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."
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 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.
1MILLIONHOME/HCW Family Reunification Workshop
HCW, 1MILLIONHOME and the Sierra Leone Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs (MSWGCA) are collaborating to hold a reintegration/transition workshop for orphanage directors, child welfare program leaders, and government officials from West Africa.
The workshop will be held in Freetown in Fall 2020. Program Development Director Laura Horvath describes the event as a hands-on workshop designed to equip participants with the tools they need to begin their own transition from institutional to family-based care, as recommended by the United Nations. (Read more about family reintegration here.)
MSWGCA Minister Mabinty Tarawallie will host a nationwide meeting with all registered child protection organizations to encourage attendance at the 1MILLIONHOME/HCW workshop. The CRC will be highlighted as a trailblazer in the movement to reintegrate children with their family of birth or a foster family.
Collaboration with Street Child to rescue abandoned children
The CRC staff have been collaborating with Street Child to provide interim care for abandoned children while their families are traced and prepared for reintegration. Street Child has a long history in Sierra Leone providing short term and emergency care to homeless children. "I am very excited about the CRC taking the lead to work side by side to get children off the streets, Child Welfare Programs Liaison Mohamed Nabieu says. "The MSW Minister's goal is to take 1,000 kids off the streets by the end of this year, and she would be working with the CRC to support her goal."
The CRC continues to build a robust case management system, hiring additional case managers to effectively and efficiently monitor the welfare of children and families.
CRC mentors orphanages transitioning to family care
The CRC is launching a Deinstitutionalization department focused on helping orphanages transition from residential to family care. Led by long time CRC team member David Musa, the DI Department will assess an organization's readiness for transition, teach the organization how to develop a transition plan, and coach their staff through the process. The DI Department will coach orphanages on safe, collaborative, and sustainable family reintegration, as well as family strengthening and sustainability.
The Child Reintegration Centre regularly holds workshops on healthy parent-child attachment for parents of CRC-enrolled children. Attachment, or normal bonding between parent and child, is the primary mental pillar of a child's development and is essential for a family's health and stability.
Families in Sierra Leone may struggle because of extreme poverty, parental illiteracy, and household instability caused by parents leaving to pursue work. Many of the children enrolled in a CRC program have experienced trauma in their young lives, which may cause them to struggle with behavioral problems. The CRC's attachment workshop helps parents understand the critical importance of bonding, and effective strategies for dealing with behavior challenges without damaging the bond between caregiver and child.
The attachment workshop covers six modules:
- Emmanuel Lamin, CRC Case Manager
The Child Reintegration Centre (CRC) organized a family strengthening workshop for the three external areas served by CRC case management, Fengehun, Manguama, and Pujehun. Counselors Victor Kanu and Assiatu Tarawally tackled some tough topics, including parent-child attachment and teen pregnancy prevention. The event was attended by 96 participants, including teachers, parents, and students. After the workshop, lunch was served to the participants, and some of the children had the opportunity to write to their sponsors.
The Child Reintegration Centre (formerly Child Rescue Centre) held an Attachment Theory workshop organized by CRC counselors Emmanuel and Assiatu. Attachment theory addresses the creation of strong, healthy emotional bonds between parents and their children.
Fifty parents of CRC students were invited to attend the conference, where they learned strategies for strengthening the bond with their children and developing healthy family relationships.
The typical child enrolled in a CRC program has experienced the deprivation of extreme poverty and many have been traumatized by losing parents and other family members. The counselors coached the parents in communication skills, and encouraged them to develop open and honest dialogue with their children to help them heal from trauma or emotional distress.
CRC parent Agnes Boma said it has been difficult for her to develop a close relationship with her teenage daughter, and she appreciated what she learned at the workshop. "From what I learnt from the workshop I will create a bond between myself and my daughter," she said. "I will encourage her to confide in me."