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, in order to help child welfare advocates understand the impact of growing up in an institution. 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.
Microfinance graduates trained to mentor other CRC parents; new parents enrolled in microfinance program
The CRC recently began training graduates of the Microfinance Program to mentor other parents, so that they can learn microfinance skills to help their families become financially stable. For the first training, the CRC chose eight parents who have demonstrated success in their microfinance businesses since graduating the program. To become mentors, they were coached on the roles and responsibilities of a mentor, and how they can support the process of training new participants. Eight CRC parents completed the training and will begin mentoring other parents: Gbessay Sesay, Saffiatu Dakowa, Samuel James, Catherine Ngaliwa, Baindu Sumbu, Fatmata Mattia, Janet Turay, and Fatmata J. Amara. The new mentors will receive a second microfinance loan as a reward for faithfully paying back their first loan on time.
On June 21st, a meeting was held for a new group of 25 CRC parents who would like to enroll in the Microfinance Program and learn strategies for improving their financial stability so they can take better care of their children. Victor Kanu, lead facilitator of the Family Strengthening Program, informed the parents that the training will cover seventeen topics that will change their household and family lifestyle, including money management, budgeting, planning, and saving. During the initial meeting, the participants were given the task of developing business plans for three different potential businesses. These plans will be used throughout the training, and the CRC staff and mentors will consult with the parents at the end of the training to help them choose the best business plan. The actual training will launch July 28th, and cover two topics per meeting. At the conclusion of the training, there will be a certification ceremony and a loan distribution for the amount of five hundred thousand leones to each graduate (approximately $56.)
Sponsor A Child Assistant Coordinator Henry Kebbie, who assisted with the training, thanked the participants for coming to the meeting, noting that this program is not for the parents, but rather for their children. He encouraged the parents to look for businesses that will yield a greater profit, and advised them to utilize the money well so that they can provide food, transportation, and other necessary items for their children to live happy and comfortable lives. The CRC staff are excited and encouraged to see the impact these trainings are having in the lives of CRC families and their communities.
After serving as the Child Rescue Centre Director for more than two years, Mohamed Nabieu couldn’t leave the CRC and Sierra Leone without a very unique farewell. He took the opportunity to take the hardworking staff on a well-earned holiday but also ensured that the time spent away would continue to build the skills and capacity of the team by including time to continue refining their leadership skills. The event lasted for two days in February at Kent Beach.
Mrs. Olivia Fonnie, the Director of Christian Education\Specialized Ministry to Children, was on hand to present on the topic “Work Ethics,” explaining the importance of workplace ethics and providing examples. Fonnie also spoke about ways to demonstrate a strong work ethic, and discussed examples of ethics violations in the workplace. The presentation was followed by a highly interactive discussion among the staff.
Mohamed Nabieu’s presentations based on Patrick Lencioni’s work were on the five dysfunctions of a team,and the four disciplines of a healthy organization. Nabieu shared the dysfunctional interactions that can make an organization inefficient and ineffective, and urged the staff to embrace the four disciplines of healthy organizations instead. Staff were encouraged to continue to develop their skills in working cohesively, maintaining organizational clarity, communicating and even over-communicating, and reinforcing clarity through human systems.
The presentations shared by Mrs. Fonnie and Mr. Nabieu are built on an ongoing practice of weekly leadership discussions where staff read and reflect on various leadership materials in order to continue to be an organization of excellence.
The CRC welcomed all of the children in its program to their annual Sponsor-A-Child Christmas parties on December 20 and 21st. This included the 20 children from Fengehun Village. CRC case managers also visited Pujehun village to bring gifts and a small celebration to the CRC students there.
Each student was presented with an inflatable solar light, a wristband and some toiletries. Students also enjoyed food and drinks, and a nativity play performed by students in the CRC program. HCW Missioner, Chris Davis was able to attend one of these parties and offer his services in assisting with the party.
For the first time, parents were encouraged to attend and assist with serving food and drink. The staff entertained parents and their CRC students with a skit designed to teach them how to form stronger attachments with each other.
Henry Kebbie works at the Child Rescue Centre (CRC) as the Assistant Coordinator for the Sponsor A Child Program. Henry is also responsible for a caseload of 70 children supported by the CRC’s programs. Engaged to be married soon, Henry is the proud papa of a young daughter. Henry’s story is unique in that he was a child supported by the CRC’s Child Support Program, which provided health and education support from primary through secondary school. After graduation, he applied for and won a Promise Scholarship which enabled him to attend university. Graduating with honors, Henry holds a Bachelor of Science in Social Work from Njala University.
Henry credits his being a CRC student with his path toward becoming a social worker. “It has always been my desire to be a social worker so that I could return to work with an organization like the CRC which is working to save helpless families and especially destitute children,” Henry says. Henry applies the lessons he’s learned to his work with the children on his caseload. “I always encourage them to take their studies very seriously, as I did,” he says. “I went through the same program at the CRC, and now I am working for the CRC. I believe it is important that children are educated and grow up to be a good example for others, just like I am.”
Henry Kebbie was drawn to social work out of a desire to help people - particularly those who are vulnerable. At the Child Rescue Centre (CRC), Henry found an opportunity to help the most vulnerable children and their families. He was deeply interested in community development and wanted to engage in work that would have a deep, lasting and positive impact. Being a case manager for vulnerable children and their families helps him see that impact every day. Henry finds the work at CRC particularly rewarding because of the CRC’s vision and focus to give something positive to the community of Bo.
Henry’s deepest hopes for the children on his caseload are that they all do well in school and find a bright future, and that they all know how deeply they are blessed by God.
Aminata Conteh is the caregiver of two children enrolled in CRC programs; Samuel B. Kamara and Abu Backrria S. Conteh. Aminata was fortunate enough to qualify for the CRC’s microfinance training program because of her ongoing commitment to the CRC, and her family’s extreme financial vulnerability. She completed the training, was presented with a certificate and given a small loan to launch or revive a business.
Aminata did well in the microfinance training, and has been able to realize her potential upon graduating, receiving her microloan and setting up her small business. She discovered that with the lessons she’d learned, she could be a good business woman, make a profit, save for emergency purposes and better support her children.
Members of the CRC staff recently visited her at her market stall to check on the progress of her business and microloan repayment. Aminata shared that prior to her participation in the microfinance training, her small business had failed as a result of poor management, and lack of understanding of simple budgeting skills. Discouraged, she had given up the business, and sat at home for some time, unsure of how to find success.
The class has taught Aminata how to manage her money much better, and now she is able to budget her money, save, and plan for the future to both grow her business and eventually gain her financial independence. With the small loan of approximately $90, she reestablished her market business, and is now making and even saving money. “Since I have launched my business again, I am doing well as a result of the training, “ Aminata says.
The Child Rescue Centre and Mercy Hospital continue to find ways to partner together to provide care to people in the Bo community. This summer, they worked together to diagnose, treat and then place a deaf and mute child who’d been sleeping on the street. That child, Joseph Deen, now lives with his caregiver, the headmaster at the local deaf school, and is also enrolled in the school.
Recently, on a home visit to two children in the CRC Program (Kula Sesay Lassie and Paul Lassie), CRC Case Managers and Counselors, Rosa Saffa and Emmanuel Lamin realized that their grandmother, Kula Sesay, seemed quite ill. Kula shared that she had felt sick for over a year. Kula has been caring for her two grandchildren ever since their mother, Hannah, died during an epileptic seizure.
Rosa and Emmanuel encouraged Kula to go to Mercy Hospital for diagnosis and treatment. She worried at first about her lack of ability to pay for her treatment, but the CRC staff members were happy to share with her Mercy’s policy to provide care regardless of a patient’s ability to pay. Mercy’s Community Health Officer, Deborah Boima diagnosed Kula with tuberculosis, and provided her with medicines and monthly treatment at Mercy Hospital. Grateful, Kula said, “I am really excited with the support of CRC, my health is now satisfactory.”
In May of 2018, at a regular meeting conducted by the Ministry of Social Welfare and Gender Affairs (MSWGA), Director Mohamed Nabieu was alerted to the case of child in need. According to MSWGA, a 4-year-old boy had been discovered by the local police, hiding in one of the drainage ditches in Bo. He was brought immediately to the Ministry to try to trace his parents. However, this was complicated due to the fact that he was apparently deaf and mute, and therefore unable to communicate any information about his family or home. The Ministry put up signs and made radio announcements, but after several months, no one had come forward to claim him.
It was at that point that the Ministry shared the case with the child protection agencies attending the meeting. After discussing it, the CRC Director Nabieu, Mercy Hospital Administrator Jinnah Lahai and Lead Doctor Sao Amara agreed to take responsibility for the boy. He was brought to Mercy for a proper medical check-up, and the CRC was able to find him a safe and loving foster home with the principal of the local deaf school. The CRC has committed to continue providing for his educational, spiritual and counseling needs, while Mercy will take care of his medical needs.
Named Joseph Deen by his new foster family, he now lives with his foster father, the principal of the Ebert Kakua School for the Deaf, where he is also enrolled. He is learning sign language, and enjoys going to school with children like himself. According to his foster father, Joseph enjoys playing with the other children at school, playing with his toys and helping out with household chores. He enjoys going to his family’s farm and helping there as well. His father shares that Joseph’s happiest time of day is when it’s time to go to school.
Ministry of Social Welfare and Gender Affairs praises CRC for their contributions in nation building
The Sierra Leone Ministry of Social Welfare and Gender Affairs (MSWGA) is the government agency in charge of ensuring that vulnerable children and people are cared for appropriately. As a child welfare organization, the Child Rescue Centre participates in monthly meetings held by the MSWGA. These meetings allow MSWGA representatives and the leaders of various organizations involved in the care of vulnerable children like the CRC, Joshua Child Care, and SOS Children’s Home to share information, best practices, and to receive updates.
At a regular meeting held in October, the MSWGA commended the CRC for the work it has done in the areas of child protection, education, health, child safety, final reunification of children in the residential program, and the microfinance program.
“The Child Rescue Centre has been very proactive in addressing child welfare issues in the Bo District,” says Michael James, Senior Social Service Officer in Charge of Trafficking. James shared that the Ministry considers the CRC an exemplary child welfare program, particularly in the fairness and lack of bias of its intake practices. He particularly cited the case of Joseph Deen, a deaf child that the CRC and Mercy stepped in to help, reflecting that the CRC does not discriminate against any child in need regardless of circumstance.
The staff of the Child Rescue Centre has provided training on human sexuality in a Christian context to students in its programs for years using a curriculum called Honoring God With Your Body (HGWYB). The CRC counselors, Emmanuel Lamin and Rosa Saffa, organized a two day workshop for the CRC staff to brush up and refine their teaching skills on this important curriculum. The workshop was led by Milli Jantz, a missionary and expert in reproductive health. Milli facilitated discussions on selected topics that included the male and female reproductive systems, HIV/STDs, and the value of family spacing for child wellbeing, reproductive health and health practices to prevent disease transmission and early unplanned pregnancies.
The CRC staff were also able to participate in a question and answer session designed to help them teach the curriculum to students as effectively as possible. “It was a great workshop, especially learning about the specific topics. I learned about the female reproductive system, particularly when pregnancy occurs. I also learned it is important to encourage people to visit counselors or health professionals for any sign or symptom,” reflected Johanese Baun. “It was especially good to be able to ask questions and get answers. It was good for the staff, and it will be good for the students,” said Mabel Mustapha.