Breaking the cycle of poverty takes only peanuts

Breaking the cycle of poverty takes only peanuts

Emma Sesay used to take out a loan at a high interest rate to send her children to school. Emma is the mother of six children. Six survive of the eight she gave birth to. Getting six children through school is tough for a poor rice farmer in Mobainda village.

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Arlene Golembiewski, SFSL, Emma Sesay, Bumpeh Chiefdom Paramount Chief Charles Caulker

Emma was part of Sherbro Foundation’s Women’s Vegetable Growing project last year that helped her grow peanuts. Asked how the project helped her, she said, “I usually need to take loans. I no longer need a loan at high interest to pay for my children to go to school. I sold my peanuts when I needed to pay the school fees.”

Sherbro Foundation just funded a third group of women vegetable growers for the spring 2017 growing season with money raised in our year-end fundraising.

Rice farming is traditional in Mobainda village. It’s a labor intensive, taking 10 months of back breaking toil, but you make little money.

Rice farmers are often forced to take a loan from a local lender at interest rates of 50% and more to send their children to school. These informal village lenders can charge this much because villagers usually have no other option for a loan.

Lenders collect as soon as a farmer harvests. To pay off the loan, farmers are forced to sell their rice at low prices when the market is flooded with lots of other newly harvested rice.

The family then eats what’s left of the rice harvest as their staple food in the coming months, leaving little to nothing as seed for the next crop. They often run out of rice before the next harvest. It’s called the “hungry time.”

Junior high is when most children drop out of school. By this age, eating must take priority over paying for a child to continue in school.

The family may need to take out another loan just to buy rice seed to plant their next crop. And so the cycle of debt and poverty continues.

The Women’s Vegetable Growing project is starting to break this cycle of poverty.

This year’s project again supplied 75 women with 2 bushels of peanut seed, 100 lb. of rice as food before the harvest, and a drying tarp to improve their crop yield. With these supplies worth about $80 each, women are producing income double and triple what they make in rice farming. And they can continue to grow rice and fish in local rivers and streams.

Emma harvested twelve bushels of peanuts from her two bushels of seed last year.  She saved a bushel as seed to plant this year. She is still doing her normal rice farming, so she could wait until the price of peanuts went up after the harvest, and then sold hers to pay her children’s school fees.

Asked how they spent money earned growing peanuts, each woman in the program immediately said, I can pay for my children’s education.

Yata Williams, left, shows the two bushels of peanuts she saved for seed from her ten bushel harvest. She said, “The project helped with many things. It solved our problem of paying school fees. There was money left to buy a market.” Yatta buys things she sells as a small front porch business or neighborhood “market.” Soft drinks, sweets, soap, cigarettes – small luxuries you’d have to travel to a bigger town to buy. The family now has a another income source.

Fula Musu Mansaray, below, in Nyundahun village joined the 2016 project and had a good harvest. She and husband, Musa, also sold peanuts to pay for their children’s education.

L to R, Lupe Bendu, village chief, Fula Musu, Chief Caulker, Musa, Arlene

They are making the most of Fula Musu’s participation in the Women’s Vegetable Growing program. They saved eight bushels of peanut seed from their harvest. They will plant four times as many peanuts in 2017 as she received last year, and grow their small business.

Fula Musa was one of eight women in the project from this small village of 25 houses.

The project will expand to cover another 20 families this spring. So every family in Nyundahun will benefit, a huge economic boost for a tiny village like this.

 

The Women’s Vegetable Growing project is teaching villages they can diversify their farming by adding peanuts and make more money.

Last year was a bad year for growing rice with prolonged drought and grasshoppers eating crops. Families could fall back on their peanut harvest and have some money to spare.

Before the Vegetable Growing project, a $30 bale of peanut seed was out of the reach of these women.

Now, they’re showing what they can do with this small investment and taking their first steps to self-sufficiency. It only took peanuts.

Do More Good Than You Can Imagine

Do More Good Than You Can Imagine

branchandbulb1‘Tis the Season
Give for Good!

Do more good than you can imagine – all year round.

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300 women are waiting.

You can give them their chance.

All donations welcome!

Read more: Women’s Vegetable Growing project

We’ll even double your gift. Twice the good!

Now how good does that feel?

Thank you!  Happy Holidays,

Letterhead

 

 

 

First “Baby Orchard” Celebrates a Life Well Lived: Mike Diliberti

First “Baby Orchard” Celebrates a Life Well Lived: Mike Diliberti

From Peace Corps teacher to World Bank manager to Friends of Sierra Leone president, Mike Diliberti gave his all for Sierra Leone. To celebrate his life, we have planted our first “Baby Orchard.” A new generation of children will be able to go to school when the fruit from Mike’s Orchard is sold.

Ten acres of tropical forest in a small village deep in coastal Bumpeh Chiefdom are forever preserved to honor Mike’s 40 years of service to Sierra Leone.

diliberti-and-kids       Mike in 2011 visit on the porch of his old house in Sembehun where he served as Peace Corps teacher. He stayed four years and started the chiefdom’s first secondary school.

In this summer’s rains, 1,500 fruit trees were planted — cashew, plum, mango,  inter-planted with faster growing guava and pineapple that produce fruit in one to two years.

mikes-orchard-5-june-16Sherbro Foundation’s Board funded the “Baby Orchard” to create long-term income for the chiefdom’s Newborn Education Savings Program, and dedicated it to Mike. Education savings accounts are opened for newborns and funded by fruit income. When a child reaches the age of twelve, they will have money for a secondary school education. I think Mike would have liked the idea, and I know his family does.

Left, Bagging fast growing young guava trees in the tree nursery to plant in Mike’s Orchard last July. These will be fruiting and earning money in their second year. 

Mike was one of the first people I met when we all joined the Peace Corps in 1974 and were assigned to Moyamba District as teachers. Mike went to Sembehun, I to Rotifunk. Our friendship grew with weekend R&R trips to Moyamba town and wherever volunteers gathered. Mike was such a warm and engaging guy, that early bond was remained over the years.

A flood of memories came back when we lost Mike last year.

dscn0474It’s safe to say but for Mike, Sherbro Foundation would not exist today. He encouraged me to join a Friends of Sierra Leone trip in 2011, my first return in 35 years. Ever the African traveler, he coordinated a tour of our former Moyamba District villages for five of us, including Wendy Diliberti, his wife, Sherbro Foundation Board Member Steve Papelian and Howie Fleck.

Left, Sembehun Village flocked to see Mr. Mike when he returned to visit in 2011.

If I hadn’t gone, I wouldn’t have reconnected with Rotifunk and seen the great need in such a personal way. As I later struggled with ideas on how I could help, it was Mike who encouraged me to start a new organization, and just go for it.

Now, just three years after Sherbro Foundation was founded, we can point to Mike’s Orchard, a lasting – and growing – memorial. It’s not only part of the larger Village Orchard Program, but one of six successful projects the foundation has helped Bumpeh Chiefdom to launch.

Sherbro Foundation helps villages start community orchards, creating sustainable income for development projects and to send children to school. In a few years, a village may see thousands of dollars in annual fruit income for village projects they choose: to dig wells, build primary schools, improve roads, etc. Orchard income will also fund newborn education savings accounts for years to come.

A Milwaukee, WI native, Mike served a total of four years in the Peace Corps as both a teacher and principal. He and Wendy settled in Virginia, where they raised two children, and Mike had a thirty year career with the World Bank, focused on Africa. The international organization issues loans to underdeveloped nations to help eliminate poverty.

Mike’s lifetime of work with Sierra Leone started with teaching children and developing schools. I think he would be pleased to be part of the Orchard program. The Mike Diliberti Memorial Orchard will now help ensure secondary school educations for a whole generation of children in Bumpeh Chiefdom. You can view how an orchard is planted here.

— Arlene Golembiewski, Executive Director, Sherbro Foundation

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Adult Literacy – Never Too Late to Improve Lives

Adult Literacy – Never Too Late to Improve Lives

Adult Literacy is the simplest of programs Sherbro Foundation has supported. And one of the most gratifying. Seeing women I recognize, below, resuming classes in October in the new Computer Center made me smile, amid some happiness tears. They were back to eagerly learning after a long hiatus caused by the Ebola crisis and its aftermath.

img-20161025-wa0010-copyThe Adult Literacy program was a fast start and one of our first. Only committed students, dedicated volunteer teachers, a classroom and a blackboard required. No cajoling needed.

Women in the community came to Mrs. Rosaline Kaimbay, Prosperity Girls High School principal, not long after she arrived to start the new high school. They leaned on her, pressing for their own chance to learn to read and write.

In 2013, I saw Mrs. Kaimbay after her school day, leading lessons for the women with a blackboard on her small house’s porch. As PGHS grew and she hired more teachers, they were willing pitch in and teach after-school classes. Sherbro Foundation provided supplies, and adult classes moved to a primary school at 4:30 p.m., after the day’s work. Class was over by 6 when it was too dark to see with only open brick grids as windows.

The women now have a comfortable place to learn in CCET’s new Community Computer Center — new adult-sized tables and chairs, ceiling fans and solar lights.

One thing hasn’t changed — volunteer teachers, including some new instructors. Some retired primary school teachers in the community want to help the new learners.

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Mr. Francis Senesie, PGHS teacher, left, leads a stretch break for the ABC Group, learning the alphabet.

Mr. Stalin Caulker, right, tutored schoolchildren struggling to learn to read for many years as a second career in Freetown. Here, he’s teaching addition to a Rotifunk group. Like many retirees, he finds it satisfying to help.

img_3388I remember the women I met in 2013 and why they wanted to start learning now.  Kadiatu, left,  was chief instigator and lobbied for classes for two years. She was her family’s breadwinner and head of Rotifunk’s women trader’s union, otherwise known as market women.

These petty traders sell by the tray and bushel in markets everywhere. She was tired of representing the group at district meetings and workshops and could only use her thumbprint to sign a document.

I talked with over 30 women one on one, and their stories were much the same.  Most were single heads of household, struggling to earn a living as market traders while raising their children. Some were also raising children sent by relatives in small villages to go to school in a bigger town, or children whose parents had passed away.

Some women wanted to learn to read and write their names for the first time, and to count so they wouldn’t be cheated in the market. They knew they could better run their small businesses with practical skills like figuring best prices and sales profits. Others had finished primary school, and after a long break, wanted to resume learning GED style.

All wanted to monitor their children’s progress in school and help with homework, learn more about children’s and their own health, and better run their households.

I wondered why they were so committed to study at the age of 30 and 45. I learned they were getting something priceless: Self esteem. No one is lower in society’s informal caste system than an illiterate woman.  She is belittled, taken advantage of, often abused.

With education, they’re holding their heads higher and not letting others take advantage.

Some of the best news — some women are progressing to other job training programs.

img_4317-copyimg-20161005-wa0000Magdelaine, with me on my far left, took a co-op style nurse’s aide training program in the district capital. Back home in Rotifunk, she works at the hospital.

Mariatu, near left,  is part of a more advanced group preparing for primary school teacher training program entrance exams.

First Computer Training Class Starts – Finally Joining the 21st Century

First Computer Training Class Starts – Finally Joining the 21st Century

October 24 was one of my happiest days since founding Sherbro Foundation. It was just days more than five years ago that I formed my first goal, with one of the Rotifunk high school principals, to start a computer training program for students. We had no building, no computers and no electricity, only the determination realize this dream.

Our goal was simple: to give high school students and adults (especially dropouts) computer skills that will make them more competitive in the growing job market.

That grew into teaching adults how to use computers in their jobs, and to start or further develop small businesses. People with computer skills in the community also will help attract new business to the area.

img-20161031-wa0000On October 24, students took their seats for the first evening computer training class in the new Computer Center building. With two months left in the year, it’s a self-paced evening class for adults. An afternoon class for high school students will follow in the next term.

Many of the first adult students are teachers in town. They may have been exposed to computers in college, but without owning one themselves, their practical skills are limited.

img-20161031-wa0008Our Rotifunk partner, the Center for Community Empowerment & Transformation, CCET, hired their first full-time employee to lead computer training classes and run the new printing service.

Sulaiman Tumbo, standing left, had been a local teacher and CCET volunteer. His IT skills and demonstrated commitment made him a great choice for the computer program.

Paramount Chief Charles Caulker, standing right, has championed computer training and the Computer Center concept.

He took on constructing the 2,600-square-foot building from the burned out ruins of a war-torn building during the height of the Ebola crisis. The chiefdom was under an isolation order, so he used that time to build the building that now houses computer and Adult Literacy classes and a new printing service.

The transformation shown below is nothing short of remarkable.

computer-class-open-nov-1-2016The Center can handle 20 computer students in a class. A long table lines a wall so students can plug into wall outlets now powered with solar energy.

Students will complete four training units leading to an IT certificate CCET will issue. With little hands-on experience, they start with Windows, learning to navigate the programs and Apps available, and to create and find documents. They’ll then master basics of Word, Excel and Powerpoint.

Chief Caulker ensured the viability of the program with the Center’s new copy and printing service. Its profits will go to funding  nonprofit education programs in the building, including computer training and Adult Literacy.

I’ll never forget the words of one the adult computer students I talked with. “Arlene,” he said, “I feel like we’re joining the 21st Century.”

— Arlene Golembiewski, Executive Director

First Printing Service Will Fund Rural Education

First Printing Service Will Fund Rural Education

Bumpeh Chiefdom’s new Community Computer Center opened for business in September with the area’s first printing service and its new workhorse copying machine, called a Riso duplicator.

riso-applauseThe economical high-volume, low-energy copier was met with cheers at the Rotifunk facility.  With good reason – it’s the only printing service within several hours drive. Printing once meant a trip to the capital Freetown.

The center now offers faster and cheaper printing and copying for a wide area.

We’re cheering from a distance because the printing service will make money to support nonprofit education programs in the multi-use center, more than four years in the making.

img-20160407-wa0000Now, the computing center — built from a war ruin — is being used to instruct students and adults on computer use. It also hosts adult literacy classes for the many whose educations were cut short by the war. The solar-powered building is available to rent, the only modern building for miles suitable for meetings and community events of 20 – 100. Primary school teacher training, above, was the first rental customer.

There’s two other money-making services inside. The canteen serves as a community hub with drinks and snacks for people visiting the nearby market, hospital and church. And a cell phone charging service can charge 30 phones at a time for a small fee.

center-commissioning-4-oct-10The large duplicator was purchased with a $3,750 grant Sherbro Foundation received from the Ann Arbor (MI) Rotary Club and its District Rotary group. We purchased and shipped the duplicator to our Sierra Leone partner, the Center for Community Empowerment & Transformation (CCET), which operates the Center.

Freetown Rotary Club members, left, joined Paramount Chief Charles Caulker, right, in October for an official Center commissioning ceremony. The Rotarians said this was the most impressive project they have ever reviewed!

Starting the duplicator took two technicians from opposite ends of the country, with Arlene making international phone calls to relay start-up codes and setup information from our Cincinnati Riso distributor, Bernie Reagan of DSC Office Systems of Blue Ash. (He contributed a deep discount on the equipment.) It’s a newer model and declared “more powerful” than others in the country. Sierra Leone is used to getting outdated technology to save money. This duplicator will serve Bumpeh Chiefdom for many years to come.

img-20160820-wa0000-1Customers soon lined up for the unique service, which spares them an eight hour round-trip to the capital, Freetown. Many are teachers from Bumpeh’s five secondary and 40 primary schools, who need to print reading materials (students have few textbooks), exam papers and report cards.

School sports competitions need programs and fliers; churches and mosques need hundreds of weekly service and wedding/funeral programs. A steady stream of hospital staff and small business owners in town and from surrounding chiefdoms are coming to print their documents.

Paramount Chief Charles Caulker says the chiefdom’s record-keeping will greatly improve and better serve residents, starting with printing a backlog of 1,000 land registrations. Chief Caulker is also chairman of the National Council of Paramount Chiefs. Most chiefs have no email, so he’s using the service to print documents going to all 149 chiefdoms in Sierra Leone.

Four years ago this was all a dream. Now, the printing service is the mainspring of a busy community center, bringing a town into the 21st century.

 

 

 

 

We Met Our Goal – 300 Girls Sent to School on Scholarship!

We Met Our Goal – 300 Girls Sent to School on Scholarship!

We met our goal! This summer we pledged to double the number of girls’ scholarships for the new school year from 150 to 300 Bumpeh Chiefdom girls. With your positive response to Sherbro Foundation Girls’ Scholarship Fund appeal, 300 girls are in school with their school fees paid for the full year. 

These are girls who can’t afford $20 annual fees for junior high or $25 for senior high. They’re at risk of dropping out in Sierra Leone’s post-Ebola economic crisis that has gone from bad to worse. But for these 300 girls, another year of school is assured.

Our Bumpeh Chiefdom partner, the Center for Community Empowerment & Transformation, CCET, administers the girls’ scholarship program with Sherbro Foundation funding. Scholarship students and parents gathered below, outside CCET’s new building after awards were made in October.

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Few development programs have greater impact than helping girls go to school.  Now more Bumpeh Chiefdom girls are enrolled in secondary school than ever before. They’re progressing to higher grades and avoiding early marriage and teenage pregnancy.

Happy girls and parents from five schools joined principals to receive the scholarships. Scholarships were distributed based on each school’s female student enrollment.

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Retired head teacher and CCET program volunteer Mr. Banard, above left, presented Prosperity Girls High School Principal Rosaline Kaimbay with 100 scholarships for PGHS students before the students and their parents.

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Parents and scholarship students look on as Bumpeh Academy Principal Rashid Conteh, right, accepts 70 scholarships for his female students from CCET Executive Director Rosaline Kaimbay.

 

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Principal Satigie Tarawallie, left,  accepts 70 scholarships on behalf of Walter Schultz Memorial Secondary School girl students from CCET’s Mrs. Kaimbay.

 

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Girls at Ahmadiyya Junior Secondary School received 30 scholarships from CCET accepted by Principal Ibrahim Tarawallie center.

 

 

Thirty scholarships were additionally awarded to Ernest Bai Koroma Junior Secondary School female students.

Our sincere thanks to everyone who contributed to this year’s scholarship program appeal. This simple gesture of a $20 junior high scholarship can change a girl’s life!