Giving Tues – Put a Woman on Path to Self Sufficiency

Giving Tues – Put a Woman on Path to Self Sufficiency

givingtuesday-16Give for Good
Nov. 29
We’ll double your gift =
Twice the Good!

 

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Read more about the Women’s Vegetable Growing Project.

We ran out of funding for more women. Any donation welcome!

Give HERE   Thank You!

 

Giving Tuesday – Put Women on a Path to Self-Sufficiency

In 2015 after Ebola clobbered the economy and people were hungry, Sherbro Foundation wanted to help the most vulnerable. We could help stop hunger by helping women farmers quickly regain lost income.

For GIVING TUESDAY, you can, too. We’ll even match your gift and double your impact.

rosaline-and-veg-farmerWe learned that just $75 can put a family on the path to self-sufficiency by planting fast-growing vegetables as cash crops.

We started the Women’s Vegetable Growing Project, providing peanut and vegetable seeds and a 100-pound bag of rice to 30 small farmers. They had no cash to buy any seed to restart crops. With the rice, they could feed their families with this diet staple before their harvest.

A small start, but the first harvest results were immediate and spectacular. By raising peanuts, these rice farmers within four months grew crops worth three times their normal profit in one-third the time.
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By growing peanuts and produce like cucumbers, peppers and corn in half-acre gardens, the growers could earn $200. Yes, that’s three times their regular profit from 10 months of back-breaking hand-planting and harvesting rice!

We called them “millionaires” because this was worth millions in Sierra Leone’s deeply devalued currency. It’s only gotten worse since the Ebola virus decimated the country. In the last year, the economy lost over 20 percent of its value.

For small growers, this is disastrous. The cost of food and other daily necessities continue to soar. The government just cut their budget by 30 percent as an austerity move, and now removed fuel subsidies, doubling the price of fuel. It means food and necessities will be more expensive than ever.

veg-groundnut-harvesting3Growing peanuts and other vegetables helps diversify crops and reduces risk for these subsistence farmers.

They usually have nothing left over to sell, after feeding their children one or two meals a day. Nothing left to send them to school.

They can’t get ahead when they can’t invest even $20 in seed, fertilizer or tools.

Less than a third of Sierra Leone teens attend school. That’s often because a family’s entire annual cash income won’t pay for junior/senior high school fees and uniforms costing $50.

Some families go into debt to send a child to secondary school. That’s like having a mortgage. It takes years to pay off the loan with high interest rates, making the cost 20 to 30 times the original amount.

The Women’s Vegetable Growing Project is intended as a three-year program for 450 women wanting to participate.  Sherbro Foundation funded another successful group of 75 women farmers in early 2016.

But we then ran out of money for the project.

So, nearly 400 eager women are waiting to take part to ensure food for their families throughout the year and get their children educated.

Veg - drying groundnutsResearch around the world has shown that women spend most of their income locally, helping build the local economy and small businesses. This strengthens their communities.

With your help, we can make more Bumpeh Chiefdom families productive in 2017.

 

 

Just $75 will supply one woman vegetable farmer with peanut and vegetable seed for a half-acre garden, a drying tarp to preserve their yield and 100 pounds of rice.

Any donation will help put more families on the path to self-sufficiency.   You can donate HERE.

For the next month, we’ll even match your donation, doubling the impact of your gift!

Thank you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First “Baby Orchard” Celebrates a Life Well Lived: Mike Diliberti

From Peace Corps teacher to World Bank manager to Friends of Sierra Leone president, Mike Diliberti gave his all for Sierra Leone. To celebrate his life, we have planted our first “Baby Orchard.” A new generation of children will be able to go to school when the fruit from Mike’s Orchard is sold.

Ten acres of tropical forest in a small village deep in coastal Bumpeh Chiefdom are forever preserved to honor Mike’s 40 years of service to Sierra Leone.

diliberti-and-kids       Mike in 2011 visit on the porch of his old house in Sembehun where he served as Peace Corps teacher. He stayed four years and started the chiefdom’s first secondary school.

In this summer’s rains, 1,500 fruit trees were planted — cashew, plum, mango,  inter-planted with faster growing guava and pineapple that produce fruit in one to two years.

mikes-orchard-5-june-16Sherbro Foundation’s Board funded the “Baby Orchard” to create long-term income for the chiefdom’s Newborn Education Savings Program, and dedicated it to Mike. Education savings accounts are opened for newborns and funded by fruit income. When a child reaches the age of twelve, they will have money for a secondary school education. I think Mike would have liked the idea, and I know his family does.

Left, Bagging fast growing young guava trees in the tree nursery to plant in Mike’s Orchard last July. These will be fruiting and earning money in their second year. 

Mike was one of the first people I met when we all joined the Peace Corps in 1974 and were assigned to Moyamba District as teachers. Mike went to Sembehun, I to Rotifunk. Our friendship grew with weekend R&R trips to Moyamba town and wherever volunteers gathered. Mike was such a warm and engaging guy, that early bond was remained over the years.

A flood of memories came back when we lost Mike last year.

dscn0474It’s safe to say but for Mike, Sherbro Foundation would not exist today. He encouraged me to join a Friends of Sierra Leone trip in 2011, my first return in 35 years. Ever the African traveler, he coordinated a tour of our former Moyamba District villages for five of us, including Wendy Diliberti, his wife, Sherbro Foundation Board Member Steve Papelian and Howie Fleck.

Left, Sembehun Village flocked to see Mr. Mike when he returned to visit in 2011.

If I hadn’t gone, I wouldn’t have reconnected with Rotifunk and seen the great need in such a personal way. As I later struggled with ideas on how I could help, it was Mike who encouraged me to start a new organization, and just go for it.

Now, just three years after Sherbro Foundation was founded, we can point to Mike’s Orchard, a lasting – and growing – memorial. It’s not only part of the larger Village Orchard Program, but one of six successful projects the foundation has helped Bumpeh Chiefdom to launch.

Sherbro Foundation helps villages start community orchards, creating sustainable income for development projects and to send children to school. In a few years, a village may see thousands of dollars in annual fruit income for village projects they choose: to dig wells, build primary schools, improve roads, etc. Orchard income will also fund newborn education savings accounts for years to come.

A Milwaukee, WI native, Mike served a total of four years in the Peace Corps as both a teacher and principal. He and Wendy settled in Virginia, where they raised two children, and Mike had a thirty year career with the World Bank, focused on Africa. The international organization issues loans to underdeveloped nations to help eliminate poverty.

Mike’s lifetime of work with Sierra Leone started with teaching children and developing schools. I think he would be pleased to be part of the Orchard program. The Mike Diliberti Memorial Orchard will now help ensure secondary school educations for a whole generation of children in Bumpeh Chiefdom. You can view how an orchard is planted here.

— Arlene Golembiewski, Executive Director, Sherbro Foundation

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Growing Fruit Orchards for Peanuts

How do you start an orchard program for Sierra Leone village development income when all you have is your own land and water? You grow thousands of your own trees — all from the saved seeds of fruit you first eat.

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The Center for Community Empowerment & Transformation, CCET, our Bumpeh Chiefdom partner, has grown more than 40,000 fruit tree seedlings from seed in nurseries. We could say they’re raising them for peanuts.

IMG_0144 - Copy.JPGSeedlings are tended and watered for one to two years, then given to villages to plant community orchards and to parents of newborns to raise for income for their child’s education.

Six villages have planted their own orchards with thousands of fruit tree seedlings grown by CCET.

The Mike Diliberti Memorial Orchard is the latest addition, dedicated to funding children’s education in Bumpeh Chiefdom.

CCET is part of the community and works directly with traditional chiefdom leaders to introduce programs like the orchards. They estimate a typical outside aid organization with its overhead would spend at least 5x-6x as much to introduce a similar project, with far less results.

img_2646Here’s how an orchard gets started:

CCET selects fruit that grow well in the area and collects seed. Here they grow oranges, grapefruit, mango, guava, avocado, cashew, African plum and coconut.

They buy fruit inexpensively in local markets and save the seed to start seedlings, after the fruit is eaten.

Seeds are started in growing bags filled with rich, silty soil from a swamp next to the nursery.  Seeds like the oranges above germinate quickly.

img-20151010-wa0004They position the nursery next to a swamp for a ready supply of soil and water. Nurseries are built inexpensively. They’re bamboo pergolas, made from bamboo felled in nearby forests. Palm fronds laid over the top shelter young seedlings from the hot, dry season sun.

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Cashews are one of the fruits that germinate quickly and do well. They germinate like beans, above.

Within four to six weeks, 2,000 cashews germinated and were transplanted into their growing bags, left.

 

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Trees are carried to the orchard site by available transportation – back of a motorcycle or by boat.

avocado-orchardOrchard sites are usually 10 acres and hand cleared by machete, but not burned.  The cut brush is laid down as an organic mulch.

Villages determine the kind of trees they want to grow. Fields are then measured and “pegged” with tree limb posts and a plastic flag to mark where each tree should be planted. mikes-orchard-2-june-16-copy

 

 

 

This accurately spaces trees for their mature size, like the avocados, above, and the one being transplanted, left.  All labor is provided the villages themselves. They transplant seedlings after clearing the orchard field.

coconut-orchard

 

 

 

An acre can hold 60 large trees like oil palm, coconuts and mangoes; more if orange, grapefruit, avocado, cashew and guava. So, 600 to 1,200 fruit trees may be planted in a 10-acre orchard.

Coconuts planted left are indicated by arrows.

Fruit trees will mature and bear a full harvest in four to five years.  Managers learned they can inter-plant with other fast-growing fruits like guava, banana and pineapple that mature in one to two years, or other crops like cassava and peanuts.

img_0452Villages will earn money faster as fast-growing fruits and bushes shelter the slower growing fruit tree seedlings from the hot equatorial sun. Cassava bushes, left, shelter a two-year old mango, above.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adult Literacy – Never Too Late to Improve Lives

Adult Literacy – Never Too Late to Improve Lives

Adult Literacy is the simplest of programs Sherbro Foundation has supported. And one of the most gratifying. Seeing women I recognize, below, resuming classes in October in the new Computer Center made me smile, amid some happiness tears. They were back to eagerly learning after a long hiatus caused by the Ebola crisis and its aftermath.

img-20161025-wa0010-copyThe Adult Literacy program was a fast start and one of our first. Only committed students, dedicated volunteer teachers, a classroom and a blackboard required. No cajoling needed.

Women in the community came to Mrs. Rosaline Kaimbay, Prosperity Girls High School principal, not long after she arrived to start the new high school. They leaned on her, pressing for their own chance to learn to read and write.

In 2013, I saw Mrs. Kaimbay after her school day, leading lessons for the women with a blackboard on her small house’s porch. As PGHS grew and she hired more teachers, they were willing pitch in and teach after-school classes. Sherbro Foundation provided supplies, and adult classes moved to a primary school at 4:30 p.m., after the day’s work. Class was over by 6 when it was too dark to see with only open brick grids as windows.

The women now have a comfortable place to learn in CCET’s new Community Computer Center — new adult-sized tables and chairs, ceiling fans and solar lights.

One thing hasn’t changed — volunteer teachers, including some new instructors. Some retired primary school teachers in the community want to help the new learners.

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Mr. Francis Senesie, PGHS teacher, left, leads a stretch break for the ABC Group, learning the alphabet.

Mr. Stalin Caulker, right, tutored schoolchildren struggling to learn to read for many years as a second career in Freetown. Here, he’s teaching addition to a Rotifunk group. Like many retirees, he finds it satisfying to help.

img_3388I remember the women I met in 2013 and why they wanted to start learning now.  Kadiatu, left,  was chief instigator and lobbied for classes for two years. She was her family’s breadwinner and head of Rotifunk’s women trader’s union, otherwise known as market women.

These petty traders sell by the tray and bushel in markets everywhere. She was tired of representing the group at district meetings and workshops and could only use her thumbprint to sign a document.

I talked with over 30 women one on one, and their stories were much the same.  Most were single heads of household, struggling to earn a living as market traders while raising their children. Some were also raising children sent by relatives in small villages to go to school in a bigger town, or children whose parents had passed away.

Some women wanted to learn to read and write their names for the first time, and to count so they wouldn’t be cheated in the market. They knew they could better run their small businesses with practical skills like figuring best prices and sales profits. Others had finished primary school, and after a long break, wanted to resume learning GED style.

All wanted to monitor their children’s progress in school and help with homework, learn more about children’s and their own health, and better run their households.

I wondered why they were so committed to study at the age of 30 and 45. I learned they were getting something priceless: Self esteem. No one is lower in society’s informal caste system than an illiterate woman.  She is belittled, taken advantage of, often abused.

With education, they’re holding their heads higher and not letting others take advantage.

Some of the best news — some women are progressing to other job training programs.

img_4317-copyimg-20161005-wa0000Magdelaine, with me on my far left, took a co-op style nurse’s aide training program in the district capital. Back home in Rotifunk, she works at the hospital.

Mariatu, near left,  is part of a more advanced group preparing for primary school teacher training program entrance exams.

First Computer Training Class Starts – Finally Joining the 21st Century

First Computer Training Class Starts – Finally Joining the 21st Century

October 24 was one of my happiest days since founding Sherbro Foundation. It was just days more than five years ago that I formed my first goal, with one of the Rotifunk high school principals, to start a computer training program for students. We had no building, no computers and no electricity, only the determination realize this dream.

Our goal was simple: to give high school students and adults (especially dropouts) computer skills that will make them more competitive in the growing job market.

That grew into teaching adults how to use computers in their jobs, and to start or further develop small businesses. People with computer skills in the community also will help attract new business to the area.

img-20161031-wa0000On October 24, students took their seats for the first evening computer training class in the new Computer Center building. With two months left in the year, it’s a self-paced evening class for adults. An afternoon class for high school students will follow in the next term.

Many of the first adult students are teachers in town. They may have been exposed to computers in college, but without owning one themselves, their practical skills are limited.

img-20161031-wa0008Our Rotifunk partner, the Center for Community Empowerment & Transformation, CCET, hired their first full-time employee to lead computer training classes and run the new printing service.

Sulaiman Tumbo, standing left, had been a local teacher and CCET volunteer. His IT skills and demonstrated commitment made him a great choice for the computer program.

Paramount Chief Charles Caulker, standing right, has championed computer training and the Computer Center concept.

He took on constructing the 2,600-square-foot building from the burned out ruins of a war-torn building during the height of the Ebola crisis. The chiefdom was under an isolation order, so he used that time to build the building that now houses computer and Adult Literacy classes and a new printing service.

The transformation shown below is nothing short of remarkable.

computer-class-open-nov-1-2016The Center can handle 20 computer students in a class. A long table lines a wall so students can plug into wall outlets now powered with solar energy.

Students will complete four training units leading to an IT certificate CCET will issue. With little hands-on experience, they start with Windows, learning to navigate the programs and Apps available, and to create and find documents. They’ll then master basics of Word, Excel and Powerpoint.

Chief Caulker ensured the viability of the program with the Center’s new copy and printing service. Its profits will go to funding  nonprofit education programs in the building, including computer training and Adult Literacy.

I’ll never forget the words of one the adult computer students I talked with. “Arlene,” he said, “I feel like we’re joining the 21st Century.”

— Arlene Golembiewski, Executive Director

First Printing Service Will Fund Rural Education

First Printing Service Will Fund Rural Education

Bumpeh Chiefdom’s new Community Computer Center opened for business in September with the area’s first printing service and its new workhorse copying machine, called a Riso duplicator.

riso-applauseThe economical high-volume, low-energy copier was met with cheers at the Rotifunk facility.  With good reason – it’s the only printing service within several hours drive. Printing once meant a trip to the capital Freetown.

The center now offers faster and cheaper printing and copying for a wide area.

We’re cheering from a distance because the printing service will make money to support nonprofit education programs in the multi-use center, more than four years in the making.

img-20160407-wa0000Now, the computing center — built from a war ruin — is being used to instruct students and adults on computer use. It also hosts adult literacy classes for the many whose educations were cut short by the war. The solar-powered building is available to rent, the only modern building for miles suitable for meetings and community events of 20 – 100. Primary school teacher training, above, was the first rental customer.

There’s two other money-making services inside. The canteen serves as a community hub with drinks and snacks for people visiting the nearby market, hospital and church. And a cell phone charging service can charge 30 phones at a time for a small fee.

center-commissioning-4-oct-10The large duplicator was purchased with a $3,750 grant Sherbro Foundation received from the Ann Arbor (MI) Rotary Club and its District Rotary group. We purchased and shipped the duplicator to our Sierra Leone partner, the Center for Community Empowerment & Transformation (CCET), which operates the Center.

Freetown Rotary Club members, left, joined Paramount Chief Charles Caulker, right, in October for an official Center commissioning ceremony. The Rotarians said this was the most impressive project they have ever reviewed!

Starting the duplicator took two technicians from opposite ends of the country, with Arlene making international phone calls to relay start-up codes and setup information from our Cincinnati Riso distributor, Bernie Reagan of DSC Office Systems of Blue Ash. (He contributed a deep discount on the equipment.) It’s a newer model and declared “more powerful” than others in the country. Sierra Leone is used to getting outdated technology to save money. This duplicator will serve Bumpeh Chiefdom for many years to come.

img-20160820-wa0000-1Customers soon lined up for the unique service, which spares them an eight hour round-trip to the capital, Freetown. Many are teachers from Bumpeh’s five secondary and 40 primary schools, who need to print reading materials (students have few textbooks), exam papers and report cards.

School sports competitions need programs and fliers; churches and mosques need hundreds of weekly service and wedding/funeral programs. A steady stream of hospital staff and small business owners in town and from surrounding chiefdoms are coming to print their documents.

Paramount Chief Charles Caulker says the chiefdom’s record-keeping will greatly improve and better serve residents, starting with printing a backlog of 1,000 land registrations. Chief Caulker is also chairman of the National Council of Paramount Chiefs. Most chiefs have no email, so he’s using the service to print documents going to all 149 chiefdoms in Sierra Leone.

Four years ago this was all a dream. Now, the printing service is the mainspring of a busy community center, bringing a town into the 21st century.