Saluting a Sierra Leone Paramount Chief’s 35 Years of Service

Saluting a Sierra Leone Paramount Chief’s 35 Years of Service

Sherbro Foundation celebrates its seventh anniversary next month. To understand this success, just look to the head of the community-led program with whom we partner in Sierra Leone. We’ve been honored to work with Paramount Chief Charles Caulker since 2013 and support his chiefdom development efforts. And now we salute his 35th anniversary as paramount chief!

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Nearly 2,000 cheering people packed the celebration of Paramount Chief Charles Caulker’s dedication to traditional rule of Bumpeh Chiefdom. He is the second longest serving paramount chief in Sierra Leone. I knew I wouldn’t see a traditional ceremony of this significance again anytime soon. I went to Sierra Leone in December to witness it myself – and now share it with you.

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“You have stood tall to achieve unity in this chiefdom and brought development … [that has] no boundaries between your rivals and your allies. May our god continue to keep you on your throne for 10 years, 20 years and even more.”  –Bumpeh Chiefdom-born businesswoman Alice Conteh-Morgan at Chief’s celebration

Chief Caulker’s feat is not just one marked by length of service, but by 35 years of uninterrupted peace and unity in his rural chiefdom. Sierra Leone’s highly centralized government is far away in the capital Freetown. It’s the paramount chief who keeps law and order on a day-to-day basis, and maintains peace and stability.

20191220_174350 (2)Ms. Conteh-Morgan, right, with Chief, far right, continued, “It’s not easy for someone to rule for 35 years without his people rising against him.”

Chief Caulker has served through a dynamic period in the ’80s of the country’s still-young democracy, an 11-year rebel war, five presidencies with alternating and hotly competing political parties, and the Ebola crisis. Imagine a U.S. governor retaining office with strong support over 35 often tumultuous years.

Paramount chiefs are elected, and then serve for life. But Chief Caulker feels he needs to periodically face his people and seek their support for continuing in office, as he did on this day in December.

The day began with people coming to salute their chief with drumming and the deafening vuvuzela-style horns African soccer fans love.

20191220_145638 (3)Amateur “devils” entertained the gathering crowds, as people found their seats under temporary shelters of bamboo and palm to escape the sweltering tropical sun.

People were invited from across the chiefdom, as well as friends and national and district government officials from Chief’s 45 years in public life.

Poro, the men’s secret society, led the traditional part of the ceremony. They serve the paramount chief, and also act as checks and balances on their chief’s rule.

They offered symbolic gifts, below, reaffirming they want this chief to continue as their paramount chief.

20191220_170858 (2)The conchama, above, took the lead. She is a special sub-chief in Bumpeh Chiefdom and one of the stalwart keepers of its oldest traditions. The conchama has been a female chief for as long as anyone can remember, and is unique among women. She was initiated into Poro and participates as a leader in the men’s society.

One symbolic gift was a jug of honey, representing all the sweetness of their chiefdom they give to Chief Caulker and entrust him with protecting.

The conchama said she was repeating the tradition she performed ten years ago at Chief’s 25th anniversary. With their symbolic gifts, Bumpeh Chiefdom was now handing over the chiefdom to Chief Caulker’s care for another 50 years!

20191220_172417 (3)The day was a mix of the traditional and the contemporary, just like the man himself.

Chief Caulker, right, gave a state-of-the-union type of address, and told of what he’s accomplished and what he yet plans to do. The people roared their support.

Chief told me the thing he’s most proud of is uniting his chiefdom and keeping peace for 35 years, an accomplishment that’s been impossible elsewhere in Sierra Leone.

Bumpeh Chiefdom is diverse with seven often competing tribal groups in one area. Chief assumed his office in 1984 after a local violent conflict, followed by a highly contentious election. He was young to take office as a paramount chief — only 35 — and untested. But he made peace and reuniting the chiefdom his objective.

He did it by balancing the rights of all tribes and not allowing any one group to achieve dominance. His family tribe, the Sherbro, is now outnumbered in their own homeland. But he insisted all tribes would sit together in governing the chiefdom, with no one group favored over the other. Everyone has equal rights and deserves equal opportunity in his mind.

Speakers bore this out in their testimonials for Chief. “He is a man with a clean heart,” said the District Officer, the ranking district government official. “No matter what you do, he’ll never get angry. He embraces everyone and forgives all. After the rebel war, he came and worked with the government and NGOs to restore hope and joy to his people.”

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Mr. Tamba Lamina, Minister of Local Government and Rural Development recalled how Chief Caulker advised five successive governments on local governance and represented the paramount chiefs of his district in parliament for 12 years after the war. Most recently, Chief was part of a 12-member transition team in 2018 for the newly elected Maada Bio government. Lamina said, “I consider Chief Caulker a benchmark for rural development, and use him in assessing other chiefdoms in the country.”

20191218_114108 (2)Some of the strongest praise came from the man who actively opposed Chief in that paramount chief election 35 years ago.

“I believe I’m going to die and leave you on the throne to bring more development [to our chiefdom],” Alie Bendu, far left, declared.

“Today we are handing over these [symbolic] items to you as a sign we are happy with you and want you to govern us more.”

Then it was the people’s turn to celebrate their chief with traditional music and dancing.

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The women’s society led off with their Bundu devils and colorful Sampa dancers, above and below.

 

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The athletic Ojeh society dancers, above and below, are from the Temne tribe.

The masked Nafali dancer, below, is often sent ahead to announce the men’s society devil, the Gboi, will follow him. Other dancers joined the Nafali.

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No cultural show is complete without the main devil from the men’s Poro society, the Gboi, below, a huge whirling dervish of raffia.

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The official cultural parade ended by late afternoon. But the dancing DJ-style went on late into the night, or I should say into morning. A day-long fete fitting for a 35-year paramount chief.

This was just one of five days not only honoring Chief Caulker’s 35 years of public service, but also his 70th birthday. Family members came from the UK and the US to celebrate with Chief.

20190131_085813 (3)Thirty-five years in service, but in no way is Chief Caulker retiring. He seems to just be picking up speed, with plans for the coming years pouring out.

The challenges in Bumpeh Chiefdom still loom large. But we can’t think of anyone more up to tackling them – and showing other chiefdoms the way –  than Paramount Chief Caulker.

For those of you who join Sherbro Foundation in supporting Bumpeh Chiefdom’s community-led programs – thank you. There’s much more yet to come!

– – Arlene Golembiewski, Executive Director

 

 

Unbeatable. Unstoppable.

Arlene’s House. Unbeatable. My name was emblazoned on banners and T-shirts for a school sports meet in Rotifunk, Bumpeh Chiefdom.

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I was honored to have one of four Bumpeh Academy houses organized for the meet named after me. It’s really for all you Sherbro Foundation supporters who have helped send their girls to school with scholarships for the last five years.

IMG-20190413-WA0002School sports meets are a huge deal across Sierra Leone, but especially in rural towns like Rotifunk with little to entertain and amuse. Students march onto the sports field in brightly colored T-shirts for their house’s color, while a DJ blasts out music with massive speakers (thanks to a generator for power).

IMG-20190414-WA0006Announcers calls out the competitors in their various track & field events and give the volleyball play-by-play account. Winners in individual events get certificates. Houses will parade around town with trophies boasting of their overall meet results.

The town turns out and throngs the field. Honored guests take seats under a palm palapa built for the event to escape the peak-of-the-dry-season sun beating down.

IMG-20190414-WA0003My colleagues from our partner CCET-SL turned out to support Arlene’s house. Each house comes with its own masked “devil,” a nod to their traditional societies. These devils compete in a wildly gyrating dance competition where spectators vote by tossing money in their basket.

I smiled when I saw the motto for Arlene’s house: Unbeatable. They strived to be unbeatable in this meet. I strive to be unstoppable. You’d best not undertake any serious mission in Sierra Leone if you give up when inevitable barriers throw you a curve.

Bumpeh Academy knows about being unstoppable. Until this year, this school taught half its classes in classrooms without four walls. Some with dirt floors. They used our school fee scholarship money year by year to buy zinc for a roof and cement to make block bricks for classroom walls. In my recent February visit, I saw at least three walls around each of their six classrooms, and the fourth started.

But Bumpeh Academy is also the school that got the best 2018 senior high entrance exam results in three adjoining chiefdoms. And in February, they became the first Bumpeh Chiefdom school to become government approved to teach at the senior high level since before their rebel war began over 25 years ago.

Unbeatable. Unstoppable. Set your goal and be relentless until you meet it. This is how you achieve in Sierra Leone.

Congratulations, Bumpeh Academy, on this weekend’s sports meet – and on all you’ve achieved.

— Arlene Golembiewski

Come celebrate our 6th anniversary

Come celebrate our 6th anniversary

This week is Sherbro Foundation’s sixth anniversary!

I’m just back from five weeks in Sierra Leone. One program in 2013 has grown to six today, and they’re expanding.

Join us April 4 at 7 pm in Cincinnati to hear all we’ve accomplished with our Sierra Leone partner CCET – and where we’re going next.

This isn’t a fundraiser. We just want to share all our good news with you. Pass this on and feel free to bring friends. Hope to see you there.

—– Arlene Golembiewski

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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 

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:

 

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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.


 

Preparing Sierra Leone Girls for Success

Preparing Sierra Leone Girls for Success

Girls can’t go to college or get jobs if they don’t successfully graduate from high school. And they won’t complete high school if they don’t first learn what they should in junior high.

75 Bumpeh Chiefdom 9th grade girls are completing a new tutoring program designed to help them pass their junior high completion exam. In its first five months, it’s exceeding our initial expectations.     

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The chiefdom’s drop-out rate from junior to senior high has typically been 50%. It’s a combination of inability to continue paying for school and not being well prepared academically for senior high. Many families just can’t pay beyond junior high. If students don’t pass their junior high exam, it’s that much harder for parents to pay for them to repeat a grade. Even if they pass, they may still struggle with senior high subjects.

With your support for the Girls Scholarship Program, Sherbro Foundation has been addressing the cost problem.  We want to remove inability to pay as a barrier to girls continuing into senior high.

Now we’re tackling the knowledge deficiency problem.

The tutoring program is the brainchild of Rosaline Kaimbay, Executive Director of our Sierra Leone partner, CCET, the Center for Community Empowerment & Transformation. She’s using the same technique she used as the highly successful founding principal of a secondary school.

IMG-20180409-WA0002 (2)She’s brought the most qualified local teachers together to provide evening classes that complete and intensively review the school curriculum. 9th graders in schools without qualified teachers now get the chance to be fully prepared for their national proficiency exam.

75 of the 80 9th graders who started evening classes in January have continued and will soon be taking their national proficiency exam in late June. They also received computer training as part of the program. Gibril Bendu, above, an award winning local science teacher, has been leading the program.

The first group of nine 12th grade girls received four months of remedial classes before their final proficiency exam in April. CCET immediately engaged 11th graders to start the tutoring program. They plan to continue classes over the summer holiday.

Boys are invited and starting to join girls in the program. They need the chance to succeed, too.

IMG-20170927-WA0000 (4)Mrs. Kaimbay is focused on the success of the chiefdom’s teens.

Left, she finds the most disadvantaged girls like the one on the right, and tells them, come to school. If you can’t pay for a uniform, we will help you.

“I want to get results.”

That’s Mrs. Kaimbay, referring to the students passing the national exams. “And then I will be proud.”

Proud she should be. The tutoring program is among the best spent money in our organization’s five years, in terms of impact and number of students affected.

Since its January start, over 100 kids are getting help to assure their success at the most critical junctures in their education – making the transition to senior high and to higher education.

At about $50 per child, including computer training, this is high value. And it’s an investment that will continue to pay back through their future success and their impact on the chiefdom.

Mrs. Kaimbay is now ready to “camp” the 75 9th grade girls by turning the CCET building into a dormitory / classroom for 3 weeks before and during their proficiency exam.

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The girls will live and sleep there 24/7, getting intensive prepping with sample test questions and keeping them focused & energized for their exam. All tutoring teachers participate. Mrs. Kaimbay will sleep there herself – on the concrete floor – as chaperone, coach and to supervise cooking to feed the students three meals a day.

With this technique, she got 100% of her former students passing the exam three years running. These girls are coming from other schools with more of an academic deficit. After 5 months of evening classes and with this last boost, Mrs. Kaimbay hopes to get 80% to 90% passes.

The diligence shown by everyone in the tutoring program has been impressive. It’s free to students and teachers get modest stipends. But I wondered if the commitment and enthusiasm for extra evening classes would be flagging now five months into the program.

It hasn’t. These girls are focused on succeeding and advancing their education. Their tutors look at the girls’ success as their own success.

Huge thanks go out to the Beaman Family for funding the tutoring program’s first 10 months and now stepping up to cover cost of feeding the girls for the three-week review camp.

We also send our deep thanks to everyone contributing to the scholarship program. It’s your support that brought them this far and gave them the opportunity to succeed.

I’m confident the girls will do us all proud. I can’t wait to see the next incoming senior high class in September filled with girls ready to continue learning.

Every Day Is Earth Day in Bumpeh Chiefdom, #SierraLeone

Every day is Earth Day in Bumpeh Chiefdom, as our partner CCET-SL grows fruit trees in their own tree nursery for local planting. CCET-SL grows tens of thousands of fruit tree seedlings every year, year round, to plant in local orchards to fund children’s education. .

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They’re showing they can protect the environment, be sustainable using their own resources – AND earn money to send chiefdom children to school.

IMG-20180421-WA0006 (2)CCET-SL grows orange, lime, grapefruit, African plum, cashew, avocado, guava and coconuts, all with seed they collect from locally purchased fruit.

Tree seedlings are nearing maturity to transplant in CCET-SL’s “baby orchards” when the rains start in June. These orchards will fund an education savings program for babies, providing money for their future education.

Mission of Hope: Rotifunk volunteer, left, inspects this year’s tree seedlings while visiting their hospital project.

CCET-SL also gives three fruit trees to parents of newborns to plant in their backyard gardens. They are reviving an old tradition of planting a tree when a baby is born.

Today’s new parents are learning they can produce fruit in their own backyards that can pay for their child’s welfare and education.

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Tree seedlings that will be soon planted were grown with funds from a 2017 Rotary Club grant led by the Rotary Club of Ann Arbor. Sister club Rotarians, above, from Freetown, Jennifer and Theodora, made a site visit in January to inspect the project, seen here with Paramount Chief Charles Caulker, CCET-SL board chairman.

IMG-20180119-WA0024CCET-SL grows some specialty trees like African plums, left.

They sell tree seedlings to local farmers to earn income to help maintain the tree nursery and make it sustainable long term.

 

 

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

 

Getting Kids Ready for Senior High and Beyond

 

It was a Wednesday night, the first week of school in January, and our partner CCET-SL’s Community Learning Center was thronged with Rotifunk-area kids. Over 80 9th and 12th graders returned to a classroom at night because they’re eager to continue learning.

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Come July, they’ll be sitting for their senior high and college entrance exams. They are intent on using their education as a path to a better life. But first, they must pass the West African standardized school completion exams, and they want to pass the first time.

Eighty-three students quickly signed up for CCET-SL’s new Tutoring Program. These 9th and 12th graders attend evening classes three times a week to review the full junior high or senior high curriculum, and make sure they’re prepared for the school completion exams.

Alima Kanu JSS3 tutoring student (2)Alima, left, is one student who signed up. We introduced Alima last year and the formidable challenges she’s faced to stay in school. When her older parents couldn’t pay for any more schooling, they sent to live with her aunt. She had to walk five miles each way to her Rotifunk school.

With a SFSL-funded scholarship, the bright 14-year-old has progressed to the 9th grade. We were delighted to see she’s joined the tutoring program.

Alima was able to move from her aunt’s village into town this year. She’s determined to go to college and told us here why she comes for extra evening tutoring.

 

IMG-20180129-WA0013 (2)Thanks to a $5,000 Beaman Family Fund grant, the Tutoring Program is being offered free of charge to both girls and boys.

The grant pays for five part-time local teachers, a sixth full-time teacher to coordinate the program for 2017, and teacher and student learning materials.

Gibril Bendu, above, the only Science teacher in town, is leading the Tutoring Program for CCET-SL.

Introducing computers — All participating students must also complete an introduction to computers. By the end of term, they will have learned basics of Windows, Word for Windows and Excel.

IMG-20180131-WA0012Paramount Chief Charles Caulker visited the first week and immediately called us in Cincinnati. We heard all the noise in the background of kids getting into the preloaded computer games, as their first effort in learning how to navigate a PC and use the mouse. He said it made him so proud.

“Just think, there are 80 children in my chiefdom now learning how to use a computer!”

Rural education challenges — The unexpected Beaman Family Fund gift is giving rural children the opportunity to succeed in the modern world, just as city kids have.

For over 20 years, no Bumpeh Chiefdom student passed the West African standardized junior high or senior high completion exams, the BECE and WASSCE, or met university entry requirements.

In 2016, the first three candidates (all with Sherbro Foundation scholarships) passed the WASSCE senior high exam with university requirements, and are currently attending college.

More Bumpeh Chiefdom students now are progressing to junior high, many with Sherbro Foundation scholarships. But they face serious limitations in advancing to senior high and beyond. Schools have inexperienced teachers, many unqualified in their subject matter, especially at the senior high level. It’s difficult to get teachers with four-year degrees to live in a rural community.

IMG_2038 (2)Students don’t have textbooks and must copy limited notes teachers write on the blackboard.

Poor school policies advance students who fail exams to the next grade, where they don’t catch up. Poor discipline may mean students don’t complete the full curriculum.

When students go home after school, they don’t have a suitable study environment. Most live in crowded conditions with distractions, noise and no lighting. They lack the support and coaching important to reach goals no one around them has achieved.

Filling in the gaps — Kids will never make it to college or vocational school if they don’t first learn what they should in junior high.

IMG-20170927-WA0002Working to fill this gap is CCET-SL’s Tutoring Program, the brainchild of Managing Director Rosaline Kaimbay, left. As a former school principal, she ran year-end study camps where 9th graders had intensive all-day review classes for four weeks. The result was 100% of her students passed the junior high BECE completion exam, uncommon for any school, let alone a rural school.

At CCET-SL, Mrs. Kaimbay is turning her approach into a three-day-a-week evening program open to students from all Bumpeh Chiefdom schools. With the Tutoring Program, kids can achieve the knowledge level needed to be successful in senior high. Dropouts are reduced and the likelihood of advancing to college or vocational school improved. Graduating seniors will get prepped for their college entrance exam.

Pride of the chiefdom — Chief Caulker said the program is already much admired in the chiefdom.

Adama Kamara JSS3 tutoring student (2)Girls like Adama, left, feel pride that they’re joining a group of chiefdom academic elites, studying with the best local teachers in a first-class environment complete with solar light and computers.

They arrive early and leave talking with their friends in English about what they just learned. Chatting in English doesn’t normally happen in a rural environment, Chief said. It’s strictly Krio, the country’s vernacular.

Parents are overwhelmed by all the efforts being made for their children, he said, and that it’s all free of charge. For a chiefdom with 70% illiteracy, moving 80 kids to academic proficiency at the senior high level is a very big deal. A real source of pride.

 

More needs — Still, there’s more to do. Some students attending the program live in villages 3-6 miles away, and were valuing their education over even food.

IMG-20180122-WA0003 (4)It’s too far for them to walk home from school for their main (and sometimes only) daily meal and return again for evening classes. Some had not eaten since heading to school at 7 a.m.! And it’s too dark for girls to be walking home that distance at 7:30 p.m.

CCET-SL arranged to feed these students in the short term, and teachers taxi them home with CCET-SL motorcycles. Most students are inadequately fed and will perform better with an evening meal to fuel their brains.

Our next goal for these dedicated students is to raise additional funds for a meal program for the whole class and fuel costs to ensure girls are safely taken home at night.

In the meantime, classes are on and it’s a full house.

And Then There Was Light – CCET-SL’s new Solar System

And Then There Was Light – CCET-SL’s new Solar System

Just when we thought we were ending a banner year – our best yet – it got even better.

When our partner CCET-SL’s new Community Education Center opened in 2015, we knew we would need solar power to meet the center’s promise of computer and adult literacy classes, chiefdom meetings, NGO-led educational workshops and other services. But we never dreamed this critical chiefdom resource would have its own 24-hour solar power system today.

Then it happened – quickly.  All thanks to a donor we have never met! From the very first email contact in early September to final installation of the new solar system in November was only 11 weeks.

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The Center can now operate late into the evening, seven days a week as needed, and power all equipment for its growing printing service and computer training.

The gift from the Beaman Family Fund (the actual donor wishes to remain anonymous) was made after another thoughtful donor recommended the work of Sherbro Foundation Sierra Leone and our Bumpeh Chiefdom partner, the Center for Community Empowerment & Transformation (CCET-SL).

The funding installed a 6,000-watt solar power system, including a little extra capacity for the future. We had to carefully plan out all energy use, and still ration hours per day of usage. With solar, you can’t use power faster than you can make and store it.

For perspective on how far 6000 watts will go, a standard women’s hairdryer uses 1875 watts and a basic microwave is 1000 watts. Two simple devices would use half the available power. While solar equipment continues to get cheaper, installing a system to cover all energy needs is still expensive.

With a 6000-watt system, CCET-SL can:

  • Operate the printing service, with a low-energy duplicator and color printer. The only such public service in Moyamba District of 300,000, it’s expected to keep the center self-supporting.
  • Light the building with 26 LED bulbs and cool with 16 small ceiling fans and standing fans.
  • Run computer classes with up to 20 laptops at a time for a maximum four hours a day.
  • Run equipment for two profit-making services – a small canteen and public cell phone charging.

CCET-SL’s Center started as a burned-out shell of a building destroyed during the rebel war. But it was a central site, and local labor transformed it into a 2,600-square-foot multifunctional space, all built during the Ebola crisis when the chiefdom was under isolation order for months.

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Now look at it! The center is not just a bright place for evening classes, to get a photo printed or a copy, hold a meeting or enjoy a cold drink. It’s a model for the entire country on self-supported community education. It’s lighting the way for market women to learn to read and for high school students to use a computer for the first time.

We can’t thank the Beaman Family Fund enough for their generosity in funding the solar power system. Thanks also to all of you who supported us along the way. It’s been a four year journey, but with your help, we’ve reached the finish line.

Inspiring girls to come to school

While we were busy wrapping up this year’s successful Girls Scholarships campaign, CCET-SL’s Rosaline Kaimbay was making the rounds of the four Bumpeh Chiefdom participating secondary schools.

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She’s been visiting each school to check their enrollment of girls. And telling girls to tell their friends at home who didn’t report to school to come back. If they can’t pay school fees or buy a uniform, we will help them.

Mrs. Kaimbay is an inspiring role model for these girls, having been born and raised in the chiefdom. We’re fortunate to have her at the helm of CCET-SL.

Mrs. Kaimbay and Bumpeh Academy Secondary School students, left. BASS has both junior and senior high classes and their enrollment of girls is growing.

We doubled our scholarship campaign goal this year!

Our partner, CCET-SL, is now distributing 466 school fee scholarships to the girls that need them most. We added uniforms this year, and have 360 to combine with scholarships.

We expect that every Bumpeh Chiefdom girl who wants to attend senior high will receive a scholarship and a uniform! Helping girls progress through senior high is our goal.

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When girls see such a successful woman as Mrs. Kaimbay coming from among their ranks, they think, I can do this, too. And it starts with going to school.

Rotifunk’s Ahmadiyya School, left, is a junior secondary school.  Mrs. Kaimbay’s visit is motivating and encourages girls to come to school.

Why not them? Young mothers want to return to school.

Why not them? Young mothers want to return to school.

“Hawanatu is 22 and the mother of two children, but she is desperate to go back to school.”

Bumpeh Academy Vice Principal, Daniel Koroma told me about girls and young women, many now mothers, forced to drop out of school. They come to him looking for help to return. Hawanatu, left,  dropped out after the 8th grade.

The picture Daniel sent of Hawanatu shows her with a plaintive look on her face and a T-shirt emblazoned with “School” across her chest. People buy discarded used clothes from piles sold in the market, and I thought her choice was not coincidental.

Hawanatu is typical of girls pushed into early marriage by the age of 16 or 17 by parents who can no longer feed and care for them. Few local men go beyond primary school. Girls marry someone of their own background, and soon they’re pregnant.

Sherbro Foundation has helped 450 girls go to junior and senior secondary school with school fee scholarships over the last four years.

Many girls had repeat scholarships keeping them in school. Now, we’re emphasizing helping girls stay in senior high – when drop-out rates are highest – so they can graduate.

We include young mothers who want to return to school and improve their lives.

Young mothers like Hawanatu soon understand the way to make a better life for their kids is to complete their own education. They also want to be able to help their children with their studies.

IMG_4224 (2)Hawanatu’s husband, an “unqualified” primary school teacher, didn’t complete high school. He has the opportunity now to get basic teacher training, but it means he’ll be away from home and can’t support his family.

Both Hawanatu’s parents are dead and she stays with her in-laws in a village outside Rotifunk. To earn money, she makes coconut cakes and a treks five miles each way to sell them in the Rotifunk market.

Bumpeh Academy is happy to accept young women like Hawanatu back into school if they can find the money for school fees. But there isn’t much to spare selling coconut cakes for pennies apiece.


Bumpeh Academy 11th grade class, left

Local young women who are drop-outs and mothers see a few professional woman visiting Rotifunk, like government officials and nonprofit organization workers. And they see Rosaline Kaimbay, former high school principal and now managing director of our local partner, CCET.


“They admire them so much, “ Daniel says. “They know they themselves are intelligent, and say ’if this woman can do this, why not me.’ ”

Exactly. Why not them?

There’s more young mothers like Hawanatu anxious to return to school who need a second chance.

You can help these young women get back into school for a full year and put their lives back on track with a $17 scholarship. Amazing.

They’ll be expanding their lives. They’ll raise healthier children and see they are educated. And they’ll break the cycle of subsistence living that’s held their families back for generations.

Add a school uniform to the scholarship for a new 10th grader and it’s only $35 to let a young woman return to school for a whole year.

It’s easy. Just click here: I’ll send a young woman to school.

Open up her world. Give a girl a scholarship.

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Isatu is a remarkable girl.  She’s an orphan determined to stay in school.  With help from Sherbro Foundation scholarships, she has made it to her senior year!

Each day is a challenge in Bumpeh Chiefdom, Sierra Leone. Isatu lost both her parents as a young girl. She lives with her aunt, a farmer, in their small village of mud houses outside Rotifunk. There’s no public transportation. Isatu and her friends get up before dawn and walk six miles to school.

After school, Isatu walks six miles again home, and then helps her aunt in the field, tending cassava, rice and greens. They grow their own food, but have little left to sell for income for school fees. Darkness comes by 6:30 year-round near the equator. Isatu can’t afford a lamp to study in the evening.

Yet Isatu has big plans. She wants to become a lawyer. She learned in Civics class that lawyers use the law to protect people. “I want to fight for my colleagues and people in the village against violence” and for better conditions, she says.  If Isatu hadn’t received a Sherbro Foundation scholarship, she wouldn’t be in school, and wouldn’t be learning about a world of jobs and careers.

Bumpeh Academy students – Isatu, left, Hellen and Alima

More Bumpeh Chiefdom girls than ever are in school. Nearly 900 girls were enrolled in the area’s five secondary schools at this term’s end.

But hundreds more want to go to school and don’t have $17 to pay the annual fee! Their families are struggling to earn $1 per day to put food on the table. Sierra Leone’s economy went into freefall after Ebola and has not recovered. Families can’t continue to support teenage girls, and many are pushed to marry at 16 and 17. They get pregnant too early. The cycle of poverty continues. Teen pregnancy keeps Sierra Leone’s maternal and infant mortality rates among the world’s highest.

In four years, Sherbro Foundation’s scholarship program has helped 450 girls enter – and stay – in school.

Girls with scholarships work harder in school in order to keep them. They know there’s competition. They now have bigger goals, and pregnancies are reduced to only a few.

Some graduates will go on to vocational training. Some like Isatu are determined to go to college. They want to become the nurses, doctors, teachers, accountants, policewomen and lawyers their country desperately needs. With education, they all can move beyond the cycle of subsistence life that has long trapped their families.

But our scholarships have only helped a third of the girls enrolled. Even more want to go to school.

Now is a crucial time. With the new school year starting soon, you can give more of these girls the gift of attending school. You can:

  • Ensure 350 girls have the chance to go to school this year with a $17 scholarship.
  • Help girls progress into senior high and bring new 7th graders into junior high.
  • Provide a new uniform for 7th graders and 10th graders starting in new schools.

With a strong U.S. dollar, giving is a great bargain. Your $50 will sponsor three junior-high students to make the important leap to secondary school. Or ensure that three older girls can focus on graduation.

$35 will send a girl to school for an entire year AND outfit her with a school uniform. Where else can $35 do as much good as educating a girl?

More good news:  Our Board pledges to match each gift. You’ll help twice as many girls!

It’s easy to donate online: Click here. We welcome checks sent to: Sherbro Foundation, 3723 Sachem Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45226.

Bumpeh Chiefdom’s girls tell us: “We’re ready to learn.”

You’ll open up their world to new possibilities by giving girls a scholarship.

Thank you!

Arlene Golembiewski, Chris Golembiewski, Cheryl Farmer and Steve Papelian

— The Sherbro Foundation Board of Directors

P.S. Isatu and her fellow students are so grateful to you for expanding their world. Won’t you help a few more of her friends? If you do so now, they can be ready for school in September!

 

The Embrace of Sierra Leone

The Embrace of Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone doesn’t just say hello. It embraces you in a rush of sights, sounds, crush of people, heat, humidity, smells, women’s clothes the colors of tropical birds, drumming, music, throngs of kids with smiles from ear to ear. Life spills out onto the street and the village front porch. Here’s some of my images and impressions in returning to Salone after 14 months.

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In Freetown, you invariably find yourself on Siaka Stevens St., the center of town, in a crush of traffic with the famous 200-year old cotton tree in front of you. The winter’s harmattan dust was hanging in the air, making it hazy all day, but much of that haze is now diesel exhaust pollution.

USD cash exchangeI have two visual barometers for the Salone economy. Freetown’s beaches were empty. No tourists, which adds to unemployment. People can’t afford to go to their own gorgeous beaches.

The other is how big a pile of leones you get when exchanging dollars. 5,000 and 10,000 denominations are used, and so devaluated, they’re only worth $0.70 and $1.40 each. 

The leone devalued about 25% during 2016. Petrol prices soared. People say the economy is at its worst in years.

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Leaving the highway for small feeder roads to Rotifunk is entering another world. The Ribbi ferry is virtually unchanged since I used it 40 years ago as a Peace Corps Volunteer; a platform on pontoons and you’re manually pulled across. A crowd of small children collect on the other side chanting, Ah-bey, ah-bey, ah-bey — Temne for chief. They know Paramount Chief Caulker is coming bringing them sweets. He started this during Ebola and continues it with every crossing. “I can’t do much to really improve their lives, but I can at least make them smile for a couple hours.”

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Our first week included a trip down the beautiful Bumpeh River to Mamu village to celebrate the opening of new primary school. Taking a big boat with the Paramount Chief, front right, for an official visit is not an everyday activity. So, it’s a party on a boat. Gliding down this unspoiled river, pure joy.

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Bundu devils from the women’s society join drummers and singers to welcome the chief to Mamu village. Traditions in a small village like Mamu are very much alive and well. Opening a new school is a happy day, this school built with donations from young Norwegians.

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Back in Rotifunk, there’s simple pleasures of seeing friends again and meeting new friends.

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Early evening is a favorite time of day to stroll down the hill to see vegetable gardens being planted and tended in the rich flood plain of the Bumpeh River. Raised beds of various leafy greens, a diet staple, and peppers were coming to life. Kids “fished” in a field well, bringing up salamanders from the mud. They’re probably added to the pot for dinner.

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Another moment of joy was walking into our partner CCET’s new education center at 5 p.m. when it was abuzz with activity. Three adult literacy classes and the first regular high school computer class, all going on in the main hall. Most adult literacy students are single parents. Babies are welcome.

IMG_2109This mother of twelve shows us it’s never too late to learn your ABCs for the first time, and how to “carry over” when adding three digit numbers.

Women have graduated from Adult Literacy and entered other vocational training as primary school teachers, nurse aides, a policewoman and one ready to start as a surveyor’s assistant.

 

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Computer training classes for Bumpeh Chiefdom students and adults was a dream five and a half years in the making. It grew from offering classes in one school to a full education center in its own 2,600-square-foot building built during Ebola. I learned to dream big; then it happens.

vlcsnap-error383   IMG_2036For Bumpeh Academy, one of the Chiefdom’s newer schools, progress happens in small steps. Very small steps. Senior high classes, previously run “second shift” in a primary school, moved to the main school addition, still in progress as funds are available. In 2015, a concrete slab was poured for three classrooms. In 2016, a zinc roof and partial walls between rooms were added, and classes started. I was happy to hear from Vice Principal Koroma, above, SFSL funded part of the addition with the school fee scholarships we paid for girls. They used the money to buy bags of concrete. Still, children at Bumpeh Academy are in school learning. 98% of Academy students taking the 2016 senior high entrance exam passed! And they have a new Peace Corps teacher, Ethan Davies, above, right corner.  

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Visiting Bumpeh Chiefdom’s small villages is always a trip highlight. Nyandahun, one of the oldest and smallest villages with 25 houses is the birthplace of Chief Caulker’s grandmother. It has a long tradition of women village chiefs. Chief Lupe Bendu, above left, definitely has a chiefly demeanor. By tradition, she’s considered the queen of Nyandahun. Asked how their village orchard will help them, she immediately replied, “It will help our children and we’ll use it for their education.” 

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Passing village homes like this one, I’m reminded why our Women’s Vegetables Growing and Village Orchard programs are so important. They’re simple to implement, following local agriculture traditions, income can be earned quickly, and it goes directly to families that need it the most.  With cash income, their children can go on to secondary school in Rotifunk.

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There’s little for a village child to look forward to without education. But we don’t want them to be leaving their villages. We want to teach schoolchildren and their parents they could be earning a good living growing coconuts like these, and guava and cashews. Make agriculture a small business.

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Developing the local village economy includes having cash to set up a small front porch shop for neighbors. A dilemma is not losing your small profits to transportation costs of going to Rotifunk or Freetown to buy cheaper goods to sell. There’s little public transportation from a village like Mosundu.

IMG_2190  IMG_2168In full swing, CCET’s fruit tree nursery grows a variety of trees from seed: orange, grapefruit, lime, avocado, guava, cashew, mango. Three workers plant seeds collected from local fruit, and water and nurse them for a year+ until ready to plant in the Village Orchard program. Some go to newborn parents, restoring the tradition of “baby trees.” Some will be sold for income to continue to operate the nursery. Abdul learned to write and make signs in Adult Literacy class.

IMG_1992  IMG_1988Bumpeh Chiefdom is a prime coconut growing area. Pa Willie personally raises coconut seedlings in a closed pen behind his house to keep out thieves. The coconut, husk, shell and all, is embedded in soil until it sprouts. It’s a longer-term venture taking two years, but they’re worth more. Pa Willie’s tree-growing skills date back to working in a Liberian rubber plantation before the war.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sherbro Foundation wins P&G Alumni grant to expand the Computer Center

Sherbro Foundation wins P&G Alumni grant to expand the Computer Center

Sherbro Foundation is awarded a P&G Alumni Foundation 2016 grant

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The $12,235 grant is awarded on behalf of our Sierra Leone partner, the Center for Community Empowerment & Transformation (CCET), and will help expand their computer center.

Left, Oliver Bernard, CCET volunteer facility manager at the Center

 

 

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Former Procter & Gamble employees fund their alumni foundation with the mission of economically empowering those in need.

DSC04545Sherbro Foundation Executive Director and P&G Alumna Arlene Golembiewski, left with Sulaiman Timbo, submitted the proposal. She said, “CCET’s new Center offers practical education programs, before unavailable in this community, that improve student earning potential, like computer training and adult literacy.

They are preparing impoverished people to find wage-paying jobs in the formal economy. And providing skills to develop small businesses.”

The Computer Center has a slate of education programs and community services that satisfied all three Alumni Foundation objectives for the grant. 

MVI_2758_MomentHigh school students like Zainab, left, get practical job skill training on computers. 

She wants to become an accountant and knows she must be able to use a computer to get a job.

IMG_2031 (2)Adults develop small business skills. Left, Francis Senesie teaches petty market traders and farmers math and business basics like computing profit.

Adult computer students apply their own small-business examples with instructors available to guide them.  

MVI_2260_Moment(7)The Center itself is a new entrepreneurial venture, offering previously unavailable services like copy & printing that fund its nonprofit education programs.

The grant will pay for adding new computers to the Center and a color printer for the new printing service. CCET will buy remaining equipment the Center needs, like a generator to back-up their solar power service and a chest freezer to expand a canteen service.

The grant will also be used to pay initial operating costs while the new Center develops its customer base for copy and printing and other Center services.

The Computer Center is bringing the first and only IT technology access and training to rural Bumpeh Chiefdom’s 40,000 people. It’s the only place in Moyamba District with 300,000 people to get an IT certificate covering all Microsoft Office software programs.

The grant required a P&G alum to participate in the project. Arlene Golembiewski, Sherbro Foundation founder and Executive Director, was a 30-year P&G employee and is a member of the global Alumni Network.