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.

IMG-20211103-WA0016 (2)
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.

IMG-20211103-WA0014b

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  

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.
 
IMG_2621 (2)
 
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

Orchards for Education Grow by Leaps and Bounds

Orchards for Education Grow by Leaps and Bounds

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.

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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.

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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.

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Rice threshing Oct '19_Moment(8)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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

IMG-20190927-WA0021 (2)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.

IMG-20190927-WA0018 (2)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.

IMG-20190927-WA0013 (5)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.

IMG-20191001-WA0005Guava 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.

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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!

 

How People Give – Let Us Count the Ways

How People Give – Let Us Count the Ways

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.

IMG-20171204-WA0015 (4)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 sherbrofoundation@gmail.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!

$142,000 Rotary Clubs Grant Propels Bumpeh Chiefdom into Growing Its Own Future

$142,000 Rotary Clubs Grant Propels Bumpeh Chiefdom into Growing Its Own Future

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.

20190120_114736 (4)“If we could raise fruit trees on a big enough scale, we could grow our own community’s future.”

“We could move to eliminate poverty in the chiefdom ourselves and make people self-reliant,” he said.

But in Sierra Leone, too often it’s one step forward and two steps back. Barely had recovery from Sierra Leone’s brutal 11-year rebel war begun, when the Ebola epidemic hit in 2014. A three-year economic crisis followed with 40 percent devaluation of its currency. Just surviving was a struggle.

Now, a two-year $142,000 Rotary International Global Grant is changing that.

The Rotary Club of Ann Arbor worked collaboratively with Sherbro Foundation to secure the grant. Administered by the Center for Community Empowerment & Transformation, CCET, it funds community-led agriculture projects designed to create income for children’s education and resident medical care, and to help women subsistence farmers achieve self-reliance.

P1000710 (2)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.
20190119_121158 (3)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.20190125_124723 (2)

 

 

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.

IMG-20190602-WA0000 (2)Full-time orchard workers display their protective gear purchased from the Rotary grant: rain suits for working in the rainy season and thick rubber boots for protection against injury and snakes.

In addition to being paid, Chief Caulker explained the bigger effect these jobs have on his chiefdom. The workers are learning improved growing techniques and skills under the direction of CCET’s agriculture manager, he said. They’ll take this home and apply it to their own farms and gardens. They’ll teach neighbors how to get better yields, too.

Chief Caulker said he himself is working to act as a role model to teach people by example. He’s growing his own fruit trees in different parts of the chiefdom and annual crops like cassava. When people see they can earn more money with fast growing fruit trees like guava plus cassava and vegetables than in traditional rice growing, they start diversifying and growing more crops themselves.

Empowering women From the project’s initial work, Chief said he feels best about empowering women subsistence farmers. By supplying women to grow peanuts as a cash crop and hiring others to grow vegetables and peanuts for the project, we “have brought hope to ending the growing economic and gender inequalities in our country,” Chief said.

“Women, who before now were relegated to the kitchen, can confess of becoming breadwinners in their families, sometimes above their husbands.”

IMG-20190522-WA0006 (2)Local women are hired as part-time workers where heavy labor is not needed. These are planting peanuts in an orchard to generate annual operating income. They’re paid wages equal to those of part-time male workers.

With Rotary Clubs’ generous support, growing its own community’s future is becoming reality in Bumpeh Chiefdom.

It’s a future they can direct themselves and multiply like seed from a harvest.

This project definitely took a village to launch – an American village. So many contributed to raising funds for a $142,000 grant. We send huge THANKS to all.

  • 19 contributing Rotary Clubs – with special thanks to grant sponsor, the Rotary Club of Ann Arbor and supporting club, Wilmington, NC Rotary Club
  • Rotary Districts 6380 and 7730
  • Rotary International Foundation
  • Fifty-five Sherbro Foundation donors – thank you!
  • Other private individual donors
Sherbro Foundation Executive Director receives National Peace Corps Association’s 2018 Shriver Humanitarian award

Sherbro Foundation Executive Director receives National Peace Corps Association’s 2018 Shriver Humanitarian award

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.40137733_1958865257469111_4284494628134060032_n (2)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.”

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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

Never Too Late to Return to School

Never Too Late to Return to School

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.

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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.

20180706_151933 (3)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.”

20180706_152359_Moment(28)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.”

20180706_152359_Moment(30)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.

 Thank you!

— Arlene Golembiewski, Executive Director 

Can $25 Be Life Changing? Send a Sierra Leone Girl to School.

Can $25 Be Life Changing? Send a Sierra Leone Girl to School.

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.

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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.

20180712_184638 (3)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.

20180712_184459 (2)“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.

20180715_171915 (2)During that tumultuous time, Fatmata had to repeat her first year of junior high. She’s continued to advance to the 9th grade with four SFSL scholarships.

Fatmata, left, at her home’s outdoor kitchen where they cook on a wood fire sheltered from sun and rain.

In two weeks, she’ll take her national 9th grade exams and has a very good chance of moving on to senior high. She’ll be part of a small elite group of rural girls working for high school diplomas.

Fatmata is the kind of success story we work hard to support with our scholarship program.

IMG-20180606-WA0004 (3)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?

IMG-20180529-WA0001 (3)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!

Thank you! 

— Arlene Golembiewski, Executive Director

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five Years of Sending Girls to School   – By the Numbers

Five Years of Sending Girls to School – By the Numbers

We’ll soon kick off the campaign for our sixth year of the Girls Scholarship Program for Bumpeh Chiefdom. We thought you’d like to see what’s been accomplished in the first five years —  by the numbers.

Sherbro Foundation was founded in March 2013. We immediately funded scholarships for 67 junior-high girls in the 2012-13 school year already in progress. The numbers have been steadily increasing:

1250             Total number scholarships awarded

Over 600     Number of girls receiving scholarships, some for more than one year

  4                  Number schools participating — 2 Jr/Sr Highs and 2 Jr High only      

6X                 Increase in scholarships given annually — from 67 in 2013 to 410 in 2017

2X                 Increase in scholarship value in 2017 by adding uniforms for 2/3 of girls         

2X                 Increase in number of girls attending Senior High — from 58 to 120 in 2017

100               Percent of girls wanting to attend Sr. High in 2017 who received scholarships

 18                Number of 12th-grade awardees taking National exam (1st in 2016)

  3                 Number 12th-grade awardees meeting college entry requirements

  1                 College scholarship added in 2017

Here’s our five-year trend in scholarships:

 

5 yr scholarship data2 (2)

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.


 

What Better Way to Celebrate Five Years of Sending Girls to School. Send them to College!

What Better Way to Celebrate Five Years of Sending Girls to School. Send them to College!

Sherbro Foundation Sierra Leone celebrated our 5th anniversary as a nonprofit on March 14, 2018!

We started with a simple goal: educate girls and improve overall literacy in rural Bumpeh Chiefdom. With literacy, people make better choices, boost their livelihoods and improve their lives and those of their children.

In 2013, our first scholarship program sent 67 7th and 8th grade girls to one secondary school. Today, over 600 girls have advanced their educations at four schools with 1250 Sherbro Foundation scholarships – some receiving scholarships for two or three years.

Help celebrate this 5th year milestone. Join us now in sending the first girls graduating to college.

First college scholarship   Last fall, you helped us step up to this next challenge with a big response to our secondary school scholarship campaign. We added a college scholarship.

Meet Aminata Kamara, the first awardee for 2017-18. Her story is one of focus and perseverance against all odds. You’ll see why this exceptional scholar was chosen.

IMG-20180224-WA0001 (2)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.

IMG-20180224-WA0000.jpgProud 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.

Aminata Kamara 1st college scholarship (4)“She is a woman, but she does [so much] good and all the people in the community admire her,” Aminata said. Rosaline shows girls a woman born in their chiefdom can get a college degree and take leadership roles usually filled by men.

Aminata, left, is now becoming a role model herself and has advice for younger girls at home watching her successes.

“I want them to forget about their present status; hope [instead] to use their future. Let them forget about material things, about men — these things will pass. Let us focus about education,” she told 460 girls receiving secondary school scholarships at last fall’s award ceremony, left.

“Let us know that our tomorrow will be greater than today.”

You can make Aminata’s tomorrow greater. Help send her to a second year of university. If you’re a new donor, you’ll double your impact. A former Peace Corps Volunteer will match the first $850 from new donors. $1700 will pay Aminata’s second year in full. Pass this on to friends and family who want to see girls succeed.

AND this donor will match $250 from Cincinnati area Returned Peace Corps Volunteers!

More girls in Rotifunk are ready for college. With your help, we’ll also start a second girl on her college journey in 2018-19.

Transform a girl’s life. Send her to college here.  

Any excess funds will go to our annual girls’ secondary school campaign planned for this summer. We’re keeping the pipeline full of girls getting an education and ready to change the world. 

Thank you!

Arlene Golembiewski, Executive Director