The women needed instant capitalization to bring more earnings home that improve their daily lives, as well as save. Soon, 40 more traders were added, 20 of them “fish mongers,” like Marie left, who buy dried fish from fishing villages to sell in Rotifunk.
“This program can change the lives of these women,” Chief Caulker says.
“In another year, some can reach what for us is a middleclass income level, and stand on their own using capital they produce themselves,” he said. Women still come thanking him for the opportunity to grow – or pleading for the chance to be included.
A steady business, no matter how small, has a broad ripple effect on the women’s community. They spend their earnings where they live.
First, children are fed two if not three meals a day. This includes wards many women take in from village relatives so they can attend school in town. Girls stay in school longer, avoiding early marriages and dangerous early pregnancies, and gain more promising futures.
With a little savings, women can seek early medical care for kids with malaria or other diseases that take the lives of twenty percent of children under 5.
One invigorated trader is Zainab, left, who had to drop out of school at the 9th grade. She was forced into an early marriage because her family could no longer feed her at home.
Zainab was a good student. She is now selling fresh fish at the weekly market and manages her business well. She’s one of the best savers in the group. In nine months, she saved $175.
Sherbro Foundation Executive Director Arlene Golembiewski sees better prospects for Zainab and others with more training and support.
“The fact is, market trading is the main business in Rotifunk,’’ she said. There are no local wage-paying jobs. “Trading should be seen as a career opportunity, not just a default for those with no other options.”
And the market looks destined to grow soon because a neglected road between Rotifunk and Moyamba, the district capital 17 miles away, is finally being upgraded. Traffic from across the district is expected to soon pass through town on their way to the capital.
Paramount Chief Caulker and the rest of the CCET Board are now evaluating the program, planning improvements for its second year.
Adama, left, works very hard at her new opportunity. One of her husband’s two wives, she was forced to provide for her five children alone. The four oldest were married off young because she couldn’t afford to support them.
But now Adama – who walks to market with two tubs on her head — is succeeding at trading and has saved more than 1 million Leones, or $100.
At the end of the year, she withdrew her savings. It was like getting a second grant – one she paid herself.
If she and her friends could meet you, we know they’d thank you from the bottom of their hearts for providing a way to better futures with new hope.
We hope their stories bring you some joy and happiness in this strangest of years.
— Chris Golembiewski, Vice President, Sherbro Foundation
Sierra Leone always teaches us you’ll find joy when you look for it.
Wishing you a happy holiday and hoping you find your joy in 2021.
— Arlene Golembiewski for Sherbro Foundation
Sierra Leone schools finally will reopen in October after a 5-month Covid shutdown
How do you help students now at an education milestone with a looming big exam that determines their fate – or which could result in more barriers to reaching their life goals?
Sierra Leone students have already been through a lot to reach 9th grade or 12th grade. With previous stops and starts, senior high students are often 20 years old and more. They’ve been in schools with too few teachers qualified to teach the curriculum.
Now, they’ve a 5-month school gap to fill because of Covid.
We’re working on improving Rotifunk’s educational system with teacher training. But what happens to the kids now in school?
CCET-SL’s Tutorial Program, going into its fourth year, tackles this problem, turning it into an opportunity.
Rosaline Kaimbay saw local secondary schools don’t have enough trained and qualified teachers to cover the full curriculum, especially in math, science and English.
Her solution: offer tutorials, but not just one-on-one or for small groups. Offer after-school classes to students from three schools preparing for national exams. And make it free.With Sherbro Foundation funding, 9th and 12th grade students came in droves for this free extra help. CCET-SL had to limit enrollment to the capacity of the CCET-SL education center, about 75 students at a time.
The program has been a big success and continues to grow. 170 students are anticipated this year, exceeding the size of the CCET-SL center. Classes are in two shifts and overflow classes go to a nearby primary school in afternoons.
Students facing the biggest barriers to education are invited for tutoring, providing a boost for the most vulnerable: orphans, those in single-parent households, often woman-led, or away from their home village living with guardians, and the lowest income families. 80% are girls.
The Tutorial program adds quality to the education these students receive – and does it using existing resources.
The best qualified local teachers combine forces in extra classes for students from three schools.
For a modest $40 monthly stipend, these dedicated teachers come after school, week after week, for another round of teaching over the whole school year.
The result: 9th grade tutorial students each year got higher results on average on the senior high entrance exam than peers in their home school, better on average than all chiefdom schools and than most of the district’s 40 secondary schools. They took many of the top three results in their home school.
The tutorial students, 80% girls, also became motivated to continue their education. More went on to senior high at the age when girls typically drop-out and marry. With extra support and their daughters’ success, more parents saw the value of education and kept their girls in school.
Create All-Day 12th grade School
Rosaline has taken 12th grade after-school tutoring to a higher level. The total number of 12th graders in Rotifunk schools remains small. Most have dropped out by this point.
Rosaline convinced school principals it would be more effective to bring all 12th grade students together and teach one all-day 12th grade school with the best local teachers at the CCET-SL center.
Students get the best teaching Rotifunk has to offer. The intensive all-day school prepares them for the exam that’s the entry to all higher education and requested on job applications. All 12 senior high subjects are taught, including classes for college and commercial tracks.
School in the time of Covid
12th grade after-school tutoring converted to the all-day school in December 2019. Covid then closed schools at the end of March 2020. Still, with six months total of focused teaching, we’re hoping this group now taking the national exam will do better than in the past.
CCET-SL will resume both the 12th-grade school and 9th grade after-school tutoring when Sierra Leone schools reopen in October. They observe the same procedures as all schools, including Covid safety procedures: required masks, spacing out students and frequent hand-washing. The CCET-SL Center has large windows to open on both sides creating air flow.
9th grade tutorial classes and the 12th grade school will be more important than ever in helping Rotifunk students catch up after missing five months of school for Covid. No Zoom in Rotifunk!
You can step in and sponsor a 9th grade or 12th grade student for 10 months of classes for only $40 for the whole year. Sponsor a student here.
Together, we can help 170 students stay on track and make big gains in their quest for a complete education. More than that. They’re preparing for the next step that lies ahead. Thank you!
— Arlene Golembiewski, Executive Director
Youth unemployment in Sierra Leone is staggering.
70% of those under the age of 35 are unemployed or underemployed. Erratic work in the informal economy, like market trading and day labor, is hard to even call employment. But that’s the best many can do. They have no skills.
Izzy is back in school now to avoid this fate. She’s in a vocational course teaching her electrical wiring. She chose that because it will lead to a wage-paying job with a future She’ll be poised on the leading edge of Sierra Leone’s solar revolution.
It’s back-to-school time. And time for our annual educational fundraising appeal – with another new twist this year.
Vocational training is one of four types of higher-education scholarships we’re sponsoring for chiefdom students. The successful after-school tutoring program will continue, as well.
Izzy is one of 12 Bumpeh Chiefdom students enrolled in a new vocational training program with Sherbro Foundation scholarships.
She was an 11th grade student aimlessly drifting in a conventional school that didn’t offer much to a student like her. Izzy (short for Ismatu) lost first one parent, then the other. She lives with her grandmother, helping in her catering business, which in rural Rotifunk, is down more than up.
Izzy is a quiet girl. In a month of being around her, I never got more than a “good morning, ma.” She’s always silent, her grandmother said. Just quietly doing tasks she’s asked to do. Fetch water, wash the pots, peel potatoes, pluck feathers off a chicken. You can see she’s had a painful past. Spending her time with older women who didn’t have their own chance for education, she never formed any goals.
The Sierra Leone government recognizes young people like Izzy need new opportunities. Most will never go to college. They need to get job skills. The government decentralized its Government Technical Institute, putting satellite programs in the district capitals where it’s practical for impoverished students to study. They made it affordable, with low tuition and avoid the capital Freetown’s high cost of living.
When Izzy’s chance for a new kind of education came up, she went for it. Electrical wiring is unusual for any girl to elect, but especially in Sierra Leone.
I asked her, why choose this, and Izzy softly said, “So I can do betta.” Meaning, so I can get a job and do better than the women around me.
Now she’s learning a skill that will set her up in a trade with opportunities, as Sierra Leone’s construction industry grows and electrical power takes off.
Until now, 90% of rural Sierra Leone has been in the dark.
Izzy didn’t choose this out of the blue. Last year, she was helping her grandmother cook for a group of Germans who came to install a solar system at Rotifunk’s mission hospital. They observed women have almost no options for jobs and are always working as “beasts of burden.” They encouraged Izzy, saying she could be doing solar installations and other electrical work.
Not long ago, a group of illiterate Sierra Leone women went to India to be trained as part of a “barefoot solar” program, which successfully trains illiterate Indian women to do solar system installations. They show even uneducated women can learn what they need to know to run wiring and install solar panels. Women are disciplined and pay attention to detail.
When Izzy was selected for one of the first 12 Bumpeh Chiefdom positions at the new technical institute in the district capital Moyamba, she saw electrical wiring was a course option. She didn’t hesitate.
Four young women and eight young men were accepted for Sherbro Foundation funded scholarships. Three women elected an IT course. The men are studying building and constuction, auto mechanics and IT.
The only female in her electrical course, Izzy is getting encouragement all around, including from the guys in the class. She’ll be finishing her first year soon, leading to a one-year certificate. If she does well, she can continue into a second year and get a full diploma.
Izzy’s timing is good. Small scale solar systems are spreading across Sierra Leone.
Easy Solar is one company bringing small solar units to rural African households. It installs solar panels with as little as 25 to 50 watts capacity, enough to run a couple LED lights and charge phones, plug in a radio or another small device.
Compared to always buying expensive alkaline batteries, this kind of small solar service is affordable for many. The smallest package is $70. You can buy your set-up outright, or pay it off monthly. Later, you can add on.
The exciting news is a solar mini-grid is being installed for the town of Rotifunk. It’s a public-private venture, that will be run like a small utility company. Households who want the service will get an electrical meter installed for pay-as-you-go service. Poles are going up around Rotifunk to carry electrical wires throughout town. The rest goes in soon, when the peak of the rainy season passes.
I smiled when I heard one excited resident say, with electricity, “Rotifunk will be New York City of the south [of Sierra Leone].”
The above solar mini-grid is an example of many being installed in rural Sierra Leone.
Imagine the anticipation of having even small-scale power and lights around Rotifunk for the very first time. It will no doubt keep growing, as power expands around the country.
Izzy soon will be ready to take advantage with her new electrical skills. She can “do betta” and have a future in front of her.
When asked to sponsor vocational training scholarships, Sherbro Foundation immediately said, absolutely.
It takes just $325 for a total scholarship package for the year to help one vocational student get job skills! This includes tuition and practicals fee, room rental and transportation for nine months.
The institute is impressed with Bumpeh Chiefdom’s response in sending students. It’s the only chiefdom in the district to fully sponsor 12 impoverished students and give them this opportunity.
You can help Izzy and 11 others like her get real job skills. Contribute towards a $325 annual scholarship here and these young people will soon join the job market – and avoid lives of poverty.
You’ll be making a great investment that feels great, too. Thank you!
— Arlene Golembiewski, Executive Director
Our Sierra Leone partner CCET-SL has more education programs helping Bumpeh Chiefdom students move to self-reliant lives. Stay tuned to hear what’s next for the successful after-school tutoring program and two other scholarships for community health nurses and our first university student!
We’re kicking off our annual appeal for our educational programs.
Sherbro Foundation’s core mission is education, with a focus on helping girls get an education.
We want Bumpeh Chiefdom girls – and boys – to stay in school, graduate and move on to actual careers and wage-paying jobs that make them self-supporting and part of developing their country.
Sherbro Foundation is proud to have grown to four types of scholarships serving Bumpeh Chiefdom students.
This year we’re changing our approach to our mission. No girls’ scholarships.
We’re focusing on ensuring teachers have the skills needed to help our students succeed.
“This is the right time to make a change in the scholarship program,” Bumpeh Chiefdom’s Paramount Chief Charles Caulker said. “The Sierra Leone government’s Free Quality Education program is providing more and more for students in the last two years and taking a load off families. The government made school free, paying school fees directly to schools, and giving students school supplies and textbooks for core subjects.”
Over six years, Sherbro Foundation sent over 800 Bumpeh Chiefdom girls to school with scholarships, most with repeat scholarships.
We got them into junior high and kept them there. We saved many from dropping out, instead continuing into senior high. They’re starting to graduate.
But graduates aren’t moving on to their dreams. Our goal of self-sufficient young women remains unmet.
Few had school completion exam results good enough to continue into higher education. This is largely the same scenario across Sierra Leone.
The problem was pretty clear. More needs to be put into the quality of education, not just the quantity.
Quality of education starts with qualified teachers.
This year we will fund scholarships for teachers in chiefdom schools to get the Higher Teaching Certificate (HTC), the basic credential to teach at the secondary school level.
“The majority of those imparting knowledge to pupils are not trained and qualified. This has created a negative impact on the performance of pupils, especially in the public exam.” Rosaline Kaimbay, managing director of our chiefdom partner CCET-SL and former high school principal.
If fortunate to finish high school, most graduates need to earn an income right away. They start teaching straight out of high school, sometimes as a primary school teacher.
Without an HTC or a bachelor’s degree, the government won’t pay secondary school teachers. But it’s hard for Rotifunk schools to get trained teachers to come to this rural community. They still need teachers, and scrape together a token salary, as little as $25 a month, to pay unqualified teachers.
The Sierra Leone government offers part-time courses practicing teachers can take on school holidays and some weekends to get their HTC over three years.
Many unqualifed teachers are serious and want to improve their subject knowledge and teaching skills. But paid so little, they can’t afford to pursue their HTC.
They’re stuck. But we can fix this problem.
Sherbro Foundation will fund six CCET-SL scholarships for practicing Rotifunk teachers to pursue their HTC. The cost for each is only $675 a year for tuition, fees and personal support (travel, food, internet café use, etc.)
Aziz is applying for one. He’s been teaching for seven years. Aziz was born in Mogbongboto, a small village deep in Bumpeh Chiefdom near where the Bumpeh River opens to the ocean. His parents were subsistence farmers, living off the land. He is one of twenty children his father gave birth to. His family can’t offer any financial help to further his education.
Aziz went to high school in Rotifunk in the period after the war when schools were being rebuilt academically as well as physically, and good instruction was limited.
When he didn’t meet university entry requirements, Aziz took the path many do. He got a basic teacher’s certificate, qualifying him to teach at primary schools. He worked his way up, from primary school to teaching business management and physical education at a Rotifunk secondary school.
“At first I never want to be a teacher looking at the way the profession is neglected,” Aziz commented last year. “Later on I take it as a job. And now it’s becoming my profession.”
Teachers in a rural community like Rotifunk do more than teach a class. They’re guides and catalysts, lifting students from the trap of semi-literacy and a life of poverty to the opportunity education brings.
I was impressed with the personal vision Aziz wrote on his Facebook page. “My vision: to teach, to build, to inspire. As an educator, a life coach, a life instructor, a future builder and a Role Model, I inspire young and great minds towards becoming super thinkers and great achievers.”
Aziz meets the base criteria for an HTC Scholarship. He now has six subjects passed after retaking the school completion exam vs. four required for HTC entry. He’s a chiefdom resident and currently teaching in a chiefdom school.
Aziz did well in CCET-SL’s scholarship interview, with a panel of seven interviewers, including Paramount Chief Caulker. He needs to now apply to an HTC school and bring a letter of acceptance.
“CCET-SL works to compliment the government’s Free Quality Education program,” Chief Caulker, left, said. “One thing the government is not able to do now is send teachers back to school to develop strong teaching skills. It’s right for CCET-SL to step in and help our own teachers. We’ve tailored teacher training scholarships for our needs and to serve as a tool for developing our chiefdom.”
After completing their HTC, teachers are required to continue teaching in a Rotifunk school at least one year for every year of scholarship support they receive.
“Our Girls Scholarship program encouraged chiefdom families to send their girls to school and let them progress into senior high,” Chief Caulker said. “They’ve come to value education more and are proud of their girls getting an education.”
“We now need to make sure girls – and all our students – get a quality education that will carry them into new lives where they prosper, and in turn, Bumpeh Chiefdom prospers.”
Sherbro Foundation is excited to take our education mission to the next level with this change. When a teacher’s skills improve, students learn more, test scores improve and they gain admission to higher education – with opportunities for a new life.
You can help develop a teacher by donating towards a $675 scholarship. Click here.
You’ll be investing in both a teacher and in the hundreds of students they teach. Thank you!
— Arlene Golembiewski, Executive Director
Watch for future newsletters about our three other scholarships and their goals: community health nursing, vocational training and supporting our first university student to complete her final year.
The future of education in Bumpeh Chiefdom has been growing by leaps and bounds – with more acres of fruit trees and annual crops flourishing in the Orchards for Education project. With a second Rotary Club Global Grant, our partner CCET-SL’s project has blossomed into 60 acres of orchards and a new vegetable growing effort. Here’s a six-month update.
The latest $69,000 phase of Orchards for Education has been completed, with innovative changes along the way, thanks to CCET-SL’s new agriculture manager, Ibrahim Rogers. He saw opportunities to optimize Rotary’s two-year $142,000 investment and generate cash income sooner.
Instead of interplanting vegetable crops in the new orchards and carrying water over tens of acres there, Mr. Rogers advised growing vegetables in raised beds in a swampy area. There, water is plentiful to grow intensively year-round.
A large berm, below, was built around a 7-acre swamp to contain and control water from a stream that naturally floods the area. In the heavy rainy season when 120 inches of rain would wash out raised beds, the project converted to growing rice.
Annual crops will be more productive in an inland valley swamp, or IVS. And that extra money will provide more income to support orchard operations while fruit trees mature.
Seven acres of IVS rice, above, were just harvested in what proved to be a bumper crop.
The rice harvest was manually cut into sheaves. A borrowed power thresher, left, cut the time-consuming chore of separating out rice grains. Hand-winnowing, below, is still needed to clean the rice and remove chaff.
The rice will be sold to the Sierra Leone Ministry of Agriculture as seed rice for their program to increase rice growing in the country. Half the rice now consumed in Sierra Leone is imported — the cheapest, least nutritious white rice.
The Ministry will distribute the seed rice to district small farmers to improve their yields and expand their farms so Sierra Leone can feed itself again.
So, our rice project will support both chiefdom education programs and making Sierra Leone self-sufficient in rice-growing!
The IVS is now being converted back to vegetable growing for the dry season. Ten thousand pepper plants grown in seedbeds will soon be transplanted in newly prepared raised beds. Below are last season’s peppers mulched with rice straw. Okra will also soon be growing gangbusters.
The project will start experimenting with other crops, like bell peppers, carrots and watermelons, to see what does well. A strong market is nearby. Freetown with its 1.5 million urban people only 55 miles away depends on rural farmers for fruit and vegetables.
Paramount Chief Charles Caulker donated the IVS land conveniently located next to the fruit tree nursery. To launch this extra project, $9,000 came from Sherbro Foundation donors and Foundation board members.
CCET-SL’s agricultural projects are already paying dividends as a source of employment for the community with rare wage-paying jobs. The project employs 21 full-time orchard workers, 20 part-time women, plus about 100 seasonal workers (men and women). The part-time women, below, tend the vegetable crops in the IVS, leaving them time to work on their own garden plots and double their earnings.
Meanwhile, fruit trees in the project’s orchards have been soaking up five months of the rainy season’s heavy rains and going through another seasonal growth spurt. The year-by-year progress is now clear to see.
The third, most recent orchard was planted in June-July of this year with coconut saplings on newly cleared ground. These will take five to six years to fully fruit.
Rows of limes and guava that will fruit in three years alternate with coconuts.
Trees in the second orchard, left, planted in 2018 are strong, sprouting up with two rainy seasons of growth.
Avocados, sour sop and oil palm (a local diet staple) were added to coconuts, together with more guava and lime.
The ground still tries to revert back to bush in Year Two and needs to be regularly whacked back. Cassava were planted among some coconuts as drought resistant short-term crops. Tubers are harvested in two to three years, with plants easily replaced with sticks cut from the parent plant.
The first orchard planted in 2017 is now in its third year.
Coconut saplings are now trees, many taller than a 6-foot man. Limes and guava are approaching this height.
Old trees and bushes have largely been beaten back and the ground is becoming grassy.
Guava and lime trees planted in 2017 in the first orchard are sporadically fruiting, and will yield a good harvest next year.
The early guava, left, took first place in the country’s annual agriculture fair in October.
Thanks to the Rotary Club grant, much-needed capital investment was made in the project. A storage building and concrete drying floor at the IVS were completed, below, including an office/meeting room and a night guard’s sleeping quarters. A second storehouse is under construction at the orchard.
A simple, portable and flexible approach to watering was purchased — a minitruck equipped with a tank will carry water around the orchards to keep fruit tree saplings watered throughout the dry season. After two or three years, trees no longer need hand watering. The minitruck is available for other uses, like carrying the rice harvest, below.
Note, the new truck driver, Zainab, is a woman, in keeping with the project’s objective to hire women wherever possible. Who said this isn’t women’s work?
Paramount Chief Caulker intends Orchards for Education to be a demonstration ground to show the Sierra Leone government, NGOs and farming neighbors that productive agriculture projects can be community-led and used to reach nonprofit goals.
The Orchards for Education project is set up to fund Bumpeh Chiefdom education programs for the long term. It’s also providing employment and growing seed rice to help local small farmers. Other rural communities can decide how they want to grow their own futures. CCET-SL is showing them it’s all possible.
We send our deep thanks again to Sherbro Foundation donors who generously gave to this Rotary Club grant project with 2018 year-end donations. Your gifts were matched by Rotary International Foundation. You can now see how far your money already has grown on the ground!
Fatmata, Umu and Safi have done something no one else in their Sierra Leone families have done. Or almost anyone in their community. They graduated from high school. But then what happens?
The three Rotifunk graduates are among the first Bumpeh Chiefdom girls to finish high school in more than 20 years since Sierra Leone’s war.
They’re now embarking on new careers in community health nursing with the second college scholarship Sherbro Foundation introduced last year.
With three deserving young women, the scholarship is split three ways among them.
You can help these young women continue in college another year with your gift – and on to careers in health care, one of Sierra Leone’s most dire needs.
Getting this far It was a struggle for Fatmata, Umu and Safi to get this far, coming from subsistence farming village families, some with single parents. No one in their families finished high school, let alone college. Local schools have also been on a long path to rebuild after the war and attract trained teachers to this rural setting. The young women didn’t have the benefit of a strong academic start.
None met the requirements to enter a four-year or two-year college degree program. Very few Rotifunk students have. Discouraged and at a loss for what to do, they volunteered at Rotifunk’s mission-run hospital as nursing aides. They liked the work, and the hospital found them hard working with potential for health care careers.
Rotifunk’s education godmother
Enter Rosaline Kaimbay, our Rotifunk partner CCET-SL’s managing director and former high school principal.
Rosaline, left center, has been like a godmother to so many Bumpeh Chiefdom children, encouraging them to start – or return – to secondary school, and finding what minimal resources she can to help them on their way.
Rosaline’s new task is helping girls with career counseling and identifying higher education options that fit their interests and abilities. Imagine coming from an illiterate rural farming family and trying to figure out what to do with your life. Girls have little idea of jobs to prepare for, let alone how to make it happen.
Win – win solutions Sherbro Foundation strives to support students in higher education fields that can benefit Bumpeh Chiefdom and its development. Students with family connections are more likely to return to the chiefdom to work – if there’s available jobs.
Health care is an area with rural jobs. It’s also one of Sierra Leone’s biggest priorities, in a country with one of – or the highest – infant, Under-Five and maternal mortality rates in the world.
The Sierra Leone government needs trained nurses to staff community health clinics in the rural areas where 60% of the country’s population lives, especially those who speak local tribal languages and know the culture.
Community health nursing is a great entry point for young women like Fatmata, Umu and Safi. Nurses like Adama, above, run small village-based Public Health Units, where they treat common infectious disease like malaria and dysentery, stitch wounds and perform other first aid. They give women basic pre and post-natal care, serve as midwives at birth and offer well-baby care, including checking infants for stunting.
They’re important in identifying more complicated maternity cases and chronic illness like diabetes and hypertension that need higher professional treatment. I’m told nurses with local connections like rural assignments, where the standard of living is low and their salary goes further.
A good educational value For $750 we can send a young woman to a year of training for this critical job, including tuition, lab practicals, supplies and weekly transportation home for 36 weeks.
Meet our college students
Last year you met our first college scholarship awardee Aminata Kamara, left, who continues to do well. She’s finishing her second year of a B.A. degree in Banking and Finance at the University of Sierra Leone, and is ready to start her third year in September.
Now meet the three nursing students on scholarship.
Our goal is return all four young women to college in September.
Fatmata Sesay lost her father ten years ago and her mother has struggled to raise her and her brother.
Her mother is a small farmer and participant in our Women’s Vegetable Growing program to grow peanuts as a cash crop. But that won’t put a girl through college.
A high school dropout, her mother values education and volunteers her free time as a local kindergarten teacher.
Giving Fatmata the chance for higher education and the career she didn’t have is her hope.
Umu Bangura’s parents are farmers in a small Bumpeh Chiefdom village. Her mother has elephantiasis in both legs and can no longer do much. Her father, in his 50’s and after a hard life of physical labor, is limited in how much farming he can still do.
Umu is the first girl in their family to complete high school. She’s excited to be among the first Bumpeh Chiefdom girls to have the opportunity to continue into college and a real career in nursing.
Umu passed three of her introductory nursing classes “with distinction” above 85%.
Safi Bendu comes from a small village “downriver” some distance from Rotifunk. She had to leave home to go to secondary school.
She got pregnant, but returned to complete her high school education. Safi now appreciates another opportunity to continue her education. She’s determined to become a nurse and get a job that enables her to care for her child.
Fatmata, Umu and Safi all successfully completed their introductory nursing classes in May with Sherbro Foundation college scholarships. They now have two years of courses in front of them, and a third year where they’ll be placed in a government hospital to gain practical experience.
Help send these young women to college. Fatmata, Umu and Safi are now proudly dressed in their nursing student uniforms and have someplace to go – nursing school.
You can help these young women complete a year of their nursing degrees. $750 gives each of them a full year of training so they can join the ranks of trained nurses Sierra Leone so greatly needs.
Our total goal for 2019-20 college scholarships for all four young women is $4000. This includes $1750 to return our first college student Aminata to her third year at University of Sierra Leone with tuition and living expenses.
This year we combined fundraising for college and high school scholarships into one campaign. If you wish to specify your gift be used for college scholarships, please note that on the “special instruction line” with your donation HERE. Or you can let your gift help all girls return to school from Jr. High to Sr. High to college students.
College is an opportunity still uncommon in Sierra Leone and cherished by its students. Thank you for supporting Bumpeh Chiefdom girls in reaching for their dreams.
— Arlene Golembiewski, Executive Director
I broke into a smile even before I opened the envelop in last week’s mail from Grace Lutheran Church. It was another annual check from a small-town church in Maine; this one for $421. They’ve donated the proceeds of their church’s winter crafts fair four years running.
Sherbro Foundation knows no one in Auburn, Maine. But someone there had hosted an exchange student from Sierra Leone. During the 2014 Ebola epidemic, they wanted to help at the grassroots level where they felt their money would be put to good use directly helping a rural Sierra Leone community. They found us on a Google search and have been giving ever since.
Americans are giving and generous. They see a compelling need and just give. I’ve never spoken with Grace Lutheran Church. There’s only been a couple short emails exchanged when I contacted them to understand who was being so generous in their help. Year by year, I inform them how their money has been used, and they keep giving.
After six years of operation, there’s been many different ways people give to Sherbro Foundation in support of our mission to empower rural Sierra Leone through community-led education and agricultural development.
Let us count the ways people give. Church and Faith-based Outreach like Grace Lutheran is only one way.
On-line giving The most common way people donate is on-line through our website. Two-thirds of our donors prefer this convenience using their credit card. The other one-third send checks. We greatly appreciate either mode.
Tax-deferred accounts – More people are using the benefits of donating from tax-deferred accounts. They’re charitable and tax-savvy at the same time. We receive a number of checks from donor-advised funds, holding assets our supporters have already donated for charitable purposes. Fidelity Charitable funds are commonly used. Charles Schwab has others. We’ve also received donation checks as direct IRA distributions. When a check is sent from an IRA account directly to a 501c3 charity, the donation can qualify as part of a minimum IRA distribution and be subtracted in full from that year’s taxable income.
Facebook fundraisers – A fun and easy way to involve others in learning about Sherbro Foundation is a Facebook fundraiser. In lieu of gifts for your birthday or other occasion, ask them to send girls to school instead. Designate Sherbro Foundation as the target charity on your FB page and invite friends to donate with a modest fundraising goal.
In-honor-of gifts – We’ve received a number of memorials in honor of a loved one. It can be comforting to celebrate a loved one’s life with the life-affirming gift of sending girls to school or planting trees that will fund education in Sierra Leone for a generation to come.
People have used many occasions to honor someone by supporting Sherbro Foundation programs: birthdays, Mother’s Day, anniversaries, holiday gift giving. They’re gifts that make a real difference in the world – and with benefits that keep on giving long after the occasion is past.
Estate gifts – We’ve been honored to receive gifts from a loved one’s estate. People have said their mother or other loved one would like the idea of their money going to help girls get educations that launch them on real careers and new lives.
Peer-to-peer fundraising – I need to call out my friend Ginny who has been masterful in encouraging friends to support one of our fundraising campaigns with her email blasts and messages of endorsement. Email, face-to-face contacts or however you do it, word-of-mouth with personal messages of support is one of the best ways for Sherbro Foundation programs to grow.
Retailer giving programs – Amazon, Kroger and other retailers encourage customers to designate a charity to receive a distribution from their charitable funds, based on the customer’s sales. Sign up on their website and name Sherbro Foundation, and we keep getting quarterly checks. Our charitable ID # is 46-2300190. Amazon Smile Kroger Community Rewards
Community Foundation grant – In the same vein, we received a grant from a community foundation fund after our programs were recommended to them by a community member.
Civic and Service Organization grants – Many civic groups like Rotary Clubs and Lions Clubs make supporting international development projects part of their mission. Our relationship with Rotary Clubs grew from an unplanned introduction to one Rotarian who made the connection with her club. If you are a club member or know one, contact us to talk about whether Sherbro Foundation programs may be a good match for the club’s support.
Returned Peace Corps Volunteer organization gifts – many cities have Returned Peace Corps Volunteer organizations that like to stay connected with grassroots community projects in countries the Peace Corps serves. Sherbro Foundation stays faithful to Peace Corps’ direction of supporting community-led development. The Cincinnati Area Returned Volunteers (CARV) has been generous in their support, as well as individual former volunteers. Help us get connected with your local Peace Corps group or its members with an introduction.
Corporate donations – One of our early “home-runs” was the gift of refurbished computers by a corporation with local Cincinnati area offices. Many businesses also have charitable funds that employees can tap by applying for grants for charitable projects they support. The employee typically needs to make the submission. Your company may have a charitable grant program.
Does this give you more ideas on how you can help? Please let us know of other ideas you have – or how we can help you act on any of these. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sherbro Foundation is deeply grateful for all the ways people have chosen to give in support of the children and women of Bumpeh Chiefdom, Sierra Leone. Thank you!
Bumpeh Chiefdom leader Paramount Chief Charles Caulker long dreamed of developing his chiefdom using its own agriculture traditions. He wanted to grow fruit trees in his verdant tropical chiefdom that would produce income for community development for years to come.
“If we could raise fruit trees on a big enough scale, we could grow our own community’s future.”
“We could move to eliminate poverty in the chiefdom ourselves and make people self-reliant,” he said.
But in Sierra Leone, too often it’s one step forward and two steps back. Barely had recovery from Sierra Leone’s brutal 11-year rebel war begun, when the Ebola epidemic hit in 2014. A three-year economic crisis followed with 40 percent devaluation of its currency. Just surviving was a struggle.
Now, a two-year $142,000 Rotary International Global Grant is changing that.
The Rotary Club of Ann Arbor worked collaboratively with Sherbro Foundation to secure the grant. Administered by the Center for Community Empowerment & Transformation, CCET, it funds community-led agriculture projects designed to create income for children’s education and resident medical care, and to help women subsistence farmers achieve self-reliance.
700 coconut trees are flourishing in the first Rotary funded orchard, as well as lime, grapefruit, African plum, avocado, guava, soursop, oil palm and cassava. Most were grown in CCET’s tree nursery from local fruit seed.
Nonprofit Social enterprise The grant creates a chiefdom social enterprise, one where agriculture projects generate regular income for nonprofit purposes. Thanks to Rotary Clubs, CCET’s Orchards for Education project is expanding to plant thousands of fruit trees to fund chiefdom education. An orchard will also be planted to feed a benevolent fund paying local hospital care costs residents cannot afford. And, women farmers are being funded to grow peanuts to fully feed and educate their children.
The Rotary Club Global Grant, the second developed for CCET, was spearheaded by the Rotary Club of Ann Arbor, Mich., lead club sponsor. The Wilmington, NC Rotary Club and 17 other Rotary Clubs contributed to the grant. The Rotary International Foundation and two Rotary Districts provided matching funds. It will be overseen by the Rotary Club of Freetown, Sierra Leone and administered by CCET.
Chief Caulker, center, and Rosaline Kaimbay, CCET Managing Director, right, accept the Rotary Club of Ann Arbor flag from Mary Avrakotos. Dale Smith, Wilmington, NC Rotary Club, left, led fundraising for the medical care component of the grant.
Grant impact A total of 60 acres of orchards with 4000 fruit trees will be developed through the two Rotary grants, as well as a tree nursery, a watering system and storehouse. In three to five years, the orchards will provide long-term fruit income for education and hospital medical care for Bumpeh Chiefdom’s 40,000 mostly illiterate residents.
Chief Caulker and project agriculture manager Ibrahim Rogers, right, inspect African plum tree seedlings grown from seed for the project. They’ll be planted now in the June rains.
Some 260 subsistence-level women farmers can double their incomes by growing peanuts with supplies they receive from the project. How can something as seemingly small as $50 for a bale of peanut seed and a drying tarp impact the women? The spokeswoman for recent participants said it best, “Indeed, our lives have been transformed.”
Their peanut harvests act as reserves, to sell as they need cash to feed their children. When annual school expenses or unplanned health care costs come up, the women can fall back on their peanut harvest to pay for them. They no longer need to take out high interest moneylender loans.
Bigger ripple effect The Rotary funded projects are having a bigger ripple effect in this rural community. The projects create 20 full-time jobs in a subsistence farming area with virtually no wage paying jobs. One hundred part-time and seasonal workers are also hired. Families’ lives improve with a regular wage-earner.
Full-time orchard workers display their protective gear purchased from the Rotary grant: rain suits for working in the rainy season and thick rubber boots for protection against injury and snakes.
In addition to being paid, Chief Caulker explained the bigger effect these jobs have on his chiefdom. The workers are learning improved growing techniques and skills under the direction of CCET’s agriculture manager, he said. They’ll take this home and apply it to their own farms and gardens. They’ll teach neighbors how to get better yields, too.
Chief Caulker said he himself is working to act as a role model to teach people by example. He’s growing his own fruit trees in different parts of the chiefdom and annual crops like cassava. When people see they can earn more money with fast growing fruit trees like guava plus cassava and vegetables than in traditional rice growing, they start diversifying and growing more crops themselves.
Empowering women From the project’s initial work, Chief said he feels best about empowering women subsistence farmers. By supplying women to grow peanuts as a cash crop and hiring others to grow vegetables and peanuts for the project, we “have brought hope to ending the growing economic and gender inequalities in our country,” Chief said.
“Women, who before now were relegated to the kitchen, can confess of becoming breadwinners in their families, sometimes above their husbands.”
Local women are hired as part-time workers where heavy labor is not needed. These are planting peanuts in an orchard to generate annual operating income. They’re paid wages equal to those of part-time male workers.
With Rotary Clubs’ generous support, growing its own community’s future is becoming reality in Bumpeh Chiefdom.
It’s a future they can direct themselves and multiply like seed from a harvest.
This project definitely took a village to launch – an American village. So many contributed to raising funds for a $142,000 grant. We send huge THANKS to all.
- 19 contributing Rotary Clubs – with special thanks to grant sponsor, the Rotary Club of Ann Arbor and supporting club, Wilmington, NC Rotary Club
- Rotary Districts 6380 and 7730
- Rotary International Foundation
- Fifty-five Sherbro Foundation donors – thank you!
- Other private individual donors
Everywhere I turn today, women are being “celebrated” on International Women’s Day. Skipping this advertising opportunity would be a conspicuous absence for retailers and marketers.
Meanwhile, we’re hiring women. One of the best ways to celebrate Sierra Leone women is to give them the chance to earn actual wages for their labor – still uncommon in most of the country.
The Inland Valley Swamp (IVS) project (above) we just helped our partner CCET start is growing vegetables. It hires women to care for tender young vegetable seedlings in raised beds built in a wetland area. It’s one of the only wage-paying job opportunities for these women who missed the chance for an education.
I’m hearing today women’s wages globally average sixty-three percent that of men. We pay 100%. The daily wage for these Rotifunk women workers is the same as wages for men workers.
The other way we’re celebrating Sierra Leone women is helping them grow their own peanuts. The Women’s Vegetable Growing project gives women a head start on becoming small farm entrepreneurs.
To celebrate women around the world, give them economic empowerment. Everyone wins. What bigger boost to the economy is there than half the population producing to their full potential?
We’re proud to announce Sherbro Foundation Executive Director Arlene Golembiewski received the National Peace Corps Association’s 2018 Sargent Shriver Humanitarian award for her work in Sierra Leone. The Shriver award is NPCA’s highest award for a returned Peace Crops volunteer and recognizes their continued public service.Arlene received the Shriver award at the NPCA annual conference. L to R with Sherbro Foundation Board members: Chris Golembiewski, Arlene, Cheryl Farmer, Steve Papelian.
Arlene said of her award: “My early Peace Corps experience remains the foundation for everything I’ve done. This award really goes to Sherbro Foundation’s community partner, the Center for Community Empowerment & Transformation, whose creative ideas and leadership have achieved so much. CCET hopes to encourage others on community-led rural development and share their examples. It’s been my privilege to work with them.”
Arlene and Bumpeh Chiefdom’s Paramount Chief Charles Caulker, visiting with Emma, a participant in the Women’s Vegetable Growing project that helps women farmers move from subsistence to self-reliance.
For more on the award and Arlene’s work in Sierra Leone: https://www.peacecorpsconnect.org/articles/announcing-the-2018-shriver-award-winner-arlene-golembiewski
Junneth is one of the most enthusiastic 10th graders you’ll meet. She confidently said she’ll pass to Sierra Leone’s 11th grade, and she just did.
Junneth is also a 27 year-old mother of three. She’s back in school again in Rotifunk’s Bumpeh Academy with a scholarship and uniform after a five-year absence.
Junneth had passed the senior high entrance exam years ago, but her single mother just couldn’t afford her school fees, and she had to drop out. She doesn’t know her father. Along the way, Junneth married, bore four children, and lost one.
Sherbro Foundation’s Girls Scholarship program makes it a priority to keep young women like Junneth from dropping out of school. We offer scholarships to advance them to senior high and on to graduation. At $25, it’s an incredible bargain.
People tell me Junneth is one of the hardest working people they know. She gardens all around the house she lives in. Her landlady, above left, gave her a room rent-free because she works so hard to support herself and her children.
Junneth grows sweet potatoes, (left), corn, yams and eggplant to eat and to sell in the market for money to live on. You’ll see her in a nearby river after school catching fish to eat.
Her husband is an “unqualified” teacher in another town. He’s not credentialed to be paid by the government, so his income is meager. He has little to offer his family.
As time went on, Junneth became more and more motivated to return to school. “I don’t want to sit down and be a woman who be in the kitchen,” she told me. “If I don’t have education in my head, he [my husband] will leave me and go to another who has learned. So that give me the cause to return to school.”
She explained, an educated woman can work and improve the community. People respect her. Men respect her. When a woman can earn a living and help the family, it helps her marriage. She said, “If I learn, I also [will] have something. He will give; I will also give.” A two-career couple is needed in Sierra Leone to move away from subsistence farming to a more middle class life, just as much as it’s needed in the US.
It also frustrated Junneth to watch many of her friends who completed high school do well with paying jobs. “Some of my sisters go to college. Some of them are teachers. Some are nurses right now… When I see them, I feel offended. I say, why? Some of them, I beat them [on the past senior high entrance exam].”
Junneth also knew that her children would fare better with an educated mother’s help. “When I learn, my children also learn.”
Last September, Junneth went to Rosaline Kaimbay, managing director of the Center for Community Empowerment and Transformation, which administers Sherbro Foundation’s Girls’ Scholarship program. “I cry to her, please help me. And she did. I really appreciate it.”
Mrs. Kaimbay arranged a scholarship, asked Bumpeh Academy to enroll Junneth in school and gave her a uniform. She became a proud 10th grade student, in her first year of senior high, picking up where she left off years before.
“She’s doing very well,” Mrs. Kaimbay said proudly.
Her principal just confirmed that Junneth passed her first year despite her long absence, and is moving on to 11th grade. She’s become a role model for other girls in school – and for her children.
Junneth knows where she’s going.
“I want to do nursing. That is my plan.”
My grandmother was a nurse and taught me many things. She called me, even during the night, when delivering a baby. I want to be higher than [my companions who are nurses] if I put my focus there.” With a small hospital in Rotifunk and government health centers in villages around the area, there should be a job for Junneth when she’s ready.
Junneth’s story of determination to get an education despite the odds and life’s cruel detours is not unique. Many Sierra Leone senior high “girls” are really young women, 21 and 22 years of age or more by the time they graduate. Their educations were interrupted – maybe more than once – because their families couldn’t continue to pay. Often one or both parents died, became ill, left the home, or aged and stopped working.
Early marriage and children are the fate of too many young women forced to drop out like Junneth. Sherbro Foundation’s goal is to keep them in school, learning and preparing for careers where they can support their families and help develop their communities.
I’d say that’s a tremendous investment from a $25 scholarship. Paramount Chief Charles Caulker sends his thanks for everyone’s support in sending Bumpeh Chiefdom girls to school. Parents, he says, are taking advantage of the opportunity the Scholarship Program offers to educate their children.
“More girls here are learning and at a higher level than ever before.”
You can return Junneth to school in September and young women like her. Please help here: I’ll send a young woman to school.
We’ll double your impact. Our matching funds are being claimed. But the Sherbro Foundation Board will match the next $4000 donated.
— Arlene Golembiewski, Executive Director
Every girl in Sherbro Foundation’s Girls’ Scholarship Program — now more than 600 — has a story to tell. But even in this program for the neediest, Fatmata’s story is heart-wrenching.
We’re kicking off the 2018-19 Girls Scholarship drive, our sixth, with the story of one our first scholarship recipients and how $25 scholarships have changed her life.
Fatmata has received SFSL scholarships for four years, allowing her to finish the 9th grade at Bumpeh Academy. Soft spoken, Fatmata (white headscarf below) enthusiastically attends our partner CCET’s after-school tutoring program, prepping 9th graders for their national junior high completion exams. She breaks into smiles as she joins her classmates, all eager to prepare for senior high. Advancing girls to senior high is one our main objectives.
Sherbro Foundation’s scholarship program gives priority to girls who are orphans or with single parents and from low-income families, even by local standards. Many from villages must leave their families to board in town to attend secondary school — another costly expense. Too many drop out after junior high without funds to continue.
Fatmata’s not sure how old she is. We estimate she’s 17. Her family was typical of many in Bumpeh Chiefdom. Her mother was the first of her father’s three wives. As the senior wife, she took the youngest wife’s child to raise with her own, a tradition. The child went missing and was found dead with no explanation.
Fatmata’s mother was held responsible and put in prison. Pregnant at the time, she delivered in prison and was released when the baby was a year-and-a-half. Fatmata had completed primary school, but her angry father gave no support for her mother or her children. Fatmata couldn’t start secondary school.
The Ebola epidemic hit when her father was home in adjoining Ribbi chiefdom. He was quarantined in a village with the virus, contracted Ebola and died. Fatmata’s mother now widowed with five children became involved with another man. While pregnant again, she had an uncontrolled infection. She and the baby died.
Fatmata’s father’s family wanted her to live with them in Ribbi Chiefdom. She resisted, “I was afraid in Ribbi I wouldn’t be able to go to school.” Another stepmother had enrolled her in junior high in Rotifunk where she received a SFSL scholarship and a uniform. Ribbi has no scholarship program.
“She made a good choice to stay here,” said our local partner CCET’s Managing Director Rosaline Kaimbay. “She’s determined to learn. We need to motivate her. I love the girl. So bold. I will follow her progress.”
Fatmata (green beret, left with Mrs. Kaimbay) and her two younger sisters (also left) live with their maternal uncle and grandmother in Rotifunk. I counted at least ten in their small house. Her uncle is very supportive of his three nieces. I never met her hard-working grandmother, always out in her small peanut farm.
During that tumultuous time, Fatmata had to repeat her first year of junior high. She’s continued to advance to the 9th grade with four SFSL scholarships.
Fatmata, left, at her home’s outdoor kitchen where they cook on a wood fire sheltered from sun and rain.
In two weeks, she’ll take her national 9th grade exams and has a very good chance of moving on to senior high. She’ll be part of a small elite group of rural girls working for high school diplomas.
Fatmata is the kind of success story we work hard to support with our scholarship program.
Many other bright girls are eager to keep learning, often after interruptions in their educations.
Girls like Fatmata are the future of the country. A number of men and women alike have told me they support girls going to school: “When you educate a girl, you educate the country. A boy just looks after himself.”
After telling me her story, Fatmata asked, “After school, who will take care of me?” We’ve helped her this far, but then what? She has no role models to follow.
I paused for a moment, and then told her, “You’ll finish school, go to college and get a good job. You’ll be able to take care of yourself and help your family, just as Mrs. Kaimbay and I have done ourselves.”
Your $25 scholarship will keep Fatmata and girls like her in school and out of early marriage and teenage pregnancy. It will give them the chance to gain independence after graduating by getting a wage-paying job or entering vocational school or college. Teaching, nursing and the police force are traditional jobs. But we want to encourage girls to go into growing fields with jobs like accountants, IT support, lab technicians, floor tilers and electricians.
We’re also proud to have started our first college scholarship program in 2017-18 for girls meeting college entrance requirements.
In just five years, you’ve made the Girls’ Scholarship Program a great success with over 600 girls getting the help they need to attend secondary school — and keep advancing. What’s happened to last year’s cover story girls?
Isatu, an orphan in senior high, just completed 12th grade. She’s awaiting the next national senior high completion exam. She could be a candidate for our new college scholarship program.
Alima, (2nd from left) a motherless girl, walked five miles each way to school from her aunt’s house. Now in the 9th grade and living with a Rotifunk relative, she gets CCET tutoring for her junior high completion exam and is in the computer training class, too. One of her school’s brightest, she was one of two students to represent the school in a local interschool quiz competition.
Our goal for this year is to at least match last year’s results and again award 460 scholarships to deserving girls. We continue to emphasize advancement into senior high. Your support has doubled the number of girls in senior high over the last four years!
We have great news from the newly elected Sierra Leone government. They will be paying school fees for all secondary students as part of their program to improve education.
Sherbro Foundation’s $25 scholarship award this year will consist of a uniform and notebooks for each awardee. These supplies actually cost more than school fees and are a formidable barrier for most Bumpeh Chiefdom students. Uniforms hand sewn by local Rotifunk tailors help keep costs down.
We hope you’ll help send Sierra Leone girls back to school in September. Yes, $25 can be life changing for so many girls like Fatmata. Please donate here: I’ll send a girl to school.
We’ll double your impact. The first $5000 in gifts will be matched!
— Arlene Golembiewski, Executive Director
We’ll soon kick off the campaign for our sixth year of the Girls Scholarship Program for Bumpeh Chiefdom. We thought you’d like to see what’s been accomplished in the first five years — by the numbers.
Sherbro Foundation was founded in March 2013. We immediately funded scholarships for 67 junior-high girls in the 2012-13 school year already in progress. The numbers have been steadily increasing:
1250 Total number scholarships awarded
Over 600 Number of girls receiving scholarships, some for more than one year
4 Number schools participating — 2 Jr/Sr Highs and 2 Jr High only
6X Increase in scholarships given annually — from 67 in 2013 to 410 in 2017
2X Increase in scholarship value in 2017 by adding uniforms for 2/3 of girls
2X Increase in number of girls attending Senior High — from 58 to 120 in 2017
100 Percent of girls wanting to attend Sr. High in 2017 who received scholarships
18 Number of 12th-grade awardees taking National exam (1st in 2016)
3 Number 12th-grade awardees meeting college entry requirements
1 College scholarship added in 2017
Here’s our five-year trend in scholarships:
Only one in three Bumpeh Chiefdom teens have been able to attend secondary school. We started by ensuring more girls made the transition from primary school to junior high.
We focus on the most disadvantaged girls at risk of dropping out of school — orphans or with single parents, low-income families, and students who must leave home villages to attend secondary school in town. Often, a girl meets all the criteria.
The drop-out rate from junior to senior high is typically 50%. Our goal is to advance more girls to senior high and help them graduate. So, we expanded senior-high scholarships, while continuing to increase junior-high enrollment.
The short-term dip in 2015-16 came after the seven-month Ebola crisis, when many students from villages, especially senior high girls, returned to school late or not at all.
With your strong support, we doubled scholarships and the value of the awards (scholarship plus uniform) in each of the last two years.
In 2016, the first three scholarship recipients graduated from senior high.
And in 2017, we reached the ultimate goal by awarding the first college scholarship to one of first girls to meet college entrance requirements.
Now in January 2018, we added extra tutoring classes to help ensure 9th and 12th graders pass their junior and senior high national completion exams and advance to their next level of education. We’ll continue this program for the 2018-19 academic year.
Step by step, we’re reaching the goal we set of girls completing secondary school. And now we’re reaching beyond, to help girls advance to college and become leaders in their community and their country.
Sherbro Foundation Sierra Leone celebrated our 5th anniversary as a nonprofit on March 14, 2018!
We started with a simple goal: educate girls and improve overall literacy in rural Bumpeh Chiefdom. With literacy, people make better choices, boost their livelihoods and improve their lives and those of their children.
In 2013, our first scholarship program sent 67 7th and 8th grade girls to one secondary school. Today, over 600 girls have advanced their educations at four schools with 1250 Sherbro Foundation scholarships – some receiving scholarships for two or three years.
Help celebrate this 5th year milestone. Join us now in sending the first girls graduating to college.
First college scholarship Last fall, you helped us step up to this next challenge with a big response to our secondary school scholarship campaign. We added a college scholarship.
Meet Aminata Kamara, the first awardee for 2017-18. Her story is one of focus and perseverance against all odds. You’ll see why this exceptional scholar was chosen.
Village beginning Aminata, left, is the youngest of 12 children. Her parents scratched together a living in the Rotifunk area. It’s typical of the chiefdom, with mud houses and where most earn a dollar or two a day as small traders at the weekly market. Her father was a primary school teacher, a low paying job, and her mother a trader. Now, her father is retired and her mother blind.
High ranking scholar Aminata was among the first local girls who made it to senior high.
Then in 2016, she ranked highest of the first three Rotifunk students to pass the national graduation exam at the university requirements level. All three were girls with Sherbro Foundation scholarships. Her scores were Rotifunk’s best in 40 years.
Aminata was also the highest scoring girl in Moyamba district, one of 12 administrative districts in Sierra Leone with 40 secondary schools.
It’s uncommon to get high scores in seven subjects, when most students don’t pass the exam the first time, even in Freetown. This propelled Aminata forward with a college scholarship to study in China.
Happy news ran out The China scholarship fell through when the Sierra Leone government did not prepare her passport in time. She sat out a year pondering her fate at home taking care of her mother.
Although Aminata had no reason in her world to think her education would continue, she persevered, and in October 2017, became our first college scholarship recipient. “Since I started primary school, I have got that intention to go to college. Never mind I don’t have the hope that I will, because we are poor,’’ she said, via text message.
Proud college student Aminata, left, is now a first year student at the Institute of Public Administration and Management at the University of Sierra Leone in Freetown – thanks to Sherbro Foundation’s first college scholarship award of $1700, paying her first year’s tuition, fees, books, transportation and a stipend for living expenses.
She’s good at math and wants to study banking, and eventually become a bank manager. “I kept on studying, hoping one day God will send me a helper in my education.”
She is already dreaming of earning a master’s degree. “I would like to further [my education] overseas with a masters and become a college lecturer,” she said. “And I also want to help my colleagues in the village.”
You need a mentor Aminata’s role model is Rosaline Kaimbay, a dynamic Rotifunk native who returned to start the first girls’ secondary school in Bumpeh Chiefdom. She watched Rosaline as principal and now as managing director of the Center for Community Empowerment and Transformation, our local nonprofit partner, overseeing CCET’s seven programs. Rosaline mentors many girls, and helped the first graduate by making her home a dormitory for senior girls.
“She is a woman, but she does [so much] good and all the people in the community admire her,” Aminata said. Rosaline shows girls a woman born in their chiefdom can get a college degree and take leadership roles usually filled by men.
Aminata, left, is now becoming a role model herself and has advice for younger girls at home watching her successes.
“I want them to forget about their present status; hope [instead] to use their future. Let them forget about material things, about men — these things will pass. Let us focus about education,” she told 460 girls receiving secondary school scholarships at last fall’s award ceremony, left.
“Let us know that our tomorrow will be greater than today.”
You can make Aminata’s tomorrow greater. Help send her to a second year of university. If you’re a new donor, you’ll double your impact. A former Peace Corps Volunteer will match the first $850 from new donors. $1700 will pay Aminata’s second year in full. Pass this on to friends and family who want to see girls succeed.
AND this donor will match $250 from Cincinnati area Returned Peace Corps Volunteers!
More girls in Rotifunk are ready for college. With your help, we’ll also start a second girl on her college journey in 2018-19.
Transform a girl’s life. Send her to college here.
Any excess funds will go to our annual girls’ secondary school campaign planned for this summer. We’re keeping the pipeline full of girls getting an education and ready to change the world.
Arlene Golembiewski, Executive Director
2017 was a banner year for our projects in Sierra Leone. Our hats off once again to our local Sierra Leone partner, CCET-SL, for all their work making this happen. Here’s what made the year so great – in pictures. —– Arlene Golembiewski, Executive Director
January: Five years in the making, CCET-SL’s new Education & Computer Center was open and buzzing with activity. Three levels of Adult Literacy classes filled the main hall, followed by evening computer training. My favorite group is first level literacy, or the ABC group, where women start by learning the alphabet and how to add. One typical student, Jeriatu, thinks she’s about 35 and is the mother of 12 children, one on her back in class. She grows peanuts and wants to be literate to improve her small business, by counting change correctly and figuring her profit.
February: Visiting small villages participating in our projects, like Village Orchards, is always a trip highlight. Villages have received hundreds of fruit tree seedlings to plant as community orchards. Income will go to children’s education and development projects. I asked Nyandahun village chief, Madam Bendu, above left, how her village would use income from their village orchard. She immediately said, we’ll send our children to school.
March – We started our 3rd group of Women Vegetable Growers, where another 75 women can double their incomes in a few months growing peanuts and vegetables. Emma, above, was in last year’s program. She tells me and Paramount Chief Caulker that with her peanut harvest she paid her children’s school fees and didn’t have to take out a high interest loan. She kept some peanuts as seed to plant this year, too. A success for her, and one of our most successful projects.
April – With a global Rotary Club grant, CCET-SL developed a 15 acre “baby orchard” that will fund children’s education savings accounts. Seven Rotary clubs led by the Ann Arbor club joined the Rotary International Foundation and a Rotary District in a grant that paid to clear overgrown bush and plant over 1100 fruit trees. CCET-SL raised all trees locally from seed, including 450 coconuts and 480 citrus. While the trees mature, annual crops of rice, peanuts, corn and couscous were inter-planted, producing income to pay workers. The $49,500 grant paid for the orchard and several other projects.
May – SFSL won a $12,235 Procter & Gamble Alumni grant, enabling CCET-SL to complete equipping their Education & Computer Center. The Center’s first color printer arrived in May, giving CCET-SL an income generating service with the only public color document and photo printing within a 2-3 hour drive. Students can now get computer training on 17 new laptop computers up-to-date with Windows 10 also funded by the grant.
June – July – CCET-SL updated their chiefdom Birth Registration program that records newborn babies at the small village level. Government registrars can’t reach rural areas, jeopardizing children’s proof of citizenship and birthrights to family land, medical care and other services. The Rotary grant funded training for new chiefdom birth recorders and bicycles to cover their assigned villages. CCET-SL grows their own fruit trees from seed, and gives newborn parents three fruit trees to raise for their child’s welfare and education. The mothers above collected their fruit trees with their babies carried on their backs. See the little feet around their waists.
August – A second group of Women Vegetable Growers got the opportunity to raise peanuts as a cash crop. Subsistence farmers, they use most everything they normally grow to feed their families and barter locally for other needs. They can’t afford a $30 bale of peanut seed to expand their farms and earn more money. This group of 85 women was funded under the Rotary Club grant. They happily line up above with Rosaline Kaimbay of CCET-SL, right, to collect peanut seed, a drying tarp and 100 lb. of rice to feed families before their harvest – worth $80 in all. Within five months they’ll be harvesting. We’ve reached 300 women to date.
September – 460 girls returned to school with school fee scholarships from Sherbro Foundation. A $17 scholarship keeps them in school for a full year, avoiding early marriage and early pregnancy – and makes for brighter, more productive futures for every year of education they get. Compassionate donors funded uniforms for all 120 senior high and 290 junior high girls, as well. For the first time, 100 girls can study at night with solar study lanterns, and we awarded the first college scholarship. “It’s very impressive. I’ve never seen any organization giving so many awards and paying for so many things,” said Alice Conteh Morgan, managing director of Reliance Insurance Co. in Freetown and Rotifunk native. Above, she presents scholarship awards to Bumpeh Academy principal Rashid Conteh.
October – rice planted in the Baby Orchard was ready to harvest by October. The orchard is really a working plantation with supplies, tree seedlings and acres of harvests to be transported throughout the year. Now a necessity, the SFSL Board made the gift of a used truck, one built to withstand unpaved rural roads. The rice had to be threshed by hand by beating the sheaves to loosen rice grains – using the chief’s palaver house, above, as a workspace. Year by year we’ll make improvements as we can pay for them.
November – Reliable power for CCET-SL’s Center had become a major problem, interrupting classes and jeopardizing income generating services like printing that fund the center operations. Our prayers were answered when the Beaman Family funded a complete 6000 Watt solar power system for the Center. Printing, charging computers and evening classes and meeting space are now available whenever needed. Thank you, Beaman Family!
December – Planning for 2018 is underway. CCET-SL’s Tree Nursery is central to several projects. 12,000 tree seedlings, all started this year from seed, are nearing transplanting stage. They’ll go to planting the next baby orchard, supplying “baby trees” for 2018’s newborns and their parents, and for sale to generate income to keep propagating more trees. 2018 will also be the start of a new local forest reserve system, a first of its kind at the chiefdom level to protect mature forests and sources of village drinking water.
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.
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.
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.
Paramount Chief Charles Caulker toiled for years to develop community-led agriculture programs that would help eliminate poverty in his chiefdom and make people self-reliant.
Now, seven cooperating Rotary Clubs are providing the critical boost — the “fertilizer” — to expand and firmly root “Growing a Community’s Future,” his innovative programs in Bumpeh Chiefdom.
Thanks to Rotary Club of Ann Arbor leadership, a multifaceted Rotary Global Grant totaling $49,500 will improve the lives of thousands.
Paramount Chief Charles Caulker on the hand-pulled ferry crossing that’s the gateway to his chiefdom.
Helping a struggling community transform its economy
The Rotary-funded project called “Growing a Community’s Future” will do just that using the only things Bumpeh Chiefdom has in abundance to bolster its economy — fertile land, plentiful water and agriculture traditions.
For isolated Bumpeh Chiefdom, one of the poorest places in the world, the opportunity is huge. “This grant will ensure we can fully implement our program to grow our community’s own future. We’ll be able to fund children’s education, community development and protect the environment,” explained Chief Caulker.
Sherbro Foundation helped connect the seven Rotary Clubs with our chiefdom partner, the nonprofit Center for Community Empowerment and Transformation, CCET, which will carry out the project.
“Little did I know, a chance meeting with Ann Arbor Rotarians would lead to a grant of this size that will have such major development impact on the chiefdom of 40,000,” said Arlene Golembiewski, executive director of Sherbro Foundation
Chief Caulker, right, talks with residents of Motobon village.
International partnerships make it happen
The Ann Arbor Rotary Club contributed $10,000 and coordinated grant contributions from six other Rotary Clubs: Ann Arbor North, Dexter and Ypsilanti in Michigan; plus Cincinnati, Wilmington, N.C. and Pune, India. Rotary District #6380 and the Rotary International Foundation provided matching funds for this two-year global grant.
A partnership between Ann Arbor Rotary and the Freetown Rotary Club in Sierra Leone will oversee the project’s progress.
Hawa Samai of Freetown Rotary Club, right, visits Rotifunk to kick off the project with CCET and Chief Caulker, left.
“It is a privilege to support the efforts of an extraordinary leader like Paramount Chief Charles Caulker who is working tirelessly to help his Chiefdom recover from an 11-year civil war and the recent Ebola epidemic,” said Mary Avrakotos, Ann Arbor Rotary Club lead for the Sierra Leone project.
“His expansive goals for long-term economic development and to assure that every child in his chiefdom receives a secondary education are exemplary of visionary leadership.”
Rural villages will now be able to develop large fruit orchards on a commercial scale, earmarking income for children’s education and village development, like digging wells and building schools. Also, a women’s vegetable growing program is teaching subsistence rice farmers they can earn more money by diversifying crops and adding fast-growing peanuts and vegetables.
Grant funds will expand the chiefdom’s first birth registration program. And parents of newborns will receive fruit trees to grow for income they can save for their child’s education, reviving an old tradition with a modern goal.
A unique provision of the grant is creation of seven forest preserves to protect drinking water sources, wildlife and trees to benefit of future generations. These will be the first locally organized preserves in Sierra Leone, as Bumpeh Chiefdom strives to protect its all-important natural environment and counteract climate change.
Ashish Sarkar of the Rotary Club of Ann Arbor emphasized, “Projects with the greatest potential are ones like this where the vision is local and our role is simply one of empowerment.”
Sherbro Foundation is awarded a P&G Alumni Foundation 2016 grant
The $12,235 grant is awarded on behalf of our Sierra Leone partner, the Center for Community Empowerment & Transformation (CCET), and will help expand their computer center.
Left, Oliver Bernard, CCET volunteer facility manager at the Center
Former Procter & Gamble employees fund their alumni foundation with the mission of economically empowering those in need.
Sherbro Foundation Executive Director and P&G Alumna Arlene Golembiewski, left with Sulaiman Timbo, submitted the proposal. She said, “CCET’s new Center offers practical education programs, before unavailable in this community, that improve student earning potential, like computer training and adult literacy.
“They are preparing impoverished people to find wage-paying jobs in the formal economy. And providing skills to develop small businesses.”
The Computer Center has a slate of education programs and community services that satisfied all three Alumni Foundation objectives for the grant.
High school students like Zainab, left, get practical job skill training on computers.
She wants to become an accountant and knows she must be able to use a computer to get a job.
Adults develop small business skills. Left, Francis Senesie teaches petty market traders and farmers math and business basics like computing profit.
Adult computer students apply their own small-business examples with instructors available to guide them.
The Center itself is a new entrepreneurial venture, offering previously unavailable services like copy & printing that fund its nonprofit education programs.
The grant will pay for adding new computers to the Center and a color printer for the new printing service. CCET will buy remaining equipment the Center needs, like a generator to back-up their solar power service and a chest freezer to expand a canteen service.
The grant will also be used to pay initial operating costs while the new Center develops its customer base for copy and printing and other Center services.
The Computer Center is bringing the first and only IT technology access and training to rural Bumpeh Chiefdom’s 40,000 people. It’s the only place in Moyamba District with 300,000 people to get an IT certificate covering all Microsoft Office software programs.
The grant required a P&G alum to participate in the project. Arlene Golembiewski, Sherbro Foundation founder and Executive Director, was a 30-year P&G employee and is a member of the global Alumni Network.
Emma Sesay used to take out a loan at a high interest rate to send her children to school. Emma is the mother of six children. Six survive of the eight she gave birth to. Getting six children through school is tough for a poor rice farmer in Mobainda village.
Arlene Golembiewski, SFSL, Emma Sesay, Bumpeh Chiefdom Paramount Chief Charles Caulker
Emma was part of Sherbro Foundation’s Women’s Vegetable Growing project last year that helped her grow peanuts. Asked how the project helped her, she said, “I usually need to take loans. I no longer need a loan at high interest to pay for my children to go to school. I sold my peanuts when I needed to pay the school fees.”
Sherbro Foundation just funded a third group of women vegetable growers for the spring 2017 growing season with money raised in our year-end fundraising.
Rice farming is traditional in Mobainda village. It’s a labor intensive, taking 10 months of back breaking toil, but you make little money.
Rice farmers are often forced to take a loan from a local lender at interest rates of 50% and more to send their children to school. These informal village lenders can charge this much because villagers usually have no other option for a loan.
Lenders collect as soon as a farmer harvests. To pay off the loan, farmers are forced to sell their rice at low prices when the market is flooded with lots of other newly harvested rice.
The family then eats what’s left of the rice harvest as their staple food in the coming months, leaving little to nothing as seed for the next crop. They often run out of rice before the next harvest. It’s called the “hungry time.”
Junior high is when most children drop out of school. By this age, eating must take priority over paying for a child to continue in school.
The family may need to take out another loan just to buy rice seed to plant their next crop. And so the cycle of debt and poverty continues.
The Women’s Vegetable Growing project is starting to break this cycle of poverty.
This year’s project again supplied 75 women with 2 bushels of peanut seed, 100 lb. of rice as food before the harvest, and a drying tarp to improve their crop yield. With these supplies worth about $80 each, women are producing income double and triple what they make in rice farming. And they can continue to grow rice and fish in local rivers and streams.
Emma harvested twelve bushels of peanuts from her two bushels of seed last year. She saved a bushel as seed to plant this year. She is still doing her normal rice farming, so she could wait until the price of peanuts went up after the harvest, and then sold hers to pay her children’s school fees.
Asked how they spent money earned growing peanuts, each woman in the program immediately said, I can pay for my children’s education.
Yata Williams, left, shows the two bushels of peanuts she saved for seed from her ten bushel harvest. She said, “The project helped with many things. It solved our problem of paying school fees. There was money left to buy a market.” Yatta buys things she sells as a small front porch business or neighborhood “market.” Soft drinks, sweets, soap, cigarettes – small luxuries you’d have to travel to a bigger town to buy. The family now has a another income source.
Fula Musu Mansaray, below, in Nyundahun village joined the 2016 project and had a good harvest. She and husband, Musa, also sold peanuts to pay for their children’s education.
L to R, Lupe Bendu, village chief, Fula Musu, Chief Caulker, Musa, Arlene
They are making the most of Fula Musu’s participation in the Women’s Vegetable Growing program. They saved eight bushels of peanut seed from their harvest. They will plant four times as many peanuts in 2017 as she received last year, and grow their small business.
Fula Musa was one of eight women in the project from this small village of 25 houses.
The project will expand to cover another 20 families this spring. So every family in Nyundahun will benefit, a huge economic boost for a tiny village like this.
The Women’s Vegetable Growing project is teaching villages they can diversify their farming by adding peanuts and make more money.
Last year was a bad year for growing rice with prolonged drought and grasshoppers eating crops. Families could fall back on their peanut harvest and have some money to spare.
Before the Vegetable Growing project, a $30 bale of peanut seed was out of the reach of these women.
Now, they’re showing what they can do with this small investment and taking their first steps to self-sufficiency. It only took peanuts.
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.
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.
Sherbro 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.
It’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
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.
The 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.
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.
I 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.
Magdelaine, 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.
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.
On 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.
Our 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.
The 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
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.
The 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.
Now, 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.
The 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.
Customers 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.
Sherbro Foundation sends a big thank you to U.S. members of the Caulker family for donating to Sherbro Foundation’s Girls’ Scholarship Fund. Family members at this year’s annual reunion donated $1050.
Their generosity means 63 Junior Secondary School girls are returning to school as the new school year starts! Their donation amounts to nearly 20% of this year’s scholarship campaign goal.
Members of the Caulker Descendants Association at their July 2016 family reunion – their 17th reunion.
The Caulkers are one of the oldest ruling families in Sierra Leone. They are the descendants of paramount chiefs from two branches of the Caulker family in Bumpeh Chiefdom and Kagboro Chiefdom.
This remarkable family traces their heritage back to Thomas Coker, one of the earliest British traders in Sierra Leone who set up a trading post for the Royal African Company in 1684. Coker, himself Irish, was the British company’s agent. He married a daughter of the one of kings in the coastal area of today’s Kagboro and Bumpeh chiefdoms. Their progeny were the start of the Caulker clan.
The Caulker Descendants Association formed in 1999 to teach and celebrate their family history and heritage. They’ve been meeting annually for seventeen years.
The Caulker Family tree documents their 350 year history starting at the base of the tree with Thomas Coker, born 1667 in Ireland. The tree was constructed by Imodale Caulker Burnett after many years of research into the family’s history she then chronicled in The Caulkers of Sierra Leone: The Story of a Ruling Family and Their Times. Fascinating reading.
A family reunion wouldn’t be complete without a sheet cake to serve a crowd. But how many families can decorate their cake with a family coat of arms dating to the 1600’s.
Arlene Golembiewski, Sherbro Foundation Executive Director, accepts the Caulker family Scholarship Fund donation from Enid Rogers, a Caulker grandchild, at their reunion banquet dinner.
Many extended Caulker family members remain in Bumpeh Chiefdom, including teenage girls who will benefit from Sherbro Foundation’s Girls’ Scholarship Program.
The Caulker family has long placed a premium on education. Sherbro Foundation is grateful for their support for girls education in Bumpeh Chiefdom. We hope this remains the basis for a strong partnership between the Caulker Descendants Association and Sherbro Foundation.
Rotifunk’s first Community Computer Center will soon start the area’s first copy and printing service, thanks to a grant from the Rotary Club of Ann Arbor, MI.
The community gets much faster and cheaper printing access. The Center will earn income to operate and offer computer training for students and adults. That’s what you call win – win.
Ann Arbor’s public service club awarded a $2,500 grant to Sherbro Foundation Sierra Leone, matched by $1,250 from Rotary District 6380. The money will equip a copying and printing business, helping the much-needed nonprofit center quickly become self-sustaining and introduce computer technology in the chiefdom.
Computer training means local residents gain wage-paying job skills, especially girls and single mothers. And printers will eliminate a difficult and costly eight-hour round-trip to the capital city for educators and others who need any printed materials.
Today, every report card, exam paper and classroom handout in schools with few text books need to be printed in Freetown. These and programs and flyers for churches, mosques, sports meets and community events will now be printed much faster and much more cheaply with the local service. The printing service will be open to all, including chiefdom and government authorities, local businesses and nearby chiefdoms that need printed materials.
Sherbro Foundation’s local nonprofit partner, the Center for Community Empowerment and Transformation (CCET), comprised of teacher-volunteers, will operate the Computer Center and hire an IT manager. They transformed a centrally located ruin into a spacious, modern Computer Center complete with a snack bar – all done during the Ebola crisis.
Sherbro Foundation funded its completion, wiring excess solar power from a solar system on a nearby building. We also hired local carpenters to build wooden desks and chairs and office and canteen furniture.
The Center will offer other educational programs, starting with Adult Literacy that’s been interrupted since the start of Ebola. Other income-producing services will fund the Center’s operation, including cell phone charging, the snack bar and facility rental for conferences and meetings.
Paramount Chief Charles Caulker joined Sherbro Foundation in meeting with the Ann Arbor Rotary Club during his March – April US visit. We all celebrated Bumpeh Chiefdom’s work with a dinner, left, hosted by Rotarians Mary Avrakotos and Barb Bach.
The Rotary Club of Ann Arbor is the largest in Michigan, and one of the largest in the world. It’s observing its 100th anniversary this year. Nearly 20 percent of the Club’s annual giving budget supports international humanitarian organizations.
The beauty of Paramount Chief Caulker’s recent US trip was how many person-to-person connections he made. You couldn’t help but feel the connection when Chief talked earnestly of the small village communities he’s working to transform with education and income-producing fruit orchards.
Sierra Leone was no longer a strange and distant land. It was one of girls excitedly going to secondary school for the first time and people planting home-grown trees to improve their lives and protect their environment.
Chief Caulker was able to connect with Americans in five states and the District of Columbia, sharing his personal stories of Bumpeh Chiefdom’s difficult life and his message of hope and hard work.
Sherbro Foundation especially appreciated making connections with the Sierra Leone community in the US.
Who knew there is a Sierra Leone Group of Cincinnati with a Facebook page? Page organizer Hashim Williams found my invitation message and brought a group to Chief’s April 6th presentation.
Mr. Michael Foday of the group then extended his and wife Evelyn’s hospitality with a dinner of Sierra Leone food at their home. He and a number of invited guests generously gave their support for the Chief’s Bumpeh Chiefdom programs. (Above L to R, Sanussi Janneh, Arlene Golembiewski, Chief Caulker, Hashim Williams, Michael Foday)
We started the evening as new acquaintances, and left feeling bonded as friends. Chief Caulker poured libation on Mr. Foday’s doorstep (left) in appreciation of the new friendships forged that evening.
Susan and Jim Robinson (below left) hosted a reception in their home so people like Pam Dixon (far left) could talk with Chief Caulker firsthand. Winona McNeil (below right), Cincinnati Chapter President of The Links, a professional women’s society, joined in meeting the Chief.
Sherbro Foundation Board Members Arlene Golembiewski and Steve Papelian, left, are former Peace Corps Volunteers who served in Rotifunk, Chief Caulker’s hometown. They reminisced with Chief on their life-changing experience at the steps of the University of Michigan Union, where then-presidential candidate John Kennedy first presented his new concept of the Peace Corps in 1960. The 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps was commemorated at Ann Arbor’s U-M Union with this historic marker, depicting President Kennedy’s speech.
No visit to Michigan would be complete for Baby Boomers without a trip to Detroit and the Motown Museum. Chief Caulker, a big Motown fan, enjoyed reliving the soundtrack of his youth with Sherbro Foundation Board Director Cheryl Farmer.
Seventy five women farmers have a chance to become Sierra Leone millionaires. Sherbro Foundation just funded a new group of 75 women to grow groundnuts (we call them peanuts) in the Women’s Vegetable Growing Project – one of our most successful projects to date.
I can still vividly remember last November when I approached Mobainda village to visit the first women’s project. Women had gathered and filled the narrow dirt road. The car stopped, so I got out to see what was happening. The women began singing and dancing around me. They had come out to honor me and escort me into their village — the traditional way of the women’s society.
No words, no speeches. They just surrounded me with their harmonized singing and drumming on hand-made drums, and slowly moved towards the village. So, I moved with them, their singing filling the air for the last quarter mile.
They were thanking me – thanking Sherbro Foundation – for helping them plant peanuts in April 2015, right as the Ebola crisis was lifting. These are women who normally live on the slimmest of margins, earning an average of less than $1 a day. They couldn’t even earn that during Ebola, when much farming stopped and markets for selling their produce closed for over four months.
“The Women’s Vegetable Project is one of the most successful projects introduced in my chiefdom,” Paramount Chief Caulker said.
It was conceived as a way to quickly help women earn income again. We started small with 30 women, supplying each with enough peanut seed for a half-acre garden and other vegetable seed like cucumbers and corn. They also got a 50Kg (100-pound) bag of rice to feed their families before their harvest.
Leave it to women to make the best use possible of resources they were given. Most women grew a bumper crop of peanuts in four short months, harvesting 6-7 bags of peanuts for each bag of seed they received.
We jokingly said we were making millionaires out of peanuts. A large bag of peanuts went for 160,000 leones. So, 7 bags are worth over a million leones. Or about US$200.
That may not sound like much, but it was three times more than the women would make in cash in a whole year of traditional rice farming, an incredibly labor intensive crop. And they still had the rest of the year to grow rice and do fishing in the Bumpeh River.
Leave it to these women to be grateful for this help. In these small, close-knit villages of 200-300 people, the women wanted to help other women do what they just did. They came up with the idea of each donating back a half-bag of groundnut seed for the next group to plant. They showed me their donated seed, left.
A local survey found 450 more women in this area of eight villages want to be part of the program. This part of Bumpeh Chiefdom was selected because it has the largest concentration of active women farmers. They were the most severely affected when Ebola abruptly curtailed their normal farming.
Executive Director Rosaline Kaimbay, right, of CCET, our partner organization, distributes seed and supplies to the May 2016 group of women farmers, holding white drying tarps they received on their heads. We bought any seed locally available, saving transport cost for both buyer and sellers.
So, the program is expanding to 150 women per year in two groups of 75 women each in the spring and fall. The program is meant to be a stopgap measure to help women farmers get back on their feet after Ebola. It will continue for three years and cover all 450 interested women. The women draw lots to select who will be in each group.
The 2014-15 farming year was exceptionally hard with Ebola. The first group of women peanut farmers unfortunately didn’t become self-sufficient with just one peanut crop in 2015. They were forced to eat a large part of their first peanut harvest to avoid hunger. But this allowed them to save some of the previous year’s rice as seed to grow their next rice crop. We’re giving these first 30 women partial support again in the current project to ensure they can make enough profit in 2016 to go from there.
This year we are also giving each woman a large tarpaulin to safely dry their harvest of groundnuts (or peppers) and avoid losses due to rotting.
I’m already looking forward to my next visit when I can join the women and again celebrate their success. I learned the song the women sang for me last November loosely translated said: “If you wake up in the morning and just work hard, you will succeed.”
And succeed these hard-working women did. In only five months after my first long-distance phone call that conceived the project, the women were harvesting a bumper crop. Their success became our success. And now we’re expanding to help more women succeed.
Arlene Golembiewski, Executive Director
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.
During 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.”
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.”
“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.
Happy Birthday to us!
It was three years ago today Sherbro Foundation got our certificate declaring we are a State of Ohio nonprofit corporation.
With a huge backlog, it was then another eighteen months before the IRS notified us our 501(c)(3) tax exempt status was approved. It sometimes felt we’d never get through the process of organizing as a nonprofit.
But that was nothing compared to going through the Ebola crisis.
Now those things are all behind us. They say working through a big challenge only makes you stronger. It’s true. Stronger and smarter.
I just wanted to savor the moment. And take a moment to thank our Sierra Leone community partner, the Center for Community Empowerment and Transformation. It’s their hard work that makes things happen. They’re the heroes of this three year story.
And give thanks to our donors and supporters. You were there early when we – when Sierra Leone – needed you. I hope you feel satisfaction in the role you’ve played in fighting Ebola, in sending girls to school, in giving villages a new future by growing trees. You’re changing people’s lives, and we could not have done it without all of you.
Well, time to get back to pedaling again. Running a young nonprofit is still hard work. But it doesn’t feel quite so monumental any more.
Founder & Executive Director
And then there was light. Solar, that is. Rotifunk’s new Community Computer Center is nearly ready to open with power from a nearby solar system. Sherbro Foundation just funded wiring to bring the solar power to the new center.
The pieces are falling into place for Rotifunk’s first computer center, a project over four years in the making. When we first identified a proposal to teach computer literacy in 2011, we had no computers, no building and no power. Nor did we know where we’d get any of these. No one in town had a computer, and only three teachers had any PC skills.
And we never imagined Ebola would throw us a big curve for over a year.
But the need was compelling – to introduce computer literacy as a way of giving job skills to students and adults in rural Bumpeh Chiefdom. So, you just get started.
With an unexpected and generous donation of fifty laptop computers late in 2013, we actually did start the project.
Our local partner, the Center for Community Empowerment and Transformation, CCET, started teaching adults in the living room of a borrowed house. There was only room for ten students at a time, but it was a start. Then Ebola hit in mid-2014 and all public gatherings were banned. Classes stopped.
Paramount Chief Caulker made good use of the Ebola period when all travel in and out of the chiefdom halted to build the new computer center building. He donated land that had the shell of an old building burned by rebels during the war. It was in the center of town with a good concrete slab. The transformation was no less than amazing. Built with mud bricks and local lumber and labor, then stuccoed and painted inside and out – and voila, a new 40×60 foot computer center.
But there still was no power. Operating with a generator would be costly, noisy, unreliable and spewing pollution. Estimates for a limited solar system for this building were $30,000+.
As luck would have it, a nearby community solar system had been installed and had excess capacity. It was feasible to wire power over. Last month wire was laid in conduit between the two buildings and buried in the ground.
I did a dance last week when I got word it’s connected and we finally have power!
Lest you think we’re now all set, well, not quite. I’ve learned a lot about solar systems and their capacity. The parent system we’re drawing from, shown here, is considered large at 5000 Watts. We’ll be able to use 3000 – 4000 Watts on most days. But this will just cover basic operation of the computer center running 25 laptops at a time, a twenty 11 W LED lights, six small ceiling fans and a desktop printer.
Running larger printers for the printing service we plan to start will still require a generator for the excess power needed.
I learned my lesson on power use when I tried to use a standard women’s hairdryer in a house with a generator. I asked first if it was OK, and then proceeded to shut down the generator. No wonder. Our hair dryers are 1875 W – for one hair dryer! As Westerners, we take for granted having all the power we want.
The computer center’s solar power is based on having sunny days. In the rainy season, we may use power faster than the solar batteries can recharge. A back-up generator is still a necessity.
But today, I’ll put those things aside. I’m celebrating. The building is built. And the lights are on.
“This is why Africans cannot get depress…Only white people suffer from depression. Africans are always joyful…They have a community oriented. Every one comes to the festival.”
I just had to share this recent comment on my YouTube Devil Dancing video from someone in the UK, obviously African.
And my comment back: “Thanks. I couldn’t agree with you more. People in Sierra Leone manage to find joy in everyday life with their community. It’s expressed in dance and music that’s irresistible – and joyful. Westerners need to take lessons here.”
It’s a bit of a stretch this year in Sierra Leone to be joyful with the post- Ebola economic crisis. But I know its music and dance that people are relying on there today.
So, on this Christmas Day, I hope you’re finding joy wherever you may be. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.
PS: The YouTube video captures a Rotifunk event with a local dance troupe. It shows them marching into town from their nearby village and getting the devil ready for his dance. To skip this and get to the main event, skip to about 1:20 on the video. There’s over 30,000 views on YouTube. Check it out.
Growing Self-Sufficient Futures: Dec 2015 Newsletter
- We’re helping people raise fruit trees and grow self-sufficient futures.
- The new Community Computer Center is a four year dream now coming true.
Some gifts you remember.
Some gifts keep on giving.
Change a Sierra Leone child’s life.
Empower a family to save for their child’s education by raising fruit trees.
When did a $20 gift feel this good?
Do good. Feel good. Give a gift here.
Order a gift by Dec 22, we’ll send a gift notice by Dec 24.
Need more – read it here.
Thanksgiving came early for me this year. I hadn’t planned my trip to be in Sierra Leone on the day the country was declared Ebola free. But I was grateful it worked out that way.
November 9th, the actual day, was quiet and rather anticlimactic. This chiefdom, like much of the country, hadn’t had an Ebola case since mid-January – ten months ago. November 9th was a day for reflection, to remember those who lost their lives, especially health care workers. It was a day to give thanks that the chiefdom and the country were delivered from this scourge.
Bumpeh Chiefdom’s Ebola Committee decided at the last minute to have a small ceremony while I was still in the country to thank Sherbro Foundation for our support in their Ebola fight.
I was honored to accept their thanks on behalf of all Sherbro Foundation donors who came forward to help during Ebola’s darkest days.
One by one, leaders of the community came forward to thank Sherbro Foundation. An Imam and a Christian minister offered prayers, with people joining in to recite both.
A representative of village chiefs and a section chief were grateful SF funded over 300 hand washing stations they set up early when no other funding was coming. These were the chiefdom leaders on the front line as the epidemic was spreading. A year ago, it was unclear how easily the Ebola virus could be transferred with casual contact. It was a frightening time and people avoided each other. They didn’t know who they could trust.
The Local Councilor and Chiefdom Speaker were grateful SF stayed in touch throughout the outbreak and just asked, how can we help. When the Ebola Committee recognized they needed a more aggressive approach to keeping Ebola from entering their chiefdom, SF quickly responded. They thanked us for funding them to staff checkpoints, do house to house checks in every village and stop unsafe burials.
Paramount Chief Caulker has been vocal throughout that the chiefdom could not have done what they did without Sherbro Foundation support.
But as I was accepting their thanks, I was silently thinking, who’s more grateful? Them, or me?
I was grateful lives were spared and my friends were safe.
I was grateful SF could play a role in enabling this chiefdom to become a model for the rest of the country in stopping Ebola. I was never more proud to be part of an organization’s work than when I saw the dramatic 80% drop in Ebola cases last January as chiefdoms around the country implemented programs like Bumpeh Chiefdom’s.
I was grateful to work with our remarkable partner, the Center for Community Empowerment & Transformation who volunteer their efforts to protect and now develop their chiefdom. They shifted from fighting Ebola to reopening schools closed for nine months to restarting our projects without missing a beat – all within a few months.
I was grateful to see children back in school – and more Bumpeh Chiefdom girls in secondary school than ever before.
I was grateful to go to the new community bank and see 1249 new savings accounts opened for newborn babies that can grow to fund their future education – more baby accounts than adult accounts.
I was grateful to see the computer center built during the Ebola outbreak finished. The floors are tiled floors and it’s wired for power we’ll bring over from a nearby solar system. Come February, we should be able to start initial computer and adult literacy classes.
I was grateful to see our dream of transforming the chiefdom by planting fruit trees is becoming reality. 15,000 tree seedlings were planted this year that will transform six villages economically and environmentally. I saw thousands more fruit trees started from seed growing in two tree nurseries, awaiting planting in next year’s village orchards. And plans to start thousands more in January – February.
I was grateful to see firsthand the work spreading to the community level. More than a hundred people in six villages took ownership to clear 10-20 acres each and plant their community orchards. Orchards that will provide income for them to build schools, dig wells, send their children to school and protect the environment for years to come.
All this had been done, in spite of the Ebola crisis.
I think most people just want to feel they’ve made a difference in the world and someone’s life has improved because of their efforts.
I had ample evidence on this trip that Sherbro Foundation’s collaboration with Bumpeh Chiefdom was doing just that.
This work gets done because of the generosity of Sherbro Foundation’s donors. We are deeply grateful for all you have done to make this possible.
So, when you’re sitting around the Thanksgiving table this year giving thanks, pat yourself on the back for reaching out and making a difference in Sierra Leone. I’ll be thinking of you and thanking you again.
——- Arlene Golembiewski, Executive Director
Going to secondary school should be about more than reading and writing. It should be a place where Sierra Leone girls learn what’s possible in life. They should learn to dream big at this early age.
Form 5 (11th grade) student Adama Sankoh at Bumpeh Academy has a big dream. When asked what she wants to do after finishing school, Adama said,
“I want to become a president.”
She’s clear on where to start. “Education is the only way I could change the social and economic status of my family. School prepares my mind to be useful and influential in my community and country as a whole.”
In school, Sierra Leone girls like Adama are being exposed to the opportunities open to them beyond the small rural communities they come from. Even becoming president. They’re learning the first practical step to achieving those dreams is completing their education.
Sherbro Foundation’s girls scholarship program helped 150 Bumpeh Chiefdom girls continue their education for the school year starting August 2015.
My motivation for starting the girls scholarship program in Bumpeh Chiefdom was simple. I wanted girls to learn to dream big and start on the path to reaching their full potential with education. I’ve met more high potential Bumpeh Chiefdom girls like Adama who want to become doctors, nurses, lawyers, journalists, teachers, accountants. Their first step – completing secondary school – is still a hurdle and huge accomplishment for most girls in Sierra Leone.
Sherbro Foundation helps eliminate financial barriers to girls attending secondary school. This year we provided school uniforms for girls in five Bumpeh Chiefdom schools.
The Sierra Leone government paid school fees this year with post-Ebola funding. But uniforms cost as much as school fees, and present a big burden for parents still recovering the past year’s Ebola crisis.
Sherbro Foundation’s 2015 scholarship program helped remove that barrier for 150 of the chiefdom’s most vulnerable girl students. The program is administered by our local partner, the Center for Community Empowerment & Transformation (CCET). Here’s more of this year’s scholarship students.
—– Arlene Golembiewski, Executive Director
Walter Schutz Memorial Secondary School students
Scholarship awardees from three schools flanked by CCET Executive Director, Mrs. Rosaline Kaimbay (left) and CCET Child Welfare program director, Abdul Foday (lower right). Schools left to right: Walter Schutz SS, Ahmadiyya SS, Bumpeh Academy SS
Ahmadiyya Islamic Secondary School students
Earnest Bai Koroma Junior Secondary School in Mosimbara village, Bumpeh Chiefdom’s newest secondary school. Children from small villages can start secondary school here close to home, and later transfer to Rotifunk for senior high.
Vain Memorial Primary School, serving six villages in Bellentine Section. Primary school students got 2 uniforms each. Mothers of many children in this school are in our Women’s Vegetable Growing project.
I’m just back Sunday from a month in Sierra Leone. Word is getting out to Bumpeh Chiefdom families about the Newborn Baby program. Kadijatu Kamara seen here presented herself to me with one-week-old Sheikfuad. She wanted to get him registered so he’ll have his education fund bank account opened and get three fruit trees to plant.
It was gratifying to be in Sierra Leone last week when they reached 42 days with no new Ebola cases and were declared Ebola-free. Bumpeh Chiefdom’s Ebola Committee warmly recognized Sherbro Foundation’s support in their Ebola fight – one that led to them being recognized nationally as a model program.
Big thanks go out to all Sherbro Foundation donors. It was you who made that happen and you who helped save lives.
It was a great trip back to Sierra Leone – my first in two years. All our projects are moving forward. Our local partner the Center for Community Empowerment and Transformation mapped out big plans for 2016 that we are excited to assist them with. Look for more news here soon.
—- Arlene Golembiewski, Executive Director
They say money doesn’t grow on trees. But in Bumpeh Chiefdom in rural Sierra Leone, new parents are banking on it.
Through Sherbro Foundation’s Growing a Baby’s Future project, impoverished families in remote villages have a chance for the first time to save for their child’s education. Our grassroots partner, the Center for Community Empowerment and Transformation (CCET), is reaching places foreign aid – or even government funding — never reach.
The chiefdom is creating a living trust fund for the next generation by planting trees. And they’re doing it by relying on the Chiefdom’s only resources – its fertile land, water and agricultural skills.
Paramount Chief Charles Caulker realized the chiefdom can’t wait for outside help; for “someone” to create a social safety net for children. In a country devastated by both the Ebola virus and a long civil war, the wait is endless. He and CCET organized a major fruit tree planting project for the chiefdom, trees raised themselves from seed.
Only $20 will Grow a Baby’s Future in three steps:
- Three fruit trees are planted for each newborn baby. The income from fruit sales will go into an education savings account for each baby at the new community bank. By age 12, there will be money to pay the child’s secondary school fees.
- Sherbro Foundation is seeding the bank accounts by paying the $3.50 minimum deposits.
- And to make every child count, we are also is helping the chiefdom start a birth registry. Rural areas today have no birth registration. Without birth certificates, people can be denied birthrights of land ownership, voting and health care.
CCET and the people of Bumpeh are determined to raise thousands of citrus, mango, avocado, coconut, cashew and teak seedlings for newborn babies and their future education. Families will reap their bounty for years to come.
CCET plans to expand their tree nurseries – already boasting 40,000 seedlings – to sell to local farmers, too. This will generate income for the program to become self-sufficient.
Growing a Baby’s Future is facing a backlog of 1,000 babies after it was interrupted by the yearlong Ebola crisis.
CCET only needs our seed money to secure a baby’s future. You can help – donate here.
Join Sherbro Foundation’s fall campaign – sponsor a baby
Only 30% of children in Sierra Leone can afford secondary school. Without education, children are born into poverty and never escape. The post-Ebola economic crisis has made getting an education even harder.
Growing a Baby’s Future empowers Bumpeh Chiefdom parents to start saving for their child’s secondary education right after birth by providing 3 income-producing fruit trees to raise.
We also open a bank account for the child, paying the minimum balance. The program combines an old tradition of planting a tree with the baby’s umbilical cord and the new practice of education savings accounts. Parents learn a culture of saving for the future – and gain a living safety net.
To make every child count, we are helping the chiefdom start a birth registry. UNICEF reports “one in three children doesn’t exist.” In Sierra Leone, even fewer births are registered. Without birth certificates, people can be denied birthrights of land ownership, voting and health care.
For $20, please help parents secure their child’s future
Do good with good value
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 email@example.com . 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 http://www.sherbrofoundation.org/donate .
Thank you. Together, we are making a real difference in the lives of people in rural Sierra Leone.
Click here: Sherbro Foundation Newsletter August 2015
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.
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.
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.
What 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.
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.
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.
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.
For a Sierra Leone community, a resident trained physician is a privilege. To have one in rural Bumpeh Chiefdom in 1950 was a blessing. A huge blessing. For women and their babies, it often meant life over death.
We’re celebrating the life of Dr. Winifred Smith Bradford (October 20, 1922 – July 19, 2020), a remarkable woman who dedicated herself to serving women and children around the world.
Sherbro Foundation dedicates this year’s community health nursing scholarships to Dr. Bradford for her long medical career, beginning in an outpost clinic in Rotifunk, Bumpeh Chiefdom in 1950.
Winifred Smith was born in Enid, Oklahoma just two years after women got the vote in the US. Imagine the vision and determination of a young woman from small town middle America who set her goal to become a doctor. In the latter days of the Great Depression and during WWII, she managed to put herself through college and medical school.
Dr. Smith was one of first women to graduate from York College of Medicine. With the goal of being a medical missionary to China, she continued on to Yale to study Chinese. But the Communist Chinese regime soon made clear they no longer wanted American missionaries.
Dr. Smith’s time at Yale wasn’t for naught. There she met the love of her life and partner in service, Lester Bradford, a forestry major. Her goal of being a missionary doctor was undeterred and just changed geography to Africa – Sierra Leone, West Africa. The United Brethren in Christ (UBC), an arm of the Methodist Church, first sent her to prepare at the London School of Tropical Medicine.
Dr. Smith, left, delivering a baby before departing for the London School of Tropical Medicine
Lester had to be satisfied with letters until, her training completed, Dr. Smith began practicing in the UBC clinic in Rotifunk. He joined her and they were married in the historic Martyrs Memorial Church in Rotifunk.
That was the first of the Bradfords’ many joint assignments in developing countries around the world – she practicing medicine and he leading agriculture development projects.
During their 16 years of service in Sierra Leone, Dr. Bradford delivered thousands of babies and treated thousands of children. A working mom herself, she and Lester had five children of their own.
On their return to the US, Dr. Bradford did a second medical residency and continued in the baby business, now in Mt. Vernon, Washington. She helped women who wanted the option of home births and founded the Mount Vernon Birth Center. Her compassionate approach to birthing revolutionized the whole birth industry in Skagit County.
Retirement was anything but retiring for Dr. Bradford and her husband. He took overseas assignments carrying out projects in South Sudan and Pakistan, and she continued her medical work there. Above left, she started a birthing center in Juba, Sudan and counseled families in Pakistan, above right.
Today, the need for health care professionals in rural Bumpeh Chiefdom and Sierra Leone remains as great as ever. Devastated by its 11-year rebel war, Sierra Leone was struggling to rebuild the country and its health care services when in 2014 it was hit by Ebola.
It only had 136 physicians for a population of 6,000,000 at the start of the outbreak, and those mostly in cities. By the end, Sierra Leone lost 11 physicians, among its most senior, or 8% of its medical ranks. Many more of the 1000 nurses/midwives also succumbed to Ebola.
Sierra Leone remains one of the most dangerous places in the world for a woman to give birth. And one in ten young children never see their fifth birthday.
In 2018, Sherbro Foundation started community health nursing scholarships to help build health care capacity in Bumpeh Chiefdom. Three young chiefdom women are now preparing to serve in small community health units that since Dr. Bradford’s time provide first level primary health care.
Bumpeh Chiefdom’s government-run health units are staffed by a community health nurse, usually operating alone, who diagnoses and treats common infectious disease like malaria and diarrhea, provides pre/postnatal care for pregnant women and serves as midwife to deliver babies. They vaccinate babies and monitor for malnutrition. They can provide family planning services, basic first aid like stitching wounds and screen for chronic disease for referral, like hypertension and diabetes.
Nine government-run health units serve Bumpeh Chiefdom’s 208 villages and 40,000 people. For most villagers, this is their only source of health care.
This year, we dedicate the community health nursing scholarships to Dr. Bradford and her legacy of serving Sierra Leone people – especially its mothers and children.
Three young women, Fatmata, Umu and Safiatu, above, will soon enter their second year of a three-year nursing program. Each $1100 scholarship covers tuition, practicals (when they’re placed in a Freetown hospital for hands-on experience), supplies, food and transportation for the year.
Join us with your gift here and return Fatmata, Umu and Safiatu to nursing school. You’ll keep them on a path to soon be caring for Bumpeh Chiefdom’s mothers and children – and all its people. Thank you!
It’s July and we’re four months into the Covid pandemic. Sierra Leone and Bumpeh Chiefdom are living the same massive human health experiment we all find ourselves in.
But they’ve fared better than us for the same point in time after the pandemic reached each of our borders. Confirmed cases in Sierra Leone (per 100,000 population) are 50-fold fewer than the US to date, and mostly contained in the capital, Freetown and the surrounding area.
Thanks to your support, Bumpeh Chiefdom used Sherbro Foundation funding to take early and aggressive action. As of July 9, it can still report no confirmed Covid cases.
Following its Ebola experience, most of Sierra Leone’s 1584 confirmed Covid cases to date transferred to government isolation centers for the course of their infection – where they don’t infect more people. Contact tracing led to over 9000 people quarantined, with about 8000 released after 14 days with no infection.
But by the end of May, Covid moved around the country to all but one district beyond the Freetown area. Still, a ban on inter-district travel without a limited essential travel pass managed to keep over 60% of confirmed cases to the Freetown area.
Rural areas like Bumpeh Chiefdom have reported few, if any, cases. Life largely takes place outside where breeze offers natural dilution.
Population density is lower and 60% are young, under twenty-five years of age.
Of course, there’s little access to testing to verify how widely the virus actually spread. We now know youth is no protection, and young people are probably active asymptomatic spreaders of the virus.
Taking early action
Bumpeh Chiefdom’s Paramount Chief Charles Caulker’s didn’t wait to take action. He formed a chiefdom Covid committee in March and reinstated procedures successfully used to quell Ebola, while adding others.
Chiefdom meetings now take place with distancing and masks.
Checkpoints started monitoring nonresidents trying to enter the chiefdom in midMarch, before even a single case was confirmed in the country. This kept most people from high infection areas out. Local people also wrongly feared being quarantined if they traveled away from home, discouraging movement within the chiefdom.
Chief Caulker passed chiefdom bylaws in May, requiring social distancing and use of face masks in public – before the government took action. But just setting standards doesn’t mean people will follow them, or even hear about them or understand them.
Safety teams for community-led prevention
In early June, 13 safety teams comprised of local leaders from across the chiefdom were trained on their Covid bylaws. Local health professionals and chiefdom Covid committee members went to every part the chiefdom, training 350 local leaders: section and village chiefs, heads of men’s and women’s societies, imams, youth leaders, checkpoint workers and others.
Trainers emphasized practical demonstrations, with participants practicing proper handwashing and mask use.
The safety teams were charged with teaching fellow residents how the Covid virus is transmitted and how social distancing, wearing masks and hand washing protects them.
Teams continue to monitor and enforce Covid procedures.
Taking training to the people in remote villages seldom happens. Rumors and myths about this unknown disease called Covid proliferated without TV, radio, newspapers or internet. Villagers didn’t know how the virus transfers or how to protect themselves.
Using locally known trainers speaking their own language invoked a level of trust. Health care trainers could convey much more understanding that in turn encourages more voluntary compliance.
Trainers explained people have the power to stop the virus through their own behavior. It’s in their hands.
Small group community training made people believers for an epidemic that has largely only been in cities. “Be an example now to your community,” trainers admonished.
“We learned so much for fighting against Covid-19. Especially about the interior (rural areas),” a youth leader, above left, said. “The interior is a problem with commitment of people. Not all people believe the sickness is in existence. Thank god brought you to communicate and explain how Covid-19 can come right into the interior.”
Asked what she learned, the woman, above right, said, “We learned about social distance and to not encourage ‘strangers’ (nonresidents who could be infected). And to wash our hands with soap and water to protect our families.”
Over 9000 Sherbro Foundation funded masks were distributed so residents can comply with chiefdom (and now government) requirements.
195 hand washing stations and soap were also given to village leaders for their public places. With no running water and few wells, this encourages handwashing where people convene.
Chief Caulker extends his “profound thanks” to all Sherbro Foundation donors for funding the program.
“I am very much delighted for the completion of the training of our section safety teams. I followed the process with keen interest and I am tremendously satisfied with the accomplishments. My section chiefs and their people constantly called me and expressed appreciation for the exercise while it was on.”
“They confessed that the training was the best ever conducted in the Chiefdom and it came out clearly … that participation was enormous and constructive. More importantly, they admitted acquiring the knowledge, skills, and tools to take on Covid ‘one on one’ for self-protection.”
Community-led training brings value, as well as results. 350 local leaders comprising thirteen safety teams for every corner of the chiefdom were trained for less than $600! Trainers gave their time. Costs were mainly for participant and trainer transportation.
Sherbro Foundation encourages the chiefdom to build on the momentum of the safety teams with follow-up sessions. Community-led prevention is a powerful concept not only for Covid, but for prevalent and debilitating disease like malaria. Malaria weakens the immune system making people more susceptible to Covid, especially pregnant women and small children. Future sessions can reinforce Covid practices, and also empower villages to eliminate standing water and sleep under bed nets to avoid malaria.
Reopening the country
Like everywhere, Sierra Leone could only stay shut down so long. The majority of people live day by day, earning a dollar or two today so their families eat tomorrow. The pressure to resume local trading and international traffic is overwhelming. Sierra Leone is “reopening” its economy and borders this month. Increasingly, it gets pulled into the direction all West African countries are taking.
The inter-district travel ban was removed June 24, taking away Bumpeh Chiefdom’s main line of Covid defense. Flights and land borders will be opened shortly. Large outdoor markets and gatherings remain banned, including religious services, much to the objection of mosques and churches.
The back to school question
Sierra Leone now joins countries around the world in the massive experiment of sending school children back to school before the pandemic is stamped out.
School reconvened July 1 for three grades due to now take their national exams needed to move to the next level: 6th graders to junior high; 9th graders to senior high; and 12th graders seeking entry to higher education or to meet employer requirements for school completion exam scores.
Our partner CCET-SL resumed its special all-day 12th grade school in its education center July 1, preparing Rotifunk’s graduating students for their national exam. Masks and distancing required.
Students will get a few weeks of classes before exams take place over July and August. The West African standard exams must be administered using the West African Examinations Council procedures and schedule – or risk the students losing a whole year until exams are offered again next year.
We’re awaiting word on how and when Sierra Leone schools will fully reopen in the fall.
Stay tuned for the next newsletter on Sherbro Foundation’s direction for the coming school year. You’ll see new things as our partner CCET-SL strives to keep improving the quality of education in the chiefdom. We’ll need your support more than ever.
— Arlene Golembiewski, Executive Director
How do you keep the Coronavirus out? If you’re a country, you shut down flights and land borders and isolate yourself. If you’re a rural Sierra Leone chiefdom, you set up border checkpoints to keep all nonresidents out, too, and staff them 24/7 with your own local volunteers.
Bumpeh Chiefdom learned from the Ebola epidemic that people will try to cross their remote chiefdom borders undetected, bringing the Ebola virus with them. They are fleeing infected cities for a rural place they think safer. It’s also a place for people from Guinea to try to illegally enter the country “through a back door” – bypassing Freetown and Waterloo by boat and making their way up the Bumpeh River from the ocean.
Once the virus gains entry, we know how it spirals out of control. Keeping it out in the first place is the name of the game. Checkpoints saved Bumpeh Chiefdom during the Ebola epidemic. It’s working now again – despite Bumpeh’s vulnerable position as a coastal chiefdom near Freetown and its suburbs.
The chiefdom was ready this time when Covid-19 was first confirmed in the country. They know the places around their borders to patrol and immediately set up checkpoints, like the one above at a river “bus stop.” Boats act as buses, carrying residents and goods up and down the Bumpeh River to Rotifunk.
How can you help Bumpeh Chiefdom keep the virus out? Join us in supplying all checkpoints with locally made face masks and handwashing stations and soap.
> $20 pays for a local tailor to make 50 cloth face masks for checkpoint volunteers.
> $25 buys three covered handwashing stations with spigots, like the one above, where all residents passing through a checkpoint are required to first wash their hands.
Sherbro Foundation is paying for small daily stipends for checkpoint volunteers to buy food and water from villagers during their 12 hour shifts away from home.
We also bought solar lights for checkpoint night shifts, sitting in these remote places in the dark.
We talk about unsung heroes in this crisis who do the jobs that protect the rest of us. In Bumpeh Chiefdom, it’s the men who sit all night keeping watch at these distant checkpoints.
By sitting in the dark all night, they’re keeping the virus out of the chiefdom – and saving lives.
In this global epidemic, none of us are safe for long unless we’re all safe. We’re all in this together.
Giving Tuesday is now – May 5th. Help equip these guys with face masks and handwashing stations so they can protect everyone else. www.sherbrofoundation.org/donate
Thank you so much!
— Arlene Golembiewski, Executive Director
We can’t wait for Giving Tuesday in November to support charitable organizations as part of our Thanksgiving festivities.
If ever we needed a day to give, it’s now, while we’re all fighting Covid-19. The 2020 Giving Tuesday is moved up to May 5.
Bumpeh Chiefdom, Sierra Leone, took immediate action in April against Covid-19 before any confirmed case reached them — and has kept the virus out so far. But it’s quickly spreading all around them.
Here’s how you can help Bumpeh Chiefdom in their fight to keep Covid-19 out:
>> $20 will pay to locally make 50 face masks for chiefdom residents, especially market women. These women, like the one at left, are one of the most at-risk groups — like grocery workers here.
>> $25 buys 3 hand-washing stations for border checkpoints and public places. With no running water, water must be hand-carried to covered buckets with spigots for hand-washing.
>> $50 buys a no-touch infrared thermometer to take temperatures, important in a place with no Covid-19 testing ability.
This month the chiefdom will require face masks to be worn in public, and to observe 6-foot social distancing.
They want to supply 10,000 masks to make it easy for residents to comply. They have local tailors busy making them.
Bumpeh Chiefdom must keep the Covid-19 virus out. They don’t have a health care facility that can treat this disease. There’s only one ventilator for the whole country!
Chiefdom leaders understand what’s needed to stop transmission of the virus. They need our help.
We’ve learned in this global pandemic, no one is safe until everyone is safe. The virus must be stamped out around the world.
On May 5th — Giving Tuesday 2020 — support Bumpeh Chiefdom’s Covid-19 fight if you can. It’s a day for global unity. www.sherbrofoundation.org/donate
We deeply appreciate your help. Thank you!
Sierra Leone had its first confirmed Covid-19 case on March 31.
With falling virus dominoes encircling the world, it was only a matter of time. Sierra Leone was one of the last countries the virus invaded.
Sierra Leone’s government used its hard-won experience with the deadly Ebola virus to quickly react. But its directives are very difficult to apply in rural areas and no help has been forthcoming to Bumpeh Chiefdom. Once again, the Chiefdom is on its own.
We’re proud to report that Bumpeh is the first, and perhaps the only, chiefdom to implement a rural Covid-19 control program, led by Paramount Chief Charles Caulker. And Sherbro Foundation is proud to support it, with a $6,000 grant sent in March.
We know Covid-19 is a stealth virus and hard to control. But Bumpeh Chiefdom has a head start, learning from its Ebola ordeal. Covid-19 starts as a traveler’s disease, first carried in by air travelers from infected countries. Sierra Leone has only limited flights and directly quarantined all arriving air passengers in Freetown throughout March; starting in February, for passengers originating in China.
First cases The first confirmed Covid-19 case was a traveler who briefly went to France and returned to Sierra Leone. At the end of his 14-day quarantine period, he started feeling Covid symptoms and tested positive.
By April 16, Sierra Leone had 15 confirmed Covid-19 cases. Seven of the first ten cases were quarantined air travelers. Two more cases appear to have been in quarantine after coming through Guinea’s land border. Border countries Guinea and Liberia have growing number of cases, especially Guinea. This is the biggest risk with Sierra Leone now closed to commercial air travel.
Community spread My own first few weeks of Covid-19 experience in Ohio were flooded with Ebola flashbacks. Now, watching Sierra Leone felt like a disaster movie unfolding where I know the plot. Ebola was first carried across an isolated land border with Guinea. As sick people sought treatment, health care workers were infected.
Sierra Leone’s second confirmed Covid-19 case was a hospital doctor who recognized early symptoms and immediately went for testing. With her positive result, the doctor’s contacts were asked to quarantine, including two university staffers who later tested positive. A hospital nurse in contact with the doctor also tested positive.
To its credit, the Sierra Leone government was ready after its Ebola experience to trace and quarantine contacts of identified or suspect Covid-19 cases in cities and district headquarters. Some 1,550 people have been quarantined to date, with 1034 discharged.
Emergency operation centers are in place for district surveillance and response. A lab technician in Kenema in the east, said to have recently worked in another Freetown hospital, just tested positive. Government teams are reported to have created a “ring” around his contacts to isolate and monitor them for a 14-day period.
But the April 17 report shows nearly a doubling of cases from 15 to 26. Most new cases are reported linked to the second case; they worked at the same hospital. But the doctor’s husband rightfully said it’s time to concentrate on community transmission. She appears to have been infected by community transfer. Her family, housekeepers and close hospital work associates have tested negative, while hospital nurses with little to no contact with her tested positive this week. They could have been community-exposed as the doctor was. As was the lab technician.
Those of us living the epidemic know what comes next. We can assume there are many more asymptomatic and untested cases now in the community, starting in Freetown and beginning to move around the country. There’s no defined plan to respond in rural areas.
Sierra Leone has more test kits than most US states started with. But logistically, it will be hard to test where and when needed. A lot harder for 60% of the population, in remote rural areas with little to no health care.
Community control The Sierra Leone government instated an initial three-day country-wide lockdown April 4-6. But too many people both in cities and villages must go out daily for food and to collect water.
The government’s control program now limits travel to within each of its 16 districts, set a 9 pm to 6 am curfew, limits public-sector business hours (the largest employer) and stresses staying at home wherever possible. Hand washing and social distancing are emphasized. They continue contact tracing and quarantines, but that will soon outstrip capacity to handle new cases.
This all sounds like reasonable guidance for urban areas and for literate people bombarded with Covid-19 information daily from TV, radio and internet. Now imagine the remote villages of Bumpeh Chiefdom with no communication other than a few people with only simple mobile phones for calls and bad connections.
Imagine people who line up daily to carry every bucket of water from a distance to wash. Imagine people who have no cash to stock their houses with food and supplies to stay at home for a week or more. People go to crowded local markets to sell goods to make enough money to buy the food needed for the next day or two.
These are people who need to take precautions to socially distance. To date, they’ve had no confirmed Covid-19 cases in their area. They’re disbelieving, never seeing or hearing of the illness. It’s all unreal to them. It was to us. Ebola attacked Bumpeh Chiefdom quickly, and it was deadly and ugly. Covid-19 has been a limited far-away city disease and only for the last 20 days.
In the back door With land borders to Guinea closed, people are finding ways to enter Sierra Leone through a back door – Bumpeh Chiefdom. Fishing boats coming from Guinea bypass the Freetown peninsula, stopping at the mouth of the Bumpeh River, the first settlements along a swampy coastline where passengers can find a way to move inland.
Three weeks ago, a boat coming from Guinea stopped at Samu village to let out passengers. One didn’t make it off. A man died on the boat of unknown causes. A local chief quickly came to keep passengers from leaving. With Paramount Chief Caulker’s direction, they were ordered to quarantine. A few slipped away and likely hopped a motorcycle taxi. It took two days before police and the community health officer arrived at the remote village to investigate. By then, the body was buried after being carried to the next chiefdom (by motorcycle taxi). Chiefs there were alerted to quarantine those involved in the burial. After three weeks, none of those quarantined are showing any symptoms.
Bumpeh Chiefdom Covid-19 program By then, Paramount Chief Caulker had already started the chiefdom Covid-19 control program, as described in our last newsletter. With their Ebola experience still fresh, Chief quickly instated checkpoints at strategic chiefdom entry points with mandatory handwashing, and is now expanding those. This is the most effective means of monitoring for outsiders bringing in the virus.
Social distancing is initially hard to get used to. The weekly women’s small grant meeting, above, spread out, but not quite six feet. Chief not only stopped gatherings, but leads by example, applying the six-foot rule in his own interactions. Our partner CCET-SL leaders do the same. Hand-washing stations are set up in public places, and people urged to wash hands at home.
They’ve adjusted past Ebola practices for this virus that’s less lethal, but more contagious. Chief and CCET-SL leaders, above, are introducing use of face masks when in public, starting with themselves. A project to make cloth face masks hopefully will start soon. Market women, who are “essential workers” in providing a supply of food, are priorities for masks.
The Samu village experience – and Ebola — showed small remote villages need close monitoring. This can only be done by the chiefdom’s own grassroots authorities. As during Ebola, Chief Caulker is organizing village chiefs to monitor their own villages, regularly checking door-to-door for strangers and for residents who may be sick. They can isolate the sick and ask for help to send people for health care, as needed.
Once again, it will come down to the paramount chief orchestrating his own chiefdom authorities down to small villages to control this epidemic. This chief has immediately gone into action.
Developing countries with limited health care and Covid-19 testing have to rely on local human surveillance. Until simple and cheap Covid-19 test kits are available in quantity for rural areas without electricity, this will be the primary way to contain the virus.
Sherbro Foundation is watching how the epidemic unfolds in Sierra Leone and is prepared to help again as needed.
Today’s good news: Six of the first confirmed Covid-19 cases, including the index case who was hospitalized and the doctor, have been released.
More frequent Bumpeh Chiefdom Covid-19 updates will be on our Facebook page: click here.
- Arlene Golembiewski, Executive Director
Does lightning strike twice in the same spot? Does Sierra Leone have the ridiculous luck of seeing two major global epidemics of life-threatening viruses within six years?
Sierra Leone is one of ten or so countries with the highest — or lowest -– rankings demographers measure. Mortality, life expectancy, literacy. Sierra Leone is again the country with an extreme. But this time that’s good. Very good.
As I write this (March 27), Sierra Leone doesn’t have a single confirmed case of COVID-19.
It’s one 10+ African countries (perhaps 20 globally) still with no confirmed COVID-19. Sierra Leone does have testing capability, in the capital and a couple cities where cases are most likely to first appear.
Sherbro Foundation just wired money this week for our Bumpeh Chiefdom friends’ COVID-19 prevention program. But first, here’s what’s happened leading up to this.
I never thought I’d say Sierra Leone’s deadly Ebola experience was good for something. But Sierra Leone kicked into gear and, week by week, instituted early COVID-19 protective measures as they saw the rest of the world reel around them. The government and the people remember well the practical steps of managing Ebola and have responded quickly for the COVID-19 pandemic.
Air travel is the source of COVID-19 transmission for now, and Sierra Leone only has one international airport. Passengers on flights arriving from countries with 50 or more reported cases were put into automatic 14-day quarantine. This started in February 3 with passengers originating from China. Only a few airlines normally fly to Sierra Leone. Some European airlines started canceling flights in March.
As of March 23, the Sierra Leone government banned any flight from entering the country, and President Bio, above, declared a national state of emergency. 500 previous air travelers were still in quarantine.
During Ebola, the rest of the world isolated Sierra Leone and tried to keep its travelers out. Now the tables have turned. Sierra Leone is keeping the world out of its country.
With cases starting to grow in neighboring Liberia and Guinea, Sierra Leone’s land borders are closed as of March 27. Essential commodities can still pass through with strict supervision.
So far, so good. Sierra Leone has a basic pandemic preparedness plan. Its health officials say strategies being used by coronavirus-affected countries emanated from their Ebola outbreak. And they have to be prepared for return of Ebola or Lassa Fever anytime.
The government has been working with WHO and other supporters to improve their health care capability since the Ebola epidemic, including developing three laboratories with virus testing capability. They have 370 COVID-19 test kits, and it’s stated they could get 20,000 more within 24 hours.
Sierra Leone is focusing on standard strategies to clamp down on early stages of epidemics: case management and preventive action.
President Bio washes his hands, left, before entering Lungi International airport terminal during a recent inspection visit. In a country with little running water, even in cities, buckets fitted with spigots introduced for handwashing during Ebola have now returned.
“We have one of the best contact tracing and surveillance [systems],” said the Deputy Health Minister. “Before Ebola, we had no epidemiologists. Now we have 176.” An isolation ward is ready in a military hospital, and more could quickly be set up. People who set up and ran MASH-style Ebola treatment centers around the country are still there.
All is critical in a country with few ICU units, let alone ventilators, and only in the capital.
Prevention in Bumpeh Chiefdom
When the dominoes started quickly falling in the US two weeks ago, Bumpeh Chiefdom leader Paramount Chief Charles Caulker called together his chiefdom council. Rural areas like Bumpeh Chiefdom must interpret and apply government guidance largely defined for urban areas. The chiefdom council quickly agreed to proactive steps that aren’t new for them. The next day they were in effect.
Chief Caulker fell back on their past Ebola program, with appropriate changes. Like us, they’re emphasizing social distancing and hand washing.
Per the government’s order:
> Religious services, sports events and other gatherings were closed.
> All schools close as of March 31, when current exams end. National exams for 9th and
12th grades are canceled until further notice. Same for colleges and vocational schools.
> Our partner CCET ends its education programs like after-school tutoring March 31.
Chief Caulker also set up chiefdom border controls to monitor for possible infected travelers, especially those coming from cities and larger towns. But it’s not as stringent as during Ebola when no traveler or returning resident could enter.
> Checkpoints with handwashing stations verify a traveler’s residency or business purpose at all places vehicles enter. Travelers must wash their hands before passing through.
> The old customary practice of “strangers” (nonresidents) reporting to the local chief was reinstated, including stating who their local hosts are.
Youth are being mobilized to educate villages on COVID19, going door to door and avoiding village meetings. Handwashing is emphasized, with washing stations set up in public places.
Bringing home delivery to Rotifunk
Social distancing at the big weekly market was the most problematic. Throngs of buyers and sellers crowd Rotifunk every Saturday.
It’s the town’s lifeblood, serving as the grocery, Walmart, Target and Ace Hardware for locals.
Outside traders bring in fish, the main protein source for most.
Villagers sell their produce to outside traders who supply Freetown and other cities. Outside traders could bring in COVID-19, but closing the market would be devastating.
When solving a problem, Chief Caulker tries to maximize the solution’s benefits. Kill two birds with one stone. Or three or four birds, if possible.
He needs to get essential food safely into Rotifunk and area villages. But he didn’t want to close the market, just thin the crowds.
First, he told chiefdom residents to use the market seven days a week and bring their goods to sell any day in the usual daily market, below; not just on Saturday.
With business spread out over seven days, fewer outside traders come now. They can’t make as many sales on any one day so it’s not worth the long trip. Local villagers also get better prices for their wares with less competition.
But the biggest gain comes by taking the market to the people. Think of it as home delivery.
With Sherbro Foundation funding, Chief Caulker is expanding the Women’s Small Grant and Savings Program to add 40 more women traders. The women will use $100 grants to buy chiefdom fish or produce and sell them in designated neighborhoods, avoiding market crowds altogether. Creating job and income opportunities for the most impoverished local women is one of Chief’s ongoing priorities.
It’s a win-win all around. Outside traders who could be carrying in COVID-19 are reduced. Forty women are empowered to expand their trading businesses with capital and dedicated customers. Market customers and villagers who normally come to sell are protected by avoiding market crowds.
This solution will also keep more money in the local economy. Outside traders won’t take money outside the chiefdom. Rotifunk’s and the chiefdom’s overall economy will improve as the women traders succeed and use their increased purchasing power locally.
Pivoting for a compelling need
Sherbro Foundation is delighted to fund the 40 women traders with $100 grants.
They also become part of the savings plan of the new Women’s Small Grant Program, where women deposit part of each week’s earnings, left.
At the end of the year, their total savings will be like getting a new grant.
Sherbro Foundation is also contributing to daily food stipends for the checkpoint volunteers.
Bumpeh Chiefdom and Sierra Leone are hardly out of the woods with COVID-19. But, like us, they’re buying time until therapeutic drugs or the ultimate vaccine are found.
Sherbro Foundation pivoted from other issues and helped Bumpeh Chiefdom fight Ebola in 2014-15. Being a small organization, we can respond quickly. As in 2014, within two weeks of my first phone call with Chief Caulker on their COVID-19 plan, they will have our funding in hand and start acting.
Next week, women traders will introduce food home delivery to the chiefdom. Who knows where this goes long term?
One more thing the whole dreadful Ebola experience taught me: I know we’ll get through COVID-19. On the upside, a whole new program with the potential to transform Bumpeh Chiefdom may blossom – strengthening struggling women as successful small entrepreneurs.
— Arlene Golembiewski, Executive Director
There still is good news to be found in the world. Sierra Leone has had more than its share of bad news and hardship. But it’s where I’m finding things to brighten my outlook now, thanks to our Bumpeh Chiefdom partner, the Center for Community Empowerment & Transformation (CCET-SL).
Twenty “market women” come together each Sunday at the CCET-SL building after the big weekly Saturday market to discuss what they bought and sold that week. But these small traders aren’t gossiping. They’re getting help to grow their small businesses. And every week they deposit part of their earnings they can save in an iron lock box the group manages.
The group buzzes with talk on the week’s prices for palm oil, dried fish, peanuts and other things they buy and sell – and what they expect prices to be in the coming weeks.
Growing and Saving
The women are part of CCET-SL’s new Women’s Small Grant & Savings Program funded by Sherbro Foundation. Each participant received a small grant of one million leones. They now have enough money to buy new goods to sell in their small trading business. They earn more to better feed their families. And importantly, they save each week.
The women are hardly millionaires. One million leones is today worth only about one hundred US dollars. But these are women who never before held that much cash in their hands at one time.
The group serves as a peer network where they exchange what they know about trading and offer each other current advice. Such as: recently harvested peanuts will be worth far more two or three months from now when the harvest glut is down.
The experienced women advise, hold the peanuts and your bigger future profit will likely more than make up for slow weeks now. Things like peanuts and locally produced palm oil, the mainstay cooking oil, are commodities to be held as a reserve and sold when prices rise.
Targeting women with the least
These women are part of the program because they’re among the poorest women in the community. Most market women, below, have so little to sell, their weekly income is a pittance. It’s barely enough with which to eat and purchase another small lot of goods for the next week’s market. Or they sell things from small family farms and gardens or from trading with other villagers. Most can only bring what they can carry on their heads walking.
There’s little cash flow among these women, and no capital to invest in a small business that could reliably return more income. They just scrape by week to week.
The women needed a boost to get ahead. A small grant. One with no ties attached.
Women’s Small Grant & Savings Program
The program was conceived in January because of another dilemma CCET-SL faced. The twenty women in the new grant program were hired last year as part-time workers in CCET-SL’s Swamp Vegetable Growing project, below. They transplanted pepper and okra seedlings into raised beds, weeded and watered, and later harvested the vegetables. They continued to work their own small gardens and trade in the market. The women were excited to have their first wage-paying jobs, even if part-time and seasonal.
But the vegetable project doubled in size since last year, and was planting 12,000 pepper plants this year. With seven acres of peppers to now water, it became clear having women hand-water would never work. The area was too big, and carrying water buckets all day too heavy for the women. A way of watering with pressurized hoses was identified that needed to be handed over to men.
Paramount Chief Caulker was adamant the women would not be fired. He considers one of CCET-SL’s agriculture projects’ successes to be job creation for the neediest chiefdom people.
CCET-SL Managing Director Rosaline Kaimbay offered another solution. Let the women focus instead on growing their small trading businesses with small grants. I was with them in January, and we worked out the terms of the program that Sherbro Foundation immediately funded. They began in February. At the meeting below, CCET-SL accountant Sulaiman Timbo records everyone’s savings deposits as the group is illiterate.
Each participant starts with a small grant. This is not the usual microfinance program giving loans with high interest and short payback schedules. These women are the lowest tier of a desperately poor rural economy, and too poor to pay back a loan within months. Or if they tried, they’d use up the little income they produce. They’d never be able to put more money into their business and get ahead.
Under the Small Grant and Savings Program, women should be able to increase the size of their trading business with their small grant and the resulting income they earn. And with required savings, they’ll have another windfall at the end of the year.
To participate, women are expected to save some of their earnings every week that will be distributed back to them after 12 months.
The iron lock box, left, is made for small savings clubs. Built with three locks, it can’t be opened unless three people come with keys for the three locks. This encourages group self-management, as well as security for the savings.
Group savings clubs are popular for the poor because it’s an easy way to protect their savings. If left at home, it would invariably go to another immediate need or family demand. Banks are a one- to two-hour drive away, and their fees too high for the tiny amounts the women save.
Yeama’s business portfolio
Yeama was one of the hard-working women from last year’s Swamp Vegetable Growing group. She’s about 40 and a single parent with two children. Her husband left her for another woman, and kicked her and the children out of their house. She returned to Rotifunk, and had to start doing any available work to feed her family, which for women usually means farming.
In the new program, Yeama was advised to use her Le 1,000,000 grant to buy a diversified “portfolio” of things to trade. With half the money, she chose to buy various women’s toiletries and personal items in Freetown to set up a table in the market. It’s like the women’s aisles in Target or Walmart with skin creams, hair balm, toothpaste, soaps, nail polish, combs, etc. Below, a typical market table of women’s products.
She also bought a large bale of peanuts for Le300,000 that’s already gone up to Le350,000. She’s holding this as her fall-back reserve. It could rise to Le500,000 or even Le550,000.
With her remaining Le200,000 from the grant, Yeama bought cassava, a starchy tuber, and made foo foo, left, traditionally eaten on Saturday with a meat soup.
She “added value” to the cassava by pounding it and turning it into balls of foo foo. She sold them in Freetown at a higher price and made even more profit.
Yeama is already making money to put back into her trading business, or to buy another seasonal crop to sell.
Like most of the women, Yeama can only save Le10,000 to Le20,000 a week now, or $1 to $2. But if they do this each week, by the year-end, it will be like receiving another grant of Le500,000 to Le1,000,000, or more as they’re able to save more. The support – and competition – of the peer group encourages more savings.
Only several weeks old, the Women’s Grant and Savings Program is already very popular. Women not in the initial grant group come to sit in on the weekly Sunday meetings to observe and learn from the group. CCET-SL Director Rosaline Kaimbay, above, hands raised, facilitates the weekly meetings.
Paramount Chief Caulker has had a parade of women from the group coming to thank him for starting the program. Others come pleading to also join.
For Sherbro Foundation donors, our total investment to start the program was $2050. That feels like an incredible bargain to help 20 women get more economic security in their lives and contribute to their building their local economy.
Chief Caulker says he believes this program will continue to be a real winner. I agree. Time will tell just how big of a winner it turns out to be – but the women themselves are now the drivers.
Sherbro Foundation celebrates its seventh anniversary next month. To understand this success, just look to the head of the community-led program with whom we partner in Sierra Leone. We’ve been honored to work with Paramount Chief Charles Caulker since 2013 and support his chiefdom development efforts. And now we salute his 35th anniversary as paramount chief!
Nearly 2,000 cheering people packed the celebration of Paramount Chief Charles Caulker’s dedication to traditional rule of Bumpeh Chiefdom. He is the second longest serving paramount chief in Sierra Leone. I knew I wouldn’t see a traditional ceremony of this significance again anytime soon. I went to Sierra Leone in December to witness it myself – and now share it with you.
“You have stood tall to achieve unity in this chiefdom and brought development … [that has] no boundaries between your rivals and your allies. May our god continue to keep you on your throne for 10 years, 20 years and even more.” –Bumpeh Chiefdom-born businesswoman Alice Conteh-Morgan at Chief’s celebration
Chief Caulker’s feat is not just one marked by length of service, but by 35 years of uninterrupted peace and unity in his rural chiefdom. Sierra Leone’s highly centralized government is far away in the capital Freetown. It’s the paramount chief who keeps law and order on a day-to-day basis, and maintains peace and stability.
Ms. Conteh-Morgan, right, with Chief, far right, continued, “It’s not easy for someone to rule for 35 years without his people rising against him.”
Chief Caulker has served through a dynamic period in the ’80s of the country’s still-young democracy, an 11-year rebel war, five presidencies with alternating and hotly competing political parties, and the Ebola crisis. Imagine a U.S. governor retaining office with strong support over 35 often tumultuous years.
Paramount chiefs are elected, and then serve for life. But Chief Caulker feels he needs to periodically face his people and seek their support for continuing in office, as he did on this day in December.
The day began with people coming to salute their chief with drumming and the deafening vuvuzela-style horns African soccer fans love.
Amateur “devils” entertained the gathering crowds, as people found their seats under temporary shelters of bamboo and palm to escape the sweltering tropical sun.
People were invited from across the chiefdom, as well as friends and national and district government officials from Chief’s 45 years in public life.
Poro, the men’s secret society, led the traditional part of the ceremony. They serve the paramount chief, and also act as checks and balances on their chief’s rule.
They offered symbolic gifts, below, reaffirming they want this chief to continue as their paramount chief.
The conchama, above, took the lead. She is a special sub-chief in Bumpeh Chiefdom and one of the stalwart keepers of its oldest traditions. The conchama has been a female chief for as long as anyone can remember, and is unique among women. She was initiated into Poro and participates as a leader in the men’s society.
One symbolic gift was a jug of honey, representing all the sweetness of their chiefdom they give to Chief Caulker and entrust him with protecting.
The conchama said she was repeating the tradition she performed ten years ago at Chief’s 25th anniversary. With their symbolic gifts, Bumpeh Chiefdom was now handing over the chiefdom to Chief Caulker’s care for another 50 years!
The day was a mix of the traditional and the contemporary, just like the man himself.
Chief Caulker, right, gave a state-of-the-union type of address, and told of what he’s accomplished and what he yet plans to do. The people roared their support.
Chief told me the thing he’s most proud of is uniting his chiefdom and keeping peace for 35 years, an accomplishment that’s been impossible elsewhere in Sierra Leone.
Bumpeh Chiefdom is diverse with seven often competing tribal groups in one area. Chief assumed his office in 1984 after a local violent conflict, followed by a highly contentious election. He was young to take office as a paramount chief — only 35 — and untested. But he made peace and reuniting the chiefdom his objective.
He did it by balancing the rights of all tribes and not allowing any one group to achieve dominance. His family tribe, the Sherbro, is now outnumbered in their own homeland. But he insisted all tribes would sit together in governing the chiefdom, with no one group favored over the other. Everyone has equal rights and deserves equal opportunity in his mind.
Speakers bore this out in their testimonials for Chief. “He is a man with a clean heart,” said the District Officer, the ranking district government official. “No matter what you do, he’ll never get angry. He embraces everyone and forgives all. After the rebel war, he came and worked with the government and NGOs to restore hope and joy to his people.”
Mr. Tamba Lamina, Minister of Local Government and Rural Development recalled how Chief Caulker advised five successive governments on local governance and represented the paramount chiefs of his district in parliament for 12 years after the war. Most recently, Chief was part of a 12-member transition team in 2018 for the newly elected Maada Bio government. Lamina said, “I consider Chief Caulker a benchmark for rural development, and use him in assessing other chiefdoms in the country.”
Some of the strongest praise came from the ma