How to create smiles in Sierra Leone.
Meet Sarah. She is one of the most determined girls we’ve ever met. A few years ago her life changed forever in a big way.
Sarah and her family are originally from a place called Kono, Sierra Leone. If you’re wondering why that country sounds familiar, it’s because it’s where the infamous blood diamonds come from. Sarah’s hometown actually resides in the main district where the Sierra Leone diamonds were mined. Because of this, during the civil war in Sierra Leone, Kono was a majorly contested area – rebels would fight over control of it and would frequently loot the area, because of the rich diamond reserves there.
During the terrifying civil war, Sarah’s father was killed. Knowing their home was no longer safe, Sarah’s mother took their family to nearby Guinea. They stayed in a refugee camp in Guinea for three long years, waiting for the fighting to end.
Sarah remembers sleeping on the cold, hard ground – there were no beds at the camp. She also remembers there wasn’t any clean water to drink, so she drank and washed in contaminated water. Sarah missed out on a childhood for these years: she left behind her friends, their games, and most importantly – her education.
After the war had ended, Sarah’s family returned to Sierra Leone to start again. Instead of going back to Kono, they set up in Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown. Despite the war being over, life would never go back to the way it was before it started. Not only for Sarah and her family – but for all of Sierra Leone. The decade-long civil war had devastated the entire country: Sierra Leone’s economy, education system and healthcare services were all destroyed. And a generation of Sierra Leoneans are still reeling from the trauma of the violent conflict.
For Sarah’s mum, life after the war meant a daily struggle to make ends meet. And for Sarah, it meant giving up on her dream of getting an education. There was no money for school, so Sarah’s mum set up a shop selling biscuits, sweets and water. And instead of going to school, Sarah worked long days at her mum’s shop. Her dream of an education seemed so far away.
But a few years ago we heard her story: we heard how Sarah had already overcome so much, and wanted to be back in school more than anything else. So we offered Sarah a scholarship, and Sarah became a One Girl scholar!
This changed everything. Now that she’s back in the classroom where she belongs, Sarah is thriving. She says she loves studying accounting the best, and she loves working with numbers. It only makes sense then that Sarah was also one of our very first Business Brains graduates! It’s a project where we equip girls with small business and financial literacy skills so they can be empowered to start their own small businesses to support themselves through school and beyond.
Pretty cool hey?
After finishing the Business Brains training, Sarah asked for a small loan of 10,000 Leones (about $2.30USD) from her sister to buy ingredients to make butterscotch candies – a popular treat in Sierra Leone. Every morning Sarah would wake up early before class to make butterscotch and sell them to people in her community. Sarah’s hard work both in and outside of the classroom paid off, and within a few days Sarah had already made enough to pay back her loan! And now she makes enough to buy herself lunch everyday.
It doesn’t sound like much, but this small profit eases the financial burden on her mother as a sole income earner. Equipped with these new skills and Sarah’s natural entrepreneurial streak, we know she has a bright future ahead! Sarah’s story shows that when determination and opportunity come together – anything is possible.
We hear stories like Sarah’s all the time – girls whose lives and futures are completely transformed by the power of education. And that’s why at One Girl we’re on a mission to educate 1 million girls across Africa by 2020. It’s a big goal, and we know we can’t do it alone.
However it is you choose to take action, the important thing is that you do. There are more than 60 million girls around the world who are denied an education because they were born a girl, and we’re in a position to help change this.
So let’s do it.
THISWORLDEXISTS are continually inspired by the work of One Girl and are pleased to help share fun and social ways that we can help make this world a better place.
One Girl is a non-profit organisation that gives women and girls access to education. We want to see a world where women and girls are creating and leading change in their communities.
Find out how you can help girls like Sarah via the numerous One Girl causes by clicking on some of the links below.