On the re-opening of SLPP Office … “We would never encourage violence” John Benjamin...

Sierra Leone News: “No support is too much”: Civil society employee donates to Ebola orphanage

Donated ItemsTo celebrate her birthday on 23rd July, 2016, ten-year-old Hanan dressed up as Elsa from Frozen. But instead of just having a party with wealthy and middle class peers as she’d done in the past, her father Ibrahim Tommy took her to an orphanage for children orphaned by Ebola.
That day Tommy, who is Executive Director of the Center for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL), a civil society organization that works on Human Rights issues and rule of law in Sierra Leone, gave the largest single food donation to the God’s Will Children’s home that it had ever received. It consisted of twenty bags of imported rice, several cans of sardines, salt and other items.
The orphanage houses 22 children who lost parents in the civil war, as well as 23 orphans of the Ebola crisis that swept the country between spring 2014 and summer 2015. Founded in 2004 by the Catholic Reverend Father Joseph Berton, the orphanage is today run by Margaret Tucker, who became a widow after her husband lost his life during the civil war.
“She raised me up, she’s my mother,” says Ibrahim Koroma, one of the 22 orphans of the civil war. He arrived in the area 15 years ago during the civil war, when he was a small boy.
When the orphanage was founded, Tucker was living in the Grafton area, around 10 miles east of Freetown, in a camp for internally displaced people. Settlements from the camp still lie a stone’s throw from the orphanage.
Sheikh Ibrahim Conteh, a local Councilor for Ward 327 of the Western Area District Council, helped settle the Ebola orphans who all come from the surrounding Grafton area, in 2014. He visited their homes, took down their names, and once Ebola was gone from the country, he took the children’s names to the Ministry of Social Welfare, the Ministry of Health and other groups. A problem they faced early on was reluctance from people to care for the children.
“There was a lot of stigmatization,” he said. “People were afraid them. They said if I take care of this child, maybe I’m going to contract Ebola.”
This is no longer a problem, but others remain.
“The other one is to source funding,” he said. “We are a donor driven country, so that is the biggest challenge, as to how to get sustainable help for these orphans.”
The orphanage relies on donations from NGOs. The government’s Ministry of Welfare helps “from time to time,” Conteh said.
Because the settlement started as a camp for the internally displaced, it has underdeveloped infrastructure, including for things like sanitation, according to Conteh.
“We live in a vulnerable community,” he said.
Isatu K Fofanah, who works for the Ward Development Committee, says a lack of food, schools, and medical facilities and supplies is also a problem for the orphanage and the children living there.
“Most of them have nobody to care for them,” she said. “We need to get help for them so that life will be the same as if their parents are still alive.”
Tucker expressed her thanks for the donation from Tommy, saying, “I have people come in with some small gifts, but this is a big gift. Especially in this rainy season, I’m really glad we have this.”
On the morning of July 23rd, a Saturday, Tommy brought his wife, his ten-year-old daughter Hanan and some of her friends to the orphanage to present the supplies. It was raining intermittently that day, and the green hills surrounding the orphanage were shrouded in mist.
Children gathered on the porch of one of the tin and wood buildings of the orphanage, around the stacked bags of rice. The ceremony featured Christian and Muslim prayers, songs, and speeches. Tommy’s daughter is named Hanan, her mother told the people assembled. “It’s an Arabic word and it means compassion. And that’s really what Hanan is showing.”
In Krio, Tucker thanked Tommy for the donation, and talked about how she would sometimes have to beg in the streets to raise money for the orphans.
And Hanan herself, dressed in a tiara and turquoise clothing as Elsa, recited a speech. The speech connected the theme of Frozen, the love and kindness between two sisters in the story, to the desire to do good for the orphanage.
When Tommy spoke, he talked about the necessity for more middle class Sierra Leoneans to donate to the needy.
“We have left it to either government or NGOs, individuals like us,” he said. “And when you say this is the first time you have received a consignment of food of this amount from anyone in this country, it struck me. It struck me because I tell you, there are millions of Sierra Leoneans who can do this on a monthly basis, on a yearly basis.”
After the ceremony, Tommy spoke more about the necessity for Sierra Leoneans to give.
“No matter what the government does, there will always be gaps, and no support is too much,” he said. “We are a kind people, we are a generous people. Let’s start doing a bit more for our less fortunate kids and brothers and sisters.”
By Chetanya Robinson
Monday July 25, 2016

Comments are closed.