Jun 15, 2015

Continuing to help Sierra Leone's Ebola Orphans

Shek and Mary
Shek and Mary

The World Health Organization reported 15 new cases of the Ebola virus in Sierra Leone the week of June 1-7. This is the highest number of cases for any week in Sierra Leone since late March. This is also the second straight week with an increase in overall recorded cases. This startling statistic underscores the continuing challenges facing Sierra Leone.

No one knows exactly how many children have been orphaned in Sierra Leone due to the Ebola crisis, but Street Child UK estimates the number to be more than 12,000.

While medical experts and health teams trace possible contacts and attempt to stem the rising tide of new infections, children who have been orphaned by this crisis continue to be the most vulnerable and in need of assistance. This is where Kidsave and its partner Village Care Initiatives (VCI) have stepped in. VCI and Kidsave have registered 365 children into our family placement program since the outbreak of the Ebola virus.

Kidsave Sierra Leone is working to move orphaned children out of orphanages and rescue centers into families who will foster them and support finding permanent families for those who cannot be reunified with kin. Of the initially registered 365 kids, 100 have moved out of institutions and into permanent family care, while 120 have visited with host families and received varying degrees of support. This leaves 145 that have registered for the program but must still wait for more families to be recruited and trained for hosting and advocacy.

One of the children currently being hosted by a Kidsave-trained-family is Massah. Originally from a village in Bo district, Massah fled her village after both of her parents succumbed to the Ebola virus. Stigmatized and shunned by her community for being an Ebola survivor, she made her way to the district capital and sought shelter at a local rescue center. Utterly alone, without family and relying on food aid, VCI staff volunteers reached out to her. After convening a meeting with local Kidsave host families, one family with children stepped up to welcome Massah into their home. Currently they are advocating within their community to find her a safe, permanent family so that she can resume her schooling and pursue her dreams.

Thanks to you, our generous donors, we are now in the final stages of securing a four wheel drive Toyota for the VCI ground staff to help safely transport the children without risking Ebola infection on public transportation. This vehicle couldn’t have arrived at a better time, as Sierra Leone’s rainy season is just beginning and many roads and villages will soon become inaccessible to standard public transport. The vehicle will also help provide families with supplies to support an extra child and avoid infection: disinfectants, shoes, and personal protective equipment 

The challenges for the VCI and Kidsave team do not stop at flooded roads. Communications have been difficult with patchy internet connections, quarantines, and rolling power outages. Kidsave has been working to increase the financial capacity of VCI, assisting in identifying and supporting a new bank account with Rokel Bank which cuts wire transfer times from three weeks to just three days.

Data collection and dissemination has also been a challenge, as VCI and Kidsave have relied on volunteers and often antiquated systems to record and upload data. To improve data collection and reporting, Kidsave is working to improve VCI data transmission to our ACCESS database. Additionally, Kidsave is partnering with Journey, a South African tech company that has as a side specialty in building health apps for groups working in emergency situations and developing countries. A prototype of an app which will help identify rescue centers and orphanages, count children in institutions and determine children eligible for family placement is in the development phase and should be ready for testing in July. 

In order to test the app and identify potential additional staff to foster accurate and timely data reporting, Kidsave’s Africa Programs manager Kristoff Kohlhagen will be deploying to Sierra Leone in July. His main tasks will be to assess and strengthen program infrastructure, to troubleshoot the new data collection app, and to meet with Kidsave families, Sierra Leone government officials, and potential partner organizations in order to ramp up both the effort and capability to secure safe, forever family care for Sierra Leone’s Ebola orphans. 

While the project has met with many challenges, specific aspects of the program show great promise for affecting positive change. As Shed Jah, VCI’s founder writes, “…the regular visits of our volunteer community social workers are evidently highly valued and have a powerful impact. It is recommended that this is a long-term initiative with staff receiving training to have the ability to build capacity, in counselling and identification of the signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. Children who have survived Ebola but have been orphaned are a high risk category that will continue to need regular psychosocial support.” 

Moving forward, VCI and Kidsave will seek to implement Shed’s recommendation through onboarding at least one social worker to work fulltime for the program.

Without you and your passion for helping the world’s most vulnerable children, none of these important efforts to assist them would be possible. Please continue to support Kidsave’s crucial work in Sierra Leone and share these impactful stories and projects with your friends, families, and networks. Thanks to you, some of the world’s most vulnerable children finally have a family and a safe place to call home.

Massah
Massah
Sierra Leone Vehicle
Sierra Leone Vehicle

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May 1, 2015

12 of 16 teen moms already have mentors

Teen Mom Angelina with her mentor Elena
Teen Mom Angelina with her mentor Elena

We are pleased to inform you that 12 of the 16 girls participating Kidsave's “Teen Mother” program already have mentors. They come in a children's home, hanging out with the girls and their children, help and support them.

Some teen moms will graduate the program in June and will begin an independent life. This is a very difficult and crucial period in their lives. Being part of our program, they learned a lot, but now they have to learn all this knowledge into practice: to take care of their babies, keep house, to study and find a job. And they really need support of caring adult who is able to share his or her experience and provide a support.

Girls who graduate the program already have their own apartments, but these apartments should be prepared for comfortable living of mother with a child. Mentors help girls to design an apartment, choose furniture, utensils needed in the household stuff. Mentors share their experience of forming a family budget, planning costs. For girls who have lived in an orphanage often do not know how much food they should buy for the week and so on. At Mentor’s Club, which Kidsave organizes every month at the club, specialists tell mentors how to transfer knowledge about the legal and financial literacy, how to teach them to be independent.

We are pleased to see that mentors and girls have warm and trusting relationship, true friendship. Angelina and her mentor Elena met at one of Kidsave’s events and became close. Their fates are similar, as well as Angelina Elena lost his parents when she was a child, so she knows what her mentee feels and she can find the right words of encouragement.

Elena comes to Angelina in the orphanage, they are walking along with the baby Vasilisa, share news, future planning of Angelina. "Although I recently met with Elena, I feel that I can trust her – Angelina says. - I am happy when she comes, I can share my problems with her. We play with Vasilisa together. I became calmer".

Thank you for your support!

Nastya with her mentor Svetlana
Nastya with her mentor Svetlana
Mar 31, 2015

Progress and hope for Sierra Leone Ebola Orphans

Isata Gbadoma and her children
Isata Gbadoma and her children

While the media's interest in Ebola has waned and headlines predicting a worldwide epidemic have fallen short of their prophesies of doom, countries such as Sierra Leone continue to be severely affected and impacted by the virus. Kidsave Sierra Leone in partnership with Village Care Initiative unwaveringly continues to fight to find safe and permanent homes for children orphaned by the ongoing epidemic. Currently we are operating in Freetown, Bo, Kenema, Sembehun, Pujehun, and Zimmi.

To date 365 orphans have been registered with our program. One hundred of these orphans are being hosted by women and families throughout several communities. This leaves 265 children still in need of family placement. Since early January, nineteen women have joined our loan groups which have helped enable them to welcome forty children into their homes. One woman, Isata Gbadoma, used her loan to purchase extra rice to increase the sale of her dry goods micro business. With the added income, she and her daughter Michaela (5) were able to take in Aminata (8) and make her part of their family.

Schools in Sierra Leone were scheduled to re-open at the end March but due to the resurgence of Ebola the date has been pushed back to April. Due to this situation Shed Jah, our partner on the ground, has been delivering school supplies to help the orphans in our program keep up with their studies. These supplies include: practice books for reading and writing, pens, pencils, rulers, paper, and backpacks.

While our efforts are benefiting many children the situation on the ground changes rapidly. The following text message excerpt received from a volunteer in the field on February 28 makes the continuing dangers starkly clear:

“Hi Mr. Jah, It is sad to inform you that the Ebola Virus Disease has again intensify in our operational areas Tonkia and TiKonko respectively and most of our Kidsave children are again affected.”

Both Tikonko and Tonkia are within our operational area of Sembehun. Six Kidsave children between the ages of 7 and 10 and their four adoptive families were in the affected area.

Upon receiving the text our dedicated staff and volunteers jumped into action. Once reaching the affected villages, personal protective equipment (PPE) including: gloves, chlorine solution, boots, protective clothing, masks, and disinfectants were distributed to the families. Following the PPE distribution the four families were transported to other communities and taken in by friends and family. Luckily none of the four families has contracted Ebola.

Currently Kidsave is in the process of purchasing a four wheel drive vehicle for our partners on the ground to equip them to more easily and safely respond to future emergencies. The vehicle will also make distribution of supplies, follow up visits with placed orphans, and continuing village trainings quicker and safer for everyone involved. We are also tirelessly pushing to find safe, permanent homes for growing numbers of Sierra Leonean orphans.

Aminita, better known as Amie is fifteen years old. Amie lost her father when she was very young and her mother recently succumbed to the Ebola virus. Deprived of food and bullied by her brother’s wife, Amie ran away from home. With nowhere to turn she was directed to the Kidsave program through a local rescue care center. Kidsave and Village Care Initiative helped to connect her with a family in Kenema where she is now in a stable living situation.

Kidsave is proud to continue working with our partners and volunteers in Sierra Leone and recognizes that it is you, the donor, who makes this crucial humanitarian work a reality.

Countless communities and families affected by Ebola continue to need our support. Please consider helping our ongoing efforts with a donation. As an added bonus Global Giving has offered to match private donations on April 1st starting at 12:00 a.m. EST up to $1,000 as long as their matching funds last.

We at Kidsave want to thank each and every one of you who has, will, and continues to contribute to the important work of helping Sierra Leone’s orphans find families and begin the long healing process.

We appreciate your continued support through sharing these children's stories with as many people in your networks as possible.  Thank you!

Shed Jah delivers school supplies
Shed Jah delivers school supplies
Amie
Amie

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