Paramount Chief Caulker’s Message to the US

Paramount Chief Caulker’s Message to the US

Paramount Chief Charles Caulker brought a focused message on his first visit to America this month:

Sierra Leone has no social safety net for its children — not even ensuring they can go to school. So, he is creating his own.

He’s doing it using the only resources his chiefdom has, the natural ones of land, water and sun.

20160406_191637 - CopyDuring an April 6 public program Sherbro Foundation hosted in Cincinnati, Chief Caulker told the rapt gathering about the stark realities of life in Bumpeh Chiefdom. Conditions actually have worsened in the last 20 years. The partial recovery following a brutal 11-year rebel war was dealt a big setback with the recent Ebola epidemic. People are struggling to feed their families.

When Paramount Chief Caulker took the podium in his flowing embroidered blue robe, you knew this man didn’t just have the title of paramount chief. He’s clearly a leader with presence that commands your attention. Maybe it’s his 32 years as paramount chief of Bumpeh Chiefdom, where he’s the second-longest serving traditional ruler in Sierra Leone. And his leadership as the chairman of the National Council of all 149 paramount chiefs in Sierra Leone. And his 40 years of experience in various senior government roles.

Chief Caulker’s darkly intense eyes have seen much sadness in those 32 years as chief. But his face lit up as he told the April 6th group he brings them a traditional African greeting, addressing them as “my dear friends.”

Chief Caulker with village children.

Chief Caulker and village children.

His face also lights up when he talks about the children of Bumpeh Chiefdom. Protecting children and striving to give them a better life has become his life’s work. A better life starts with education, and Chief Caulker spoke of how widespread illiteracy in his rural chiefdom weighs on him.

Only 40% of children there attend poorly equipped primary schools. Many drop out before secondary school, which only exist in the main town of Rotifunk. Most families live in small villages miles away.

Distance and cost (just $US30 a year for school fees!) are insurmountable roadblocks for most families.

For 20 years, this remote area waited for government and foreign nonprofit organizations (NGOs) to bring aid that never came. The chiefdom of 40,000 must take charge of its own development, Chief Caulker said, and find sustainable “roots” for education.

“We set a goal that, in 12 years, every baby born [in my chiefdom] will have access to secondary school education.”

Mother bring her baby to register education savings account.

Mother brings her baby to open education savings account.

“To do this, we are opening education savings accounts for each newborn baby. To date, we have opened 2,000 baby accounts,” Chief said.

How? By helping his villages raise fruit trees. He has an innovative program for expanding their subsistence agricultural tradition into profitable local businesses.

Fruit trees are raised from seed and given to rural villages to plant in community orchards. The orchards will produce income for their children’s education for years to come. And they’ll also fund village development projects like digging wells and building roads, primary schools and health clinics.

Chief Caulker said the program is becoming a model for community-led development in Sierra Leone. “We have accomplished big things in a short time under difficult circumstances,” he said. “We are confident about building a prosperous future as we fight to break barriers to development.”

Bumpeh Chiefdom’s program has grown in two and a half years to include two tree nurseries that have raised over 40,000 fruit tree seedlings — with seed from local fruit. Six villages have planted 15,000 trees in their community orchards. Families of newborn babies have been given over 4,000 seedlings to raise in their backyard gardens. Some seedlings are being sold to private farmers to raise funds to expand the program. And 2,000 babies have their education savings accounts. Ebola delayed but did not derail the program.

Chief Caulker has plans to cover the chiefdom with fruit orchards that will support new fruit-based cottage industries and create wage-paying jobs. He intends to transfer his knowledge to help other chiefdoms start their own self-sustaining programs.

Chief Caulker ended his presentation saying, “We are also confident that you’ll be by us since we share a common aspiration to serve mankind.” Read the full text of his speech here: April 6 PC Caulker – Cincinnati

Sherbro Foundation assists Bumpeh Chiefdom in their goal of giving every child access to education with our “Growing a Baby’s Future” program. We funded the first fruit tree nursery and helped the chiefdom create their own birth registration system, as no government system exists for rural areas. We’ve funded 1,200 of the newborn education savings accounts to date.

You can also “grow a baby’s future” by donating here. For $20, Sherbro Foundation will:
• Open a newborn baby’s education savings account
• Give families three fruit trees of their own to help fund their baby’s education savings.
• Help families secure their baby’s birth certificate.

100% of donations to Sherbro Foundation go directly to fund Bumpeh Chiefdom programs. We pay our own administration costs. Chief Caulker’s US trip was privately funded and with accommodations from family and friends.

April 6 – Meet Paramount Chief Caulker

April 6 – Meet Paramount Chief Caulker

What’s happened in Sierra Leone after Ebola? Have you ever wondered what it really takes to alleviate poverty at the village level in one of the world’s poorest countries?

Join us April 6 in Cincinnati to hear directly from Paramount Chief Caulker on remarkable work he’s doing in his rural chiefdom. This is a unique opportunity to hear directly from one of Sierra Leone’s most prominent traditional leaders.

Chief Caulker will speak about programs developed in Bumpeh Chiefdom in partnership with Sherbro Foundation to overcome poverty and recover from Ebola.

April 6 event b

The free program on April 6 at 7 p.m. will be held at Hyde Park Methodist Church, 1342 Grace Ave. at Observatory Ave.  It’s open to the public. Feel free to bring a friend. Parking is in the rear behind the church.

A national leader – Chief Caulker’s thirty years as Paramount Chief span Sierra Leone’s post-independence period, their 11-year civil war and its aftermath, and today’s modern nation building.  He has extensive national experience ranging from senior roles in Sierra Leone’s government and its Parliament to national leader for chieftaincy. Under his chairmanship, the National Council of Paramount Chiefs has become an effective voice for the critical role of chiefs in peace-building, security, land management and traditional customs.

I hope you’ll join us April 6 for an interactive discussion with Chief Caulker. You’ll learn about Sierra Leone behind the headlines with slides of life and work from my November 2015 trip.  We’ll leave plenty of time for your questions.

If you plan to attend, please do us the favor of an RSVP to sherbrofoundation@gmail.com.

Arlene Golembiewski
Executive Director, Sherbro Foundation