All Dressed Up – and Now Someplace to Go

All Dressed Up – and Now Someplace to Go

Fatmata, Umu and Safi have done something no one else in their Sierra Leone families have done. Or almost anyone in their community. They graduated from high school. But then what happens?

CHN students (3)The three Rotifunk graduates are among the first Bumpeh Chiefdom girls to finish high school in more than 20 years since Sierra Leone’s war.

They’re now embarking on new careers in community health nursing with the second college scholarship Sherbro Foundation introduced last year.

With three deserving young women, the scholarship is split three ways among them.

You can help these young women continue in college another year with your gift – and on to careers in health care, one of Sierra Leone’s most dire needs.

Getting this far It was a struggle for Fatmata, Umu and Safi to get this far, coming from subsistence farming village families, some with single parents. No one in their families finished high school, let alone college. Local schools have also been on a long path to rebuild after the war and attract trained teachers to this rural setting. The young women didn’t have the benefit of a strong academic start.

None met the requirements to enter a four-year or two-year college degree program. Very few Rotifunk students have. Discouraged and at a loss for what to do, they volunteered at Rotifunk’s mission-run hospital as nursing aides. They liked the work, and the hospital found them hard working with potential for health care careers.

20180712_184459 (2)Rotifunk’s education godmother 

Enter Rosaline Kaimbay, our Rotifunk partner CCET-SL’s managing director and former high school principal.

Rosaline, left center, has been like a godmother to so many Bumpeh Chiefdom children, encouraging them to start – or return – to secondary school, and finding what minimal resources she can to help them on their way.

Rosaline’s new task is helping girls with career counseling and identifying higher education options that fit their interests and abilities. Imagine coming from an illiterate rural farming family and trying to figure out what to do with your life. Girls have little idea of jobs to prepare for, let alone how to make it happen.

Win – win solutions Sherbro Foundation strives to support students in higher education fields that can benefit Bumpeh Chiefdom and its development. Students with family connections are more likely to return to the chiefdom to work – if there’s available jobs.

Health care is an area with rural jobs. It’s also one of Sierra Leone’s biggest priorities, in a country with one of – or the highest – infant, Under-Five and maternal mortality rates in the world.

The Sierra Leone government needs trained nurses to staff community health clinics in the rural areas where 60% of the country’s population lives, especially those who speak local tribal languages and know the culture.

CHN AdamaCommunity health nursing is a great entry point for young women like Fatmata, Umu and Safi. Nurses like Adama, above, run small village-based Public Health Units, where they treat common infectious disease like malaria and dysentery, stitch wounds and perform other first aid. They give women basic pre and post-natal care, serve as midwives at birth and offer well-baby care, including checking infants for stunting.

They’re important in identifying more complicated maternity cases and chronic illness like diabetes and hypertension that need higher professional treatment. I’m told nurses with local connections like rural assignments, where the standard of living is low and their salary goes further.

A good educational value For $750 we can send a young woman to a year of training for this critical job, including tuition, lab practicals, supplies and weekly transportation home for 36 weeks.

Aminata Kamara 2019 (3)

 

Meet our college students

Last year you met our first college scholarship awardee Aminata Kamara, left, who continues to do well. She’s finishing her second year of a B.A. degree in Banking and Finance at the University of Sierra Leone, and is ready to start her third year in September.

Now meet the three nursing students on scholarship.

Our goal is return all four young women to college in September.

CHN student Fatmata J Sesay, daughter Women Veg Grow spokesperson (2)

 

Fatmata Sesay lost her father ten years ago and her mother has struggled to raise her and her brother.

Her mother is a small farmer and participant in our Women’s Vegetable Growing program to grow peanuts as a cash crop. But that won’t put a girl through college.

A high school dropout, her mother values education and volunteers her free time as a local kindergarten teacher.

Giving Fatmata the chance for higher education and the career she didn’t have is her hope. 

 

CHN student Umu Bangura June '19 (3)

Umu Bangura’s parents are farmers in a small Bumpeh Chiefdom village. Her mother has elephantiasis in both legs and can no longer do much. Her father, in his 50’s and after a hard life of physical labor, is limited in how much farming he can still do.

Umu is the first girl in their family to complete high school.  She’s excited to be among the first Bumpeh Chiefdom girls to have the opportunity to continue into college and a real career in nursing.

Umu passed three of her introductory nursing classes “with distinction” above 85%.

 

CHN student Safiatu Bendu downriver mother (2)Safi Bendu comes from a small village “downriver” some distance from Rotifunk. She had to leave home to go to secondary school.

She got pregnant, but returned to complete her high school education. Safi now appreciates another opportunity to continue her education. She’s determined to become a nurse and get a job that enables her to care for her child.

Fatmata, Umu and Safi all successfully completed their introductory nursing classes in May with Sherbro Foundation college scholarships. They now have two years of courses in front of them, and a third year where they’ll be placed in a government hospital to gain practical experience.

Help send these young women to college. Fatmata, Umu and Safi are now proudly dressed in their nursing student uniforms and have someplace to go – nursing school.

You can help these young women complete a year of their nursing degrees. $750 gives each of them a full year of training so they can join the ranks of trained nurses Sierra Leone so greatly needs.

Our total goal for 2019-20 college scholarships for all four young women is $4000. This includes $1750 to return our first college student Aminata to her third year at University of Sierra Leone with tuition and living expenses.  

This year we combined fundraising for college and high school scholarships into one campaign.  If you wish to specify your gift be used for college scholarships, please note that on the “special  instruction line” with your donation HERE. Or you can let your gift help all girls return to school from Jr. High to Sr. High to college students.

College is an opportunity still uncommon in Sierra Leone and cherished by its students. Thank you for supporting Bumpeh Chiefdom girls in reaching for their dreams.

— Arlene Golembiewski, Executive Director

 

 

 

 

The Barrier Girls Face Going to School We Forgot

The Barrier Girls Face Going to School We Forgot

Year by year Sherbro Foundation has worked to remove the barriers girls face going to secondary school, starting with school fee scholarships.

When the Sierra Leone government began paying school fees in 2018, we shifted our scholarships to buy school uniforms. No textbooks? We provided notebooks for students to copy notes teachers write on blackboards.

Girls have trouble passing the senior high entrance exam? We helped our partner CCET-SL run an after-school tutoring program preparing 9th graders for the exam.

Emory WSMSS SS1 math 18 (3)But we forgot one important barrier to girls regularly attending school.

We were thinking of school as a program or a project.

We weren’t thinking about the girl.

Girls have menstrual periods.

If a girl can’t afford a $25 school uniform – or three meals a day – she can’t afford Western style feminine hygiene products.

When I started asking about this, the stories came out. Girls use rags or whatever else they come up with for their periods in place of feminine pads. If they have a heavy flow or painful day, girls stay home and miss school. Every month.

Think of the girls like Humu who walk many miles and have long days away from home. How can you walk 7 miles with menstrual cramps? And on a road where there’s no place to deal with their makeshift “pad.” Staying home from school is too often the solution.

IMG_4363 (4)Schools at best have a few latrines. Some schools don’t have on-site water – there’s no well or the pump doesn’t work. Forget sinks or wash stations at the latrines.

I asked the Ahmadiyya Islamic school principal, with an all male staff, what they encounter with girls and their periods. Yes, it can be a problem, Mr. Sesay said. As the only local Islamic school, most girls walk 3 miles to school, and some as far as 7 or 8 miles each way.

Every woman can relate to being caught away from home and unprepared when their period starts. If a girls starts her period unprepared at the rural Ahmadiyya school, she has to inform a male teacher who takes her to a stream to wash herself.

Sierra Leone students already miss enough school: bad weather; they’re needed at home on the farm for planting and harvesting; they’re sick. Think of how a girl can get further behind in classes if she misses school every month for her period.

All these things chip away at a teenage girl’s self-esteem – and her confidence and commitment to continue her education. She’s at risk of dropping out.

OK, we now got it. We’re adding Days for Girls menstrual hygiene kits to this year’s scholarship package.

DfG 3 (2)Every girl will get a kit in a colorful bag with 2 washable shields, 8 washable pads of an absorbent flannel type material and zip lock bags to hold soiled pads.

They can be reused for 2 or 3 years.

 

Days for Girls is a global organization addressing girls and menstrual hygiene in developing countries.

They help local groups hand-make the menstrual hygiene kits with materials proven effective after years of experience. And they supply educational materials on menstruation and sex education.

To understand more of what African girls face in handling this every-month reality of life, watch this Days for Girls video.

period-end-of-sentence_710x400xtIf you have Netflix, you’ll want to see the 2019 Oscar winner for short documentary, Period. End of Sentence. It’s an uplifting film on how rural Indian women took charge of their menstrual dilemma and turned it into a cottage industry business, hand-making feminine pads for their community. 

More good news. Just as we were grappling with how to pay for the Days for Girls kits for our 460 scholarship girls, Schools for Salone contacted us. Another former Peace Corps Volunteer-led nonprofit for Sierra Leone, they started a workshop in Freetown making the DfG menstrual kits.

DfG 2 (3)Through their own fundraising, Schools for Salone offered us a steep discount on the kits. They know Sherbro Foundation has a successful grassroots program that will ensure the kits get to the kind of rural Sierra Leone girls we both work to serve.

We’re grateful to partner with Schools for Salone and enable Bumpeh Chiefdom girls to be beneficiaries of their successful fundraising efforts.

What can you do? Now that you get it, send a Bumpeh Chiefdom girl to school with a $30 scholarship that includes a Days for Girls menstrual hygiene kit.

You’ll not only send a girl to school, you’ll help keep her in school every day of the month.  Thank you.

Send Sierra Leone Girls Back to School, Improve the World.

Send Sierra Leone Girls Back to School, Improve the World.

We’re kicking off the 2019-20 Girls Scholarship campaign to keep Bumpeh Chiefdom girls in school – and send more to senior high than ever before.

The 460 girls you sent to secondary school this past year are counting on us to return them to class in September. In our seventh campaign, we’re optimistic with your help we can meet – and hopefully beat – this goal. 

Emory WSMSS SS1 math 3 (4)Educating girls is one the highest impact things we can do to lift women and their communities out of poverty.

“No single change can do more to improve the state of the world.”            — Melinda Gates on elevating the state of women.

Education is where it starts.

It’s amazing that for Sierra Leone girls it can start with a $30 scholarship. But you already know that.

With your generosity, Sherbro Foundation’s scholarship program has grown year by year. More Bumpeh Chiefdom girls are entering junior high and advancing to senior high.  We even started two college scholarships.  And we gave an additional 10 percent of scholarships (46) last year for the most vulnerable secondary boys.

Imagine the impact we’ll have in one community by returning 506 teens (460 girls plus 46 boys)  And keep our college students moving through their degrees. We would be thrilled to do even more this year with your help.

Girls like Humu are waiting. You’re helping her beat all odds.

Huma Kamara BASS jss3 orphan grandparents Mokebbie 8 (2)When I first saw Humu’s photo I thought, there’s a tall, slender, poised girl.  A 16-year-old often shoots up in height, thin until she fills out. But I found there are other reasons why Humu is so slender.

Humu is an orphan living with her grandparents, left, subsistence farmers in Mokebbie village, seven miles outside Rotifunk. She walks there every day to attend secondary school. Walking 14 miles a day, every day, would make anyone rail thin.

Humu gets up before dawn and leaves home before 6:30 a.m. to reach school by 8. It’s the rainy season; downpours often start at dawn. She could be soaked when she arrives at Bumpeh Academy. When the heaviest monsoon rains fall, she may be forced to stay home and miss school.

Scholarships keep Humu in school. Quiet and serious, Humu is completing junior school with her second Sherbro Foundation scholarship. She’s intent on finishing school and going beyond.

20190128_170706 (2)Humu attends our partner CCET-SL’s after-school tutoring program, left, also funded by Sherbro Foundation, that prepares girls for their senior high entrance exam.

Given the distance to her home, she must stay in town until the 4 p.m. classes begin.

This means Humu can’t go home for the day’s main – and perhaps only – meal. She’ll go twelve hours or more without eating, after walking 14 miles.

Road to MokebbieI was concerned for Humu’s safety walking this distance alone in the dark. I was relieved to hear she walks with several other Mokebbie village students.

It will be 7:30 P.M. before she returns home and can finally have her main meal for the day.

Humu is focused on what she can do after graduating. “I want to become a bank manager, to repay my grandparents who brought me up after the death of my parents.”

Humu is thinking in practical terms of how she can earn a living. Beyond teaching and nursing, banking is one of the few wage-paying professions a village girl like Humu can observe and aspire to.

Scholarships reduce dropouts. Support to continue beyond 9th grade is critical in a Sierra Leone girl’s education, when many parents can no longer afford to keep her in school. Younger children may need their chance for education.  Girls may already have had an interrupted education, and at 16 to 18, they’re seen as old enough to work on the farm or trade in the market. Early marriage and pregnancy typically follow, ending a girl’s chance for a better life.

A very modest $30 scholarship changes that. Sherbro Foundation has supported 789 girls over the last four years with 1684 scholarships. Because of your help, nearly 800 girls have had a chance to reach for their potential and embark on new lives.

Of these, 252 received repeat scholarships for three or four years, enabling many to complete junior high or senior high. A record 170 made it to senior high on scholarship this year alone. 

Huma Kamara BASS jss3 orphan grandparents Mokebbie 4 (2)Humu wants to move out of the endless cycle of poverty that’s trapped her family for generations. Her grandparents care for ten children in their three-room mud brick house. With a total of sixteen in their household, it’s packed at night with children sleeping on straw floor mats. Subsistence farmers, her family grows most of what they eat and barters much of what’s left. That leaves little cash to pay school expenses. They sent their deep thanks for the scholarships that have enabled Humu to stay in school.

Humu’s science teacher says she’s a very good student and does well in math and science. She’s always ready with answers for biology, chemistry and physics questions. He told her grandparents to encourage her to pursue the sciences. The Sierra Leone government is encouraging girls in STEM fields by offering college scholarships.

But for now, Humu needs a $30 scholarship to advance to senior high and stay on her path to college.

We’re increasing the cost of a scholarship this year from $25 to $30. Prices keep going up in Sierra Leone’s post-Ebola economy with a 17% annual inflation rate. But we’re also expanding the award package.

DfGThis year’s $30 scholarship package includes a wonderful addition to the school uniform and notebooks we supplied last year.  All girls will get a Days for Girls menstrual hygiene kit with washable shields and pads to keep girls in school every day of the month. Here’s a glimpse of what it’s like girls like Humu to manage their monthly periods when they can’t afford Western style feminine hygiene products.

We are blessed to be the beneficiaries of Schools for Salone, another nonprofit for Sierra Leone led by a former Peace Corps volunteer. They funded a Days for Girls workshop hand-making the kits in Sierra Leone. They’ve offered us kits discounted from $8.50 to only $1.25 each! We are grateful Schools for Salone is sharing their good fortune so Bumpeh Chiefdom girls no longer need to miss school every month because of their periods. 

There’s no better way to change a girl’s life than to send her to school.

The lives of nearly 800 girls you’ve sent to school have been immeasurably changed — 460 last year alone. Through their educations, they’re changing Sierra Leone, too, and speeding its development as a country.

We know our seventh annual Scholarship Campaign will be more successful than ever with your support. Join us now with your gift and send a girl to school. Every dollar goes to students. SF is all-volunteer and pay our own admin costs.  Thank you! 

— Arlene Golembiewski,  Executive Director 

P.S. Stay tuned to meet our college scholarship awarded we want to return to college and more of our secondary-school scholarship awardees.

P. P. S. SF supporters have given in many ways. As you think about giving, consider these.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How People Give – Let Us Count the Ways

How People Give – Let Us Count the Ways

I broke into a smile even before I opened the envelop in last week’s mail from Grace Lutheran Church. It was another annual check from a small-town church in Maine; this one for $421. They’ve donated the proceeds of their church’s winter crafts fair four years running.

IMG-20171204-WA0015 (4)Sherbro Foundation knows no one in Auburn, Maine. But someone there had hosted an exchange student from Sierra Leone. During the 2014 Ebola epidemic, they wanted to help at the grassroots level where they felt their money would be put to good use directly helping a rural Sierra Leone community. They found us on a Google search and have been giving ever since.

Americans are giving and generous. They see a compelling need and just give. I’ve never spoken with Grace Lutheran Church. There’s only been a couple short emails exchanged when I contacted them to understand who was being so generous in their help. Year by year, I inform them how their money has been used, and they keep giving.

After six years of operation, there’s been many different ways people give to Sherbro Foundation in support of our mission to empower rural Sierra Leone through community-led education and agricultural development.

Let us count the ways people give. Church and Faith-based Outreach like Grace Lutheran is only one way.

On-line giving The most common way people donate is on-line through our website. Two-thirds of our donors prefer this convenience using their credit card. The other one-third send checks. We greatly appreciate either mode.

Tax-deferred accounts – More people are using the benefits of donating from tax-deferred accounts. They’re charitable and tax-savvy at the same time. We receive a number of checks from donor-advised funds, holding assets our supporters have already donated for charitable purposes. Fidelity Charitable funds are commonly used. Charles Schwab has others. We’ve also received donation checks as direct IRA distributions. When a check is sent from an IRA account directly to a 501c3 charity, the donation can qualify as part of a minimum IRA distribution and be subtracted in full from that year’s taxable income.

Facebook fundraisers – A fun and easy way to involve others in learning about Sherbro Foundation is a Facebook fundraiser. In lieu of gifts for your birthday or other occasion, ask them to send girls to school instead. Designate Sherbro Foundation as the target charity on your FB page and invite friends to donate with a modest fundraising goal.

In-honor-of gifts – We’ve received a number of memorials in honor of a loved one. It can be comforting to celebrate a loved one’s life with the life-affirming gift of sending girls to school or planting trees that will fund education in Sierra Leone for a generation to come.

People have used many occasions to honor someone by supporting Sherbro Foundation programs: birthdays, Mother’s Day, anniversaries, holiday gift giving. They’re gifts that make a real difference in the world – and with benefits that keep on giving long after the occasion is past.

Estate gifts – We’ve been honored to receive gifts from a loved one’s estate. People have said their mother or other loved one would like the idea of their money going to help girls get educations that launch them on real careers and new lives.

Peer-to-peer fundraising – I need to call out my friend Ginny who has been masterful in encouraging friends to support one of our fundraising campaigns with her email blasts and messages of endorsement. Email, face-to-face contacts or however you do it, word-of-mouth with personal messages of support is one of the best ways for Sherbro Foundation programs to grow.

Retailer giving programs – Amazon, Kroger and other retailers encourage customers to designate a charity to receive a distribution from their charitable funds, based on the customer’s sales. Sign up on their website and name Sherbro Foundation, and we keep getting quarterly checks. Our charitable ID # is 46-2300190.  Amazon Smile   Kroger Community Rewards

Community Foundation grant – In the same vein, we received a grant from a community foundation fund after our programs were recommended to them by a community member.

Civic and Service Organization grants – Many civic groups like Rotary Clubs and Lions Clubs make supporting international development projects part of their mission. Our relationship with Rotary Clubs grew from an unplanned introduction to one Rotarian who made the connection with her club. If you are a club member or know one, contact us to talk about whether Sherbro Foundation programs may be a good match for the club’s support.

Returned Peace Corps Volunteer organization gifts – many cities have Returned Peace Corps Volunteer organizations that like to stay connected with grassroots community projects in countries the Peace Corps serves. Sherbro Foundation stays faithful to Peace Corps’ direction of supporting community-led development. The Cincinnati Area Returned Volunteers (CARV) has been generous in their support, as well as individual former volunteers. Help us get connected with your local Peace Corps group or its members with an introduction.

Corporate donations – One of our early “home-runs” was the gift of refurbished computers by a corporation with local Cincinnati area offices. Many businesses also have charitable funds that employees can tap by applying for grants for charitable projects they support. The employee typically needs to make the submission. Your company may have a charitable grant program.

Does this give you more ideas on how you can help? Please let us know of other ideas you have – or how we can help you act on any of these. Contact us at sherbrofoundation@gmail.com

Sherbro Foundation is deeply grateful for all the ways people have chosen to give in support of the children and women of Bumpeh Chiefdom, Sierra Leone. Thank you!

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

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

Bumpeh Chiefdom leader Paramount Chief Charles Caulker long dreamed of developing his chiefdom using its own agriculture traditions. He wanted to grow fruit trees in his verdant tropical chiefdom that would produce income for community development for years to come.

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

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

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

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

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

P1000710 (2)700 coconut trees are flourishing in the first Rotary funded orchard, as well as lime, grapefruit, African plum, avocado, guava, soursop, oil palm and cassava. Most were grown in CCET’s tree nursery from local fruit seed.

Nonprofit Social enterprise  The grant creates a chiefdom social enterprise, one where agriculture projects generate regular income for nonprofit purposes. Thanks to Rotary Clubs, CCET’s Orchards for Education project is expanding to plant thousands of fruit trees to fund chiefdom education. An orchard will also be planted to feed a benevolent fund paying local hospital care costs residents cannot afford. And, women farmers are being funded to grow peanuts to fully feed and educate their children.

The Rotary Club Global Grant, the second developed for CCET, was spearheaded by the Rotary Club of Ann Arbor, Mich., lead club sponsor. The Wilmington, NC Rotary Club and 17 other Rotary Clubs contributed to the grant. The Rotary International Foundation and two Rotary Districts provided matching funds. It will be overseen by the Rotary Club of Freetown, Sierra Leone and administered by CCET.
20190119_121158 (3)Chief Caulker, center, and Rosaline Kaimbay, CCET Managing Director, right, accept the Rotary Club of Ann Arbor flag from Mary Avrakotos. Dale Smith, Wilmington, NC Rotary Club, left, led fundraising for the medical care component of the grant.

Grant impact A total of 60 acres of orchards with 4000 fruit trees will be developed through the two Rotary grants, as well as a tree nursery, a watering system and storehouse. In three to five years, the orchards will provide long-term fruit income for education and hospital medical care for Bumpeh Chiefdom’s 40,000 mostly illiterate residents.20190125_124723 (2)

 

 

Chief Caulker and project agriculture manager Ibrahim Rogers, right, inspect African plum tree seedlings grown from seed for the project. They’ll be planted now in the June rains.

Some 260 subsistence-level women farmers can double their incomes by growing peanuts with supplies they receive from the project. How can something as seemingly small as $50 for a bale of peanut seed and a drying tarp impact the women? The spokeswoman for recent participants said it best, “Indeed, our lives have been transformed.”

Their peanut harvests act as reserves, to sell as they need cash to feed their children. When annual school expenses or unplanned health care costs come up, the women can fall back on their peanut harvest to pay for them. They no longer need to take out high interest moneylender loans.

Bigger ripple effect The Rotary funded projects are having a bigger ripple effect in this rural community. The projects create 20 full-time jobs in a subsistence farming area with virtually no wage paying jobs. One hundred part-time and seasonal workers are also hired. Families’ lives improve with a regular wage-earner.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • 19 contributing Rotary Clubs – with special thanks to grant sponsor, the Rotary Club of Ann Arbor and supporting club, Wilmington, NC Rotary Club
  • Rotary Districts 6380 and 7730
  • Rotary International Foundation
  • Fifty-five Sherbro Foundation donors – thank you!
  • Other private individual donors

Unbeatable. Unstoppable.

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

IMG-20190414-WA0010

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

How an Orchard Grows From a Swamp

“Grow vegetables in a swamp.”

That was the advice from our Sierra Leone partner CCET’s new agriculture manager. After one meeting, I quickly saw this was the voice of experience. Practical experience.

Ibrahim Rogers listened closely to our plan for expanding CCET’s Orchards for Education Program from 30 to 45 acres in 2019.

20190119_183930 (3)Our goal is for the orchards to produce annual income to run CCET’s education programs. In the meantime, we need annual crops to fund orchard operations until fruit trees mature and begin producing a few years from now.

“Vegetables will bring the most money in the shortest time,” Mr. Rogers said. “If you have water you can grow most anything and produce two and three crops a year.”

Mr. Rogers came to us from the Ministry of Agriculture in Moyamba District with more than 25 years of experience.

He’s a man who likes to be in the field. He’s passionate about growing things and using organic methods. We were soon talking about making our own compost (a four foot pit was quickly dug), and using neem as a natural pesticide. All music to my life-long gardener’s ears.

But first we had to prepare our Inland Valley Swamp, or IVS, and start vegetables. The growing season was in full swing when I was there in January – February, so we jumped in. With Mr. Rogers’ direction, the project broke ground on January 29, and in three days, the transformation was amazing.

Paramount Chief Charles Caulker, CCET board chairman, above left, stands in front of a three acre rice field with last year’s cut-back stalks.  Three days later, it was transformed into a sea of raised beds. Our Inland Valley Swamp was half the size of a football field and not yet finished.

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Thirty village men came, bringing mammoth hoes used make these raised beds. In an area with no mechanized farming, it’s an annual routine to manually turn over every field and the remains of the previous season’s harvest. They cut a swath of decaying plants with the hoe’s edge; then lift and pile it in front of them, making raised beds as they go.

Water pooled in the trenches they left. Even as the dry season progresses, the water table in the swamp is high and the beds stay moist. Later, a berm will surround the field and a small dam built to control the flow of water.

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This isn’t a stagnant swamp. It’s the flood plain of the small river snaking through Rotifunk that later enters the Bumpeh River. It’s black soil, fertile with silt carried as the river swells and floods in the rainy season. It’s further enriched by turning over the remains of many rice crops – all composting in place.

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I smiled to see men using their big hoes as stools to sit on while eating on break.

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This rural area is strictly a cash economy, and the people illiterate. Almost none of the workers can sign their names.

To keep project payment records, men “sign” to receive their wages at the worksite with thumbprints.

 

Now it was the women’s turn to take over. One of our standing objectives is to create employment for women in Bumpeh Chiefdom, especially for illiterate, unskilled women with no prospects for wage-earning jobs. 

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Women are the traditional vegetable growers. With patience and an eye for details, they’re the ones to transplant and care for tender young vegetable seedlings. Twenty women were brought in for the IVS project.

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First, they worked compost into the beds in circular “pots” to receive seedlings. We started with peppers, a high yielding and profitable vegetable crop. Mr. Rogers had the women transplant young pepper seedlings at 4 pm in the afternoon to avoid the hot sun. They watered in each seedling from buckets of water collected at shallow pit wells that quickly fill up in this swampy field.

20190211_170919 (2)The women were happy to receive wages for their labor.

When they came to collect their pay, they were overheard laughing, “We never went to school, and now we’re being paid, like government workers.”

It’s hard to fathom that in 2019, Sierra Leone is a country where rural areas still have almost no wage-paying jobs.

 

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Women will continue to water and weed the Inland Valley Swamp, and then harvest the vegetables. Okra and onions have now been added. Peppers and okra can be picked more than once from the same plant. Next year, we’ll start earlier and harvest at least two crops.

By May, the first rains start. One hundred thirty inches of monsoon rain will fall here between June and November, beating down and washing out the raised beds just made. That’s the rice growing time, and the IVS will revert to a rice swamp again.

Come December, it will be time to prepare new raised beds again for vegetable growing. That’s the cycle of life in Bumpeh Chiefdom.

And now, the cycle of growing an orchard from a swamp has begun. Combined, the long term income to educate Bumpeh Chiefdom children is also on its way.

— Arlene Golembiewski, Executive Director