Sherbro Foundation wishes everyone the happiest of holidays and a wonderful new year. Thanks so much for making our 2019 a great year!
Sherbro Foundation wishes everyone the happiest of holidays and a wonderful new year. Thanks so much for making our 2019 a great year!
With education, the world opens for a Sierra Leone girl.
You can give the most rural girl from a family living on less than $2 a day the gift of education – and change her world.
She’ll marry later and avoid early pregnancy. When ready, she’ll have fewer, healthier children and send them to school with the higher earning power her education brings. She may start a business or become a community leader – or go on to lead her country. The circle of positive impact from education only keeps growing.
It can start with only $30 for a secondary school scholarship that helps a girl complete high school.
$50 pays a local teacher’s monthly stipend for teaching after-school classes that prepare 9th and 12th graders for their national exams – the entry to senior high and higher education.
$100 pays annual tuition for a student to attend vocational school and advance to a wage-paying job.
$375 pays annual tuition for a college scholarship at the University of Sierra Leone.
This Giving Tuesday, change a Sierra Leone girl’s life. Give her the gift of education. And you’ll feel great!
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!
Zainab is now a Bumpeh Chiefdom truck driver. You won’t see another woman driving a truck in the chiefdom, and I doubt anywhere in Moyamba district or most of Sierra Leone’s rural districts.
It’s a mini truck, but a vital part of our partner CCET-SL’s Orchards for Education project, carrying loads and workers from project fields to town in Rotifunk. Importantly, it’s a full time wage-paying job – another rarity in the chiefdom for man or woman.
Orchards for Education will create income for chiefdom children’s education. Another objective is to create local employment, with women hired wherever possible. When a truck driver was needed, the project’s response was, who said this isn’t women’s work?
Zainab was one of the first woman seasonal workers hired at the new vegetable growing swamp project, or IVS. Vegetables or rice are being grown year-round for income to operate the orchards before fruit trees mature and bear fruit.
While at the IVS, Zainab did well, taking responsibility and showing initiative. She was the women workers leader, responsible for sharing work assignments with the other women. She was good at monitoring them to ensure that work was done effectively and efficiently. And, she voluntarily sold the IVS produce at the weekly market.
Paramount Chief Caulker is a strong women’s advocate. When the project bought the mini-truck, locally called a keke, he said hire a woman driver. Zainab was the clear choice for the vehicle, a motorcycle pulling a small flat-bed.
Zainab had never driven any vehicle, motorcycle or otherwise. She started her training on a regular motorcycle a week before the keke’s arrival. She quickly moved on to the keke. Last week the keys were handed over to her and she is now the project’s first full-time female worker.
Who said women can’t drive a truck? Zainab showed they can. After the rice harvest, she’ll be carrying a water tank on the keke around the orchard keeping young fruit tree seedlings watered throughout the coming dry season.
You hit the target. With your generosity, Sherbro Foundation’s 2019-20 girls’ scholarship campaign reached it’s goal.
Actually, it’s 460 individual goals that were met. You helped 460 girls achieve their personal goal of returning to school another year and advancing to the next grade.
Bravo to these girls pursuing their education. And bravo to you, the ones that made it happen!
I always anxiously await seeing what happened to individual girls I’ve gotten to know. This picture of Fatmata proudly smiling in her senior high uniform made me smile, then left me teary thinking of her story.
Fatmata, now starting 11th grade, just received her fifth SFSL scholarship. She’s thriving and moving through senior high.
We wrote about Fatmata two years ago. She lost her father to Ebola, and her pregnant mother died shortly afterward. A relative enrolled her in a Rotifunk school because she could get a scholarship. She resisted her father’s family’s efforts to move her to another town where she would not get scholarship support. She wanted to be sure to stay in school. Now, a few years later, she’s nearly finished with secondary school.
There are many more Fatmatas also getting their chance for education.
We’re thrilled to repeat last year’s highwater mark of 460 scholarships, covering four Bumpeh Chiefdom schools of all faiths. And four young women will return to another year of college with their SFSL scholarships.
With your support, more and more chiefdom girls are staying in school each year. We’re grateful to you for your generosity in backing their growing numbers year after year.
We’re told no other community in Sierra Leone receives this number of scholarships — and all for girls!
Distributing scholarships is always a joyful day. Below, Bumpeh Academy students spill out of our partner CCET-SL’s education center after receiving their scholarship package of a school uniform and school supplies. Without textbooks, it’s essential students get notebooks for recording teachers’ blackboard notes.
Rosaline Kaimbay, CCET-SL Managing Director and former school principal, above, encouraged students and told them of their responsibility to learn and become successful. CCET-SL’s role she tells them, “is to help transform the lives of chiefdom people. When you are successful, you will transform our community.”
Mrs. Kaimbay reminded students of the college scholarships we have started. She told senior high students, “it’s now in your hands” to study hard and qualify for a future scholarship.
The Ahmadiyya Islamic school, above, is the chiefdom’s smallest secondary school. But the ranks of girls in the school keep growing year by year.
Walter Schutz Memorial Secondary School (WSMSS) is the chiefdom’s oldest school, and the one where I taught as a Peace Corps Volunteer many years ago. I remember feeling good back then to have 70 girls in all six grades of the town’s only secondary school. Today, the CCET-SL center, above, was overflowing with over 150 girls receiving scholarship packages in just one of four participating schools!
Pictures weren’t yet available for our fourth school, Ernest Bai Koroma Junior High, the newest school ten miles outside Rotifunk.
But what about the boys?
Every year when I visit Rotifunk schools and meet with student assemblies, I’m asked directly by boys, “What about us? We need help going to school, too.”
The fact is, they do. And with the scholarship program, the number of girls in Rotifunk secondary schools is catching up to their male peers.
As Westerners, we’ve had the notion that African families favor boys over girls for education. I’ve asked enough people in Bumpeh Chiefdom over enough years to now satisfy myself this is no longer true. Girls have caught up with boys in junior high, and now we’re helping girls do the same in senior high. It’s poverty that’s kept girls from progressing now, not favoritism, especially when village girls face the added expense of lodging in town suitable for an unaccompanied teenage girl.
The SF Board decided last year to start scholarships for boys at the modest level of 10% of the total given to girls. We paid for 46 additional scholarships for boys ourselves. This year we set the same target, and one Board member paid for all boys in full.
Student profiles show just how important it is to support boys as well as girls. Mustapha, left, is doing well now in 12th grade with his second scholarship.
He lost his parents during the early days of the Ebola outbreak when they were quarantined. They may have only become infected when kept in close quarters with those who had contracted Ebola. Now living with an uncle, Mustapha wants to become a lawyer “to stop too much crime.”
There are many disadvantaged boys who need our support.
Sallu, middle left, is disabled.
His education means everything to him, as he won’t be able to earn his living with physical labor.
We’ll continue to monitor this issue year by year.
Once again, we send our deepest thanks to everyone for making this year’s scholarship campaign another successful one!
— Arlene Golembiewski
Mabinty’s math teacher says she’s quick to answer questions and tries to understand new material. Competitive, she sits in the front row of class. She loves to rub it in when she beats the top boys for the best grades in class. At fifteen, she just finished the 10th grade with her second SFSL scholarship.
Mabinty is one of 460 Bumpeh Chiefdom girls waiting for her chance to return to school in September. You can give her that chance with a $30 Sherbro Foundation scholarship.
Mabinty doesn’t know her father who left the family soon after she was born. Her mother remarried and her stepfather raised her with three of her siblings and two other children.
School is important to Mabinty.
With a $30 scholarship, you give a girl much more than a year in school. With a new-found sense of self-worth, girls set goals for themselves and work hard to prepare for wage-paying jobs and real careers. They avoid pregnancy and early marriage that would end their dreams. They’re choosing careers that contribute to society and help develop their country.
Sherbro Foundation scholarships target the vulnerable Bumpeh Chiefdom children – orphans or those with single parents and the lowest income families struggling to send children to school. We strive to improve their their odds in the lottery of life.
The self-esteem that education brings will boost girls into promising futures. That sums up why we work so hard to send Sierra Leone girls to school. Education is the foundation for self-esteem in a country where the majority of women remain uneducated and often illiterate, treated as the lowest caste in society.
Salamatu, 17, in 9th grade, comes from a distant Bumpeh Chiefdom village. Her father died during Sierra Leone’s war, and her mother died soon after of an illness.
Salamatu’s aunt has raised her and her two siblings for the past 13 years. Her hard-working aunt is a trader, reselling things she buys in villages at Rotifunk’s weekly market – peppers, palm oil and charcoal.
With that income, her aunt cares for 10 children, eight in secondary school. This year will be Salamatu’s third on scholarship, which her aunt says are vital to keep her in school. At 17, many girls are force to drop out and start earning a living, often as market traders like Salamatu’s aunt
Salamatu wants to become a nurse “to serve mankind and for nation building.”
She’s one of 100 9th graders now in our partner CCET-SL’s study camp preparing for their senior high entrance exam in late July. After ten months of after-school tutoring classes and now the study camp (all SFSL funded), we expect the ranks of senior girls to grow in September. That’s our goal.
With your support, we’ve grown every year. In 2018-19, 170 senior girls were awarded scholarships; 460 secondary school girls in total. You can help more girls keep on their education journey to graduation and higher education for just $30 each.
Aminata, 18, is finishing senior high with her third SFSL scholarship. Her stepmother cares for six children. Her meager earnings as a market trader helped Aminata complete school. They depended on SFSL scholarships to ease the growing cost burden on the struggling family.
Aminata went to CCET-SL’s tutoring classes for senior high students preparing for their college entrance exam. A very small group of students has made it this far.
“The tutoring classes improved my studies,” Aminata said.
“But I wish there was a science laboratory because I want to become a medical doctor.”
We always have another goal to reach for!
Your $30 scholarship provides a full package. A girl gets a new school uniform – for many the only school clothes they may have for the year. Schools have no texbooks. We provide notebooks for students to copy notes teachers write on blackboards. These things cost more than the secondary school fees the Sierra Leone government is now paying for the first time.
This year we’re adding a washable and reusable menstrual hygiene kit that gives girls the freedom to attend school every day of the month. It gives girls the confidence to fully participate in school, like writing on blackboards, standing in front of class or at lunchbreaks, and participating in sports without the shame of exposing stained clothes.
Your scholarship provides so much for a girl. That’s all it takes to relieve subsistence-level families of the major financial burden to send their girls to school – and keep them in school until graduation.
— Arlene Golembiewski
P.S. Your gift includes another intangible treasure: building a girl’s confidence that she can excel in school and in life. That’s priceless.
P.P.S. You can help more. Pass this on to a friend.
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
Year by year Sherbro Foundation has worked to remove the barriers girls face going to secondary school, starting with school fee scholarships.
When the Sierra Leone government began paying school fees in 2018, we shifted our scholarships to buy school uniforms. No textbooks? We provided notebooks for students to copy notes teachers write on blackboards.
Girls have trouble passing the senior high entrance exam? We helped our partner CCET-SL run an after-school tutoring program preparing 9th graders for the exam.
But we forgot one important barrier to girls regularly attending school.
We were thinking of school as a program or a project.
We weren’t thinking about the girl.
Girls have menstrual periods.
If a girl can’t afford a $25 school uniform – or three meals a day – she can’t afford Western style feminine hygiene products.
When I started asking about this, the stories came out. Girls use rags or whatever else they come up with for their periods in place of feminine pads. If they have a heavy flow or painful day, girls stay home and miss school. Every month.
Think of the girls like Humu who walk many miles and have long days away from home. How can you walk 7 miles with menstrual cramps? And on a road where there’s no place to deal with their makeshift “pad.” Staying home from school is too often the solution.
Schools at best have a few latrines. Some schools don’t have on-site water – there’s no well or the pump doesn’t work. Forget sinks or wash stations at the latrines.
I asked the Ahmadiyya Islamic school principal, with an all male staff, what they encounter with girls and their periods. Yes, it can be a problem, Mr. Sesay said. As the only local Islamic school, most girls walk 3 miles to school, and some as far as 7 or 8 miles each way.
Every woman can relate to being caught away from home and unprepared when their period starts. If a girls starts her period unprepared at the rural Ahmadiyya school, she has to inform a male teacher who takes her to a stream to wash herself.
Sierra Leone students already miss enough school: bad weather; they’re needed at home on the farm for planting and harvesting; they’re sick. Think of how a girl can get further behind in classes if she misses school every month for her period.
All these things chip away at a teenage girl’s self-esteem – and her confidence and commitment to continue her education. She’s at risk of dropping out.
OK, we now got it. We’re adding Days for Girls menstrual hygiene kits to this year’s scholarship package.
Every girl will get a kit in a colorful bag with 2 washable shields, 8 washable pads of an absorbent flannel type material and zip lock bags to hold soiled pads.
They can be reused for 2 or 3 years.
Days for Girls is a global organization addressing girls and menstrual hygiene in developing countries.
They help local groups hand-make the menstrual hygiene kits with materials proven effective after years of experience. And they supply educational materials on menstruation and sex education.
To understand more of what African girls face in handling this every-month reality of life, watch this Days for Girls video.
If you have Netflix, you’ll want to see the 2019 Oscar winner for short documentary, Period. End of Sentence. It’s an uplifting film on how rural Indian women took charge of their menstrual dilemma and turned it into a cottage industry business, hand-making feminine pads for their community.
More good news. Just as we were grappling with how to pay for the Days for Girls kits for our 460 scholarship girls, Schools for Salone contacted us. Another former Peace Corps Volunteer-led nonprofit for Sierra Leone, they started a workshop in Freetown making the DfG menstrual kits.
Through their own fundraising, Schools for Salone offered us a steep discount on the kits. They know Sherbro Foundation has a successful grassroots program that will ensure the kits get to the kind of rural Sierra Leone girls we both work to serve.
We’re grateful to partner with Schools for Salone and enable Bumpeh Chiefdom girls to be beneficiaries of their successful fundraising efforts.
What can you do? Now that you get it, send a Bumpeh Chiefdom girl to school with a $30 scholarship that includes a Days for Girls menstrual hygiene kit.
You’ll not only send a girl to school, you’ll help keep her in school every day of the month. Thank you.
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 email@example.com.
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.
“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.
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.
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 are sure and proud that what is happening in Bumpeh Chiefdom is not happening in any other chiefdom.”
Before we reached the CCET Center to meet women from the Women’s Vegetable Growing project, we could hear them. Bumpeh Chiefdom women greet visitors with a welcome done in song. See video. (It may take a moment to load.) Their distinctive style with voices in harmony sounds like a minor key. They’re singing as one with syncopated clapping. You feel embraced by their warmth.
As we took our seats inside, the hall was thundering with the women’s song and clapping.
Their welcome song is one they sing among themselves while working as teams in each other’s gardens. They sang that if they are united and help each other, together, they will all individually benefit. There’s a Sherbro word for unity and working together: Lomthibul.
They gathered to thank us for helping them grow groundnuts (peanuts) in a project they say is not found in any other chiefdom.
Started in 2015 as an Ebola relief effort, Women’s Vegetable Growing is now entering its fifth year. Sherbro Foundation funded it for three years, with Rotary Clubs stepping in last year.
The women are proud to be part of the program, as they should be. They receive a modest grant of two bushels of groundnut seed, a drying tarpaulin and a 100 lb. bag of rice. With that, they grow enough groundnuts to sell for income and keep seed for another harvest. For once, they have their own discretionary income they use to feed and care for their families.
In 2018, the program started supporting women for two harvests to give them a strong enough base to then keep planting and gain self-reliance.
As we sat together, their spokesperson Hawanatu Sesay (above) explained, income in this rural area is dependent on agriculture. “Our only means of survival is though agriculture.”
These were representatives of the last group of 106 women selected for the project because they’re mature and vulnerable. “Most of us are widows. Some lost their husbands, and other men are not able to work now; they’re too old. Some [don’t take] responsibility for our welfare.” Hawanatu herself is a widow. She has more education than most, dropping out of junior secondary school to marry when she became pregnant. Her husband died and left her with two young children. She depends on her garden for income to feed her children.
When women first join the project, Rosaline Kaimbay, director of CCET-SL (the Center for Community Empowerment & Transformation) (above, right), explains the goal is to help them transform their own lives. They’re being helped with funding from Sherbro Foundation and now Rotary Clubs.
Today, the women told us, “Indeed, it’s a reality. Our lives have been transformed and we’re happy!”
They no longer need to rely on men to feed their families. “When we don’t have money, we take a few groundnuts [we grew] and sell them in the market and buy what we need to cook.”
“Before this time, ” Hawanatu continued, “our children were forced into early marriage because we don’t have much to give them. They go to school hungry. Because of this, they’re prone to getting boyfriends who give them money [and get them pregnant]. Now, we’re able to feed our children and they don’t get into early marriage.”
The women are also grateful to be beneficiaries of other CCET-SL programs. “You’ve given our children [in the girls scholarship program] uniforms and books. Through your help, some of our children are now at university with the college scholarships you’ve given them.”
“Through the efforts of CCET-SL and the Adult Literacy program (above), most of us are now able to sign our names. Before, we were unable to read the [school] results of our children. Now we can look at their [report card] and see whether they passed their exams or not.”
The women also appreciate their 9th grade children could participate in the after-school tutoring program preparing for them for the senior high entrance exam, the BECE. They saw their children being fed three times a day in the intensive study camp before the exam – while they only have money to feed once or twice a day. “Because you did this, most of our children passed their BECE exam and we’re grateful.” All these things “are a big lesson to us.”
By now, tears were rolling down my face as I recalled the dark days in early 2015 when Ebola was nearly over, but a 3-year economic crisis just starting. We asked Bumpeh Chiefdom’s Paramount Chief Charles Caulker what Sherbro Foundation could do to help. Fund women to grow vegetables as a quick way for them to earn income, he said. The women today rightfully said Chief Caulker is “the brains behind this program.”
Women’s Vegetable Growing has grown from the first group of 30 to 106 women last year. By investing in them with several programs, CCET-SL enables the women to focus on growing groundnuts and maximize the seed they save to grow another and larger next crop. Nearly 400 women in total have been supported to move towards self-reliance. With families of five and more, the community impact is significant.
The women are proud to also contribute to the success of the program. It’s become a tradition spontaneously started by the first group of grateful women growers that they donate some seed back to help the next group.
“Because we are united, that is why the groundnuts you’ve given us we’re able to reproduce them and help other women. We’re happy and proud to help other women.
When starting a new program, you hope it will be embraced by the community and beneficiaries helped in a measurable way. It’s a priceless reward to now hear these women as a group say their lives have been transformed.
Let me thank all who have supported Women’s Vegetable Growing over the years. I hope you, too, now feel rewarded by your generosity.
We hope to expand Women’s Vegetable Growing with new funding to help the most successful of these women entrepreneurs develop their gardens into small businesses. They can then hire workers, creating local wage-paying employment.
Women farmers have great potential to become a driver of local economic development. As they said, they are united.
—- Arlene Golembiewski, Executive Director
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.
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
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.
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.
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 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:
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.
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
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.”
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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,
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.
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:
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org . 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:
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.
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.
Here’s an issue I’ve been waiting to see made public: how global aid money was spent in the Ebola emergency.
Amy Maxman’s recent Newsweek story will change the way you look disaster aid. Maxman managed to spend enough time in Sierra Leone and probe in the right places to illuminate some of the Ebola crisis’s most exasperating issues. I posted her February story on how the capital Freetown’s new Ebola case rate was not going to zero. She astutely noted Freetown has no traditional leaders with authority to lead the fight in their own communities, as they effectively did in the provinces.
Now she’s written about how global Ebola aid money was spent in Sierra Leone during the epidemic’s peak. Again, she’s spot on. How is it possible only 2% of foreign aid reached frontline Ebola workers? Read on.
It’s hard for outsiders responding to an emergency to know how to donate efficiently — quickly and with the highest impact. Foreign governments and major foundations want to send money, but not actually spend it. They have to trust other organizations with local connections to act on their behalf.
Actually, foreign governments and foundations pledged Ebola aid money. The wheels of bureaucracy turn slowly, emergency or no emergency. Less than half the $3 billion aid pledged reached the affected Ebola countries by the end of 2014 when the crisis peaked and was declining.
Big Aid may have been frustrated in the past by immature and ineffective African government systems, and sometimes out-and-out corruption. So, many foreign governments and foundations bypassed the Sierra Leone government, and gave Ebola aid funds to the World Health Organization and Western nonprofit organizations. Some sent a few experts, like the US Center for Disease Control, to advise and train Sierra Leone government agencies or do diagnostic tests.
Most individual donors don’t understand how aid organizations actually spend money. I didn’t until I got personally involved with a rural Sierra Leone community.
Crises don’t happen in convenient places. Aid organizations either don’t have staff in the affected country, or in the remote places they’re needed. And in the Ebola emergency, they didn’t have the right kind of staff. Infectious disease ward nurses, sanitation crews, burial teams and community mobilizers were needed — all speaking local languages and able to respond to local customs on life and death matters.
Ebola started and spread in remote villages. To reach these places, foreign aid organizations would be confronted with a total lack of familiar infrastructure. It takes 3-5 hours to drive 50 miles on impossible roads to reach small villages – with the right 4×4 vehicle. They’d find nowhere to stay or eat, difficulty buying bottled water or petrol, no electricity, no toilets, no internet connection, of course, and unreliable cell phone coverage. There’d likely be no Sierra Leone government presence, and therefore, no local host or suitable building to work in.
They might find no one to be go-between with the community. They wouldn’t speak the local language and could encounter suspicious, even hostile, villagers they’re trying to serve.
So, unless you’re Doctors Without Borders experienced in setting up mobile MASH units, you subcontract your work to locally based nonprofits. These nonprofits may in turn need to hire more local, but inexperienced, people to deliver emergency services.
Most local nonprofits are not rurally based. They typically are in Sierra Leone cities, and they don’t necessarily have rural relationships or speak tribal languages. But they are at least in-country. These nonprofit workers drive to a town or village for a few hours and leave, having limited impact. But they spend lots of money nonetheless on staff, new employees, training, new vehicles and travel expenses.
The funding pie quickly shrinks. Every time work and funding are handed off to another government, another agency within a government, or from a global aid organization to country and regional groups, a slice of the funding pie is eaten up.
Maxman found less than 2% of the billions of Ebola aid money made it to frontline Sierra Leone health care and sanitation workers. She found a UK report that only 7% of EU funding for a Liberian Ebola program reached frontline workers. This is not exceptional. Before the Ebola outbreak, I asked Bumpeh Chiefdom Paramount Chief Caulker about development aid distribution. He said it’s common for only 10% of aid money to reach people in his chiefdom as actual goods and services. Twenty percent would be good for non-emergency aid distribution.
Where did the rest of the Ebola aid money go? Much of donated money is going to highly paid foreign aid organizations and their employees. Or to pay for military flown in to build treatment centers that took so long they were hardly used. Salaries of foreign aid workers sent over – that could be 6-figures – are counted in the emergency aid figures. And they may get extra hazardous duty pay. They fly in, stay in expensive city hotels designed for foreigners, and travel in air-conditioned SUVs. Some were flown by helicopter daily to field centers. And they seldom engaged directly in what we thought we donated our money for – caring for people sick with Ebola.
In emergencies, spending money efficiently is not the prime objective, as Maxman found. Speed is. But without established programs, that speedy spending in the Ebola emergency led to many mistakes and missed objectives. And cost many lives.
A vicious circle continues. With the crisis over, foreign organizations pack up and go home. Under-developed local health care services are no better off. They can’t self-support the next crisis because we keep relying on foreign emergency aid organizations, instead of investing in building Sierra Leone’s health care capability. Yet we quickly forget how expensive emergency aid is.
What’s the moral of the story? Certainly, you should understand the organizations to which you’re donating in an emergency. What is their track record in the country you’re trying to help?
Consider small nonprofit organizations doing grassroots work in a country like Sierra Leone; don’t be automatically dubious. Find their websites and check what they’re doing.
Sherbro Foundation was able to quickly fund life-saving programs for 40,000 people with very few US dollars.
We funded 90% of the Ebola prevention work that Bumpeh Chiefdom led itself, with chiefdom leaders and volunteers. They focused on prevention, not waiting for people to get sick. We sent $9,000 USD by wire transfer, and they directly received $9,000 in local currency within days after we agreed on objectives.
For $9,000, the chiefdom got results. They kept Ebola out for over 50 days, while it was raging all around them. After two isolated cases at Christmastime, the chiefdom again remains Ebola-free.
That $9,000 would have paid the hotel bill for a single foreign aid worker “consulting” in Freetown for only a month and staying at the Raddison Blu for $270 nightly.
Grassroots organizations like Sherbro Foundation are not involved in Sierra Leone for the short term. We’re continuing the work of community development.
I was excited to get the first pictures of the Women’s Vegetable Growing Project that’s just started in Bumpeh Chiefdom. Thirty women farmers are being empowered to grow groundnuts (peanuts) and vegetables that will quickly generate income in post-Ebola Sierra Leone.
The project, designed and led by our local partner, the Center for Community Empowerment and Transformation (CCET), will jump start women’s efforts to get back on their feet after Ebola. “Vulnerable” women were selected who are experienced farmers and low income, most single heads of household. I could recognize some faces among village participants receiving their seed and fertilizer in the distribution ceremony photo.
I still have trouble contemplating people living so close to the edge, they can’t afford $50 to maintain a business that’s their very livelihood. The Ebola crisis slashed small-holder farmer incomes – already tiny – in half. Women farmers were especially hard hit. They tend vegetable gardens requiring less back breaking manual labor, but resulting in smaller incomes. The Ebola epidemic then put the chiefdom under isolation orders, preventing farmers from taking crops to city markets where they can sell more and get higher prices.
Inception The Vegetable project had its inception during a phone call with Bumpeh Chiefdom Paramount Chief Caulker in early March about getting projects back on track. Ebola had sharply declined, but the full economic impact of the epidemic was now clear. I told Chief I couldn’t in good conscience myself, or ask Sherbro Foundation donors to return to our computer literacy project right now when I knew people were hungry. That could wait.
The best way to help short term in his agriculture based chiefdom, Chief Caulker said, was to sponsor a vegetable growing project. You can grow a lot of vegetables like peppers in a small area and harvest in 3-4 months, fetching good prices. Farmers can quickly earn enough to feed their families, and then save seed and money to buy fertilizer themselves for the fall growing season.
The project would have to be started right away to be able to harvest when the heavy monsoon rains peak in August. CCET would run the project, but half its members were not yet in Rotifunk. They’re community teachers who volunteer to run CCET projects. They would return the first of April with the formidable task of first re-opening school closed for nine months by the Ebola epidemic.
I’ve seldom met a more dedicated and community-minded group than the Center for Community Empowerment and Transformation. They keep focused on their vision of empowering the most vulnerable in Bumpeh Chiefdom to become self-sufficient, and they just get to work. Within a month, school reopened and was in full swing, and women in small villages were planting vegetable gardens.
“Felt need assessment” CCET first talked directly with project participants to identify the most viable income generating crops right now. Peppers will earn more, the women said, but only in the dry season when supply is low.
It’s better now with the start of the rainy season, they said, to plant fast growing groundnuts, corn, okra, cucumbers and some pepper. These will bring higher market value in July-August, the peak hunger period when farmers have not yet harvested, and school is starting. Parents face the most economic stress then, striving to feed their farm family, and to pay their children’s school fees in September.
Target Participants Thirty women were selected: 25 from rural villages and five groups of two each from Rotifunk Township. Village women experienced in vegetable production and who are single parents with many children were given priority. In Rotifunk, women in the CCET–run adult education program who are single parents and interested in learning vegetable cultivation were identified.
Getting started CCET bought recently harvested, high quality seed that is more potent and can sprout easily. It’s common to find imported seed in Sierra Leone past its expiration date, with poor yield. To further motivate participants, each got a 25 Kg (~ 55 lb) bag of rice to help feed their family now.
Clearing a field manually is really hard work. It’s typical in slash-and-burn agriculture to fell the biggest trees, and burn the rest of a field for planting. I’ve watched women farming in Sierra Leone before. But sitting in the comfort my home looking at these pictures of bare foot women breaking ground in a hard, burned-out field with little hand-made hoes pulls at my heart strings. They’re determined to provide for their children and get on with their lives. And they somehow do, by sheer will – and hard labor.
Sustainability To make the project sustainable and continue providing support to other women, participants signed a memorandum of understanding. They will each give back a bushel of harvested ground nut equivalent to 50kg, and a cup each of corn, okra and cucumber seed to be redistributed to the other groups of vulnerable women in successive seasons. It also reinforces the women working together and supporting each other as a community.
CCET has already identified project improvements for the next planting season. They want to keep as much income as possible within the community. Instead of buying imported bags of rice for participants, they will arrange to buy rice from local rice farmers. Likewise, they will procure as much groundnut and vegetable seed as possible from local growers.
I can’t wait to see the next pictures. With the rain starting and growing advice from CCET project managers, these women should be weeding fields green with groundnuts and tall with okra soon.
The need to get Sierra Leone farmers producing again after Ebola is great. The Women’s Vegetable Growing Program is one we definitely need to expand. If you’d like to help, please go to Donate.
It’s nearly Mother’s Day. So, what do mothers really want on their special day?
It would be the rare mom — or grandmother, or aunt, or godmother, or wife — who wouldn’t say, “I just want to enjoy time with my children.” Cherishing time with family is more important than gifts. They already have enough “stuff.”
Here’s a simple way to make this Mother’s Day truly special: Give her the satisfaction of knowing she’s sending a deserving Sierra Leone girl to school. A gift to the Sherbro Foundation Girls Scholarship Fund will have happy ripple effects for a struggling West African family for a long time to come.
Can an American mother empathize with a Sierra Leone mother? If they could meet and chat, I think they would find much in common. They want the same things for their children — good food, shelter, a safe and healthy childhood. And importantly: an education and the opportunity to do as well or better than they did.
I asked mothers in Sierra Leone what they want. Here’s what they told me:
Thirty-year-old Mary Bendu was born in the same small village of 200 people as her mother and grandmother. They had to abandon their farm and home during the civil war, and hide from rebels for a year. They lived in the bush, sleeping on the ground and surviving on wild bananas and coco yams and catching mud skippers.
She now lives by the work women usually do – selling things in the market. She collects firewood, smokes fish caught in the river and grows sweet potatoes. She would make more money if she could take these to a bigger market, but she can’t afford to pay for public transportation.
Mary has five children, from five to 15 years old. What makes her most proud is sending them to school. She wants her children to have the education she never had. These are the kind of girls for whom Sherbro Foundation scholarships make secondary school possible.
Zainab Caulker, 28, has 7- and 9-year-old children in school. She herself went through primary school but the war interrupted her education. She’s opened a small business buying farm goods in small villages and reselling them in the Rotifunk market. She used micro-finance loans of $60 – $100 to start her business. She was able to repay them, but with the high interest rates, she could see she was never getting ahead.
She wanted to learn more and help her children with their studies, so she decided to start Adult Literacy classes Sherbro Foundation sponsors in Rotifunk. “I knew nothing before Principal Kaimbay encouraged me to come back to school. Now, I can get up in public and represent myself.” She’s also helping board some teenage girls from nearby villages who attend secondary school with Sherbro Foundation scholarships. Her dream is to become a nurse.
Zainab Sammoh lives in Rotifunk with her two children, 10 and 6. Her husband wanted to go away to college, so she stayed home with the children. He then left her and married an educated woman. Zainab started Adult Literacy classes so she can follow her children’s progress in school and make sure they’re doing what they should.
“I want to be able to ask them, ‘what did you learn in school today,’ and know what it means.” The day I met her she was learning to write her name. She hopes to get a job as a secretary.
Despite their overwhelming struggles, these mothers prize education as the key to a better life for their families.
You can help them create better tomorrows. And make Mother’s Day special for the special woman in your life.
A $30 donation to the Sherbro Foundation Girls Scholarship Fund will send a girl to school – making a powerful difference in the lives of girls and women in Sierra Leone for years to come.
Click here to make a gift in the name of your special woman. Include her email address, and we’ll let her know she’s helping another mother give her daughter a good start in life. Or if you’d rather personally deliver it, we’ll send you an acknowledgement of your thoughtful gift in her name.
We’ll make it more special. We’re matching all donations until May 15, doubling the impact of your gift.
You’ll make a difference in your family, too. Show Mom she taught you well in helping make the world a better place.
People often think, how can I, as one person, make a dent in the world’s problems? Well, I’ve found change starts with one person here making a difference in the life one person somewhere else.
The first step is to get involved. Just take one positive step. Many small positive actions add up to real change. That’s what movements are all about.
Not sure what kind of positive action you can take? Sherbro Foundation supports girls’ education and addressing extreme poverty in Sierra Leone. Here’s a list of actions you can take to help us help the people of Sierra Leone.
Pregnant girls are being banned from school. From an outsider’s point of view (mine), this smacks of blaming the victim.
Fatu is one of the Bumpeh Chiefdom girls who should have been taking the senior high entrance exam last week. Instead, she’s waiting to give birth as a single mother.
When Sierra Leone President Koroma first made his announcement in February that schools would reopen, he publicly stated all children should return. He specifically encouraged pregnant girls and young mothers to come back to school.
The Ministry of Education recently recanted this, saying pregnant schoolgirls are a bad moral influence on other students. They will not be allowed to attend school while “visibly pregnant.”
These pregnant girls were victimized once, and now they’re being made to pay again.
It’s been estimated as many as 30% of Sierra Leone schoolgirls became pregnant during the Ebola crisis. I doubt there was a sudden lapse in morals in this many girls in the last nine months. There have been many reports of an increase in sexual violence across Sierra Leone triggered by the Ebola crisis. Men lost employment and girls were home, out of school. Constant stress from fear of Ebola, lost income and restricted movement is fuel for sexual predators, as described in this BBC interview.
There’s many variations on this, from rape to coercion, from “transactional sex” to misplaced emotions. Emotions were running high for all during the Ebola crisis, including teenage girls. When you’re bored, depressed and feeling hopeless, it can be easy to seek comfort in the wrong place. Add to this the lack of health care services and contraception during the Ebola crisis. Needing money to cope financially or seeking to boost self esteem resulted in terrible consequences for many girls.
Center for Community Empowerment & Transformation Executive Director, Rosaline Kaimbay told me about some of these girls in Bumpeh Chiefdom who won’t be returning to school in April.
Fatu finished JSS3 (junior secondary school 3) last July and was ready to start senior high. Her mother separated from her stepfather when he made it clear he wanted to take another younger wife; a girl of eighteen, not much older than Fatu. He abandoned the family, including his own five year old son, Fatu’s stepbrother.
Fatu’s stepfather is actually her uncle. He was a local warrior called a Kamajor that fought to save Rotifunk when it fell under rebel control during Sierra Leone’s long civil war. His entire family was killed by rebels, including his younger brother – Fatu’s father.
He took Fatu’s mother as his wife, which is common. A widow needing support and protection often becomes the wife of her brother-in-law. Now over ten years later, he wanted another young wife of his choosing. It would be easy to cast him the villain, but he’s led a difficult life. He’s been a victim, too.
It’s not clear how Fatu became pregnant. Girls like Fatu are ashamed to talk with Principal Kaimbay about what happened and hide their pregnancy as long as possible.
Fatu lost her father; then she was abandoned by her stepfather and the father of her baby. Now she’s forbidden to take the one route that could be a way out for her and her baby – returning to high school to complete her education at a high enough level to give her job skills. She’s banned at least until after the baby is born.
What are her options? If her mother can manage to take of the baby – supporting another child – Fatu could return to school after she gives birth. If they live in town where the schools are, or have friends where she could stay, she may be lucky and pick up again on her education. These are big if’s.
If not, she would be another statistic among the five out of six girls who don’t complete high school. Another who remains stuck in a cycle of rural poverty so hard to escape.
Sherbro Foundation’s girls scholarship program focuses on helping the most vulnerable students like Fatu who are serious about their education. As more girls progress into senior high, we especially want to help senior girls stay in school and graduate. This includes young mothers.
Fatu fits the profile in all respects. Mrs. Kaimbay calls her a brilliant student. She could do well.
There’s hope for Fatu and girls like her if she can make her way back to school. She needs our support, not blame.
Remember – Sherbro Foundation is all-volunteer. So everything donated goes to the Scholarship Program.
Sewing uniforms locally keeps costs down, and employs local tailors and their assistants. We need your help by August 10 to sew uniforms now and be ready for school in September.
Send a Bumpeh Chiefdom girl to school: http://www.sherbrofoundation.org/donate
We combined secondary school and college scholarships into one back-to-school campaign. Your gift will also help return our first four young women to college with their scholarships!