Not every story from Sierra Leone and ARET is happy. Sometimes it is hard not to sit down and put your head in your hands and cry. There are examples of human suffering and tragedy in both the Adult Education Class in Adonkia and also in Shieldra. Sometimes we can help; sometimes help is a little too late; and sometimes help is not at all.
The latter was evident in Rogbonko. The village school was badly in need of help and the visitor house needed to be restored. This however was not our responsibility and it would have been foolish to even try to help when we knew the promise could not be fulfilled.
In Adonkia, during the rainy season in 2019, a few families were evicted from their make-shift shelter by an absentee landlord who now wanted to build on the land. The families had nowhere to go. The rains had come and the rains were hard. They turned to the Adult Basic Education group for support and the staff team found them temporary shelter for a few days while they looked for alternative accommodation. However if you do not work, you do not eat; and if you are spending a few days looking for somewhere to live and shelter from rain you are neither working nor eating. Abdulai arranged for ARET money to buy food for the affected families while they sorted themselves out. This little helped.
In Shieldra a mother, Zainab, was widowed. She had no where to live with her five children. They moved in to one of the empty classrooms in Shieldra. The oldest boy, Michael, had to leave school to work with his mother to feed his siblings and keep them at school. His younger brother is the top student in the National Primary School Exams. Zainab and Michael gathered sand in baskets to sell to builders to make bricks: hard and poorly paid labour. Zainab had nothing to give Shieldra School in return and nothing was expected. Nonetheless she rose every morning and walked to the well to bring drinking water for the pupils and water for hand washing.
In December just before Christmas, Zainab died in her sleep. The five children were penniless and orphaned. The team from Shieldra stepped into action. Funeral arrangements were made, the children given protection and the news was passed to ARET. We did not ask for the support that came from friends to help Zainab’s family, friends of ARET just gave. Money was given to ensure that Michael could go back to school; money donated also helped purchase some clothing and mattresses for the children to sleep on; money was also raised by the wonderful pupils at Lunnasting Primary School to help feed the children over the period of a few months. Then it came as no surprise to learn that Jane (a widow herself) was going to give the children a permanent home whilst Alpha would supervise their education.
Young mothers in Bannockburn Stirling donated good quality clothing for the children. Not only was there enough for the five children but plenty to share with the other mothers in the community. Just as we left Sierra Leone, a very large box of good quality shoes and trainers arrived via Manor River Shipping Company. Manor River are so very helpful in ensuring that boxes sent from the Highlands of Scotland are well packed for the long journey by sea.
And then there is Fatma. Poor baby Fatma. She is the very first child we have ever held who weighed so very little. Fatma at the age of nine months is very badly malnourished. The background story is unclear. The mother is on her own and appeared to be traumatised with recent events. She has currently been given shelter by a brother. It is hard to earn a living when you are a victim of child atrocity in the long civil war experienced by Sierra Leone. The brother was obviously a victim and amputee. We asked about the Free Government Feeding Programme for malnourished children. A local State Registered Nurse told us that for anyone living in rural parts it is difficult to access that sort of help. However we were given the name of the formula used and Abdulai promised to make enquiries in Freetown. Before we left a monthj’s supply of special formula had been bought and would be delivered to Jane who would supervise the programme. If Fatma responds then we will ensure that further supplies are made available.