Reporting by ChildFund Sierra Leone
Over the course of January’s 31 days, we’re making a blog stop in each country where we serve children, thanks to the generous support of our sponsors and donors. In Sierra Leone, children are discovering new opportunities through education and sponsor support.
Located on Africa’s west coast, Sierra Leone is still recovering from a 10-year civil war that ended in 2002. Tens of thousands of lives were lost and about a third of the population was displaced.
Sierra Leone’s maternal and infant mortality rate is among the world’s highest because of malnutrition and lack of access to health care. It’s also one of the world’s poorest countries, with almost three out of four people living on less than the equivalent of $2 a day.
ChildFund began work in Sierra Leone in 1985, and today is one of the leading child development agencies in the country, with a strong focus on child protection, psychosocial support and skills building for children and youth.
Nearly 60 percent of Sierra Leone’s school-age children do not attend school. ChildFund has worked closely with local partners to educate community members on the value of education for their children and the long-term benefits of nurturing and protecting the next generation.
Child sponsorship has played a critical role in not only providing desperately needed services to Sierra Leone’s children but also helping them experience the joys of childhood. Sponsors’ cards, letters and words of encouragement are just what these children need right now.
by Jason Schwartzman, ChildFund Team Leader for Child & Youth Involvement
In preparation for ChildFund’s Youth Program Summit in India, we’ve been talking to youth around the world, trying to get inside their heads to understand how they see the future unfolding, starting with their inner circle of friends.
We ask them to think of and actually draw a “friend” — a peer, a relative, a neighbor — someone they know well. We encourage them to be realistic. In five years, what do they really think their friend’s life situation will be? Not what they hope, but what they predict. We give them drawing materials, a quiet space, and we see what happens.
Often they are optimistic, like this drawing from a young Native American woman in the United States, who says her friend will be, “outgoing, energetic, and a great person to be around. She’s really bright and understanding. There is never a dull moment when you’re with her. She’s just a true friend.”
Sometimes they are quite sad, as illustrated by this prediction by a young woman in Sierra Leone, “Mary is the name of my friend. She is 16 years old. Mary is crying because she is carrying a heavy load. She is a girl. Mary is presently in the street. In five year’s time, Mary will be dropped out from school. She will be a failure in life.”
Sometimes young people are hopeful and romantic, as this future scenario envisioned by a young man in Bolivia, “Arturo is 19 years old and completed school and a lawyer’s course. He now has a fixed job and has a girlfriend called Katerin who is a teacher. The two love each other a lot and they get on really well. They like to go on walks. They are expecting Arturo’s baby.”
In other instances they predict that a friend’s situation could be transformed, as in this drawing by a young man in The Gambia. He writes: “My friend’s name is Abas. He is 13 years old. He is a male. In 5 years times, I am seeing my friend as someone who will not prosper in future because he don’t study at home. These might lead him to fail his exam. I think he may get involve in drug abuse, he can be in jail, or physically weak or die. If he change his mind and study hard and be punctual in school, he can be at the University or may even be sponsor by the president to go and read for further studies. He can therefore contribute to the nation development and build up a good family in future.”
In the next blog, we’ll take a look at the resources young people say they need to be successful.
by Cynthia Price, ChildFund Director of Communications
I know — you’re wondering what this has to do with ChildFund. But hold on. It’s actually what Mick asks his readers to do several times during the book, including the chapter “A Sponsor for Alimany,” that brings the message home.
Yep, Mick is a ChildFund sponsor and a major donor. And it’s an important part of his life. As he tells me during a phone conversation, “Writing about the match gives me an excuse to write other chapters that often don’t have anything to do with wrestling.”
Even more notable is that Mick agreed to divide the proceeds from the advance of the book equally between ChildFund and RAINN (another group he supports).
“I know how valuable the sponsorships are in ChildFund’s projects around the world. I just feel that if I talk about them in public, others will realize how easy it is to make a difference,” he says. “I can reach people who can completely understand that others around the world have it much worse than they do.”
His engaging style in Countdown to Lockdown draws you in and makes you want to read more. But what if you aren’t a wrestling fan? Mick’s got you covered. He developed a handy “wrestle-meter” to gauge the wrestling content of chapters that are not “Lockdown”-specific. In the chapter about his sponsored child, Mick’s wrestle-meter is set low and reads, “Skip it if you like, but we’ll no longer be friends.”
It’s in that chapter that Mick shares how he came to sponsor Alimany, a young boy in Sierra Leone. His visit to Alimany’s village marked the first sponsor visit in 16 years, since before the civil war started in 1992. Mick also has funded five schools in Sierra Leone to help with the rebuilding.
“It seemed very natural to write a chapter about my trip to Sierra Leone,” he says.
It was also in his travels to this African nation that he attended a “sealing the past, facing the future” meeting of women who were the victims of rape in Sierra Leone’s civil war. “It really opened my eyes to the oppression that women face in so many parts of the world. And it opened my eyes to how prevalent rape and sexual assault are right here in the U.S.,” he writes.
That led to his connection with RAINN (Rape Abuse and Incest National Network), which Tori Amos helped found.
Through his work with ChildFund, Mick says, he realized “it really might be better to give than to receive.”
Reflecting on the lives of his sponsored children, he writes, “I’ve come to think of those three or four Bombali villages all lying along that stretch of horrible road as my little corner of the world to nurture and care for. A small dot on life’s map where I can make a visible difference. Where a little compassion and a little more money can go such a long way.”
In his book Mick asks readers to contact ChildFund and specifically ask to sponsor a child from the Bombali area in Sierra Leone. “I know I wrote of this little dot on the map as my corner of the world to nurture and care for — but maybe some of you could nurture it with me.”
Now that’s a challenge worth tackling.
by Virginia Sowers
ChildFund Community Manager
The day after Thanksgiving, my local newspaper inserts a busy elf on the lower corner of the front page with a kind reminder of 24 shopping days until Dec. 25.
Today, we’re at 17.
But I’m not panicking. I’m about to pull a rabbit (actually, a goat) out of my hat.
ChildFund International’s Gifts of Love & Hope still has an excellent selection of gifts with lasting impact for children. What better way to honor my friends and family than by giving a gift on their behalf to help someone truly in need?
Families in Sierra Leone lost all of their livestock during 11 years of brutal civil war. Now that the country is at peace and rebuilding, ChildFund is setting up school livestock programs.
Today, six schools maintain goats and sheep. The animals, contributed by ChildFund supporters through the Gifts of Love & Hope catalog, are housed in pens built by community members. The entire community is involved in the success of this project, and they are enjoying the benefits of better nutrition.
Now, that’s a truly wonderful gift.
So as the shopping days rapidly evaporate in this busy season, I’m resolving not to stress. Instead, I’m flipping through the Gifts of Love & Hope catalog and imagining the happy excitement of children around the world when they receive a gift from my family.
And I’ll also be able to share with my friends and family the true meaning of the honorary gift I’ve chosen for them this season.
If this sounds like a good idea for you, too, then take a look at ChildFund’s catalog. From farm animals to healthy environments, you’re sure to find a gift to multiply your love.
Editor’s note: We will bringing you a post from Guatemala later this week. Today, we explore Sierra Leone with Mick Foley.
By Ellie Whinnery
Public Relations Manager
Mick Foley, a well-known figure in the world of professional wrestling, would just as soon be known as a “Champion for Children.” Since 1992, Foley has been supporting deprived children through ChildFund International, both as a sponsor of eight children and as a major donor.
Over the last few years, he has contributed more than $290,000 for early-childhood-development centers, community centers, health clinics and for the building of seven schools in war-torn Sierra Leone.
Foley recently visited Sierra Leone to tour one of the schools and meet one of the children he sponsors. On arrival at the new school, he heard children chanting his name—not for his wrestling fame but because of his generous heart.
The new Child Friendly School built through Foley’s generosity now bears his name.
Foley shared with the community members and children gathered to greet him, “For me it’s about establishing relationships with children in need, and I understand that almost 59% of school-age children do not attend school in Sierra Leone.”
Foley hopes that building seven schools in closer proximity to the communities in need will help drop this statistic significantly.
While in Sierra Leone, Foley also met the child he sponsors. Describing the sponsorship experience, he says, “It’s about letting children with very little in their lives, through no fault of their own, know that someone out there cares.”
Foley explains that sponsorship provides the opportunity to have a personal relationship with a child through the sharing of letters and photographs and, in his case, the chance to meet in person.
Foley, who has four children of his own, has written three successful children’s books, earning a spot on the New York Times best-seller list. He has also donated book sales proceeds to ChildFund.
To honor this generosity, ChildFund International has named Foley and his wife as Stewardship Patrons in the Champions for Children Society.
For more information about ChildFund’s work in Sierra Leone, click here.
More on Sierra Leone
Population: 6.1 million
ChildFund beneficiaries: More than 147,000 children and families
Did you know?: In Sierra Leone, 70.2% of the population lives below the poverty line, and 59% percent of school-age children do not attend school.