everything. There are many rules. It will be different for the children to be in the community. We are moving our focus from an individual child to the entire family. This is so the family can support all the children and become sustainable and move out of poverty.
Hawa Koker, Director of SOS Children's Village
I want to congratulate the CRC for the bold step they have taken in this direction. I want to thank all these partners. We realize that we need to make these changes. Honestly, we are not on the right track. This poverty issue is really true for us in Sierra Leone and it makes children come to the orphanage. We need to work together to share data.
I agree with the Director about the best place for a child. Its not easy for people to embrace it. We are struggling. We have 150 children in the village. Its just not easy. I know we are resistant to change but this change is the best for the children. Many children in our program have families. Their families cannot even visit them without a pass. Some family homes are so close to the village that the children can wave over the fence to their parents. But their parents won’t wave back because they are afraid of the children being taken out of the program.
Some family homes are so close to the [SOS] village that the children can wave over the fence to their parents. But their parents won’t wave back, because they are afraid of the children being taken out of the program.
We have started allowing the children to go home to their families on some weekends or holidays. It is not forced. We have 150 children and on those weekends maybe only 5 children will stay back in the village. So that means that obviously SOS is not the place for them to be. If you keep somebody for 18 years they have to come back to us. They don’t know anything about being outside.
We need to continuously check ourselves and see if it is in the interest of the child. When the children come back to SOS after being with their families, they cry. You can never replace blood. Blood is blood. Let's join together and do the best we can for the children. We are creating an empire for a small number and when they mix with other children, they see them as nothing. Differences are there. Poverty is not an excuse.
Patrick Bangura, Director Ministry of Social Welfare
The best place for the child is in the home. Orphanages are the worst place for them. They are not able to adjust back. We appreciate the steps of CRC that they are following the laws. I am really happy to hear about the interim care home because we have critical cases. Recently CRC helped us with one of those and we are so grateful. Sierra Leone does not have orphans. There always has to be a relative, an auntie or an uncle. You just need to trace them.
Aminata Mansary, President, Children’s Voice
I am happy for CRC because it has helped my educational life and it has helped my spiritual life. I am sure CRC will still support me and help me to grow and learn. I want to say thank you to the staff and thank you to my brothers and sisters.
Sallay Mattia, Caregiver
We are so happy because of this. Thank you for taking care of our children. Thank you for teaching us and training us. We are so happy when the children come to visit us and stay with us. We are excited to have them at home now. We are happy to have your support and thank you all.
Abduali Dakowa, CRC student
On behalf of the children, I want to thank everyone for all they have done for us. We thank the staff for taking good care of us and helping us to learn. We thank the partners for everything. We are very happy and love you all.
Musu Mansary, Caregiver
I am so happy that the children are coming to stay with me. It is very good. They are nice girls and I am glad they will be with me. Thank you to CRC for helping us.