Sherbro Foundation was founded in 2013 by Arlene Golembiewski, a former Peace Corps volunteer who served in Rotifunk, Bumpeh Chiefdom, Sierra Leone in the 1970s. The Sherbro are the traditional tribal group in Bumpeh Chiefdom whose culture pervades the area. The Foundation is intended to honor these people and all who make this part of Sierra Leone their home.
Like most, Arlene lost contact with Sierra Leone during the long period of its brutal 11-year civil war and 10 more years of partial rebuilding. In 2011, she revisited after 35 years with a group of fellow returned Peace Corps volunteers from Friends of Sierra Leone, wondering if it was wise to try to “go back.” She soon found herself caught up with the courage and energy of a country rebuilding and creating a promising future.
The vision and optimism of the Rotifunk community were infectious. Arlene returned twice more on her own in the next 18 months. Rosaline Kaimbay, principal of the new Prosperity Girls High School, then open only two years, impressed Arlene with her professionalism and can-do attitude. Arlene found cash flow was as big a problem as ever in a subsistence agriculture community. Parents were having trouble paying $20 annual secondary school fees to send daughters to school. To support these girls and their parents, Arlene paid school fees for that first group of 67 girls and other school operating costs.
Arlene spent a month on each of her next two trips traveling to villages around Bumpeh Chiefdom. The extent of needs throughout the area became clear and helped Arlene crystalize her own objectives in helping people help themselves. Literacy and education are the foundation for community development. To move beyond the poverty of subsistence agriculture and an informal barter economy, people need economic development with paying jobs and income. In this rural area, agriculture development can be their salvation.
In 2013, Arlene decided to start the Sherbro Foundation to expand and involve others in work she began on her own. The Foundation works in partnership with a local community nonprofit, The Center for Community Empowerment and Transformation, which was founded by teachers in Rotifunk. CCET has potential to become a model for the developing nation.