What Do Mothers Want on Mother’s Day?

What Do Mothers Want on Mother’s Day?

It’s nearly Mother’s Day. So, what do mothers really want on their special day?

It would be the rare mom — or grandmother, or aunt, or godmother, or wife — who wouldn’t say, “I just want to enjoy time with my children.” Cherishing time with family is more important than gifts. They already have enough “stuff.”

Here’s a simple way to make this Mother’s Day truly special: Give her the satisfaction of knowing she’s sending a deserving Sierra Leone girl to school. A gift to the Sherbro Foundation Girls Scholarship Fund will have happy ripple effects for a struggling West African family for a long time to come.

IMG_0097Can an American mother empathize with a Sierra Leone mother? If they could meet and chat, I think they would find much in common. They want the same things for their children — good food, shelter, a safe and healthy childhood. And importantly: an education and the opportunity to do as well or better than they did.

I asked mothers in Sierra Leone what they want. Here’s what they told me:

IMG_1642Thirty-year-old Mary Bendu was born in the same small village of 200 people as her mother and grandmother. They had to abandon their farm and home during the civil war, and hide from rebels for a year. They lived in the bush, sleeping on the ground and surviving on wild bananas and coco yams and catching mud skippers.

She now lives by the work women usually do – selling things in the market. She collects firewood, smokes fish caught in the river and grows sweet potatoes. She would make more money if she could take these to a bigger market, but she can’t afford to pay for public transportation.

Mary has five children, from five to 15 years old. What makes her most proud is sending them to school. She wants her children to have the education she never had. These are the kind of girls for whom Sherbro Foundation scholarships make secondary school possible.

Zainab Caulker, 28 yrs, wants to become a nurse.Zainab Caulker, 28, has 7- and 9-year-old children in school. She herself went through primary school but the war interrupted her education. She’s opened a small business buying farm goods in small villages and reselling them in the Rotifunk market. She used micro-finance loans of $60 – $100 to start her business. She was able to repay them, but with the high interest rates, she could see she was never getting ahead.

She wanted to learn more and help her children with their studies, so she decided to start Adult Literacy classes Sherbro Foundation sponsors in Rotifunk. “I knew nothing before Principal Kaimbay encouraged me to come back to school. Now, I can get up in public and represent myself.”  She’s also helping board some teenage girls from nearby villages who attend secondary school with Sherbro Foundation scholarships. Her dream is to become a nurse.

IMG_3280Zainab Sammoh lives in Rotifunk with her two children, 10 and 6. Her husband wanted to go away to college, so she stayed home with the children. He then left her and married an educated woman. Zainab started Adult Literacy classes so she can follow her children’s progress in school and make sure they’re doing what they should.

“I want to be able to ask them, ‘what did you learn in school today,’ and know what it means.” The day I met her she was learning to write her name. She hopes to get a job as a secretary.

Despite their overwhelming struggles, these mothers prize education as the key to a better life for their families.

You can help them create better tomorrows. And make Mother’s Day special for the special woman in your life.

A $30 donation to the Sherbro Foundation Girls Scholarship Fund will send a girl to school – making a powerful difference in the lives of girls and women in Sierra Leone for years to come.  

Click here to make a gift in the name of your special woman. Include her email address, and we’ll let her know she’s helping another mother give her daughter a good start in life.  Or if you’d rather personally deliver it, we’ll send you an acknowledgement of your thoughtful gift in her name.

We’ll make it more special.  We’re matching all donations until May 15, doubling the impact of your gift.

You’ll make a difference in your family, too. Show Mom she taught you well in helping make the world a better place.

Think your help doesn’t matter? Think again.

Think your help doesn’t matter? Think again.

People often think, how can I, as one person, make a dent in the world’s problems?  Well, I’ve found change starts with one person here making a difference in the life one person somewhere else.

The first step is to get involved. Just take one positive step.  Many small  positive actions add up to real change. That’s what movements are all about.

Not sure what kind of positive action you can take? Sherbro Foundation supports girls’ education and addressing extreme poverty in Sierra Leone.  Here’s a list of actions you can take to help us help the people of Sierra Leone.

Help promote Sherbro Foundation’s work in your personal network

  • Like us on Facebook. Then share a SF news item to your Friends saying you support this work.
  • Like a post on www.sherbrofoundation.org. Send a Comment on why this work is important.
  • If you use Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Stumbleupon, etc. – share a Sherbro Foundation post
  • Speak out: Letter to the Editor or article – your organization newsletter or local media

 Connect us with others that might want to support a project    

  • Advocate for us with: Churches doing mission & outreach work;  School public service projects; Civic & Professional groups funding nonprofit projects; Clubs holding charity Walks & Runs
  • Host a Club program or salon for your circle of friends
  • Investigate your Company’s corporate Foundation for nonprofit projects & how to apply         Employee sponsorship usually needed
  • Find used or in-kind donations for schools and children:
    • Collect used baby clothes
    • School supplies
    • Sports shoes & sports equipment – a big need
    • Educational videos (National Geographic, Planet Earth, etc.), Math tutorials, etc.

Be a Sherbro Foundation Volunteer

  • Write a guest Blog post – why you care about Girls Education or other development issues
  • We can use your skills
    • Advise us on Nonprofit Marketing & Fundraising
    • Consult with us on our Website – especially on use of WordPress & SEO
    • Advise us on optimizing use of social media
    • Produce a short video for our website

Donate to Sherbro Foundation projects   www.sherbrofoundation.org/donate/

  • Send a girl to school with a uniform – $30
  • Sponsor a vegetable farmer to get back on her feet with fast growing cash crops – $50 
    • Seed & fertilizer for a half acre vegetable garden + bag of rice to feed family now
  • Give in honor of someone special – birthday, Mother’s Day, memorial, special day
  • Support other projects www.sherbrofoundation.org/about-us/projects/
Blaming the Victims – Pregnant Girls Banned from Sierra Leone Schools

Blaming the Victims – Pregnant Girls Banned from Sierra Leone Schools

There will be a number of Sierra Leone girls who want to come back to school when they reopen that won’t be allowed to.

Pregnant girls are being banned from school.  From an outsider’s point of view (mine), this smacks of blaming the victim.

Fatu is one of the Bumpeh Chiefdom girls who should have been taking the senior high entrance exam last week.  Instead, she’s waiting to give birth as a single mother.

Walter Schutz Secondary School studentsWhen Sierra Leone President Koroma first made his announcement in February that schools would reopen, he publicly stated all children should return. He specifically encouraged pregnant girls and young mothers to come back to school.

The Ministry of Education recently recanted this, saying pregnant schoolgirls are a bad moral influence on other students.  They will not be allowed to attend school while “visibly pregnant.”

These pregnant girls were victimized once, and now they’re being made to pay again.

It’s been estimated as many as 30% of Sierra Leone schoolgirls became pregnant during the Ebola crisis. I doubt there was a sudden lapse in morals in this many girls in the last nine months. There have been many reports of an increase in sexual violence across Sierra Leone triggered by the Ebola crisis. Men lost employment and girls were home, out of school. Constant stress from fear of Ebola, lost income and restricted movement is fuel for sexual predators, as described in this BBC interview.

There’s many variations on this, from rape to coercion, from “transactional sex” to misplaced emotions. Emotions were running high for all during the Ebola crisis, including teenage girls. When you’re bored, depressed and feeling hopeless, it can be easy to seek comfort in the wrong place. Add to this the lack of health care services and contraception during the Ebola crisis. Needing money to cope financially or seeking to boost self esteem resulted in terrible consequences for many girls.

Behind the statistics there’s real people, and their life stories are not simple.

Center for Community Empowerment & Transformation Executive Director, Rosaline Kaimbay told me about some of these girls in Bumpeh Chiefdom who won’t be returning to school in April.

Fatu finished JSS3 (junior secondary school 3) last July and was ready to start senior high. Her mother separated from her stepfather when he made it clear he wanted to take another younger wife; a girl of eighteen, not much older than Fatu. He abandoned the family, including his own five year old son, Fatu’s stepbrother.

Fatu’s stepfather is actually her uncle. He was a local warrior called a Kamajor that fought to save Rotifunk when it fell under rebel control during Sierra Leone’s long civil war. His entire family was killed by rebels, including his younger brother – Fatu’s father.

He took Fatu’s mother as his wife, which is common. A widow needing support and protection often becomes the wife of her brother-in-law. Now over ten years later, he wanted another young wife of his choosing. It would be easy to cast him the villain, but he’s led a difficult life. He’s been a victim, too.

It’s not clear how Fatu became pregnant. Girls like Fatu are ashamed to talk with Principal Kaimbay about what happened and hide their pregnancy as long as possible.

Fatu lost her father; then she was abandoned by her stepfather and the father of her baby.  Now she’s forbidden to take the one route that could be a way out for her and her baby – returning to high school to complete her education at a high enough level to give her job skills.  She’s banned at least until after the baby is born.

What are her options? If her mother can manage to take of the baby – supporting another child – Fatu could return to school after she gives birth.  If they live in town where the schools are, or have friends where she could stay, she may be lucky and pick up again on her education. These are big if’s.

If not, she would be another statistic among the five out of six girls who don’t complete high school. Another who remains stuck in a cycle of rural poverty so hard to escape.

Sherbro Foundation’s girls scholarship program focuses on helping the most vulnerable students like Fatu who are serious about their education. As more girls progress into senior high, we especially want to help senior girls stay in school and graduate. This includes young mothers.

Fatu fits the profile in all respects. Mrs. Kaimbay calls her a brilliant student. She could do well.

There’s hope for Fatu and girls like her if she can make her way back to school. She needs our support, not blame.

You can support girls like Fatu.  Donate to Sherbro Foundation’s Girls Scholarship Program.

Remember – Sherbro Foundation is all-volunteer. So everything donated goes to the Scholarship Program.