Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

On the night of 14 August, extreme flooding in Sierra Leone caused a devastating mudslide to sweep down the steep hillsides of the capital Freetown, engulfing the homes of thousands of families who live in the city’s most densely populated areas.

The estimated death toll is around 400, with that number rising daily as more bodies are discovered beneath the mud and debris. Around 20,000 people have been displaced from their homes, and as rescue efforts continue there are real fears that entire communities may have been wiped out.

Approximately 75 percent of those affected are women and children, including 150 sponsored children who are enrolled with ChildFund. We are relieved to report that all children living near the affected areas are safe and accounted for.

ChildFund is coordinating with other humanitarian organisations on the ground to assess the most urgent humanitarian needs, with a particular focus on child protection. Emergency assistance is already being provided in Regent, one of the areas most impacted by the landslide, and includes:

  • Establishing Child Centred Spaces at displacement shelters, where children can gather to play and receive trauma support. These spaces also provide parents with a safe location to leave their children as they begin to rebuild their lives and livelihoods.
  • The provision of non-food items (NFIs) such as blankets, mosquito nets, water purification supplies, and scholastic materials so children don’t fall behind in their education.
  • Cash transfers to the most vulnerable families, such as female-headed households who have lost their homes and are now without shelter and other basic necessities.

As time passes, there is increasing concern that waterborne disease may become widespread in Freetown due to the destruction of water and sanitation infrastructure, and contamination from bodies still lost under the mud.

The growing risk of diarrhoea, malaria and other diseases, compounded with poor access to adequate food, increases the potential for significant malnutrition, especially for the youngest children and lactating mothers.

Although Sierra Leone is prone to flooding annually, the country was not prepared for a disaster of this magnitude. As the country is only halfway through the rainy season, there are real fears of a second mudslide, with satellite data and radar imagery indicating a new fault line in another section of a Freetown hill. This situation will be monitored closely.

When you support a child overseas, you help their entire community. Lidya is an Ethiopian sponsor child who wants to use her opportunity to help children in need. This is her story.

My name is Lidya. I am now 20 and am in my third year studying medicine at Addis Ababa University, College of Medical Sciences. Along with my university classes, I am a volunteer at the Ethiopian Cancer Society where I serve in various community based awareness activities.

In 1999 when I was five I was enrolled in ChildFund Ethiopia`s program in my village. In 2000 I became sponsored. I was living with my single mum with no shelter and not enough food. My mother couldn`t afford house rent and my school fees. Our daily condition was very devastating. Petty trade, which my mother used to do, was the only means of our livelihood. I felt very happy when I got the chance to enrol in ChildFund`s sponsorship program.

I benefited from so many life changing things from ChildFund`s sponsorship program such as the payment of school fees, provision of uniforms, textbooks, and medical support. The sponsorship program has also been an opportunity to improve my self-expression. The very concept of letter formation was the best experience I have learned during my childhood. As a young child, I experienced the joy of letter writing. Letter writing and pictures were the main means for the communication I had with my sponsor. It was an amazing experience as it was a chance for me to express myself and explain how I feel about my sponsor. It also helped me to develop my skills of letter writing; sometimes even in English.

I also had an amazing experience in recreational visits we used to make to the countryside. Together with letter correspondence and short trainings by ChildFund, the sponsorship program helped me not only in material benefits but also in skills like oral and written communications.

I would like to thank ChildFund for the kind and unreserved support I have been provided.

Like Lidya, Yiheyis was one a child in need of support in Ethiopia. As a sponsor child, she received the educational supported she needed to find her calling. This is her story.

My name is Yiheyis and I am 20 years old. When I was a child, my parents had no viable source of household financial income to make our living. They couldn`t afford my school fees and materials. Our life depended only on my father`s monthly small salary which was not enough to support my family after half of it was paid to rent the small house we lived in. I remember I spent part of my childhood being a street shopper, selling some stuff to cover my school supplies.

The feeling was amazing when I got the chance of sponsorship in ChildFund because I knew the fact that ChildFund sponsorship helps much, especially for my education. After being enrolled in ChildFund Ethiopia, things began to change. I began feeling better about myself, my family and life. It was an amazing experience to enjoy new school materials and clothes every school year since my early grades. I benefited from so many life changing things from ChildFund`s sponsorship program.

It was also very good luck for me to experience new skills like art and painting when I was in high school. In my early childhood, I extremely enjoyed drawing paintings using colour pencils, which ChildFund used to provide me with. I gradually develop an interest in art and I am now a second year Fine Arts student at a reputed vocational training college, which wouldn`t be possible if it was not for ChildFund Ethiopia.

Through my paint sketches, I could express my feelings about my vision of the world, my community and life. Sponsorship helped me much in terms of developing this skill, nurturing me from an early age. Letter writing and its associated skills like reading and writing were also other things I benefited as part of ChildFund`s sponsorship program. The three parts of a letter, the intro, the body and the closing, are my early knowledge of the subject. Letter writing and my paintings were the main ways of communication with my sponsor. It was an amazing experience as it was a chance for me to express myself and tell what I feel about my sponsor. I am so grateful my sponsor decided to help a child overseas.

The sponsorship program helped me not only in materials but in skills like oral and written communication, but more importantly in finding my career niche, which is art. Thank you ChildFund for the help I have been receiving and helping me in my personal development through the process.