What We Do
We make grants to pay the secondary school costs of the brightest poor children from primary schools in Mahera, Shenge, Bonthe, Kroo Bay and Foredugu. Although the government in 2018 abolished secondary school fees, other costs are beyond the means of Sierra Leone's poorest families. The Head Teachers of schools in Mahera, Shenge, Bonthe, Kroo Bay and Foredugu villages select children from very poor homes who have achieved top results (a score of 280 or more) in the final primary school exams. In January 2022 we were sponsoring 38 children. We will pay their educational costs through secondary school provided they do well in the national BECE exam at the end of the third year (a score of 25 or less - the lower the score in BECE , the better the performance). The costs we meet include uniform, shoes, school bag, the best quality textbooks, examination fees and extra lessons prior to exams. Sometimes we provide students with solar lights for evening study, a small table and chair and a mattress and mosquito netto prevent malaria.
We also help disabled children and young people with equipment such as mobility carts, wheelchairs and bicycles so that they can attend school and have more personal freedom. Some of the youngsters are selected by voluntary organisations of disabled people such as DRIMS based in Bo. Others have been found in remote villages by our volunteers Chernor Barrie and Sulaiman Bah. Chernor and Sulaiman have transported mobility carts and wheelchairs by boat to remote villages on Sherbro island and the Turtle Islands. Nobody on these islands had ever seen a mobility cart before. The photographs on the home page show two young people crawling in the dirt near their homes and then riding their mobility carts. The positive impact on a child's life from receiving a mobility cart or wheelchair is immediate and profound. It restores dignity and enables the child to go to school regularly.
Senneh cannot walk so we gave him a mobility cart. We also paid for a solar light for his room so that he can study after dark and mosquito netting for his windows. Senneh aged 17 is an orphan living in very poor conditions. No student can succeed if they cannot study after dark, which comes early in Sierra Leone, or if school attendance is prevented by malaria. Before we gave Senneh his solar light he would leave his home every evening and sit under a street light to study. But for about six months each year the rains make this impossible. His recent text reads:
‘I have received the money you sent. May God bless you and protect you and all your friends’.
We also regard artificial legs as mobility equipment. Amputations are common in Sierra Leone because of the lack of reconstructive surgeons and physiotherapy services. An artificial leg often enables a young person to get to school regularly. It restores self-confidence and gives greater independence.
We like this story:
A boy is walking along Shenge beach and spots an old man kneeling often and picking up one of the thousands of starfish that have been washed ashore. The old man gently throws them back into the ocean because the sun is out and the tide is so low that they will die if he doesn’t do this. The boy said “But old man, don’t you realise there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it! You can’t possibly save them all, you can’t even save one-tenth of them. Even if you work all day, your efforts won’t make any difference at all.”
The old man listened calmly and then bent down to pick up another starfish and threw it into the sea and said, “It made a difference to that one.”
The photograph shows Fatmata (fourth left) with her grandmother and local teachers. Fatmata was the first student we sponsored to go to secondary school. Her primary school Head Teacher, Haja Kamara, said: 'Fatmata was the most able child in my school. 5 months after she left the school I found her sitting in the village. She told me she could not go to secondary school because her grandmother could not afford to pay the fee. Fatmata has no parents. Your charity has transformed her life'. In 2022 Fatmata entered university in Freetown to study for a degree in social work. Four donors sponsor her university fees.
It seems to us deeply unjust that girls and boys are prevented from fulfilling their potential to serve their communities simply because they are poor. We have been inspired by these children to set up this charity to help them. We hope you will join us in giving them the education and the chances they deserve. Fatmata was the first student we sponsored. Hers is the first photo on our home page. We now support 38 students in this way.
Sponsoring the brightest poor children to get a secondary education
We set up the charity in December 2013 after witnessing first-hand the plight of the poorest children and young people in Sierra Leone. Many children were orphaned by the civil war which ended in 2002. Others were left with a single mother who has very little opportunity to earn an income other than through small-scale farming or petty trading.
Haja Kamara, the Head Teacher at Mahera village primary school in Port Loko district, introduced us to children who had achieved high marks in their final primary school exams - sometimes the best in the class - but who could not go on to secondary school because they had no way of paying school fees and many other costs. Primary education is free in Sierra Leone but secondary education is expensive, even though school fees were abolished by the government in 2018.
So, in the small coastal villages of Mahera, Shenge and Bonthe and in the inland village of Foredugu and in Kroo Bay in Freetown the Head Teachers of primary schools select clever, poor children who cannot pay secondary school costs. We have agreed to meet the costs of uniforms, shoes, school bags, best quality text books and extra lessons before exams through the six years of secondary school, subject to good performance in the national BECE exams at the end of year 3. We believe this contributes to the country's development in a small way by ensuing that some of the most able children grow into future professionals, role models and leaders in their communities.
Vocational training for unemployed young people
We also witnessed in Mahera the large numbers of young people in their late teens who were jobless. Often these young people had been forced by poverty to stop going to school at the end of their primary education. Their families had no land to farm and no fishing boats or nets. We were invited by Sidiki Conteh to visit his motorbike workshop under a large tree just outside the village of Mahera. Here we found six young men being taught the basics of motorbike repair and maintenance. These are skills which are in big demand in Sierra Leone, a country where motorbikes far outnumber cars. Sidiki can train his 'apprentices' but lacked the hand tools for them to practise their skills. So, we gave him a grant with which to purchase lots of tools. With their skills in mechanics these young men have a good chance of earning a modest living. Some, like Abu Bakar, have now moved on from Sidiki’s workshop and, with a full set of hand tools provided by us, is running his own small business in another village and training two apprentices.
Mustard Seed Foundation children’s home
In the small town of Moyamba we came across Roselyn Freeman running the Mustard Seed Foundation, a charity set up 20 years ago by her mother. Roselyn now manages a children's home for twenty eight disabled and disadvantaged children. We found the children's beds broken and lacking mattresses, which had been destroyed by urine, so we awarded a grant for their replacement, with urine-proof covers. We also agreed to provide wheelchairs and tricycles for several disabled children so that they could get to school and become more active. More recently we funded a new physiotherapy room in an old classroom and helped Roselyn to equip it. We now pay the salary of an extra care worker who supports and trains the eight most disabled children. Salaries are low in Sierra Leone so this costs us only £800 each year. In this way we enable these children to fulfil their potential and to live more independent lives.