How We Spent Your Money

How We Spent Your Money

Sherbro Foundation Board members get annoyed with organizations we only hear from when they want money from us. We don’t want to be one of those organizations.

Rather, we want to let you know how we spent the money you already sent.  Below is a newsletter covering key projects over the last fifteen months.  You can judge if it was well spent, and whether you want to support us again. Or start supporting us.

If you’d like to subscribe for future e-news, please send an email with “Subscribe” in the title to . We only plan about three each year and the occasional special message.  We won’t flood your inbox.   (Likewise, send an “Unsubscribe” message to stop receiving them.)

Are you now thinking now, oh, they haven’t spent my money because I haven’t sent any. You can easily remedy that at .

Thank you. Together, we are making a real difference in the lives of people in rural Sierra Leone.

Arlene Golembiewski
Executive Director




Eliminating poverty through education and economic empowerment
August 2015
Veg project distribution ceremony May 2015 - Copy






Click here:  Sherbro Foundation Newsletter August 2015


Getting to Zero – But Staying There?

Village quarantine released - from BBC

Village quarantine released – from BBC

The last chain of Ebola transmission is almost stamped out. This means the set of contacts exposed to the last confirmed Ebola case are accounted for.

It was one year ago August 10 that Ebola was becoming a runaway train and WHO declared a global emergency.

Here’s the key points from Sierra Leone’s National Ebola Response Network report for the week ending August 16:

  • For the first time since the disease worsened a year ago, the country has gone 12 days with no EVD reported case. The country’s last case was recorded on 7th August.
  • There are only two patients undergoing treatment – at IMC Makeni. One has tested negative and will be discharged in the next day or so. The other is responding to treatment.
  • 585 contacts from Massesebeh village near Makeni were discharged from a 21-day quarantine on August 14.  A rapid response team quickly responded to one of the last confirmed Ebola cases, and quarantined the entire village. A few households and contacts remain under quarantine after cohabiting contacts tested positive.
  • There were 79 remaining potentially exposed contacts in the country. If no cases are recorded, the last set of quarantined contacts will be discharged on 29th August.
The important thing for Sierra Leone now is no new cases have been confirmed that can’t be traced to another previously confirmed case. For over a month, there have been no new chains of transmission.
To declare the country Ebola free, it needs to go 42 days with no new Ebola cases after the last case is discharged from treatment and the last quarantine ended. The clock would start on August 29. 42 days are two sequential 21-day Ebola incubation periods.
The ban on public gatherings was released last week, allowing crowds to enjoy Freetown’s beaches and throng bars and nightclubs for the first time in a year.
Liberia’s had a new case pop up over three months after being declared Ebola free. WHO is now considering whether a 90 day Ebola free period is a more prudent criteria to declare a country Ebola free.
So – not out of the woods yet.  But getting close.
A US physician working in Liberia and treated for Ebola says, not so fast. Getting to zero is not good enough; you need to stay at zero.  He notes: “there were more physicians on staff at Bellevue Hospital in New York City, where I was treated for Ebola, than were practicing in the three most affected West African countries combined. The dearth of health care professionals means that for many responders, there has been little respite. And since the start of the epidemic, nearly 7 percent of health care workers in Sierra Leone and more than 8 percent in Liberia have died from Ebola.”
We’re all not safe from Ebola he says, until health care systems in the three Ebola affected countries are expanded and adequately staffed.

What’s Going On With Ebola? Quite a Bit.

“What’s going on with Ebola,” a friend asked me today. “We hear nothing in the US.”   Actually quite a bit of good news happened in the last couple weeks.  And some not so good.

Good News The lowest level of new Ebola cases in over a year were reported last week. Guinea and Sierra Leone both reported only one new case in each country! The previous week there were only a total of seven new cases. Liberia had none.

This comes after four or five months of results stubbornly plateauing out at 20 to 30 new cases per week. All new cases came from the same few areas where it has not been stamped out, like the densely packed slums in Freetown and the same few rural villages.

New cases have also been coming from “known chains of transmission.”  ie., from the contacts of a person previously confirmed as Ebola positive. If they can keep focusing on known contacts, there’s more likelihood of stamping out the disease. When new cases pop up without any connection to a previously confirmed Ebola case, the epidemic is not under control.

Bad News –  Three of Sierra Leone’s recent new cases were in Tonkolili District in the north which hadn’t had a new case in over 150 days, like most of the country.

From WHO - contact tracers conduct interviews in Tonkolili District

From WHO – contact tracers conduct interviews in Tonkolili District

A man from a village there fell ill while in Freetown and carried Ebola back to his Tonkolili village. Family believed his illness was due to sorcery and a curse, and when he died, buried him (illegally) without following Ebola burial procedures.  Two of his family have since been confirmed as Ebola positive and moved to an Ebola treatment center.

This shows how easily Ebola can again spread, with just one case traveling across country. With new cases way down, this becomes a less likely event.

Good NewsRapid response teams are in place and immediately quarantined over 500 people in the affected Tonkolili village. They identified 29 high risk contacts to closely monitor. Rapid response teams are in place with WHO coordination and react quickly when new cases and any new chain of transmission are identified. The quarantined village has no additional new cases after a week. This is light years ahead of where things were last year at this time.

Farmers in this village will unfortunately be separated from their fields for 21 days during the rainy season, a critical time for planting rice and other crops. People understand the critical need for the quarantine and are cooperating. They’ll hopefully get support for the condition of their farms.

Great NewsA trial of a new vaccine was found to be 100% successful in protecting against Ebola!  Ring vaccinations were conducted because Ebola cases have dwindled to such a low level. This technique was used years ago in testing small pox vaccines.

Ring vaccinations means people at risk within the ring of known contacts of an Ebola case were vaccinated, instead of just random people. So, you’re testing and hopefully protecting at the same time – which proved to be the case now.  A control group of potentially Ebola exposed people were also vaccinated, but not until 10 days after potential exposure. Sixteen Ebola positive cases were found in this group, prompting study leaders to recommend immediately vaccinating all participants in future studies. They asked for the vaccine to be made available for all exposed people during the period of continued testing and vaccine approval.

And there needs to be expanded studies.. The two groups in the study had only about 2000 participants each. A large group for initial human trials, but not enough for high statistical confidence. In larger study groups, the effectiveness will likely drop below 100%. But even 80% effective is a real break through.

Good NewsThe vaccine was fast tracked by a global team of collaborators. This included the Division of Infectious Disease Control at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, the Wellcome Trust, the government of Canada, Doctors Without Borders (MSF), the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and manufacturers Merck and NewLink.

It took only eleven months to reach this point of human trials with demonstrated efficacy. Other less promising trial vaccines were discarded along the way. The study team also had to coordinate with Guinea officials to reach urban slums and rural villages not easy to incorporate into a high profile study on short timing.

It shows this can be done. It’s not common for a new vaccine to be tested in the midst of an active epidemic. But this was no usual epidemic. It had global implications.

You’ll note the US doesn’t figure into the team of global collaborators. Our FDA drug testing procedures are more conservative and approval procedures more bureaucratic. I read under normal conditions, this kind of vaccine development and human testing could have taken a decade. US FDA take note.

Still, the statisticians will have the last say.

So-so NewsHaving a vaccine quickly available in large quantities and easy to use in remote, difficult to reach rural villages remains a challenge. It’s hard today to administer well established vaccinations and health care in general in the affected Ebola countries. Rolling out a new vaccine to remote places with no refrigeration will not be easy.

Convincing suspicious and illiterate people traumatized by the Ebola epidemic will also take a strong outreach and education approach.

It’s not known how long protection from a new Ebola vaccine would last.  Small pox is a one time vaccination. Yellow fever lasts for ten years. Typhoid is only good for 3-5 years depending on oral or injection administration, and it’s only about 60% effective.

Hopefully, the global aid community will address vaccine cost as they have the vaccine study design and testing. Everyone has learned the whole world is at risk of Ebola until it’s permanently stamped out everywhere. Like small pox.

It was one year ago now that the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone was a run-away train. We watched paralyzed in fear, not knowing what action to take. What a difference a year makes. Especially when the best minds around the world join up together.

Concept to Harvest in 5 Months –  the Women’s Vegetable Growing Project

Concept to Harvest in 5 Months – the Women’s Vegetable Growing Project

Just shy of five months from our first March phone call on the Bumpeh Chiefdom Women’s Vegetable Growing Project, women are harvesting their first crops.

I got the pictures of the peanut harvest Sunday.  It’s a good crop, Mrs. Kaimbay told me. She leads our partner organization, the Center for Community Empowerment & Transformation (CCET), who organized and started this first time project.

She and local teachers Mr. Sonnah and Mr. Phoday got the vegetable project started in April – at the same time they were restarting school that had been closed for nine months because of Ebola.

Veg - Groundnut harvesting3

Now in late July, these women in the project’s first group of farmers were harvesting their groundnuts. The corn in the background will be ready soon, together with okra and cucumbers.

It was only in early March that I first asked, what can Sherbro Foundation do to help people whose incomes were slashed during the Ebola crisis.  Help women farmers start fast growing cash crops was the answer. Peanuts and vegetables.

Veg - grountnut harvesting 2What we call peanuts are groundnuts in Africa. That’s because they grow in the ground. They’re actually legumes, not nuts. They’re an important source of protein in the African diet, commonly ground into a paste for soups and stews.
Or eaten straight up, after roasting in a pan. Groundnuts are also enjoyed boiled in the shell.

Veg - groundnuts growing

Here’s what groundnuts look like when they’re harvested.  They grow as nodules among the roots of the plant. You dig them up like harvesting potatoes. Then spread them out in the sun to dry.

Veg - drying groundnuts

The Women’s Vegetable Growing project will continue to expand and add new groups of farmers. The thirty five women in this first group will donate seed back to the project for the next group of farmers – a bag of groundnuts and a cup of seed from each of their three vegetable crops.

The women will still net at least three to four times our initial investment of $75 in each farmer. They’ll be ready to start their second crops in September themselves, followed by a third crop in their first year.

In the meantime, new groups of women farmers will be given their start.  In the project’s first twelve months, we should be able to have groups of 30+ farmers producing crops six times.

Workshop on erosion control.

Workshop on erosion control.

The women selected for the project are single heads of large households. They get the use of community land set aside in the chiefdom for special projects. They get training on topics like planting and erosion control, and ongoing support.

Importantly, they now know what empowerment feels like. They’re farming themselves and becoming self sufficient.

Sherbro Foundation and our partner CCET take on practical projects that are simple to implement and which quickly benefit the poorest people in the chiefdom.

We don’t wait years to see lives improved while bureaucracy and overhead are created. We do it within months.