Sierra Leone Education Programme
Helping support children through educationthumbnail view
When St. Fittick first got involved helping a group of children who lived in a home for war abandoned kids, little did they think how close they would get to knowing and following the lives of these kids over many years until some of them were young adults.
It all started when the club began to help a charity called Kids Action that had been formed by one of the members after the terrible civil war which raged in Sierra Leone from 1991 to 2002.
Twenty-five traumatised and abandoned young children had been rescued and given shelter in a home in Freetown. The children were being looked after, but their home was very basic. They rose at 6.00 am to wash at the river and collect water before returning to clean the home and cook their breakfasts before departing for school.
The first encounter between the kids and the members came when the club invited two of the older kids, Mariama John (aged 15 at the time) and Rosemarie Rogers (aged 13 at the time) on an educational visit to Scotland in 2006, as guests of the club.
The ties grew stronger and it wasn’t long before a team from the Club was despatched to Freetown to see for themselves the lives of the children and to get a better understanding of their needs. During this visit the opportunity was taken to paint the home working alongside the children.
Other opportunities arose to help. A wall was built round the home to protect the kids at night and their future health prospects were improved by arranging to get them all inoculated.
Over the years there were more visits back and forth between kids and members. At one time a huge container was shipped out full to the brim with books, beds, bikes and goodness knows what else, even a tractor and plough were squeezed in.
We have known the children for so long now that they are simply referred to as “our kids” within the Club.
But it didn’t stop there. It was quickly identified that providing the children with a good quality education was a means to aid them progress out of the cycle of poverty in which much of the population still finds itself. Over the years the club took over responsibility for meeting their education costs. The members were by now playing a significant part in securing their futures.
Time moved on and the kids were growing up but sadly things did not get any easier for them when UNICEF decided in 2010 that they must all be moved out of the home to be given the chance to “live a family life”. Their “family” within the home was split up and they ended up scattered throughout the country and back into impoverishment, some with families they did not even know. The home was forced to close but Kids Action and Rotary did not abandon them.
For the next three years they and their adoptive families were able to rely on Rotary support for the ongoing vital costs of education.
Two St. Fittick members, Alastair Brodie and Alastair Robertson, returned to Sierra Leone and in addition to checking on the progress of other projects in which St. Fittick are involved and looking out for new opportunities, took the opportunity to bring as many of the kids as possible together for the first time in three years.
Alastair Brodie summed up the get-together by simply saying, “They are doing us proud”.
The get-together turned in to an impromptu celebration. They were all happy to be together again even if it was only for a short time. It was a time for them to catch up with their news and with what had been happening with their lives. They had a meal together sharing a large barracuda fish. The kids provided the entertainment by bursting out into some of their old songs. Just like the good old days in the home.
Alastair took the opportunity to speak with each one of them individually.
The eight kids who are still at school are all doing well. And those who have left are making excellent progress.
We now have one graduate, four attending University, two at nursing college, one at teaching college and three at technical college training in engineering, electronics and computing.
We are now helping the remainder to start up small businesses to enable them to become self-sufficient and lead their own lives.
But what struck Alastair most was what a fine bunch of young people they have turned out to be. They were friendly and fun to be with. He said, “As I looked around at them all chatting with each other and listened to their laughter I could not help but wonder where they would have been without Kids Action and St Fittick Rotary.”
YES. They have done and are doing us all proud.
To finish, let Mariama (presently at University) speak for all the kids.
"The value of a true friend who showers you with great love, supports you to achieve your dreams and expects nothing in return is worth more than any wealth one can acquire in this life.
The members of Rotary Club of Aberdeen St. Fittick have proven to be unique people in helping me in the pursuit of my dreams in this life, especially in my pursuit of academic excellence"