The CRC staff has worked hard for 18 months to ensure that the remaining residential children have had ample opportunity to form attachments with the families with whom they’ll be reunified this summer. Families and children have benefited from frequent interactions both at the CRC facility and in their own homes within the Bo community, including having children spend weekends and long vacations at their families’ homes. The children and their families were very excited to leave the CRC on March 23rd in order to spend the Easter Holidays together. All the students will return to the CRC on April 3rd, 2018.
Due to the ongoing presidential elections being held in Sierra Leone, a special session was held with the parents prior to the children’s departure. Members of the CRC staff addressed various topics relating to child care and protection during the busy and somewhat hectic election season. The program concluded with refreshments for parents, children, and CRC staff at the CRC dining hall.
For the past year, the CRC staff has been working to strengthen the bonds between the residential children and their families. These activities have included having the children visit their families' homes on Sunday afternoons, and during weekends or holiday breaks, and providing counseling to both children and families. Families are also welcome and encouraged to visit the CRC facility for sports events, Wednesday devotions, and parenting workshops.
On January 26th, the CRC's Reunification Committee led parents in a Nurturing Hearts workshop focused on equipping parents with strategies for forming and sustaining health attachments with their child. The Nurturing Hearts curriculum was first provided to the CRC staff through a training led by Patrice Penney and Beth Ratchford in July of 2015. Following the workshop, parents had the opportunity to spend some one-on-one time with their children. Parents have also been encouraged to visit with their child every fourth night from now until the children are finally reunified with them. The remaining 20 children will be reunified with their 'forever families' later this year.
In the early months of 2017, the Child Rescue Centre launched a pilot microfinance program. Specifically focused on the most vulnerable of the families served by CRC programs, 30 parents were invited to enroll in the first Microfinance Class. Participation in an 18 week course on savings, budgeting and money management is required for certification and the award of a small loan in the amount of 500,00 le (approximately $70).
Recently the participants where asked to share the most significant changes they've experienced since taking the class and receiving a loan. Many shared that they are now able to pay their rent, and that their school-aged children now have lunch money for school. Many participants are sharing the financial knowledge they've gained with their spouses and other family members.
Amara Fofanah says that one significant impact is that he "is able to pay for Saturday classes" for his children. These are necessary to help kids do well on national exams, but they often cost more so those who can't pay don't benefit. He also shared that for the first time, his children have lunch money to take to school with them.
Nancy Jusu Sr agrees. Before receiving her small loan, Nancy had to walk around Bo to sell cassava and potato leaves. The loan enabled her to set up a small table stall near her home. Even more importantly, it came in time for her to purchase medications for her very ill daughter, whom she's convinced would not have survived without it.
The CRC's Family Strengthening Program not only provides the opportunity for parents and family to visit the CRC and attend regular activities with their student, but also gives students the chance to spend weekends and holidays at their forever homes. This helps students to become gradually acclimated to life in the Bo community. The students enjoy learning how to help out at home.