Remember as a kid how exciting it was to go shopping for new notebooks and other supplies in preparation for a new school year? At the start of every academic year, the CRC gathers all of the students in the Child Support Program to receive their school supplies for the year. With 450 kids in this program, that is a lot of pencils!
These photos were taken of pediatric burn patient, Abu Bakarr Kanu, after he returned to Mercy from his school, just a few steps away. Because Mercy is continuing to monitor his condition, Abu Bakarr sleeps at Mercy, and receives meals there, which is helping him to gain the weight he needs to have in order to be ready for surgery scheduled sometime next year. Not skin graft surgery, these surgeries will focus on releasing the contracted muscles in his legs, to allow him to walk more normally.
Abu Bakarr loves the caring staff at Mercy, but more than that, he loves his school uniform, and being able to attend school with his friends - a lot of whom are kids in the CRC programs. After school he can be found enjoying a snack and some silliness on the porch of the triage building, with 4 or 5 other boys his age. His smiles come so easily these days!
The Child Rescue Centre recently welcomed twenty primary students to the Child Support Program, who are attending school for the first time in Fengehun, a small village near Bo. This week CSP Coordinator David Musa led a small team to visit the school, where they were warmly welcomed by the head master, teachers and students. The kids were so excited to meet the visitors and show them their classroom.
Fengehun is a small village on Mercy Hospital's circuit of outreach clinics, so it was a natural choice for the expansion of the Child Support Program. The families are grateful to be able to send their children to school for the first time.
In August, CARES Radio brought teachers from various schools in Bo to the program to teach on various subjects in an effort to help them prepare students for the re-opening of schools in September. Mr. Lakoh taught aspects of good governance and participatory democracy, and Mr. Koroma spoke about aspects of business management and financial accounting.
The Mercy Hospital Hour continues to create huge impact in terms of improving health practices. During the month of August, topics included postpartum recovery, facilities available at Mercy Hospital, and the role of the laboratory in the dispensation of medical services at Mercy. The Vice Principal of Mattru School for Nursing spoke recently on the subject of how nurses are trained. The Mercy Hospital Hour also advertises the Mercy Ambulance, which is now more frequently used, due to the awareness raised by this program.
CARES has now expanded to Kono. CARE programs recorded in Bo are now being rebroadcast in Kono on Radio New Song Kono on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 3:00 pm. Listeners in Kono love the program, and call in when it's time for the program to air. CARES Program Supervisor Amadu Sandy and Producer Emmanuel Koroma are pictured below.
Abu has started attending school at UMC Kulanda Town School. It is right next to Mercy, so very convenient for him, and the walk is helping to strengthen his legs. Although he was in class 5 when he had his accident last year, the CRC staff have decided to put him in class 4 to help him recover the ground he lost by being out of school during his recovery. This will help him get a good foundation for success on the National Primary School Exam.
The Mercy staff was so excited to see Abu in his uniform. He normally attends the daily staff meeting/devotion and gets special prayers each day, and the staff were thrilled to pray especially for his successful return to school.
Abu has been anxious to return to school since the accident happened, and he is proud of his new school uniform, and happy to be attending school with his brothers and sisters from the CRC.
(Pictured with him is Hassan Sajuma, the Laboratory Technician)
The children and staff continue to reap the harvest of the the CRC garden, and the CRC poultry project is doing particularly well. Since the beginning of August, the CRC staff and children carrying for these hens have gathered about 150 eggs. The eggs are being used to feed malnourished children who need high protein diets at Mercy Hospital. Additionally, some boiled eggs are given to Mercy staff to take on Medical Outreaches to local villages, where they are given to very malnourished children. The CRC also hopes to be able to give eggs to particularly vulnerable families in the CRC programs.
Mabel Mustapha has been the head of the CRC's Education Department for sixteen years. She attended a UMC primary school and Bishop Johnson Secondary school in Freetown, before attending Port Loko's teacher's college in Port Loko. She also studied community development at Theologica Training College. Mabel has one 26 year old son.
How long have you worked at the CRC?: “I started working March 2001. At the time I was a teacher for middle school. I was made the Field Supervisor and worked in a camp for displaced people from Kono. Kono was so destroyed that no one could live there. So many children were in the camp and not going to school so we built a four room school and taught them until they were able to move back to Kono. Then I started to work with the residential children and focus on their education.”
What do you like most about working at the CRC?: “I really thank God, it has really improved my life, I have really learned a lot about children and leadership.
What is your biggest accomplishment?: “The number one success is the 40 original children we started with in 2000. Seeing them pass through my hands and go on to university and come back to do great things for CRC. Also, I started as an intermediate staff and passed to become a senior staff. I think I really understand the organization, children, and partners.
How does it feel to see the children you raised grow up and become your coworkers?: “I feel so good. They have that respect and they really appreciate all that has been done for them when they were growing up.
Anything else you want people to know?: “What I want to say is, the reason why the team is working out well, is you need people who have vast experience to help build others up to continue the work. It is also good to have young people in the job. We pray that with what we have, we will continue to do good work for God.”
On September 11, the primary school-aged students in the CRC Residential Program received their new uniforms and school supplies in preparation for school to start on September 18th. This year, the children will be attending the UMC Kulanda Town school just a short walk from the CRC's front gate. The CRC has begun to develop a relationship with the school, which is already the academic home of many of the children in the Child Support Program. Residential students in classes beyond primary will continue to attend Njagboima School.
The rest of the children enrolled in the Child Support and Family Care Programs also reported to the CRC on September 11th to get their school supplies for the new school year. While some attend UMC Kulanda Town School, others attend different schools around Bo that are closer to their own neighborhoods. Just like kids all over the world, everyone is excited to start the new year off right with proper uniforms and new school supplies. We pray for academic success for all the CRC children attending school this year.
In August, when a number of residential children were reunified with their "forever families," the remaining children were given the opportunity to spend three weeks visiting their own "forever families," before returning to the residence. When they returned to the CRC, they were full of joyful stories of their time away at a "welcome back" breakfast enjoyed by the children and the staff.
The children shared their experiences with each other and with the staff. Norman Koroma expressed that he was very happy with his caregiver and family. He said that the children in his family thought he was from the US, because his English was so good, and that he was asked to help teach them better English. Isata Kallon shared that she loved everything about her family; especially her grandmother, and that she can't wait to be reunified with them. John Dakowa said his family was impressed with his English as well, and that he taught them also to speak some Mende. He loved going with his grandparents around the farm and seeing "plants like rice leaves." Abdulai Dakowa loved his holiday with his mother. He also made a friend he enjoyed getting to know and spending time with, and he liked the community church the family attended as well.
These opportunities to spend more quality time with the families with whom they will ultimately be reunified help the children to establish connections to their families, and to the communities in which they live, as well as helping to prepare them for how life outside the residence may be different from live inside.
Abu Bakarr Kanu is really on the road to recovery these days. He is SO much happier, maintaining his weight, healing significantly, and enjoying lots of quality time with friends and family. He is planning to go back to school in September, and will be repeating class five because he missed so many months of school while recovering from his burns. He will be attending UMC Kulanda Town School with the CRC residential children. This school is within walking distance of Mercy Hospital and the Child Rescue Centre, which will ensure that he is close to Mercy in case he needs care during the day. He will continue to stay at Mercy overnight.