A Boost to the Finish Line

A Boost to the Finish Line

As we wrapped up a recent meeting on our partner CCET-SL’s education programs, Paramount Chief Charles Caulker commented, “CCET-SL has rebuilt senior high education in Rotifunk.”
 
I knew what he meant. When I first returned to Sierra Leone 11 years ago, there were four secondary schools in Rotifunk, most small junior highs. None had the full teaching staff to cover all subjects. Many teachers were just out of high school themselves and uncertified. None of the handful of graduating seniors met university entrance requirements.
 
Fast forward to today, with the month-long national senior high completion exam beginning. CCET-SL expects this year’s students to do at least as well as last year. In 2021, 64% of graduating seniors in CCET-SL’s program met the minimum requirements for university admission. Several did considerably better. Another 15% qualified for teacher training college. That’s about 80% qualifying for higher education.
 
What changed? Our partner CCET-SL introduced programs to systematically improve education.
 
Their six-year-old after-school tutorial program has prepared hundreds of junior high students for senior high. CCET-SL‘s all-day 12th grade school just completed its third year.
 
Both programs are getting results – thanks to funding from your Sherbro Foundation donations. We’re reaching out now for your help to fund them for another year.
 
Mabinty 20220528 (2)
 
Mabinty used CCET-SL’s programs as steppingstones to her goal of working in government, even becoming a Parliamentarian. She is graduating from 12th grade, a feat still uncommon for Bumpeh Chiefdom girls.
 
She told her story, not an easy one, to Mrs. Kaimbay, above. At the age of nine, her father divorced her mother for another woman. Both parents left, leaving her with her impoverished grandmother who could barely care for her. Mabinty had to repeat 8th grade after missing a lot of school when her grandmother couldn’t pay her school fees.
 
Sherbro Foundation scholarships then kept her in school. Participating in CCET-SL’s 9th grade tutorial program and the 12th grade school, Mabinty now feels confident as she sits for the West African Secondary School Completion Exam, or WASSCE. “I’ve never failed to attend school, and was always successful in my school exams,” she said. She hopes her WASSCE results will gain her admission to the University of Sierra Leone to study political science.
 
To have Bumpeh Chiefdom girls and boys today speak of their education goals with such conviction and confidence is striking.
 
When Rosaline Kaimbay, below, took over as CCET-SL managing director in 2017, she set out to improve the quality of education in Bumpeh Chiefdom.
 
Rotifunk, the chiefdom’s headquarters town, was typical in seeing only about 30% of teens make it to junior high.
 
By the 10th grade, half of those dropped out. The few successful students whose families could scrape together funds, transferred to senior highs in cities with qualified teachers.
 
By 12th grade, remaining Rotifunk seniors dwindled to 5 – 10 per school. With these numbers, schools couldn’t get government support to hire qualified teachers.
 
A former results-oriented school principal, Rosaline knew there had to be a better way. She saw there were various teachers across the schools who had skills in different subjects. She convinced the school principals to pool both their 12th grade students and their best teachers into one effective all-day school.
 
The 12th grade school covers eleven subjects for both college bound and commercial students. Walter Schutz Memorial Secondary School provides classrooms, below.

WASSCE class entrance test 20211008 (2)

It’s all done only with available local teachers but organized for optimal results.
 
The school is run in a disciplined manner and the entire WASSCE curriculum is covered. Students do practice exams to get familiar with the exam format and questions. The concept showed immediate results in its first five-month trial. With a full 10 months in 2021, the school produced the dramatically improved results above.
 
Mrs. Kaimbay avoids bureaucratic approaches and maximizes benefits for students and their families. That includes admitting “repeaters” into the program. With years of inadequate teaching, many students don’t pass the WASSCE the first time, or their results are too low for their college or program of choice.
 
About 30% of students in the 12th grade school have graduated but are repeating the year to sit the exam again. The program was extended to allow local graduates to repeat at no cost to try to bring up their exam results. When more graduates move on to successful jobs and careers, they, their families and the community all benefit.
 
Susan 20220525 (3)

Susan is a repeater intent on getting admitted to a four-year degree program in accounting at a good college. She told Mrs. Kaimbay, above, she wants to go into banking or be a private business accountant. She passed six of eight subjects on her first WASSCE exam. Five passes would get her into a college, but she didn’t pass English, required for her chosen degree program.

Completing high school was a struggle for her. Her parents are illiterate village farmers with no money for her education. A guardian in Rotifunk barely provided her basic care. She received just one school uniform to wear daily every two years.

Sherbro Foundation scholarships helped her reach senior high. Susan now wants to take the leap to college and a professional career. Our support boosted her to this point!

Mariatu’s story is much the same. A guardian helped her complete high school when her village parents could not. She repeated 12th grade to improve her exam results so she can study law.

She’s seen older male lawyers return to Rotifunk to visit family, but never a chiefdom woman. She wants to be to first local woman to successfully become a lawyer.

Rotifunk’s young men have similar dreams – and they need the same boost.

 

When his father died, Kamiru, left, waited three years after graduating high school before the CCET-SL program was available to help him repeat the WASSCE exam.
 
He wants to become a Community Health Officer. The CHO is like a nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant who run small community health clinics. They operate clinics solo, being the first line of primary care medicine for most people.
 
WASSCE results from last year’s 12th grade school amazed me. But the elements for success were there: all subjects taught by capable teachers; a disciplined program ensuring the whole curriculum is covered; and students serious about their education goals. They must pass an entrance test to confirm they are at senior high proficiency before entering the program. No laggards allowed.
 
Chief Caulker’s statement on CCET-SL’s role in rebuilding senior high education, is an understatement. Without CCET-SL’s programs, these able young people would be languishing with no way to advance.
 
The cost for this 10-month program is $40 monthly stipends for the teachers. Many of them don’t get the full government teacher’s salary of $140 a month. With Sierra Leone’s run-away 21% inflation, teachers keep falling financially behind. Our modest $40 a month stipend helps keeps them afloat.
 
If you want your donation dollar put to good use in an efficient program with demonstrated results – sponsor a teacher for CCET-SL’s for Tutorial Program. Help us continue another year here.
 
At $40 a month – or $400 for one teacher for the school year – you’ll move Rotifunk’s young people up the ladder of success and keep teachers in the classroom teaching.
 
We greatly appreciate your support. Thank you!
 
— Arlene Golembiewski,
Executive Director
How to Change a Child’s Life. For $25!

How to Change a Child’s Life. For $25!

It’s 1 pm and James Kargbo turns back from the blackboard of his fifth-grade class at Evangelical Primary School to find Mr. Barnard in the doorway of his classroom. He wasn’t expecting Mr. Barnard just then, but welcomes him into the class. Mr. Barnard is a familiar face, showing up unannounced once every one or two weeks to observe his class and coach him on his teaching. 

Mr. Barnard, below, occasionally takes over the class to give a demonstration lesson on more difficult topics. You know it’s an experienced teacher when normally bored preteens sit in rapt attention on a subject like fractions.

We are kicking off our annual Education Fundraising Campaign showcasing the new primary school tutorial program our Bumpeh Chiefdom partner CCET-SL launched last September. Nearly 400 students in classes five and six in seven Rotifunk area schools and their teachers participate. 

With your help, we’ve done a lot to raise the quality of education in Rotifunk schools in the last several years. We’re particularly excited now by the potential of the primary school program and the impact we can all have on children’s lives there.

It became clear, to get HERE  ……………… We need to start HERE!

Operating for five years, CCET-SL’s after-school tutorial program for ninth graders now has 95% of students passing their senior high entrance exam. But passing doesn’t mean results are strong. Many are in fact rather marginal. 

To set kids up for success in senior high and give them a good shot at higher education, we need to work with them at the primary school level. 

Fourteen teachers and nearly 400 primary students were put in the capable hands of Oliver Barnard, a retired primary school teacher and headmaster of 30 years’ experience. At 65, this man has energy to spare. “I actually enjoy teaching,” he said. Of retirement age, but not ready for it, he lamented,” I thought I was nowhere. Now I’m back in the system.” His frown turned into a wide grin. Teaching children he says, gives meaning and purpose in his life. 

And Rotifunk’s primary school teachers need him. Only 4 of the 14 teachers he works with have the basic three-year Teacher’s Certificate, qualifying them to teach primary school. 

The other ten only graduated from high school and were put in front of a classroom, like Mohamed Kamara. A teacher for three years, he would like to go to college, but like most, doesn’t have the means to pay for it. Abdul Kanu, at Supreme Islamic Council School, below, is another dedicated teacher who appreciates Mr. Barnard’s guidance.

IMG-20211115-WA0006 (2) Sometimes a principal just hands new teachers a book and sends them to a class to teach. The principal often teaches full time themselves and has little time to monitor or coach a young teacher. 

To make matter worse, without a teaching certificate, the government does not pay unqualified teachers. School principals scrape together donations to pay them from parents who have no money to spare. Maybe half the parents will offer something, often as little as 5000 leones – or 50 cents. From this, unqualified teachers get a token monthly payment of $15 – $25 a month. 

With classrooms like James Kargbo’s at the Evangelical Primary School, below, you know schools don’t have extra money to pay teachers. Nonetheless, teachers are teaching, and kids are learning.

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Village children are walking 3, 4 and even 5 miles each way to go to primary school like these in Rotifunk. Their village schools often barely function, with one or two teachers for six grades who may have only completed primary school themselves. These are among the children in greatest need of education that we can influence in a positive direction.
 
Most class five and six teachers in Rotifunk are young men because they have at least finished high school. It’s one of the few paid jobs in town, but the pay is hardly enough, especially with a family. Teachers like James and Mohamed leave school to go home and work in gardens growing fruit and vegetables to supplement their tiny family incomes. Their wives may be the primary breadwinners of the family as market women, selling produce in the market.
 
This leads to morale problems and malaise among many unqualified teachers. Without having learned teaching methodologies, they struggle. When one teacher must teach all seven subjects for one grade, they skip over the topics they’re not familiar with. Students end the school year without learning the full curriculum.
 
English language, written composition and math are the weakest subjects in primary school. These remain weak all the way through to the 12th grade national graduating exam. Students never catch up.
 
Mr. Barnard is shaking the trees to change this. In a good way.
 
The teachers know he’s there to help them and look at him as the coach and mentor they never had. Week by week, after observing their class, he gives feedback on improving their teaching. He helps them prepare lesson plans on topics they are weak in. His demonstration classes give teachers confidence to cover topics they didn’t know how to teach and practical tips on handling a class.
 
The kids enjoy him. The class gets a shot of energy when Mr. Barnard confidently takes over a lesson. And they learn.
Sometimes Mr. Barnard puts the chalk down and just talks to the kids about the importance of education in their lives. He points out successful people they know who only got ahead because of their education.
IMG-20211116-WA0009 (2) Too often these young impressionable students see the opposite – young people who dropped out of school and with the little money they earned bought cheap cell phones and flashy clothes.
 
Young women tell the girls, you’re wasting your time in school; I have my own baby.
 
What they don’t realize is, chances are, the women will be abandoned to raise that baby themselves. Young female and male drop-out’s never get ahead and live impoverished lives. Sound familiar?
 
But many times, it’s a role-model teens strongly admire that sparks their imagination and starts a change in their lives. If she or he came from the same place as me and achieved what they did, so can I. Rosaline Kaimbay, CCET-SL’s locally born and college educated managing director has been a role model that sparked this change in many students.
 
We all recall teachers who had a big impact on our lives. Sherbro Foundation is working with CCET-SL to develop more teachers who will play that role for these kids.
Last week 200 class six students lined up to take their National Primary School Exam in Rotifunk, most from CCET-SL’s program. The exam sets the course for their education journey. Either they continue to secondary school, or faced with repeating class 6, many drop out.
 
With nine months preparation and practice exams, Roman Catholic primary school headmistress Salamatu Fofanah could see the difference in the students from CCET-SL’s program this year. She said, “Today our children feel relieved and happy to take the exam in a cool atmosphere. They have the confidence to take their exams with no fear. We appreciate the great support of CCET-SL and Sherbro Foundation.”
 
She knows James Kargbo and his fellow teachers have worked for months to prepare their students for this week with Mr. Barnard’s ever-present coaching. The results will no doubt be better than last year. The teachers are energized to keep improving and pledge to soon achieve the highest results in the district.
 
Sherbro Foundation is excited to kick off our annual Education Fundraising Campaign with this practical program. It’s developing teachers on-the-job, while covering the full primary school curriculum and giving students a better education. It uses existing resources to do this.
 
As the advertisement used to say – the cost per student for the whole school year for all of this? Only $25. Changing a child’s life? Priceless!
 
I can’t think of many things we can do with higher impact on the lives of more people. 
When 400 young students get a strong education foundation and keep progressing in school, the impact will be felt for years to come. Whole families benefit when students turned adults keep succeeding.
 
You can help change a child’s life for $25. Sponsor four for $100. Or why not sponsor a whole class of 20 for $500? It’s a guaranteed feel-good investment you’ll be glad you made. Give HERE.
 
As always, we deeply appreciate your support. Thank you!
 
— Arlene Golembiewski,
Executive Director
2021 Results Are In – They’re Good

2021 Results Are In – They’re Good

We report on our Sierra Leone education programs throughout the year and how your gifts are spent to meet objectives. In the end, we should be judged by results and community impact.

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Standardized government exams are important objective measures. Most academic year 2020-21 results delayed by Covid school closures are finally in. Results for students in our partner CCET-SL’s programs are good.

We’re so grateful for your support and want to celebrate these results with all of you who helped make them happen.


facebook_1594170883672_6686437314070105164 (2)96% of 9th graders passed

Almost all 9th grade students in our partner CCET’s tutorial program passed the senior high entrance exam and can continue their educations. 

Senior high enrollment keeps increasing with this cornerstone program.
 

tutorial63% of 12th graders met university entrance requirements

Nearly two-thirds of students in our partner CCET’s 12th grade tutorial met requirements for entry to a 4-year degree program!

An additional 25% qualify for two or three-year certificate programs, including teacher training.
 
 

7dd21a9c-c99f-486e-87df-402d97e9e56a-thumbnailOur first university graduate!

We are so proud of our first bachelor’s degree graduate!

Aminata completed high school on Sherbro Foundation scholarships. She’s now finishing a 4-year B.S. degree in Banking & Finance on time in 4 years.

Congratulations, Aminata!
 
 
 

img-20201118-wa0010-4All teachers in-training pass to 2nd
year

All 6 teachers on Sherbro Foundation scholarships for their Higher Teacher Certificate passed on to the 2nd year of their 3-year course.

Building teacher skills is one of our key strategies to improve education.
 
 

 

1508017_1384195855163467_183244440_n (3) 9 of 10 Vocational students
pass to final year

90% of vocational training students on SF scholarships passed into the final year of their 2-year diploma course.
 
They’ll graduate with practical skills to get jobs and fill the need for skilled workers in rural areas.
 
 

3 completed a nursing courseIMG-20210317-WA0008-2 (2)

Three community health nursing students successfully completed their 3-year course and await their national certification exam results. 

We hope to see all 3 certified soon and moving on to new health care careers.
 
 
 
 
Our partner CCET-SL continues a 2-prong approach to improving the quality of education in Rotifunk. Few Sierra Leone chiefdoms have this community-based approach to supplement government education programs. It’s working. 

We’re committed to supporting the key long-term solution – getting more trained teachers. 

For students today who’ve come up in current schools without enough trained teachers, CCET-SL offers the tutorial programs. Extra classes, focusing on core subjects, prepare 9th and 12th graders in advance of their national exams.

 
Sherbro Foundation supports our community partner CCET-SL and local Bumpeh Chiefdom schools in making systemic improvements. We’re working at the grassroots level for root cause solutions. 

It’s not fast, or easy. But your continuing support is paying off. 

Because of you, there’s more kids in secondary school and advancing into higher education than ever. With your support, more of these young people get the opportunity to complete higher education programs.

I think you’ll join me in a big round of applause for our partner CCET-SL and their tireless work in developing and expanding all these programs.

 
We’re so proud of what they do! They’re the engine driving this train of creative programs that serve their people. They deliver results year after year – and with a tiny staff. Congratulations to CCET-SL on these results!
 

Opportunity is Knocking – You can Answer the Door

Opportunity is Knocking – You can Answer the Door

Bumpeh Chiefdom students are eager for opportunities to advance their educations. You’re the key to opening the door to secondary school and higher education – the path to building better lives.  

We’re excited to now offer programs extending from primary school through university degrees!  

You can support chiefdom students: Join our Annual Education Campaign HERE. 

tutorial Tutorial Programs

9th and 12th grade students get extra classes in preparation for their national exams, the gateway to senior high and higher education admission. 

$60 gives a student 10 months of classes. 

Learn more here.

 

IMG_4342 (2) Primary School Tutorials

Our newest offering is after-school classes for grades five and six. Kids who do well in primary school are set up for success in secondary school and beyond.

At $18 each, we’ll cover 400 students!

Learn more here.

 

sierra-leone-off-grid (3)Vocational Scholarships

Ten students are entering the second year of 2-year vocational diploma courses. They learn practical job skills: construction, electrical installation, and IT.

$450 pays tuition, practicals, travel and the certification exam fee.     Learn more here.

img-20201118-wa0010-4Teacher Training Scholarships

Quality education starts with trained teachers. Six teachers are continuing the second in a 3-year Higher Teacher Certificate program. They keep teaching while attending their own classes during school holidays.

$700 covers a 1-year scholarship, including $350 tuition.   Learn more here.

 

Safiatu Bendu (7)Nursing & University Scholarships

We’re happy to report both of these scholarship programs are funded, thanks to our earlier appeal for the Community Health Nurses and another generous donor.

We appreciate the support!

 

Our successful tutorial programs are entering their fifth year. Because of you, students are also continuing into higher education – “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunities to achieve actual careers.

You are the key!

Please send your online gifts here.  Contact Us for sending checks.

Thank you for opening the door!

One Door Closes, But Another Opens

One Door Closes, But Another Opens

 

Kadiatu knows what it’s like to have doors close to her. She was one of the first Bumpeh Chiefdom girls to graduate from high school supported by Sherbro Foundation scholarships, proudly getting her diploma in 2016. She did well on the national exams, meeting entrance requirements for a 4-year college program – still uncommon among chiefdom students. 

Then the door of opportunity slammed shut. She had no money to continue her education and no job prospects. Kadiatu’s mother passed away and she returned home to take care of her three younger siblings.

We’re kicking off our Annual Fundraiser for Education with a focus this month on teacher training scholarships. Quality education starts with qualified teachers!

IMG-20201118-WA0010 (3)Today, Kadiatu, left, is in the first group of teachers Sherbro Foundation is returning to school to pursue their HTC – the Higher Teacher’s Certificate. 

They’ll build their teaching skills and be eligible for a government paid secondary school teaching position with full salary. 

Back in 2016, Kadiatu had come so far. Hers was the very first group of girls in Rotifunk to graduate in over 20 years, aided by our scholarships. I remember the excitement of these girls proudly going off to sit for their national exams. Kadiatu’s results were among the best of all the schools in Rotifunk.

And then, she was back home where she started, since her father, a security guard, couldn’t afford to send her to college. 

Sherbro Foundation has emphasized sending girls to schools. They are usually the first in their families to attend secondary school, often away from home. But they haven’t had women teachers as role models and counselors in their formative years. In the nearly ten years I’ve now worked with Bumpeh Chiefdom, I’ve only seen two women teachers in Rotifunk secondary schools. After a couple years, they’ve left for other opportunities. 

Sherbro Foundation is working with our partner CCET-SL to change this by developing women from within the community as teachers. They can go to college for a 3-year teaching certificate during school holidays while continuing to teach. We require they teach at least three additional years in return for their scholarship. Many established teachers are interested in staying in the community long term.

Salamatu FB Salamatu, left, another scholarship recipient, was born and raised in Rotifunk, and has been a primary school teacher there for nearly 20 years. We didn’t know just how important – and urgent – it was to open the door to higher education for her with a scholarship right now. 

Salamatu is the headmistress of one of Rotifunk’s primary schools. One of its six teachers, she also serves as the acting head for the school. She developed the school from what had been called shambles to one with the largest primary school enrollment. 

I’ve met Salamatu and she’s what you want in a school head. She’s warm and nurturing, with a positive can-do attitude, while being firm and setting clear standards.

But she received notice that she would be replaced if she hadn’t at least enrolled in college for the requisite degree for a school head. There’s many acting principals and school heads in Sierra Leone like her, who don’t have the required credentials for the job. But with no one else available, they’re appointed on an interim basis.  

Her notice serendipitously came when one of the original six secondary school teachers accepted into our HTC scholarship program backed out. He didn’t want to sign the contract requiring three years of additional service. Salamatu wasn’t just a good substitute. With her teacher’s scholarship, the community can retain a dedicated and proven primary school head.

Salamatu Fofanah RC School b2 Salamatu’s story as a teacher goes back 25 years.  

She was in the last class to graduate from Rotifunk’s only secondary school when Sierra Leone’s rebel war started. Paramount Chief Charles Caulker evacuated her and 2000 other residents to a village down the Bumpeh River. It became a refugee camp for several years, where they were safe from marauding rebel soldiers who had occupied Rotifunk and the surrounding area. 

Salamatu married and had four children, only to lose her husband during the war. One of Chief Caulker’s first actions after the war in resettling the destroyed Rotifunk was to reopen schools. In 2002, he asked those who had completed high school to come back and serve their community as teachers. 

A single mother, Salamatu stepped up and taught for eight years before getting NGO support to complete her first-level teaching certificate as a primary teacher in 2010. Now, she’s started on her Higher Teacher’s Certificate. 

After having taught 18 years, I laughingly told her, “You could probably be in front of your class teaching, instead of being the student.” She replied, “I’m learning a lot. I’m proud and grateful to be a student teacher. It’s given me more confidence for the work. I can handle administration properly. I know how to talk with parents and encourage them to send their children to school, especially the girls.”   

The HTC program develops teaching skills and how to teach the core subjects: English, math, science and social studies.

Secondary school results are poor because there aren’t enough qualified primary teachers giving them the knowledge they need to succeed at the next level.

“We have to stop letting children go secondary school “empty,” Salamatu said.

Paramount Chief Caulker said Salamatu is one of the most deserving of the HTC scholarship recipients. “She’s greatly improved the school. I admire her and what she’s done.” He knows she’ll have even greater impact on her students and the community with more skills. 

Salamatu is proud to lead the way among primary teachers. Her own specialty subject is environmental science and home economics. “I want to give kids the foundation they will need for science in secondary school,” she said.

Our goal is to sponsor Kadiatu, Salamatu and four male teachers for the second year of their three-year teacher training course this fall. We have three of the six teacher scholarships covered by generous donors. 

Help us sponsor three more teachers. $700 covers a one year scholarship in full, including tuition ($350) and expenses for the weeks they attend courses. 

Opening doors for capable people shut out of opportunity is what Sherbro Foundation is all about. Join us in supporting Kadiatu, Salamatu and four other teachers in their quest for higher education. Send your gift HERE

You’ll improve the quality of education in Bumpeh Chiefdom schools. Together, we’ll put hundreds of children on the path to success for years to come. 

Look for our Education Fundraiser to continue in future newsletters on vocational training scholarships and expanding our partner CCET-SL’s tutorial program. 

Thank you! 

— Arlene Golembiewski, Executive Director  

Our Nursing Students Head Into Their Home Stretch

Six years ago, three young women were among the first few Rotifunk girls in thirty years to graduate from high school since before Sierra Leone’s devastating rebel war. With the support of Sherbro Foundation scholarships, they were able to finish high school .

But their celebration was cut short with no options to continue their education and enter into a professional career.

IMG-20210317-WA0008-2 (2)Today, they’re poised to complete their third and final year of a Community Health Nursing program, again with Sherbro Foundation scholarships. 

Pending their government certification exam, they’ll be qualified to proudly return to serve Bumpeh Chiefdom in health care, one of the country’s most critical needs.

They need your help to get them through their final stretch.

Fatmata Sesay and Safiatu Bendu, left, before class.

Covid closed all Sierra Leone educational institutions for five months or more in 2020. Higher education schools and universities are now re-opening on varied schedules.

The Covid year has been confusing for Sierra Leone schools, not unlike in the US. This nursing school pushed through 2020, completing year-two of their program and has started the next academic year in advance of other colleges.

We’re now behind the ball in fundraising for these nurses for their final year.  We didn’t understand their schedule.

If you’re interested in helping Fatmata, Safiatu and Umu complete their nursing program, they need your help now.

You can sponsor a nurse in full or for any part of her scholarship. A complete nurse’s scholarship package for her final year is $1400, including the national certification exam fee.

Safiatu Bendu (7) Fatmata, Safiatu and Umu have worked hard for six years to reach this point. They didn’t meet entrance requirements for a 4-year college degree when graduating high school in 2016, and couldn’t afford college anyway. Instead, they volunteered at Rotifunk’s mission-run hospital, getting a tiny stipend. The hospital liked their work and encouraged them to pursue community health nursing.

Sherbro Foundation agreed with our partner CCET-SL on the value of training local women in nursing who could return to serve their community.

But Rotifunk senior high schools, like most in Sierra Leone, lack qualified science teachers. Students wanting to pursue STEM careers like nursing were left with another barrier to overcome – gaps in their science knowledge.

With Sherbro Foundation scholarships, our student trio enrolled in 2018 in a nursing program tailored for young women like them. They got six initial months of remedial science and math courses before stepping into the full nursing curriculum. For part of each year student nurses, like Safiatu, above left, gain practical experience in a Freetown hospital they’re assigned to.

Community Health Nurses are critical in a country with so few trained and licensed doctors.

Bumpeh Chiefdom has only one doctor for its 40,000 people, staffed at Rotifunk’s mission-run hospital. The adjoining chiefdoms have none, so this doctor effectively serves 100,000 residents.

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Pregnant women and newborns are the most at-risk health-wise in Sierra Leone. A nurse is usually the first and often the only health care professional available for a pregnant woman and her baby in rural areas.

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Nurses provide prenatal care for the woman and serve as midwives. They’ll be the one to identify if a woman can’t deliver on her own and help her seek urgent care.

With a nurse’s postnatal care and early immunizations, babies can thrive.

Left, nurses measure height, weight and upper arm circumference compared to a child’s age group. This identifies stunting caused by malnutrition. Nutritional supplements can be given.

Nurses provide early diagnosis and treatment of malaria, critical in saving the lives of mothers and babies.

One in five – or 20% – of Under-Five Sierra Leone children have died before their 5th birthday. Malaria is the biggest cause.

Malaria and typhoid are unfortunately part of daily life in Sierra Leone. Prompt testing and treatment can mean the difference between a minor set-back and life-threatening illness.

Nurses living in rural communities helped reduce heartbreaking fatalities in small children from 20% to 12% in recent years with early testing and treatment.

Fatmata Sesay (3)Nursing student Fatmata, left, said she now proudly tested her ill widowed mother for malaria and typhoid and administered the right treatment. “Thanks to Sherbro Foundation and CCET for transforming me,” she said.

These students are so close to achieving their dream of becoming nurses and returning to Bumpeh Chiefdom to serve their families and neighbors. A dream six years in the making.

You can help them reach the finish line for their nursing certificate with your gift. $150 will pay the final year’s tuition for one student. $300 pays for her invaluable practical experience in Freetown hospital rotations.

Each scholarship is $1400 in total, including small personal allowances of $6 a week for transportation and a $35 monthly food allowance. Send your gift here.

These young nurses deeply thank you for transforming their lives. They’ve gone from unskilled and unemployed to practicing professionals. They, in turn, will return home and be part of transforming Bumpeh Chiefdom into a healthy and thriving community.

Thank you!

  — Arlene Golembiewski, Executive Director

You’re Helping Many More Than You Know

You’re Helping Many More Than You Know

With your Sherbro Foundation gift, you’ve helped improve 300 lives by putting 60 family breadwinners on the path to sustainable mini-businesses.
 
The Women’s Small Grant & Savings Project is an evolving story, proving once again that when a door closes in Sierra Leone, another opens.
 
The price tag? Just $6,000 – 60 market women each receiving a $100 grant.

Yeama 12-20They’re women like Yeama, left, who could be on her way to becoming “middle class” in her subsistence society.
 
The 45-year-old single mother of six was an orphan who couldn’t afford to go to school, or send her children to school after her husband abandoned her and the children. With the government now paying school fees, her youngest two girls are in junior high.
 
Yet, she is showing a talent for market trading. With her $100 grant last January, she’s grown her small business. That means she’s able to also save money. She’s one of the highest savers in her women’s saving group of 60. As its first year wraps up, Yeama is close to saving 2 million Leones – or $200. Double the grant she received and more money than she’s ever had.
 
She pays her own transportation for long trips to Freetown to buy toiletries to sell in Rotifunk’s market and still turns a profit. Small containers of soap, skin cream, toothpaste and mirrors are popular. 
 
Other “petty traders” bring to market what they can carry on their heads: palm oil, dried fish, peanuts, produce, vegetable seeds. They buy at low prices in villages and resell at the big Saturday market. Most are illiterate. Many didn’t understand how to figure their profit.
 
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We didn’t set out to sponsor market women. Our chiefdom partner, the Center for Community Empowerment and Transformation (CCET-SL), needed women last year to plant and water seedlings in the vegetable fields. But that project soon grew to 11 acres, too large for women to carry water around by hand.
 
Paramount Chief Charles Caulker didn’t want to put these needy women out of work. That’s when the new door opened. CCET Managing Director Rosaline Kaimbay came up with the idea of funding the women to expand their small market trading businesses and including a group savings plan.

With prompt Sherbro Foundation funding, 20 market women received $100 grants each. Kaimbay, above left in black, gathers them for weekly Sunday meetings where they’re required to deposit something (no minimum) in savings and they discuss selling experiences. The veteran women traders advise the younger ones on good buying opportunities and how to improve profits.
 
Each woman deposits her weekly savings into an iron lock box with three keys, to be returned at year’s end. This is not a micro finance program. These extremely impoverished women can’t afford to pay back a short-term loan with interest. Those kind of schemes have put them back where they started, or even in debt.
 
Marie Lost Botton fishmonger b The women needed instant capitalization to bring more earnings home that improve their daily lives, as well as save. Soon, 40 more traders were added, 20 of them “fish mongers,” like Marie left, who buy dried fish from fishing villages to sell in Rotifunk.

“This program can change the lives of these women,” Chief Caulker says.

“In another year, some can reach what for us is a middleclass income level, and stand on their own using capital they produce themselves,” he said. Women still come thanking him for the opportunity to grow – or pleading for the chance to be included.
 
A steady business, no matter how small, has a broad ripple effect on the women’s community. They spend their earnings where they live.
 
First, children are fed two if not three meals a day. This includes wards many women take in from village relatives so they can attend school in town. Girls stay in school longer, avoiding early marriages and dangerous early pregnancies, and gain more promising futures.
 
With a little savings, women can seek early medical care for kids with malaria or other diseases that take the lives of twenty percent of children under 5.
 
Zainab fish bOne invigorated trader is Zainab, left, who had to drop out of school at the 9th grade. She was forced into an early marriage because her family could no longer feed her at home. 
 
Zainab was a good student. She is now selling fresh fish at the weekly market and manages her business well. She’s one of the best savers in the group. In nine months, she saved $175.
 
Sherbro Foundation Executive Director Arlene Golembiewski sees better prospects for Zainab and others with more training and support.
 
“The fact is, market trading is the main business in Rotifunk,’’ she said. There are no local wage-paying jobs. “Trading should be seen as a career opportunity, not just a default for those with no other options.”
 
And the market looks destined to grow soon because a neglected road between Rotifunk and Moyamba, the district capital 17 miles away, is finally being upgraded. Traffic from across the district is expected to soon pass through town on their way to the capital.
 
Paramount Chief Caulker and the rest of the CCET Board are now evaluating the program, planning improvements for its second year.
 
Adama 12-20Adama, left, works very hard at her new opportunity. One of her husband’s two wives, she was forced to provide for her five children alone. The four oldest were married off young because she couldn’t afford to support them.
 
But now Adama – who walks to market with two tubs on her head — is succeeding at trading and has saved more than 1 million Leones, or $100.
 
At the end of the year, she withdrew her savings. It was like getting a second grant – one she paid herself.
 
If she and her friends could meet you, we know they’d thank you from the bottom of their hearts for providing a way to better futures with new hope.
 
We hope their stories bring you some joy and happiness in this strangest of years.
 
— Chris Golembiewski, Vice President, Sherbro Foundation
 
 
 

Getting Sierra Leone Students Ready for What Lies Ahead

Getting Sierra Leone Students Ready for What Lies Ahead

Sierra Leone schools finally will reopen in October after a 5-month Covid shutdown

How do you help students now at an education milestone with a looming big exam that determines their fate – or which could result in more barriers to reaching their life goals?

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Sierra Leone students have already been through a lot to reach 9th grade or 12th grade. With previous stops and starts, senior high students are often 20 years old and more. They’ve been in schools with too few teachers qualified to teach the curriculum.

Now, they’ve a 5-month school gap to fill because of Covid.

We’re working on improving Rotifunk’s educational system with teacher training. But what happens to the kids now in school?

CCET-SL’s Tutorial Program, going into its fourth year, tackles this problem, turning it into an opportunity.

Rosaline Kaimbay saw local secondary schools don’t have enough trained and qualified teachers to cover the full curriculum, especially in math, science and English.

Her solution: offer tutorials, but not just one-on-one or for small groups. Offer after-school classes to students from three schools preparing for national exams. And make it free.IMG-20190304-WA0003 (2)With Sherbro Foundation funding, 9th and 12th grade students came in droves for this free extra help. CCET-SL had to limit enrollment to the capacity of the CCET-SL education center, about 75 students at a time.

The program has been a big success and continues to grow. 170 students are anticipated this year, exceeding the size of the CCET-SL center. Classes are in two shifts and overflow classes go to a nearby primary school in afternoons.

Students facing the biggest barriers to education are invited for tutoring, providing a boost for the most vulnerable: orphans, those in single-parent households, often woman-led, or away from their home village living with guardians, and the lowest income families. 80% are girls.

The Tutorial program adds quality to the education these students receive – and does it using existing resources.

20200113_113722 (2)The best qualified local teachers combine forces in extra classes for students from three schools.

For a modest $40 monthly stipend, these dedicated teachers come after school, week after week, for another round of teaching over the whole school year.

The result: 9th grade tutorial students each year got higher results on average on the senior high entrance exam than peers in their home school, better on average than all chiefdom schools and than most of the district’s 40 secondary schools. They took many of the top three results in their home school.

The tutorial students, 80% girls, also became motivated to continue their education. More went on to senior high at the age when girls typically drop-out and marry. With extra support and their daughters’ success, more parents saw the value of education and kept their girls in school.

Create All-Day 12th grade School
Rosaline has taken 12th grade after-school tutoring to a higher level. The total number of 12th graders in Rotifunk schools remains small. Most have dropped out by this point.

Rosaline convinced school principals it would be more effective to bring all 12th grade students together and teach one all-day 12th grade school with the best local teachers at the CCET-SL center.

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Students get the best teaching Rotifunk has to offer. The intensive all-day school prepares them for the exam that’s the entry to all higher education and requested on job applications. All 12 senior high subjects are taught, including classes for college and commercial tracks.

School in the time of Covid
12th grade after-school tutoring converted to the all-day school in December 2019.  Covid then closed schools at the end of March 2020. Still, with six months total of focused teaching, we’re hoping this group now taking the national exam will do better than in the past.

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CCET-SL will resume both the 12th-grade school and 9th grade after-school tutoring when Sierra Leone schools reopen in October. They observe the same procedures as all schools, including Covid safety procedures: required masks, spacing out students and frequent hand-washing. The CCET-SL Center has large windows to open on both sides creating air flow.

9th grade tutorial classes and the 12th grade school will be more important than ever in helping Rotifunk students catch up after missing five months of school for Covid.  No Zoom in Rotifunk!

You can step in and sponsor a 9th grade or 12th grade student for 10 months of classes for only $40 for the whole year.  Sponsor a student here.

Together, we can help 170 students stay on track and make big gains in their quest for a complete education. More than that. They’re preparing for the next step that lies ahead. Thank you!

— Arlene Golembiewski, Executive Director

Light Up Izzy’s Life. She’ll Bring Light to Others.

Youth unemployment in Sierra Leone is staggering.

70% of those under the age of 35 are unemployed or underemployed. Erratic work in the informal economy, like market trading and day labor, is hard to even call employment. But that’s the best many can do. They have no skills.

Izzy is back in school now to avoid this fate. She’s in a vocational course teaching her electrical wiring. She chose that because it will lead to a wage-paying job with a future She’ll be poised on the leading edge of Sierra Leone’s solar revolution.

It’s back-to-school time. And time for our annual educational fundraising appeal – with another new twist this year.

Vocational training is one of four types of higher-education scholarships we’re sponsoring for chiefdom students. The successful after-school tutoring program will continue, as well.

Izzy is one of 12 Bumpeh Chiefdom students enrolled in a new vocational training program with Sherbro Foundation scholarships.

She was an 11th grade student aimlessly drifting in a conventional school that didn’t offer much to a student like her. Izzy (short for Ismatu) lost first one parent, then the other. She lives with her grandmother, helping in her catering business, which in rural Rotifunk, is down more than up.

Izzy is a quiet girl. In a month of being around her, I never got more than a “good morning, ma.” She’s always silent, her grandmother said. Just quietly doing tasks she’s asked to do. Fetch water, wash the pots, peel potatoes, pluck feathers off a chicken. You can see she’s had a painful past. Spending her time with older women who didn’t have their own chance for education, she never formed any goals.

The Sierra Leone government recognizes young people like Izzy need new opportunities. Most will never go to college. They need to get job skills. The government decentralized its Government Technical Institute, putting satellite programs in the district capitals where it’s practical for impoverished students to study. They made it affordable, with low tuition and avoid the capital Freetown’s high cost of living.

When Izzy’s chance for a new kind of education came up, she went for it. Electrical wiring is unusual for any girl to elect, but especially in Sierra Leone.

I asked her, why choose this, and Izzy softly said, “So I can do betta.” Meaning, so I can get a job and do better than the women around me.

Now she’s learning a skill that will set her up in a trade with opportunities, as Sierra Leone’s construction industry grows and electrical power takes off.

Until now, 90% of rural Sierra Leone has been in the dark.

Izzy didn’t choose this out of the blue. Last year, she was helping her grandmother cook for a group of Germans who came to install a solar system at Rotifunk’s mission hospital. They observed women have almost no options for jobs and are always working as “beasts of burden.” They encouraged Izzy, saying she could be doing solar installations and other electrical work. 

Not long ago, a group of illiterate Sierra Leone women went to India to be trained as part of a “barefoot solar” program, which successfully trains illiterate Indian women to do solar system installations. They show even uneducated women can learn what they need to know to run wiring and install solar panels. Women are disciplined and pay attention to detail. 

When Izzy was selected for one of the first 12 Bumpeh Chiefdom positions at the new technical institute in the district capital Moyamba, she saw electrical wiring was a course option. She didn’t hesitate.

Four young women and eight young men were accepted for Sherbro Foundation funded scholarships. Three women elected an IT course. The men are studying building and constuction, auto mechanics and IT.

The only female in her electrical course, Izzy is getting encouragement all around, including from the guys in the class. She’ll be finishing her first year soon, leading to a one-year certificate. If she does well, she can continue into a second year and get a full diploma.

Izzy’s timing is good. Small scale solar systems are spreading across Sierra Leone.

Easy Solar is one company bringing small solar units to rural African households. It installs solar panels with as little as 25 to 50 watts capacity, enough to run a couple LED lights and charge phones, plug in a radio or another small device.

Compared to always buying expensive alkaline batteries, this kind of small solar service is affordable for many. The smallest package is $70. You can buy your set-up outright, or pay it off monthly. Later, you can add on.

The exciting news is a solar mini-grid is being installed for the town of Rotifunk. It’s a public-private venture, that will be run like a small utility company. Households who want the service will get an electrical meter installed for pay-as-you-go service. Poles are going up around Rotifunk to carry electrical wires throughout town. The rest goes in soon, when the peak of the rainy season passes.

I smiled when I heard one excited resident say, with electricity, “Rotifunk will be New York City of the south [of Sierra Leone].”

The above solar mini-grid is an example of many being installed in rural Sierra Leone.

Imagine the anticipation of having even small-scale power and lights around Rotifunk for the very first time. It will no doubt keep growing, as power expands around the country. 

Izzy soon will be ready to take advantage with her new electrical skills. She can “do betta” and have a future in front of her. 

When asked to sponsor vocational training scholarships, Sherbro Foundation immediately said, absolutely.

It takes just $325 for a total scholarship package for the year to help one vocational student get job skills! This includes tuition and practicals fee, room rental and transportation for nine months.

The institute is impressed with Bumpeh Chiefdom’s response in sending students. It’s the only chiefdom in the district to fully sponsor 12 impoverished students and give them this opportunity.

You can help Izzy and 11 others like her get real job skills. Contribute towards a $325 annual scholarship here and these young people will soon join the job market – and avoid lives of poverty.

You’ll be making a great investment that feels great, too. Thank you!

  — Arlene Golembiewski, Executive Director

Our Sierra Leone partner CCET-SL has more education programs helping Bumpeh Chiefdom students move to self-reliant lives. Stay tuned to hear what’s next for the successful after-school tutoring program and two other scholarships for community health nurses and our first university student!

Putting Quality Into Sierra Leone Girls’ Education

We’re kicking off our annual appeal for our educational programs. 

Sherbro Foundation’s core mission is education, with a focus on helping girls get an education.

We want Bumpeh Chiefdom girls – and boys – to stay in school, graduate and move on to actual careers and wage-paying jobs that make them self-supporting and part of developing their country.

Sherbro Foundation is proud to have grown to four types of scholarships serving Bumpeh Chiefdom students.

This year we’re changing our approach to our mission. No girls’ scholarships.

We’re focusing on ensuring teachers have the skills needed to help our students succeed.

“This is the right time to make a change in the scholarship program,” Bumpeh Chiefdom’s Paramount Chief Charles Caulker said. “The Sierra Leone government’s Free Quality Education program is providing more and more for students in the last two years and taking a load off families. The government made school free, paying school fees directly to schools, and giving students school supplies and textbooks for core subjects.”

Emory WSMSS SS1 math 18 (3) Over six years, Sherbro Foundation sent over 800 Bumpeh Chiefdom girls to school with scholarships, most with repeat scholarships.

We got them into junior high and kept them there. We saved many from dropping out, instead continuing into senior high. They’re starting to graduate.

But graduates aren’t moving on to their dreams. Our goal of self-sufficient young women remains unmet.

Few had school completion exam results good enough to continue into higher education. This is largely the same scenario across Sierra Leone.

The problem was pretty clear. More needs to be put into the quality of education, not just the quantity.

Quality of education starts with qualified teachers.

This year we will fund scholarships for teachers in chiefdom schools to get the Higher Teaching Certificate (HTC), the basic credential to teach at the secondary school level.

The majority of those imparting knowledge to pupils are not trained and qualified. This has created a negative impact on the performance of pupils, especially in the public exam.” Rosaline Kaimbay, managing director of our chiefdom partner CCET-SL and former high school principal.

IMG_2706 (2)If fortunate to finish high school, most graduates need to earn an income right away. They start teaching straight out of high school, sometimes as a primary school teacher.

Without an HTC or a bachelor’s degree, the government won’t pay secondary school teachers. But it’s hard for Rotifunk schools to get trained teachers to come to this rural community. They still need teachers, and scrape together a token salary, as little as $25 a month, to pay unqualified teachers.

The Sierra Leone government offers part-time courses practicing teachers can take on school holidays and some weekends to get their HTC over three years.

Many unqualifed teachers are serious and want to improve their subject knowledge and teaching skills. But paid so little, they can’t afford to pursue their HTC.

They’re stuck. But we can fix this problem.

Sherbro Foundation will fund six CCET-SL scholarships for practicing Rotifunk teachers to pursue their HTC. The cost for each is only $675 a year for tuition, fees and personal support (travel, food, internet café use, etc.)

82511258_614813622684617_5169237073403576320_n (2)Aziz is applying for one. He’s been teaching for seven years. Aziz was born in Mogbongboto, a small village deep in Bumpeh Chiefdom near where the Bumpeh River opens to the ocean. His parents were subsistence farmers, living off the land. He is one of twenty children his father gave birth to. His family can’t offer any financial help to further his education.

Aziz went to high school in Rotifunk in the period after the war when schools were being rebuilt academically as well as physically, and good instruction was limited.

When he didn’t meet university entry requirements, Aziz took the path many do. He got a basic teacher’s certificate, qualifying him to teach at primary schools.  He worked his way up, from primary school to teaching business management and physical education at a Rotifunk secondary school.

87479818_654415898724389_2420527844426776576_n (1)“At first I never want to be a teacher looking at the way the profession is neglected,” Aziz commented last year. “Later on I take it as a job. And now it’s becoming my profession.”

Teachers in a rural community like Rotifunk do more than teach a class. They’re guides and catalysts, lifting students from the trap of semi-literacy and a life of poverty to the opportunity education brings.

I was impressed with the personal vision Aziz wrote on his Facebook page. “My vision: to teach, to build, to inspire. As an educator, a life coach, a life instructor, a future builder and a Role Model, I inspire young and great minds towards becoming super thinkers and great achievers.”

Aziz meets the base criteria for an HTC Scholarship. He now has six subjects passed  after retaking the school completion exam vs. four required for HTC entry. He’s a chiefdom resident and currently teaching in a chiefdom school.

Aziz did well in CCET-SL’s scholarship interview, with a panel of seven interviewers, including Paramount Chief Caulker. He needs to now apply to an HTC school and bring a letter of acceptance.

20191222_131110 (2)“CCET-SL works to compliment the government’s Free Quality Education program,” Chief Caulker, left, said. “One thing the government is not able to do now is send teachers back to school to develop strong teaching skills. It’s right for CCET-SL to step in and help our own teachers. We’ve tailored teacher training scholarships for our needs and to serve as a tool for developing our chiefdom.”

After completing their HTC, teachers are required to continue teaching in a Rotifunk school at least one year for every year of scholarship support they receive.

“Our Girls Scholarship program encouraged chiefdom families to send their girls to school and let them progress into senior high,” Chief Caulker said. “They’ve come to value education more and are proud of their girls getting an education.”

“We now need to make sure girls – and all our students – get a quality education that will carry them into new lives where they prosper, and in turn, Bumpeh Chiefdom prospers.”

Sherbro Foundation is excited to take our education mission to the next level with this change. When a teacher’s skills improve, students learn more, test scores improve and they gain admission to higher education – with opportunities for a new life.

You can help develop a teacher by donating towards a $675 scholarship. Click here.

You’ll be investing in both a teacher and in the hundreds of students they teach. Thank you!

— Arlene Golembiewski, Executive Director

Watch for future newsletters about our three other scholarships and their goals: community health nursing, vocational training and supporting our first university student to complete her final year.

Celebrating a Life of Service

For a Sierra Leone community, a resident trained physician is a privilege. To have one in rural Bumpeh Chiefdom in 1950 was a blessing. A huge blessing. For women and their babies, it often meant life over death.

Winifred examining patient, Manjama, Sierra LeoneWe’re celebrating the life of Dr. Winifred Smith Bradford (October 20, 1922 – July 19, 2020), a remarkable woman who dedicated herself to serving women and children around the world.

Sherbro Foundation dedicates this year’s community health nursing scholarships to Dr. Bradford for her long medical career, beginning in an outpost clinic in Rotifunk, Bumpeh Chiefdom in 1950. 

Winifred Smith was born in Enid, Oklahoma just two years after women got the vote in the US. Imagine the vision and determination of a young woman from small town middle America who set her goal to become a doctor. In the latter days of the Great Depression and during WWII, she managed to put herself through college and medical school.

Dr. Smith was one of first women to graduate from York College of Medicine. With the goal of being a medical missionary to China, she continued on to Yale to study Chinese. But the Communist Chinese regime soon made clear they no longer wanted American missionaries.

Winifred and newborn, Red Bird Mission, 1946 or 47 (2)Dr. Smith’s time at Yale wasn’t for naught. There she met the love of her life and partner in service, Lester Bradford, a forestry major. Her goal of being a missionary doctor was undeterred and just changed geography to Africa – Sierra Leone, West Africa. The United Brethren in Christ (UBC), an arm of the Methodist Church, first sent her to prepare at the London School of Tropical Medicine.

Dr. Smith, left, delivering a baby before departing for the London School of Tropical Medicine

Lester had to be satisfied with letters until, her training completed, Dr. Smith began practicing in the UBC clinic in Rotifunk. He joined her and they were married in the historic Martyrs Memorial Church in Rotifunk.

That was the first of the Bradfords’ many joint assignments in developing countries around the world – she practicing medicine and he leading agriculture development projects.

During their 16 years of service in Sierra Leone, Dr. Bradford delivered thousands of babies and treated thousands of children. A working mom herself, she and Lester had five children of their own.

On their return to the US, Dr. Bradford did a second medical residency and continued in the baby business, now in Mt. Vernon, Washington. She helped women who wanted the option of home births and founded the Mount Vernon Birth Center.  Her compassionate approach to birthing revolutionized the whole birth industry in Skagit County.

Retirement was anything but retiring for Dr. Bradford and her husband. He took overseas assignments carrying out projects in South Sudan and Pakistan, and she continued her medical work there. Above left, she started a birthing center in Juba, Sudan and counseled families in Pakistan, above right. 

Today, the need for health care professionals in rural Bumpeh Chiefdom and Sierra Leone remains as great as ever. Devastated by its 11-year rebel war, Sierra Leone was struggling to rebuild the country and its health care services when in 2014 it was hit by Ebola.

It only had 136 physicians for a population of 6,000,000 at the start of the outbreak, and those mostly in cities. By the end, Sierra Leone lost 11 physicians, among its most senior, or 8% of its medical ranks. Many more of the 1000 nurses/midwives also succumbed to Ebola.

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Sierra Leone remains one of the most dangerous places in the world for a woman to give birth. And one in ten young children never see their fifth birthday.

In 2018, Sherbro Foundation started community health nursing scholarships to help build health care capacity in Bumpeh Chiefdom. Three young chiefdom women are now preparing to serve in small community health units that since Dr. Bradford’s time provide first level primary health care.

CHN AdamaBumpeh Chiefdom’s government-run health units are staffed by a community health nurse, usually operating alone, who diagnoses and treats common infectious disease like malaria and diarrhea, provides pre/postnatal care for pregnant women and serves as midwife to deliver babies. They vaccinate babies and monitor for malnutrition. They can provide family planning services, basic first aid like stitching wounds and screen for chronic disease for referral, like hypertension and diabetes.

Nine government-run health units serve Bumpeh Chiefdom’s 208 villages and 40,000 people. For most villagers, this is their only source of health care.

This year, we dedicate the community health nursing scholarships to Dr. Bradford and her legacy of serving Sierra Leone people – especially its mothers and children.

Three young women, Fatmata, Umu and Safiatu, above, will soon enter their second year of a three-year nursing program. Each $1100 scholarship covers tuition, practicals (when they’re placed in a Freetown hospital for hands-on experience), supplies, food and transportation for the year.

Join us with your gift here and return Fatmata, Umu and Safiatu to nursing school. You’ll keep them on a path to soon be caring for Bumpeh Chiefdom’s mothers and children – and all its people.  Thank you!  

 

Where There’s Community Will, There’s a Way – Fighting Covid in Sierra Leone

It’s July and we’re four months into the Covid pandemic. Sierra Leone and Bumpeh Chiefdom are living the same massive human health experiment we all find ourselves in.

But they’ve fared better than us for the same point in time after the pandemic reached each of our borders. Confirmed cases in Sierra Leone (per 100,000 population) are 50-fold fewer than the US to date, and mostly contained in the capital, Freetown and the surrounding area.

Thanks to your support, Bumpeh Chiefdom used Sherbro Foundation funding to take early and aggressive action. As of July 9, it can still report no confirmed Covid cases.

Following its Ebola experience, most of Sierra Leone’s 1584 confirmed Covid cases to date transferred to government isolation centers for the course of their infection – where they don’t infect more people. Contact tracing led to over 9000 people quarantined, with about 8000 released after 14 days with no infection.

But by the end of May, Covid moved around the country to all but one district beyond the Freetown area. Still, a ban on inter-district travel without a limited essential travel pass managed to keep over 60% of confirmed cases to the Freetown area.

20190131_105028Rural areas like Bumpeh Chiefdom have reported few, if any, cases. Life largely takes place outside where breeze offers natural dilution.

Population density is lower and 60% are young, under twenty-five years of age.

Of course, there’s little access to testing to verify how widely the virus actually spread. We now know youth is no protection, and young people are probably active asymptomatic spreaders of the virus.

Taking early action
Bumpeh Chiefdom’s Paramount Chief Charles Caulker’s didn’t wait to take action. He formed a chiefdom Covid committee in March and reinstated procedures successfully used to quell Ebola, while adding others.

IMG-20200620-WA0018Chiefdom meetings now take place with distancing and masks.

Checkpoints started monitoring nonresidents trying to enter the chiefdom in midMarch, before even a single case was confirmed in the country. This kept most people from high infection areas out. Local people also wrongly feared being quarantined if they traveled away from home, discouraging movement within the chiefdom.

Chief Caulker passed chiefdom bylaws in May, requiring social distancing and use of face masks in public – before the government took action. But just setting standards doesn’t mean people will follow them, or even hear about them or understand them.

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Safety teams for community-led prevention
In early June, 13 safety teams comprised of local leaders from across the chiefdom were trained on their Covid bylaws. Local health professionals and chiefdom Covid committee members went to every part the chiefdom, training 350 local leaders: section and village chiefs, heads of men’s and women’s societies, imams, youth leaders, checkpoint workers and others.

Picture5Trainers emphasized practical demonstrations, with participants practicing proper handwashing and mask use.

The safety teams were charged with teaching fellow residents how the Covid virus is transmitted and how social distancing, wearing masks and hand washing protects them.

Teams continue to monitor and enforce Covid procedures.

Taking training to the people in remote villages seldom happens. Rumors and myths about this unknown disease called Covid proliferated without TV, radio, newspapers or internet. Villagers didn’t know how the virus transfers or how to protect themselves.

Using locally known trainers speaking their own language invoked a level of trust. Health care trainers could convey much more understanding that in turn encourages more voluntary compliance.

Trainers explained people have the power to stop the virus through their own behavior. It’s in their hands.

Small group community training made people believers for an epidemic that has largely only been in cities. “Be an example now to your community,” trainers admonished.

Covid Safety team trg attendee VID-20200603_Moment (2)        Covid Safety team trg attendee woman VID-20200603_Moment(6)

“We learned so much for fighting against Covid-19. Especially about the interior (rural areas),” a youth leader, above left, said. “The interior is a problem with commitment of people. Not all people believe the sickness is in existence. Thank god brought you to communicate and explain how Covid-19 can come right into the interior.”

Asked what she learned, the woman, above right, said, “We learned about social distance and to not encourage ‘strangers’ (nonresidents who could be infected). And to wash our hands with soap and water to protect our families.”

Picture10 (3)Over 9000 Sherbro Foundation funded masks were distributed so residents can comply with chiefdom (and now government) requirements.

Picture3 (3)195 hand washing stations and soap were also given to village leaders for their public places. With no running water and few wells, this encourages handwashing where people convene.

Chief Caulker extends his “profound thanks” to all Sherbro Foundation donors for funding the program.

20200419_140951 (2)“I am very much delighted for the completion of the training of our section safety teams. I followed the process with keen interest and I am tremendously satisfied with the accomplishments. My section chiefs and their people constantly called me and expressed appreciation for the exercise while it was on.”

“They confessed that the training was the best ever conducted in the Chiefdom and it came out clearly … that participation was enormous and constructive. More importantly, they admitted acquiring the knowledge, skills, and tools to take on Covid ‘one on one’ for self-protection.”

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Community-led training brings value, as well as results. 350 local leaders comprising thirteen safety teams for every corner of the chiefdom were trained for less than $600! Trainers gave their time. Costs were mainly for participant and trainer transportation.

Sherbro Foundation encourages the chiefdom to build on the momentum of the safety teams with follow-up sessions. Community-led prevention is a powerful concept not only for Covid, but for prevalent and debilitating disease like malaria. Malaria weakens the immune system making people more susceptible to Covid, especially pregnant women and small children. Future sessions can reinforce Covid practices, and also empower villages to eliminate standing water and sleep under bed nets to avoid malaria.

Reopening the country
Like everywhere, Sierra Leone could only stay shut down so long. The majority of people live day by day, earning a dollar or two today so their families eat tomorrow. The pressure to resume local trading and international traffic is overwhelming. Sierra Leone is “reopening” its economy and borders this month. Increasingly, it gets pulled into the direction all West African countries are taking.

The inter-district travel ban was removed June 24, taking away Bumpeh Chiefdom’s main line of Covid defense. Flights and land borders will be opened shortly. Large outdoor markets and gatherings remain banned, including religious services, much to the objection of mosques and churches.

The back to school question
Sierra Leone now joins countries around the world in the massive experiment of sending school children back to school before the pandemic is stamped out.

School reconvened July 1 for three grades due to now take their national exams needed to move to the next level: 6th graders to junior high; 9th graders to senior high; and 12th graders seeking entry to higher education or to meet employer requirements for school completion exam scores.

facebook_1594170883672_6686437314070105164Our partner CCET-SL resumed its special all-day 12th grade school in its education center July 1, preparing Rotifunk’s graduating students for their national exam. Masks and distancing required.

Students will get a few weeks of classes before exams take place over July and August. The West African standard exams must be administered using the West African Examinations Council procedures and schedule – or risk the students losing a whole year until exams are offered again next year.

We’re awaiting word on how and when Sierra Leone schools will fully reopen in the fall.

Stay tuned for the next newsletter on Sherbro Foundation’s direction for the coming school year. You’ll see new things as our partner CCET-SL strives to keep improving the quality of education in the chiefdom. We’ll need your support more than ever.

— Arlene Golembiewski, Executive Director

How Do You Keep Coronavirus Out of Rural Sierra Leone

How do you keep the Coronavirus out? If you’re a country, you shut down flights and land borders and isolate yourself. If you’re a rural Sierra Leone chiefdom, you set up border checkpoints to keep all nonresidents out, too, and staff them 24/7 with your own local volunteers.

Bumpeh Chiefdom learned from the Ebola epidemic that people will try to cross their remote chiefdom borders undetected, bringing the Ebola virus with them. They are fleeing infected cities for a rural place they think safer. It’s also a place for people from Guinea to try to illegally enter the country “through a back door” – bypassing  Freetown and Waterloo by boat and making their way up the Bumpeh River from the ocean.

Once the virus gains entry, we know how it spirals out of control. Keeping it out in the first place is the name of the game. Checkpoints saved Bumpeh Chiefdom during the Ebola epidemic. It’s working now again – despite Bumpeh’s vulnerable position as a coastal chiefdom near Freetown and its suburbs.

The chiefdom was ready this time when Covid-19 was first confirmed in the country. They know the places around their borders to patrol and immediately set up checkpoints, like the one above at a river “bus stop.” Boats act as buses, carrying residents and goods up and down the Bumpeh River to Rotifunk.

How can you help Bumpeh Chiefdom keep the virus out? Join us in supplying all checkpoints with locally made face masks and handwashing stations and soap.

> $20 pays for a local tailor to make 50 cloth face masks for checkpoint volunteers.

> $25 buys three covered handwashing stations with spigots, like the one above, where all residents passing through a checkpoint are required to first wash their hands.

Sherbro Foundation is paying for small daily stipends for checkpoint volunteers to buy food and water from villagers during their 12 hour shifts away from home.

We also bought solar lights for checkpoint night shifts, sitting in these remote places in the dark.

We talk about unsung heroes in this crisis who do the jobs that protect the rest of us. In Bumpeh Chiefdom, it’s the men who sit all night keeping watch at these distant checkpoints.

By sitting in the dark all night, they’re keeping the virus out of the chiefdom – and saving lives.

In this global epidemic, none of us are safe for long unless we’re all safe. We’re all in this together.

Giving Tuesday is now – May 5th. Help equip these guys with face masks and handwashing stations so they can protect everyone else. www.sherbrofoundation.org/donate

Thank you so much!

— Arlene Golembiewski, Executive Director

Help Bumpeh Chiefdom fight Covid19 on May 5 – Giving Tuesday 2020

We can’t wait for Giving Tuesday in November to support charitable organizations as part of our Thanksgiving festivities.

If ever we needed a day to give, it’s now, while we’re all fighting Covid-19. The 2020 Giving Tuesday is moved up to May 5. 

Screenshot (131)Bumpeh Chiefdom, Sierra Leone, took immediate action in April against Covid-19 before any confirmed case reached them — and has kept the virus out so far. But it’s quickly spreading all around them.

Here’s how you can help Bumpeh Chiefdom in their fight to keep Covid-19 out:

>>  $20 will pay to locally make 50 face masks for chiefdom residents, especially market women. These women, like the one at left, are one of the most at-risk groups — like grocery workers here.

>> $25 buys 3 hand-washing stations for border checkpoints and public places. With no running water, water must be hand-carried to covered buckets with spigots for hand-washing.

>> $50 buys a no-touch infrared thermometer to take temperatures, important in a place with no Covid-19 testing ability.

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This month the chiefdom will require face masks to be worn in public, and to observe 6-foot social distancing.

They want to supply 10,000 masks to make it easy for residents to comply. They have local tailors busy making them.

Bumpeh Chiefdom must keep the Covid-19 virus out. They don’t have a health care facility that can treat this disease. There’s only one ventilator for the whole country!

Chiefdom leaders understand what’s needed to stop transmission of the virus. They need our help.

We’ve learned in this global pandemic, no one is safe until everyone is safe. The virus must be stamped out around the world.

On May 5th — Giving Tuesday 2020 — support Bumpeh Chiefdom’s Covid-19 fight if you can. It’s a day for global unity.  www.sherbrofoundation.org/donate

We deeply appreciate your help. Thank you!