Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Street Child of Sierra Leone welcomes CWO and Project Umubano by Theodora Clarke

Last month I flew out from London to Sierra Leone with a team of Conservative Party volunteers to take part in Project Umubano. For two weeks in July a group of us who are young professionals and students donated our time to teach at a school for street children in West Africa. This year we were joined by Baroness Jenkin of Kennington, who is the Chairman of Conservative Friends of International Development and founder of Women2Win. It was her first visit to the country and she visited alongside several members of the Conservative Women's Organisation. Later in the week we also welcomed Stephen Crabb MP who leads Project Umubano in both Sierra Leone and Rwanda.

The project is now in its second year and we have volunteers based in Makeni at a centre run by Street Child of Sierra Leone, a British NGO based in the country. Everyday we have been teaching English, Maths and Science working alongside local teachers to deliver their curriculum. The school where we are based in Makeni caters for over 250 pupils. The children, both boys and girls, range from age five to eighteen. Many of them are orphans from the civil war, live on the street in gangs or work as commercial sex workers and have been out of the education system for years.  

Project Umubano has expanded this year to several centres. For the first time we were able to visit some of the remote and inaccessible regions on the border with Guinea. The Tambakha Chiefdom is the most rural and isolated area in the northern part of the country. It took us fourteen hours by car on a dirt track road followed by a dugout canoe with our 4x4 vehicle being transported by a small ferry across a river for us to eventually arrive in Tambakha. The entire team were amazed to see whole communities with no access to drinking water and to visit a region which previously had no schools despite a population of twenty thousand people. We saw children being taught in ramshackle plastic and metal structures with only basic resources such as chalk and a blackboard. It was inspiring to see what an impact Street Child has had in the area where they have built two primary schools and the first secondary school there. There are now 25 schools there with 100 teachers educating over 3000 children.

On the Wednesday evening we all went out at midnight with the social workers to see where our students spent the night. It was shocking to see how our pupils were spending the night sleeping rough at petrol stations, on the steps of shops and on top of metal freight containers covered in rubbish, often in the pouring rain. Everyone was moved to see their students and how they had no homes to go to after being in our classes.

This is the second year of the education project in Sierra Leone and it has been great to return to work with such a worthwhile organisation. The children we are teaching are from some of the most deprived communities in Africa with little access to education or resources. 

Street Child is a fantastic organisation which supports the educational objectives of the most vulnerable children in Sierra Leone. The whole Umubano team is looking forward to continuing to work with Street Child in the future and to continue to support their project. Volunteering out here as also reminded us of why it is important to support international development in countries like Sierra Leone, especially those with close ties to the UK and which are in their post-conflict phase. The work that Street Child is doing is inspiring and we hope by being here that we have made a small difference to our students’ lives.

For further information visit:

Street Child of Sierra Leone

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