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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Literacy in Sierra Leone – a long way to go!

Below shows why Sherbro Foundation focuses on first and foremost on literacy and education in Sierra Leone. Without literacy, all further development is stymied.

Sierra Leone has a long to go.   It ranks 47th out of 52 African countries!

But there’s reason to be optimistic, with many African countries today achieving high rates of literacy. We keep focused on improving literacy in everything we do.

Literacy rates among 52 African countries. Literacy is defined as the ability to read and write at the age of 15 years and above.  

 Ranking  Country Literacy Rate
1 Zimbabwe 90.7
2 Equatorial Guinea 87
3 South Africa 86.4
4 Kenya 85.1
5 Namibia 85
6 Sao Tome 84.9
7 Lesotho 84.8
8 Mauritius 84.4
9 Congo, DRC 83.8
10 Libya 82.6
11 Swaziland 81.6
12 Botswana 81.2
13 Zambia 80.6
14 Cape Verde 76.6
15 Tunisia 74.3
16 Egypt 71.4
17 Rwanda 70.4
18 Algeria 69.9
19 Tanzania 69.4
20 Madagascar 68.9
21 Nigeria 68
22 Cameroon 67.9
23 Djibouti 67.9
24 Angola 67.4
25 Congo, Democratic Republic of the 67.2
26 Uganda 66.8
27 Gabon 63.2
28 Malawi 62.7
29 Sudan 61.1
30 Togo 60.9
31 Burundi 59.3
32 Eritrea 58.6
33 Ghana 57.9
34 Liberia 57.5
35 Comoros 56.5
36 Morocco 52.3
37 Mauritania 51.2
38 Cote d’Ivoire 48.7
39 Central African Republic 48.6
40 Mozambique 47.8
41 Mali 46.4
42 Ethiopia 42.7
43 Guinea-Bissau 42.4
44 Gambia, 40.1
45 Senegal 39.3
46 Somalia 37.8
47 Sierra Leone 35.1
48 Benin 34.7
49 Guinea 29.5
50 Niger 28.7
51 Chad 25.7
52 Burkina Faso 21.8
Why 2017 was such a great year – in pictures

Why 2017 was such a great year – in pictures

2017 was a banner year for our projects in Sierra Leone. Our hats off once again to our local Sierra Leone partner, CCET-SL, for all their work making this happen. Here’s what made the year so great – in pictures.     —– Arlene Golembiewski, Executive Director

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January:  Five years in the making, CCET-SL’s new Education & Computer Center was open and buzzing with activity. Three levels of Adult Literacy classes filled the main hall, followed by evening computer training. My favorite group is first level literacy, or the ABC group, where women start by learning the alphabet and how to add. One typical student, Jeriatu, thinks she’s about 35 and is the mother of 12 children, one on her back in class. She grows peanuts and wants to be literate to improve her small business, by counting change correctly and figuring her profit.

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February: Visiting small villages participating in our projects, like Village Orchards, is always a trip highlight. Villages have received hundreds of fruit tree seedlings to plant as community orchards. Income will go to children’s education and development projects. I asked Nyandahun village chief, Madam Bendu, above left, how her village would use income from their village orchard. She immediately said, we’ll send our children to school.

vlcsnap-error358 (2)March – We started our 3rd group of Women Vegetable Growers, where another 75 women can double their incomes in a few months growing peanuts and vegetables. Emma, above, was in last year’s program. She tells me and Paramount Chief Caulker that with her peanut harvest she paid her children’s school fees and didn’t have to take out a high interest loan. She kept some peanuts as seed to plant this year, too. A success for her, and one of our most successful projects.

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April – With a global Rotary Club grant, CCET-SL developed a 15 acre “baby orchard” that will fund children’s education savings accounts. Seven Rotary clubs led by the Ann Arbor club joined the Rotary International Foundation and a Rotary District in a grant that paid to clear overgrown bush and plant over 1100 fruit trees. CCET-SL raised all trees locally from seed, including 450 coconuts and 480 citrus. While the trees mature, annual crops of rice, peanuts, corn and couscous were inter-planted, producing income to pay workers. The $49,500 grant paid for the orchard and several other projects.

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May –  SFSL won a $12,235 Procter & Gamble Alumni grant, enabling CCET-SL to complete equipping their Education & Computer Center. The Center’s first color printer arrived in May, giving CCET-SL an income generating service with the only public color document and photo printing within a 2-3 hour drive. Students can now get computer training on 17 new laptop computers up-to-date with Windows 10 also funded by the grant.

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June – JulyCCET-SL updated their chiefdom Birth Registration program that records newborn babies at the small village level. Government registrars can’t reach rural areas, jeopardizing children’s proof of citizenship and birthrights to family land, medical care and other services. The Rotary grant funded training for new chiefdom birth recorders and bicycles to cover their assigned villages. CCET-SL grows their own fruit trees from seed, and gives newborn parents three fruit trees to raise for their child’s welfare and education. The mothers above collected their fruit trees with their babies carried on their backs. See the little feet around their waists.

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AugustA second group of Women Vegetable Growers got the opportunity to raise peanuts as a cash crop. Subsistence farmers, they use most everything they normally grow to feed their families and barter locally for other needs. They can’t afford a $30 bale of peanut seed to expand their farms and earn more money. This group of 85 women was funded under the Rotary Club grant. They happily line up above with Rosaline Kaimbay of CCET-SL, right, to collect peanut seed, a drying tarp and 100 lb. of rice to feed families before their harvest – worth $80 in all. Within five months they’ll be harvesting. We’ve reached 300 women to date.

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September460 girls returned to school with school fee scholarships from Sherbro Foundation. A $17 scholarship keeps them in school for a full year, avoiding early marriage and early pregnancy – and makes for brighter, more productive futures for every year of education they get. Compassionate donors funded uniforms for all 120 senior high and 290 junior high girls, as well. For the first time, 100 girls can study at night with solar study lanterns, and we awarded the first college scholarship. It’s very impressive. I’ve never seen any organization giving so many awards and paying for so many things,” said Alice Conteh Morgan, managing director of Reliance Insurance Co. in Freetown and Rotifunk native. Above, she presents scholarship awards to Bumpeh Academy principal Rashid Conteh.

 

Octoberrice planted in the Baby Orchard was ready to harvest by October. The orchard is really a working plantation with supplies, tree seedlings and acres of harvests to be transported throughout the year. Now a necessity, the SFSL Board made the gift of a used truck, one built to withstand unpaved rural roads. The rice had to be threshed by hand by beating the sheaves to loosen rice grains – using the chief’s palaver house, above, as a workspace. Year by year we’ll make improvements as we can pay for them.

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November – Reliable power for CCET-SL’s Center had become a major problem, interrupting classes and jeopardizing income generating services like printing that fund the center operations. Our prayers were answered when the Beaman Family funded a complete 6000 Watt solar power system for the Center.  Printing, charging computers and evening classes and meeting space are now available whenever needed. Thank you, Beaman Family!

IMG_2190December – Planning for 2018 is underway. CCET-SL’s Tree Nursery is central to several projects. 12,000 tree seedlings, all started this year from seed, are nearing transplanting stage. They’ll go to planting the next baby orchard, supplying “baby trees” for 2018’s newborns and their parents, and for sale to generate income to keep propagating more trees. 2018 will also be the start of a new local forest reserve system, a first of its kind at the chiefdom level to protect mature forests and sources of village drinking water.

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 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!

 

 

 

 

 

Growing a Baby’s Future

Growing a Baby’s Future

They say money doesn’t grow on trees. But in Bumpeh Chiefdom in rural Sierra Leone, new parents are banking on it.

Through Sherbro Foundation’s Growing a Baby’s Future project, impoverished families in remote villages have a chance for the first time to save for their child’s education. Our grassroots partner, the Center for Community Empowerment and Transformation (CCET), is reaching places foreign aid – or even government funding — never reach.

Chief Caulker with village children.

Paramount Chief Caulker with Bumpeh Chiefdom village children.

The chiefdom is creating a living trust fund for the next generation by planting trees. And they’re doing it by relying on the Chiefdom’s only resources – its fertile land, water and agricultural skills.

Paramount Chief Charles Caulker realized the chiefdom can’t wait for outside help; for “someone” to create a social safety net for children. In a country devastated by both the Ebola virus and a long civil war, the wait is endless. He and CCET organized a major fruit tree planting project for the chiefdom, trees raised themselves from seed.

Only $20 will Grow a Baby’s Future in three steps:

  • Three fruit trees are planted for each newborn baby. The income from fruit sales will go into an education savings account for each baby at the new community bank.  By age 12, there will be money to pay the child’s secondary school fees.
  • Sherbro Foundation is seeding the bank accounts by paying the $3.50 minimum deposits.
  • And to make every child count, we are also is helping the chiefdom start a birth registry. Rural areas today have no birth registration. Without birth certificates, people can be denied birthrights of land ownership, voting and health care.
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Two tree nurseries hold 40,000 seedlings grown from seed, maturing for next year’s rainy season planting.

CCET and the people of Bumpeh are determined to raise thousands of citrus, mango, avocado, coconut, cashew and teak seedlings for newborn babies and their future education. Families will reap their bounty for years to come.

CCET plans to expand their tree nurseries – already boasting 40,000 seedlings – to sell to local farmers, too. This will generate income for the program to become self-sufficient.

Growing a Baby’s Future is facing a backlog of 1,000 babies after it was interrupted by the yearlong Ebola crisis.

CCET only needs our seed money to secure a baby’s future. You can help – donate here.