Path Home Shows 2015 Show Archive June 2015 Show 1526 Sierra Leone's Wellington Orphanage

Sierra Leone's Wellington Orphanage

Value Added: The civil war in Sierra Leone left more than 50,000 dead and orphaned more than 300,000 children. And while life is certainly not easy for many of the children, it is decidedly better than the prospects of life on the street.
Sierra Leone's Wellington Orphanage

Sierra Leone's Wellington Orphanage

Show Details

Show 1526: Sierra Leone’s Wellington Orphanage
Air Date: June 28, 2015



Rob McClendon: Well, while the civil war in Sierra Leone left more than 50,000 dead, it also orphaned over 300,000 children. And this is a country where there is virtually no government safety net. While life is certainly not easy for many of the children you are about to meet, it is decidedly better than the prospects of life on the street.

Rob: Life is often hard in Sierra Leone, but inside these walls, life is a bit easier for children that have survived unimaginable adversity. It’s wash day for the orphans that live here in the Wellington orphanage. With only room for a few changes of clothes, such work is a constant. Loving children whose smiles can conceal the heartache they’ve known; many having witnessed their own parents’ death, while others are too young to remember how they arrived here. All they know is for the first time in their lives they have a family, albeit a very large one.

Joseph: We are now brothers and sisters. I am so happy about it.

Rob: One big family.

Joseph: Yeah. I am so happy for that.

Rob: Here the children know where there next meal will come from, even if it is predominately rice.

Yeah, I know how to cook.

Rob: Which is what brought an Oklahoma City aid organization back to Sierra Leone, trying to improve the diets of the children that live here, buying them food to eat today, but also establishing a sustainable system so they can feed themselves for years to come. Stepahnie Shurie is with the Oklahoma City nonprofit 1-17.

Stepahnie Shurie: These kids have to work hard to do everything, whether that’s getting water or washing their clothes or taking a bath. Everything takes a lot of effort and a lot of time.

Rob: And like children the world over, the boys find the energy for a makeshift soccer game on the patio, all before church. It’s Sunday morning here in the capitol of Freetown. Dressed in their best, the orphans, with their friends from Oklahoma in tow, make their way to a service with residents of this poor neighborhood, all to give thanks for the little that they have.

Shurie: The times when I would sit with the kids and have conversations with them and there was no entertainment to be found and yet there’s a joy, I can’t explain it, inside of me, that can’t be duplicated.

Rob: Rev. Hassan Mansaray runs the 4 Him charity organization that houses the orphans. A former school teacher, he became an aid worker after seeing the massive need all around him. His orphanage currently homes upwards of 200 children, the lucky ones with bunk beds, while others sleep on simple mats.

Rob: It’s early Monday morning in Freetown. A faded flag flies over the orphanage, and students ready for school, crossing open sewers and making their way down a rocky path to arrive to a school with classrooms with no walls. Located in a building yet to be finished, classes here are basic, and while some of the Oklahomans stayed behind to help with that day's lessons, others crammed inside a vehicle for what by Oklahoma standards would be just a short drive but here takes much of the day. Over rough roads, we travel to another orphanage, this one located in what was a slaughterhouse. Where livestock were once pinned, blind children go to school and live here.

You have measles. You have cataracts, malnourishment and all the rest of it. Some accidents, some during the war. I remember two or three kids this year just had blasts, not shock.

[singing, Love Is the Answer]

Rob: It’s a bleak existence inside these dark walls. But you would never know it from the joy here when they learn a church from the States has sent the first mattresses most will have ever slept on.

Rob: From here our journey heads into the country's interior, down dusty roads and onto a wooden ferry. We cross the lazy river in a canoe and wait for our ride to arrive and then head out to the village of Matumbo.

Rob: Here in some of the most remote parts of Sierra Leone, students will walk up to 8 miles to come to class. Even so, in this small village there are more students than there are classrooms.

[good morning staff]

Rob: Inside this classroom, children are learning about agriculture.

Mohamed Amare: They say that is the only occupation that is from here. Being a poverty-stricken area, that is the only subject that we have to teach our culture so that we nurture the interest.

Rob: In a school not built by the government, but with private donations.

Hassan Mansaray: The government after the war do not have the financial resources. And we as local people feel we could not just sit and wait on government. And so we decided to make our own little efforts. So with the help of several Oklahomans we are able to get financial resources.

Rob: Not much has changed here through the passage of time. Women of the village are cleaning rice just the same as they have for centuries.

Hassan Mansaray: Education is key for the development of these communities because these are places where such educational institutions never existed.

Rob: But like much of the country, Matumbo was not spared during the civil war. Now, during the war, all of the homes here in Matumbo were completely destroyed. And while the mud bricks may seem quite basic, and the tin roofs very simple, they’re actually a huge improvement over what they had.

Hassan Mansaray: The people in this village had their homes burned down completely. But out of the givings of those people about $6,000 was given to us for building the homes, and we were able to build homes. Before, snakes would come into their homes and bite people at night, and people would die, and the roofs were all grass. But now most of the homes have tin which is a huge blessing out of the grant that we got from 4 Him.

Rob: Giving children like these a chance for a better life. Back on the road, it’s a journey back to the Sierra Leone capitol of Freetown, only made longer by car trouble. After some much needed routine maintenance, we get back on the road with just another reminder that even the simplest things in Sierra Leone are never easy.

[music of the African culture]