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.
The numbers are in, and Mercy Hospital experienced a 17% increase in inpatients and a 12.5% increase in outpatients from the previous year. These increases may be partially attributed to completion and dedication of the surgical wing in January 2019, and addition of patient admission consultation rooms by the May 2019 Mission Team. This does not include the thousands served during mobile clinics by Mercy Village Outreach Services. 733 patients received inpatient treatment and 5,473 patients received outpatient services in 2019.
Full story in the 2020 winter issue of the HCW Magazine, coming soon.
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 announced the promotion of Henry Kebbie to Sponsor A Child Coordinator. Since 2017, Henry Kebbie has served the CRC ably as Assistant Coordinator. With the departure of program lead Joseph "JJ" Junisa, who has joined his wife in London, the CRC leadership unanimously agreed that Henry should step into the leadership role.
Henry is an alumnus of the CRC who was enrolled in the Child Support Program in 2000 as a child from a vulnerable family. Always a gifted and determined student, Henry earned a Promise Scholarship to study social work at Njala University. In 2017, Henry graduated with a bachelors degree in social work and was immediately hired by the CRC to assist the SAC program and perform case management duties.
Henry says that working at the CRC is a fulfillment of his life goal to help children with backgrounds like his own. "As a social worker, since I have a passion for helping children, I am also creating an impact in their life. It was my dream to help poor children. Being a social worker, you can work anywhere, helping children and the needy."
The father of a young daughter, Henry has a natural rapport with the CRC children. He enjoys every opportunity to connect the students with their sponsors. "Whenever the children come for letter writing I have so much fun with them. When sponsors visit and we go on home visits, the time we spend with them helps me to know most of the students’ homes," Henry says.
Henry is grateful to work for an organization with faith at the core of the mission. "One of my favorite things about working at the CRC is that we start every day with devotion, bringing the grace of God into our lives before we start working," he says.
The Child Reintegration Centre's education department, led by Education Manager Mabel Mustapha, organized a forum for secondary students to hear from successful graduates of vocational and technical programs. The forum aimed to remove the stigma students and their families may have towards vocational or technical training, and encourage them to seek successful careers in fields that don't require a university degree.
Daniel Lahai, a carpentry teacher at Sierra Leone Opportunities Industrialization Centers (SL-OIC), one of the CRC's approved post-secondary institutions, spoke to the students about training opportunities in the construction field. Mercy Hospital electrician Mohamed Bangura and CRC accountant Lucy Jusu shared their stories of personal success as graduates of votech programs who now have interesting, good-paying jobs with room for advancement. All three speakers attended SL-OIC before embarking on their current careers. Lucy worked for many years at the CRC before going back to school to earn an accounting degree.
On a national level, the 2019 WASSCE exam results were very disappointing, and few students earned the scores required for university acceptance. Job training is an excellent alternative for senior secondary (high school equivalent) graduates. The most recent labor statistics from the World Bank show that just 10% of the population are wage or salaried workers, so good jobs are not easy to come by in Sierra Leone, but welders, electricians, accountants, and other skilled workers are in high demand.
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 Mercy outreach team identified a toddler with inguinal hernia. Little Saidu was transported to Mercy Hospital where surgery was successfully performed by Lawrence Kargbo, surgical health officer, to correct the condition. Saidu made a full recovery under the care of Mercy staff and was released to his grateful mother.
About 3-5% of healthy, full-term babies may be born with an inguinal hernia and one third of infancy and childhood hernias appear in the first 6 months of life. In premature infants, the incidence of inguinal hernia is substantially increased, up to 30%. Children in Sierra Leone and other parts of the developing world may be more prone to conditions like inguinal hernia due to conditions that may be caused by inadequate maternal and infant care.