Hundreds of Girls Scholarships Thrill Bumpeh Chiefdom

We thought this year’s Girls Scholarship Campaign was highly successful. More than doubling donations over the previous year is definitely a success.

How do the 460 scholarship students and their community see it? They are thrilled.

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After the recent Bumpeh Chiefdom scholarship awards ceremony, “parents were singing and dancing with happiness because their girls can stay in school,” reported Rosaline Kaimbay, managing director of our local partner, The Center for Community Empowerment and Transformation – Sierra Leone.

IMG-20171124-WA0010 (3)And special guests repeatedly said they’ve never heard of a larger – or more complete – scholarship program anywhere in the country. Ibrahim Coker, left, area supervisor of schools for the Sierra Leone Ministry of Education said: “I’ve never seen such a number of scholarships together with a total package including uniforms, exercise books and solar study lights.”

With $US17,900 from Sherbro Foundation donors, CCET was able to provide 460 school fee scholarships to young women in four secondary schools. And this year, we added 310 uniforms for girls entering junior high and all 120 senior high students.

PLUS, for the first time, 100 students studying for 9th or 12th grade graduation exams received portable solar lights – never seen before – so they can study in Africa’s long dark evenings. AND, we started the first college scholarship.

Scholarship awards CCET bldg 2 (3)“It’s very impressive. I’ve never seen any organization giving so many awards and paying for so many things,” said Alice Conteh Morgan, left, managing director of Reliance Insurance Risk Co. in Freetown. Conteh Morgan, a Rotifunk native, attended to encourage the girls: “With your educations, you can achieve everything.”

In comparison, Plan International, a large UK-based charity, awards fewer than 50 scholarships annually in Bumpeh Chiefdom for girls already enrolled in an older program. Most of our awardees don’t qualify. That’s why Sherbro Foundation’s work is so appreciated.

Scholarship money, like any school fee, goes into the schools’ operations and to make school improvements.

“CCET-SL has paid for all (160) girls in our school. We appreciate it so much. May god richly bless you and all the donors,” was the message from Daniel Koroma, vice principal of Bumpeh Academy Secondary School. The school immediately began applying scholarship funds to build classrooms, since many of its classes are held in partial structures with no walls.

IMG-20171127-WA0000The awards ceremony was covered by the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Co., the country’s only TV station and a regional radio station. Paramount Chief Charles Caulker said he continues to receive phone calls congratulating him on Bumpeh Chiefdom’s big news.

Likewise, Rosaline Kaimbay’s phone kept ringing. “It made me so proud to hear from friends around the country saying they saw news of our impressive program.” Above, she presents an Ahmadiyya Islamic school student with her uniform, exercise books and solar study light, together with school principal Mr. Tarawallie.

And Then There Was Light – CCET-SL’s new Solar System

And Then There Was Light – CCET-SL’s new Solar System

Just when we thought we were ending a banner year – our best yet – it got even better.

When our partner CCET-SL’s new Community Education Center opened in 2015, we knew we would need solar power to meet the center’s promise of computer and adult literacy classes, chiefdom meetings, NGO-led educational workshops and other services. But we never dreamed this critical chiefdom resource would have its own 24-hour solar power system today.

Then it happened – quickly.  All thanks to a donor we have never met! From the very first email contact in early September to final installation of the new solar system in November was only 11 weeks.

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The Center can now operate late into the evening, seven days a week as needed, and power all equipment for its growing printing service and computer training.

The gift from the Beaman Family Fund (the actual donor wishes to remain anonymous) was made after another thoughtful donor recommended the work of Sherbro Foundation Sierra Leone and our Bumpeh Chiefdom partner, the Center for Community Empowerment & Transformation (CCET-SL).

The funding installed a 6,000-watt solar power system, including a little extra capacity for the future. We had to carefully plan out all energy use, and still ration hours per day of usage. With solar, you can’t use power faster than you can make and store it.

For perspective on how far 6000 watts will go, a standard women’s hairdryer uses 1875 watts and a basic microwave is 1000 watts. Two simple devices would use half the available power. While solar equipment continues to get cheaper, installing a system to cover all energy needs is still expensive.

With a 6000-watt system, CCET-SL can:

  • Operate the printing service, with a low-energy duplicator and color printer. The only such public service in Moyamba District of 300,000, it’s expected to keep the center self-supporting.
  • Light the building with 26 LED bulbs and cool with 16 small ceiling fans and standing fans.
  • Run computer classes with up to 20 laptops at a time for a maximum four hours a day.
  • Run equipment for two profit-making services – a small canteen and public cell phone charging.

CCET-SL’s Center started as a burned-out shell of a building destroyed during the rebel war. But it was a central site, and local labor transformed it into a 2,600-square-foot multifunctional space, all built during the Ebola crisis when the chiefdom was under isolation order for months.

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Now look at it! The center is not just a bright place for evening classes, to get a photo printed or a copy, hold a meeting or enjoy a cold drink. It’s a model for the entire country on self-supported community education. It’s lighting the way for market women to learn to read and for high school students to use a computer for the first time.

We can’t thank the Beaman Family Fund enough for their generosity in funding the solar power system. Thanks also to all of you who supported us along the way. It’s been a four year journey, but with your help, we’ve reached the finish line.