Today is a big day for Street Child of Nepal as we open our first 'non-earthquake' related project - a school for 'brick factory children' in Bhaktapur, on the edge of Kathmandu.
As we've been re-building schools in earthquake-affected communities, we have identified pockets of 'invisible' children who have no access to education at all.
Children of brick workers are one such group – labourers are typically migrant workers from India and South Nepal and often whole families will live and work on site for the entire six month brick season – during which time children are often living in dangerous conditions, exposed to labour and out of school. In fact, our research shows that 66 per cent of children living in brick kilns have never been to school. The majority of parents are desperate for their children to have an education knowing that it’s the pathway to a better future.
We’ve partnered with grass-roots charity Kopila Nepa who are experienced in providing children of brick kiln workers with an accelerated learning programme where they learn a year’s curriculum in just six months. They’ve even seen children return to existing school systems and outperform their peers!
The new Street Child School, run with the support of the owners of the brick kiln and local partners, is a first step in providing education for these ‘invisible’ children and giving them hope for the future. We hope it's the first of many schools to come!
For an update on our Girls Speak Out Appeal with dedicated news and stories from the field, click here.
Today is a big day for Street Child of Nepal as we open our first 'non-earthquake' related project - a school for 'brick factory children' in Bhaktapur, on the edge of Kathmandu.
After a five-year commitment, Bart van der Vliet is stepping down as Chairman of Street Child at the start of 2017 to focus on new challenges. Bart remains a passionate supporter of the charity and keen to support our work in whatever ways he can. As Chair, Bart has made a significant and generous contribution to the life of the charity - from his broad-ranging formal duties, to the energy he has given to many of Street Child's boldest initiatives, in particular the Sierra Leone Marathon. Bart's characteristic enthusiasm has inspired many to get behind Street Child. We are enormously grateful - and wish him every success in the future.
Street Child is delighted that Pete Garratt, an advisor and trustee of the charity since 2008, will be replacing Bart, initially as an interim Chairman. Pete has been working in international development for 17 years and brings a wealth of expertise with him from senior roles in major organisations, particularly in the field of disaster response. He is exceptionally well placed to chair the organisation - especially as we look to develop our growing focus on children in emergencies. Pete, like Street Child, also began his development career in Makeni - in Pete's case with a 9-month posting for a Canadian charity in 2004. He has also spent a significant portion of his career working on Nepal, in particular in his roles with the British and International Federation of the Red Cross.
A year ago I wrote to you launching an appeal to re-build schools following the Nepal earthquake. A year on, I am delighted to report that the construction of hundreds of semi-permanent classrooms is nearing completion.
Earlier this year we focused on girls’ education in post-Ebola Sierra Leone and Liberia. Many of you responded incredibly generously to our DFID match-funded appeal. As I write, because of you, our teams are out in communities, working with thousands of girls and their families to help them go to school: thank you.
As someone who cares about our work, I wanted you to be amongst the first to know of a new direction we will be taking - helping children caught up in the hardly known but catastrophic situation in North East Nigeria. A situation recently described by UNICEF as “the worst humanitarian crisis in the world”.
Following the impact of our Ebola and post-earthquake work, the UN has asked us to consider working in more countries where the need, especially for education, greatly outstrips the help available. They asked us to look at Nigeria. As I examined the situation, what I read made me feel sick. This is a humanitarian crisis as large as any in the world - but unlike Aleppo or the European refugee crisis, it has been largely ignored.
Moreover, with the world’s highest number of out of school children, Nigeria makes sense for Street Child.
In the ongoing conflict in North Nigeria, education is not just been collateral damage - education is being actively targeted. Since mid-2015 the Nigerian government has fought back strongly and people are beginning to return to their communities, but three million children in North East Nigeria are in need of urgent education assistance - and for tens of thousands of these children, their life actually hangs in the balance due to chronic malnutrition
We have the capability to give these forgotten children, who have been through hell, hope for their futures - like we did after Ebola and the earthquake. We can help turn their lives around.
So after careful consideration, we have decided that we must take action. We have our first plans in place – setting up schools for displaced people; reconstructing schools; training teachers; caring for orphans; sharing learning materials. We will do all this in partnership with local people and organisations who we can get behind and strengthen the hand of.
As ever, we cannot do this without your generous support. Many of you have already done so much for us this year, and I recognise that this is another ask of your generosity, but put simply - this situation is horrific. It shocked me to my core and Street Child, with your help, has the capacity act.
If you feel that this is an initiative you want to support – we would be hugely grateful. In total we need to pull together £100,000 as a starter-fund to launch our work in Nigeria and begin to change the lives of thousands of vulnerable children.
Over the next few weeks we will be sharing more information on the situation in North-East Nigeria. If you would like to know more or to support this project, please get in touch, or visit www.street-child.co.uk/nigeria - we’d love to share our plans with you.
Together we are really making things happen – for some of the very poorest and least fortunate children in the world.
Thank you as ever, so much, for your kind support and interest in everything we are doing.
P.S. If you’d like to read, or even watch, he speech I made at Saturday’s Winter Ball at the Tower of London, where we launched the Nigeria initiative, you can do so here. A huge thank you to everyone who gave so generously on the night - your kindness means that we have already raised over £21,000 specifically towards the launch of this work.
It is one year since Sierra Leone was first officially declared Ebola free. It is also one year since Rebecca had her baby.
Rebecca is one of 12,000 children orphaned by Ebola in Sierra Leone (Street Child). She is also one of the 18,119 girls to fall pregnant during the crisis (UNFPA).
Yesterday, to mark the anniversary, the President of Sierra Leone led a three minute silence at 11am to remember those who lost their lives to the virus that ravaged the country and tore families apart. Flags were lowered to half mast, schools paused their lessons and traffic stopped.
For girls like Rebecca, now 18, the reminders of Ebola are not just once a year, they are in her everyday fight for survival.
During Ebola she lost her mother, uncle and sister. She and her father were the only survivors. The family fell further into poverty forcing Rebecca to find a boyfriend who agreed to give her food in exchange for sex. When she became pregnant he abandoned her.
Rebecca cannot contain her emotion when she describes how her father then passed away too, leaving her pregnant and alone.
She cannot go to school and makes a paltry living selling small items at market and braiding hair.
Today, one year on, she is still struggling to afford basic food and medicine for her baby.
Whilst the scenes of overcrowded Ebola treatment centres and medical staff wearing full disease protection clothing may no longer be on our screens, here in the UK we need to question whether we averted our eyes too quickly. Is this crisis really over?
For girls like Rebecca and thousands others like her, it certainly isn’t.
4,000 people lost their lives in Sierra Leone during the epidemic that swept the country in 2014-15.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, girls and women were disproportionately impacted. UNDP says that teen pregnancy rates rose by up to 65% in some communities. A generation of babies have now been born to teenage mothers like Rebecca who were forced to exchange sex for food during Ebola.
Without support, many of these teenage mums will never go back to school. Many will struggle to find a job and many of them will struggle to feed their children.
The Government of Sierra Leone says that every year that a girl stays in school increases her earning potential by 10-20%. The sad reality for many of these teenage mothers is that their chances of finishing their education ended when they became pregnant.
What if these girls were given a chance? What if more girls were able to go to school after Ebola?
Right now, the Sierra Leonean economy is really struggling. Street Child Social worker George Quaker tells us ‘the price of rice has doubled since 2014 and wages have not risen in line with this.’
Ten days ago I hosted an ODI event on Women’s Economic Empowerment in Westminster. I have no doubt that supporting women in business could play a key part in Sierra Leone’s recovery, if more women and girls are given the opportunity to contribute.
UK NGO Street Child has provided 8,000 Ebola-impacted families with business grants and support in the last eighteen months and the majority of these went to women, because they make the best use of the funding. Time and again, mothers have proven more likely to invest the profit that they make directly back into their families. Rebecca will soon become one of the mothers given a second chance by Street Child.
Tackling inequality in education and investing in women will undoubtedly help Sierra Leone recover faster. It will mean that more women are able to make an economic contribution that helps the country and their family.
Educated girls not only earn more but they make better mothers too: they are more likely to ensure that their children go to school and that they have their vaccinations. Literate mothers are also better able to access information and advice that can help their children, like being able to read the instructions on medicine packets.
Widespread education could, in itself, have helped stem the rapid spread of the Ebola virus if more people had been literate so that they could read the posters and leaflets warning about how the disease is spread.
Ebola is a prime example of how low illiteracy can create problems far beyond that country’s borders. Lack of education meant that Ebola spread quickly and posed a global threat - including to the UK.
For me, I believe we have a moral duty to act when faced with extreme poverty and inequality, but it is also important to recognise that supporting global education and tackling gender inequality is actually good for everyone. So it makes sense for us to care about what happens to the poorest and most vulnerable children in Sierra Leone. It makes sense for us to want to see more Ebola orphans helped and more girls able to access education.
The UK has a strong, generous record in supporting international development and ring fencing 0.7 percent of GDP that we should be proud of. Our aid can help some of the children worst impacted by Ebola to have a chance; and it can help prevent future outbreaks of diseases that could affect any one of us.
As we join with Sierra Leoneans in celebrating one year Ebola free, we must not forget that the recovery still has a long way to go - especially for the most vulnerable women and girls. As global citizens we should not turn the other way. Instead, we should help give girls like Rebecca hope for a better future.
Street Child, Ebola orphan report: www.street-child.co.uk/ebola-orphan-report
UNFPA quoted in Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium: http://www.securelivelihoods.org/publications_details.aspx?resourceid=402&Page=2
Street Child, Girls Speak Out report: http://www.street-child.co.uk/girls-report/
By Wendy Morton MP:
In a country where children are educated by law until they are 16, it is easy to forget that learning is not a right extended globally but rather in many cases, a privilege. A privilege too often interrupted by poverty.
A recent visit to Freetown in Sierra Leone was a stark reminder of that. While the country has been Ebola free for a year, the impact continues to be felt. And no group more so than children. Thousands were orphaned and forced out of education. Schools closed and in some cases are yet to re-open.
Of course, barriers to education existed before the epidemic. However, back in 2013 - when I first travelled to Sierra Leone with the Conservative Party International Social Action Project - the country was seeking to become a transformed nation with middle-income status. It was starting to see progress tackling post-conflict high youth unemployment, corruption and weak national cohesion, as well as poverty and poor infrastructure.
Returning with the project in September this year, the devastating impact Ebola has had was clear.
I accompanied social workers from Street Child to Kissy Bomeh dumpsite where the charity is doing great work to identify Ebola-impacted households with young children who are not in school. As a member of the International Development Committee I have visited some of the world’s poorest nations but rarely have I seen such extreme poverty up close.
I spoke to one woman living in a temporary shelter on the edge of the dump with seven young children. She explained her greatest fear was not the dangers faced by her family from spending their days working on the hazardous dumpsite; but from the road which ran directly behind her shelter. She feared a car would crash into them while they slept.
When your energy is so focused on surviving it is easy to understand why children miss out on going to school. That is why the support offered by Street Child social workers is essential. During Ebola, more than 6,000 impacted households received small family business grants combined with social care, business support and savings advice.
On the other side of the dump, I was introduced to two families already receiving such support. The contrast was stark. One woman had just returned home after selling out of porridge which she made and sold every morning to people on their way to work. Her neighbour was in the process of getting her daughter ready for school – a significant moment only made possible through the support of the social workers.
Some may be tempted to question why the families are still living on the edge of the dumpsite, why they have not been relocated. But that would mean taking these people away from the area and community they know. So instead, Street Child helps empower families to lift themselves out of extreme poverty through generating sustainable incomes. The results speak for themselves; typically, two years after all support has ceased, over 85 per cent of these family businesses are still successful and children are still in school. In Sierra Leone Street Child financially assisted more than 18,000 children impacted by Ebola back into school.
It is not just Ebola that has prevented children from receiving an education in Sierra Leone. On a visit with the social workers to Kroo Bay slum I saw a school flooded from the previous night’s rainfall – rainfall that would have felt relatively light from the security of a permanent shelter, yet had the power to damage a school to the point where it cannot be used.
These things demonstrate just how important the work done by Street Child is. While the social workers may support families to overcome the obstacles in actually getting children to school, if at the end of that there is no school for them to attend, or teachers to help them learn, it is all for nothing.
Through the work of organisations like Street Child much has been done, but there is still much to do. Like many developing countries Sierra Leone faces a learning crisis. The need for assistance and support remains.
Wendy Morton, Member of Parliament for Aldridge-Brownhills, visited Sierra Leone in September with the Conservative Party International Social Action Project.
In the small West African country of Sierra Leone, 46% of girls and young women aged 15-24 do not know how to read and write.
In contrast, 72% of Sierra Leonean boys and young men are literate (UNICEF).
Isatu, who is now 17 years old, dropped out of secondary school in Year 8 because her family could not afford to keep her there. Year 9 is the last year of basic education in Sierra Leone, and her family knew they would not be able to afford the end of year exam.
Sierra Leone is missing out, because when girls and women are educated, everyone benefits. Women who reach secondary school earn more, have fewer and healthier children, and are more likely to send their own children to school (World Bank).
Currently, Sierra Leone has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world.
Today’s UN Day of the Girl Child is a global reminder that we need to listen to girls, understand their problems and take action to make life better for everyone.
Street Child, an NGO working to help some of the world’s poorest children to access education, recently carried out a nationwide consultation with two thousand adolescent girls across Sierra Leone. Its aim was to understand what stops girls going to school. National researchers in towns and villages across Sierra Leone conducted the survey with girls both in school and out of school.
Researchers spoke with girls like Isatu who is from Bo, one of the largest towns in Sierra Leone.
Isatu’s story was common - poverty was found to be the major principal barrier to girls’ education in Sierra Leone - over 40% of out of school girls said that was the reason they dropped out of school. In households with very meagre resources, education of girls is often not prioritised.
Isatu now helps her mother to sell snacks in the market. On a good day they make £3 profit, which supports a family of ten.
Over 70% of Sierra Leoneans live on less than £2 a day.
Barriers to education for girls are often inter-linked. Isatu herself comes from a single parent family, since her father died when she was 13.
The loss of a caregiver, and the accompanying financial and emotional trauma, was the second most common reason for girls dropping out.
In these situations, girls are often required to take on the role of caregivers and breadwinners themselves. Street Child estimates that the recent Ebola epidemic saw 12,000 children orphaned in Sierra Leone alone. Many orphaned girls are now trying to earn a living and take care of younger siblings instead of going to school.
Although Isatu’s mother says she wants her daughter to go back to school, she also said she needs her help with the business and looking after the children. Three out of the five girls in the family are not in school.
Isatu’s three brothers are all still in school.
Adolescence is a critical time for girls in school in Sierra Leone. Responsibilities for child care and income mount; and the risk of child marriage and teenage pregnancy increases with physical maturity.
During Ebola, many girls became teenage mothers, often because ‘boyfriends’ would offer them with a little money to buy essentials like food.
Isatu become a mother a year ago - her little daughter Marie was born when the Ebola crisis was at its height. Both Isatu and Marie were fortunate; Sierra Leone is one of the most dangerous places in the world to give birth. And according to one study (LSTM, 2015) maternal mortality during Ebola rose by 30%, due to fear of health facilities and lack of basic education.
But Marie’s father disappeared when he found out Isatu was pregnant, and she receives no support from him. When girls drop out of school because of teenage pregnancy - the third most common reason - they very rarely go back.
Isatu is very keen to finish her studies, and she is not alone. There is a huge appetite for learning amongst Sierra Leonean girls. Over 80% of the out of school girls interviewed said they wanted to go back to school.
The support of boys and men is critical for girls’ education. The National Consultation interviewed both boys and elders, and found a lot of support. Yet the misconception that girls are not worth educating as much as boys was often repeated. “Girls are for the marital home in the end”, they said, “they have weaker brains”.
The national statistics show how this ends: for every two boys that reach the last year of secondary school, only one girl makes it (UNICEF, 2014).
Neither of Isatu’s parents ever went to school themselves - illiteracy is even more common amongst the older generations in Sierra Leone. But because Isatu got as far as secondary school, her daughter Marie is more likely to go to school herself.
When girls like Isatu miss out on education - Sierra Leone misses out too.
International Day of the Girl Child is about standing with girls like Isatu so that she can create the future she wants for her daughter.
It serves as an important reminder to all of us to examine gender inequality in our own communities and our global community. Tackling these problems won’t just benefit girls, it will benefit everyone.
The road to global gender equality is going to be a long one - but it is worth the fight.
This post originally appeared in the Huffington Post, click here to read it.
Street Child believe every child has a right to a quality education, since 2008 we have trained over 550 teachers in Sierra Leone and Liberia to improve teaching standards and ensure children are given the best opportunity for a bright future. In Nepal, we have begun training teachers on counselling techniques to help students cope with trauma post-earth quake and they will learn disaster risk reduction strategies.
This World Teachers Day we wanted to celebrate the amazing role of teachers in changing the lives of vulnerable children. Liberia recently topped UNICEF’s ranking of the 10 worst countries in the world for access to primary school so we decided to speak to some of the teachers from our new Partnership Schools in Liberia to find out how they are making a difference in their country and why they became teachers:
Metzger Adama from Fahnja Public School:
‘I decided to become a teacher as I was disgusted by the high illiteracy rate that existed in Cape Mount County. I want to encourage young children to learn the importance of education so that they can become future leaders’.
Henry Mitchell – the principle of Fahn Seh School:
‘The reason I became a teacher in my village school is because I believe that education is the key to success. The children of my village deserve the right to an education and I am convinced that by being a teacher I can help make the difference in the lives of these young people.
Rochelle Dennis from Fahn Seh Public School:
‘I chose to become a teacher so that I could be a role model for our children so that they can become better Liberian citizens. Our children are the leaders of tomorrow and so we are highly dependent on them. By being a teacher I can help bring these children up to a standard that will allow them to lead our country in the future.’
Henry Fahnbulleh from Kpendekor Elementary School:
‘I decided to become a teacher because I want to kick illiteracy out of our country and build up our children’s future in this world as education is the key to success.’
John Waiwuo – principle of Bumie Kpaja School:
‘If the youth of today are educated, then I believe that they will be able to meaningfully contribute to the development of our community and the nation building process. When the rate of illiteracy is high, the chance of our country developing will not be realised’
George Suah, principle of Lonfay School:
‘I want our children to learn. If our children can learn then our country will develop.’
Memuna Jabbie is 65 years old and lives in Makeni, Sierra Leone with her 12 grandchildren. Memuna lost four of her five children to Ebola and her surviving daughter is too ill to look after her children, leaving Memuna to adopt and raise her 12 grandchildren. The youngest is just two years old.
Memuna’s family became part of the Street Child programme when her 10 year-old grandson Ibrahim was seen playing on the street during school hours by one of the Street Child team.
Since then, Street Child have supported the family so that the children can go to school and receive an education.
In early 2016, Ibrahim returned to the Young Muslim School in Makeni. Now, all Memuna’s school-age grandchildren are in education.
Following the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone and Liberia, grandparent-headed households became more and more common. Street Child estimates that more than 20,000 children were orphaned during Ebola and many elderly grandparents are now facing the cost of educating, feeding and clothing their grandchildren.
Ramatu and her husband Alusine are both in their seventies and with Street Child’s support they have set up a family business to provide for their 18 grandchildren, the youngest of whom is not yet walking.
Whilst Ebola is no longer making headlines, the legacy of the disease is all too real.
The Street Child family business programme helps grandparents to set up sustainable businesses so they can send their grandchildren to school and give them a quality education.
Hawa is going back to school this week. Her uniform is clean and her hair neatly braided. The excitement of the new term is felt far and wide as laughter, giggles and singing fills the school campus, when classes break for recess. “I’m so happy to be back in school and to see my friends,” she says with a big grin.
Just one year ago schools re-opened after being closed during the Ebola epidemic.
Since then, as Liberia’s recovery process continues, the challenge of getting students and teachers back into the classroom have been great. The increased numbers of teenage mothers, Ebola-orphans and street-connected children are just some examples of young boys and girls who are struggling to get an education as a result of the epidemic. Liberia recently topped UNICEF’s ranking of the 10 worst countries in the world for access to primary school, and it remains clear that many children will not be going back to school this week.
Hawa who is 13 years old lost both of her parents to Ebola and is now living with her auntie and 4 siblings. She explains how her aunt struggles to provide for the family and that many times she and her siblings go without eating for a whole day. “It’s hard to focus in class when I haven’t eaten anything,” she says. “My auntie often can’t afford to pay for all the extra costs of me going to school such as buying notebooks and pencils.”
Yet access to education is only part of the problem; quality of education also has a huge impact. According to SIH 360, just 63% of 15 -24 years old boys are literate and even more shocking, just 37% of girls. Perhaps most overwhelming is that in 2013, all 25,000 applicants for the University of Liberia failed the entrance exam demonstrating the failures of the Liberian education system.
Street Child’s recent Liberian Consultation on Adolescent Girls Education (LCAGE) revealed that girls are particularly vulnerable in accessing and learning in school. Less than half of all girls interviewed in grade 4 could read and write and in fact grade 4 turned out to be the grade when most girls dropped out of school. This year Hawa is starting 4th grade and unfortunately the odds of her obtaining a quality education are not in her favor.
However, Hawa’s school was recently selected as one of the 93 Partnership Schools for Liberia, which the Ministry of Education is running together with 8 partner organizations. Her school is now included in a network of 12 schools under FLAGSHIP ACADEMIES By Street Child. For Hawa, among other advantages, this means no extra fees, a provision of basic learning materials and more qualified teachers in the classroom every day.
In pursuit of improved teaching and learning in Liberian schools, the partnership between the Government and Street Child of Liberia, a local NGO, is taking an innovative approach to tackling some of the challenges of the education system.
Minister Werner, the Liberian Minister for Education explained: “For the first time in many years we have been able to add new teachers to these schools.”
More teachers per school are being recruited and trained to meet the needs of large classroom sizes, new ways of interpreting and utilizing the national curriculum are being introduced and more support and supervision for each school are some of the key changes being introduced.
During Ebola, Street Child of Liberia worked tirelessly alongside many other organizations and government branches to help educate people about the disease and to support vulnerable children who were impacted by the crisis. It also supported 2,200 people with the provision of relief packs and helped 1,500 Ebola-impacted children back to school once schools re-opened.
“There are many lessons to learn from the times of Ebola relating to the education system,” says Ahmed Dukuly, Head of Academic Development at FLAGSHIP ACADEMIES By Street Child. “Partnership, innovative approaches and quick responses to immediate challenges, were central during the Ebola response and should be key in Liberia’s recovery process and beyond. This applies to education as well!”
“Additionally there is more need for research and evidence, which is what Partnership Schools for Liberia is all about.” says Mr. Dukuly. Not only are partners such as Street Child using research and evidence-based approaches to plan their interventions, but the entire program is part of a vigorous external evaluation. The hope is that such evidence can support the program to grow and help further innovation within the education sector.
The model of FLAGSHIP ACADEMIES By Street Child is based on a low-cost, sustainable and creative approach to tackle educational challenges in both rural and urban settings alike. “If our mission is to provide better opportunities for Liberian children through education, we need to make sure that every dollar spent benefits the Liberian children both today and tomorrow. Innovative approaches do not have to be expensive, but rather it is about searching for local solutions and making sure things change now,” says Country Director John Kerkula Benda.
The challenges for education in the year to come are many for Hawa and all the other Liberian primary school children. Yet the determination of the Ministry of Education and the joint efforts of the Partnership Schools for Liberia program in the post-Ebola context, form part of a new exciting chapter in educating Liberia’s children today and tomorrow.
Furthermore, Street Child’s recent ‘Girls Speak Out appeal will help 20,000 children like Hawa in Sierra Leone and Liberia to access a quality education, thanks to UK Aid Match funding from the Department of International Development which doubled all donations to the appeal.
- Felicia Dahlquist, Programme Manager
Thank you to everyone who got involved and supported our Girls Speak Out appeal helping us to support 20,000 vulnerable children in Sierra Leone and Liberia to go to school and receive a quality education.
Click here to see an overview of our Girls Speak Out appeal.
As Street Child’s ‘Girls Speak Out’ appeal moves into its final phase, Street Child would like to thank all the outlets who have supported the appeal to date. Their coverage has helped Street Child ensure that we can make girls' voices as loud as they can be. Our Girls Speak Out appeal aims to help 20,000 vulnerable children go to school and receive a quality education and offers girls the opportunity to speak out for the first time on the barriers to education that they face.
- Mustafa ‘Eskimo’ Kamara crowned 2016 Sierra Leone Marathon Champion
- More than 600 runners compete in the world’s most ‘worthwhile’* marathon
29th May 2016: 118 British runners travelled to Sierra Leone this week to join over 500 Sierra Leonean competitors in the 5th edition of the Street Child Sierra Leone Marathon.
Laid out over four distances – 5k, 10k, half and full marathon – the runners weaved their way through the parched streets of Makeni in the north of the country. Braving hot and humid conditions, the surrounding communities were out in force to provide boisterous support for competitors from more than 15 countries worldwide, including those as far afield as Finland, Australia, China and Chile.
But it was the Sierra Leonean nationals that swept the field, winning all four categories of both the male and female competitions. Mustafa ‘Eskimo’ Kamara, 21, was the first full marathon runner across the finish line to take this year’s title.
“This is my first time winning here at the Sierra Leone Marathon at this distance.” Kamara said. “I’ve only competed in one marathon event before in Nigeria so it feels good to be the winner. I felt comfortable across all of the course and I’m so glad to be here now as the champion.
“This event is for children in our country so that makes it special for us and for me as the winner: children that are in the streets, children that need help getting into school, children that have very little – knowing they will be supported by this event, I am glad to have taken on those 26 miles for that.”
The first half-marathon runner to cross the line was Mohammed Bah Kamara, 18, from Waterloo.
“It was Street Child that started this competition and I feel so happy to win the half marathon in my first year running this distance. Last year I competed in the 10k,” he said.
“I was feeling so happy during the race and there was no problem when I was running. I enjoyed it very much and I want to come back and defend next year. It is not easy to compete in events like this. I’m glad to have the chance because, really, it’s not easy as a runner here.”
This year’s marathon is supporting Street Child’s Girls Speak Out Appeal, for which all funds raised or donated will be doubled by the UK government to help ensure twice as many Sierra Leonean girls can stay in school and gain a quality education. Bearing in mind the fact that all runners were taking on this challenge to support girls’ education, the results of the female section of the event were more poignant than ever.
The first female marathon runner across the line was Isatu Turay, 18, from Freetown.
“I’ve just finished so I’ll just say I feel okay!” said Turay not long after powering across the finish. “I did my first marathon here in 2015 and I came second. I’ve trained so hard for these conditions and I trained to win this year; and now I’ve done it.
“Since the marathon is helping support girls into school, girls that maybe don’t have a family or are struggling to go to school, to compete here and win is very special for me. Education is so important for girls in our country. If you are educated, people will be careful with you, they won’t be foolish with you. Girls need that help.”
Fatima B Sesay, 18, from Freetown won the female half-marathon.
“I’ve been training so hard at long distance running and I felt very comfortable out there today,” said Sesay. “I’ve competed in the Sierra Leone Marathon four times, the first time in 2013 and it feels so good to be here this year as champion of the half marathon today. This event is a big one for us as we do not have much opportunity to compete.
“I am also happy to be running to support girls’ education in Sierra Leone. This is for their future and it is so important. Education for girls is very important because if we do not go to school we will really suffer.”
The first female to cross the line in the 10km race was Mariama K Conteh, 19, from Freetown.
“I feel so happy because I really wanted to win this year, my second time at the Sierra Leone Marathon,” said Conteh. “I’ve been training morning and evening for this event. It was very hard but I did all I could to complete the race in first place.
“This year the funds support girls’ education and that is very important for us as a country. So this race is great not just for the runners but also for the girls that will benefit. I hope next year everyone who is not here will come to join us.”
Georgina Sesay, 16, from Freetown took first place in the female 5km.
“I feel very good to win the 5k because I have been training so hard for it,” said Sesay. “I felt good all the way round and I like competing in this event so much. This is my second time at the Sierra Leone Marathon so I’m so glad to come back and win.
“I’m also glad to know I have won my distance in this event where all the funds will support girls into school in my country. Education is very important because it represents success for us girls.”
Street Child would like to say a massive thank you and a heartfelt congratulations to everyone that competed in this year's marathon. To those that have taken on this challenge and raised money to support the children, families and communities that you visited ahead of the race, we are incredibly grateful for all that you've done - and continue to do - to support our work. We look forward to seeing you soon... and to welcoming you back next year!
It's one year since Liberia was first declared free of the Ebola virus. In Dolo's Town, one of the first places to be severely hit by Ebola, the news crews have gone home and people are trying to get used to a new normal.
For many, it's a way of life that they were not ready for. Tina Yarjay, 18, is looking after 11 children.
'I am a mother unprepared, because I have 11 children who I am currently caring for including my brothers and sisters. My parents home was incomplete prior to their death and now, it is rainy season and the rooms leak whist it rains. After my parents died, my siblings and I were neglected. Sometimes when we needed to buy food or other things our money was rejected.'
She tells us that NGOs are helping, but that their support can never take the place of her parents.
Hundreds of people died in Dolo's Town, a relatively small community built in the largest rubber plantation in the world. When the disease first hit, the community thought it was just a bad spell of food poisoning. They never imagined that it was a vicious disease that would rip their town, and their country, apart.
Esther Brown, 49, contracted Ebola but survived it. Her husband and 42 members of her family were not so fortunate:
'I lost all of my people to one illness. I lost 42 persons in my family. Business is giving me a hard time. I'm suffering. Sometimes I have no food and I'm always unwell. My major problems are food, school, shelter. Sometimes I have no shoes, and I'm caring for fourteen children. Our house is falling down but I have no money to fix it.'
Liberia is currently in the midst of an economic downturn caused by Ebola, and many of the struggles are reflected in Dolo's Town. As the rubber price falls, Firestone has begun to lay off workers, many of whom are not from the county and are leaving the area, meaning fewer customers for those running businesses. The price of sugar has almost doubled in the last six years.
The scars of Ebola are everywhere. But there is hope amongst the hardship.
The stigmatisation of anyone associated with the disease is now on the wane. People are starting to rebuild fractured lives, and the community is coming together once more.
Salomie Reeves, who lost her husband to the virus, says that time has played the most significant role in breaking down stigma:
"People mocked me. I cried, I was worried and stayed indoors. They said Ebola is in me too. People drove my children away. But time passes, they see my condition, I am not ill and they know Ebola is gone".
Naomi Wrehpue is an Ebola survivor. She contracted the virus after her husband spent time with his niece, who has the first victim in the town. 'The Ebola grabbed me. Since I came from the ETU [Ebola Treatment Unit], the pain has taken hold of my body. It gives me a hard time, but the community people take care of me. The only problem is I can't get well.'
Naomi used to run a frozen goods business, but ongoing illness forced her to stop. Since she received a business grant from Street Child, Naomi's new red oil business had quadrupled in size.
Street Child has given 78 business grants in Dolo's Town and typically sees an 85 percent success rate in helping people to generate incomes large enough to support their families. This kind of support has been vital in helping people impacted by Ebola to build a future, especially for those who now find themselves caring for large numbers of children.
During Ebola, Cynthia Dorbor moved back to her mother's house to care for her when she was sick. Sadly her mother did not survive and Cynthia lost five close family members to Ebola in total.
Today, she is looking after her sister's three children - all orphaned by the disease.
With support from Street Child, Cynthia has taken over her mother's table at the market, selling wheat, rice and sugar. Since she received a grant in February 2016, the business has doubled in size. It was was bring-ing in $3 a day but is now making enough to ensure that she can save up to $35 a week.
Ultimately, Cynthia's dream is to go back to school, and train to be a nurse. The business will eventually allow her to do that, but for now it will ensure that her nieces and nephews receive a full education.
For Street Child, and other local charities, the work that began during Ebola is as important today. Without support, people like Cynthia would struggle to provide enough food for the children they're supporting, or to pay school fees.
Too many children affected by Ebola are now struggling to survive, and it's girls that are most likely to suf-fer from abuse. Girls have been forced out of school and into child labour and prostitution.
Mothers like Cynthia need to earn a decent living to enable children, especially girls, to stay in school and away from the dangers of the streets. Educating Dolo's Town girls will give the mothers of the future a better chance, making the prospect of the community's long term recovery much better.
One year on from the end of Ebola, life in hot, dusty Dolo's Town is still fragile and hard. The legacy of this vicious disease will be felt for years to come. The pain and grief is still tangible, but there is a cautious optimism that, with the right investment and support, things are starting to look up.
This blog post originally appeared in the Huffington Post, click here to read.
One year on from the Nepal earthquake which left 1 million children out of school and destroyed over 50,000 classrooms, Street Child is proud to reveal the progress of its work in the country’s worst affected communities.
The Nepal earthquake damaged schools, left thousands with life-altering disabilities and destroyed livelihoods. Street Child has been working hard to identify and protect the most vulnerable children.
In the remote community of Okhaldunga, Street Child has built 40 temporary learning centres and trained 20 teachers on how to prepare for, and respond to, future earthquakes. Street Child is committed to continuing our support by building more permanent and earthquake resilient schools to ensure children have safe places to continue their education.
For those children left with disabilities and amputations, Street Child are working to provide prosthetic limbs and improve access to rehabilitation and counselling as well as ensuring that schools are more accessible for disabled children.
The earthquake destroyed many livelihoods forcing families to take on seasonal and temporary work, such as bricklaying. The children of these families are often unable to attend school for a full academic year which in many cases leads to them dropping out for good. In response, Street Child is in the process of building schools at several brick factories to provide a bespoke education to the children of seasonal workers. We will be working with an educational expert to create a unique and condensed curriculum that facilitates the education of children on the move. The schools will house regular health check-ups to combat the risk of injury and poor health that the children are exposed to at the factories. We’re also in the advanced planning stages of building more than 150 permanent schools in four of the areas affected worst by the earthquake.
Street Child CEO, Tom Dannatt, commented: "After our effective response to the Ebola crisis, Street Child was asked to work with local partners in Nepal to assist in re-establishing education in the worst-affected communities. One year on I’m proud of the progress we have made having already helped thousands of children into education. There is much more to be done to create sustainable educational opportunities for children across Nepal in rural and urban areas but I’m confident Street Child will deliver."
For more information on our work in Nepal, click here.
New Street Child appeal urges UK public to help give girls in West Africa the chance to fulfil their potential
Street Child launches its Girls Speak Out Appeal today, aimed at helping to ensure that girls gain their right to an education in Sierra Leone and Liberia; public support for the appeal has the chance to go twice as far thanks to a pledge by the UK government to double all donations to the appeal.
In October 2015 Street Child started a conversation with 2000 girls across Sierra Leone to find out why so many of them were not being given the chance to stay in school. Our Girls Speak Out Appeal has been created from those conversations to help ensure that girls’ voices are heard and that the issues they raise are tackled.Read More