Saturday, April 18, 2009

Schools For Salone (donations)

As some of you know through the help of many friends we raised enough money to sponsor four children at Cardiff Preparatory School. I could only do this for one year as I will not be here to give out the money next year. So I hope those of you who would still like to help children in SL get an education would donate to Schools for Salone. Because SFS is a non-profit organization people in the US can sponsor a child and receive a tax deduction for it. And you know the money will be used for a good cause and in an accountable way. Please look at the following post documenting my trip with them to visit the schools that they built.

School For Salone

It’s interesting how people make connections but when it happens it can be very special. That is how I would describe my getting to know about Cindy Notziger and her organization “Schools for Salone”. Cindy, a former Peace Corps volunteer posted to Masanga in the 80’s, found out about a need for schools in remote villages and decided to respond by raising money to build schools. And since they started they have been involved in building nine schools. Cindy does this on top of being a mother and holding down a full time position with Seattle Public Schools.

Please check out her website for more information.

Cindy is welcomed with open arms by some students where a school as been built.

Cindy and her son Michael, who accompanied her on the trip, are meeting with the chief of the village where a school has been built.

In SL she partners with Joseph Lamin, on left, who is Executive Director of Masanga Children's Fund. This year they are sponsoring over 300 children with school fees, small money for living allowances, etc. He supports the destitute of the destitute in SL. He is a social worker by training, has a graduate degree in Community Development from a University in London. He was also a partner in a construction firm in SL for about 10 years which means he knows a lot about getting schools built. Here he is meeting with some school teachers.

Together they make an amazing team that gives children in remote areas more opportunities to go to school.

Cindy came in March to attend the Opening Ceremony of a newly built school and to visit all the other schools that have built or are in the process of being built. I was invited to go along on this trip and here are some of the pictures that I took. I am making my pictures available to her to use in whatever way will promote her organization.

At the opening ceremony you can see how the community welcomed us. The women made food and sang for us. The children also performed. And at the end the plaque bearing the name of the school was unveiled. This school was paid for by an NFL player, Madieu Williams, whose family is from SL.

Another program that SFS has is school sponsorships. Cindy is showing the young girl who is being sponsored her picture.

The picture shows two students who have qualified to go on to Secondary School. As you can see few students make it past 6 years of primary school!

When we got to this school the children were waiting for us. It was nice to be able to show the faces of the children. Supplies were delivered along with a new soccer ball.

This village is getting a new school and you can see how the old school was not very good. On our visit we were able to collect some books from another organization which is shipping books to Africa The children and teachers were so excited to get some books as they have few books in the school.

This is the last school that we visited. It is located in a rutile mining area. There are lots of problems due to this, such as pollution of water, devastation of the countryside and the company giving little back to the local community. The kids met us on the road and paraded to the school compound where they lined up to greet us. ( Note the sign about heavy traffic due to use of the road by trucks.) Supplies were delivered and meetings with the teachers were held. As we left the children showed how excited they were to have had our visit.

Kadija's Birthday Party

We were invited to Kadija’s birthday party. Kadija, who just turned 7, is the daughter of Gladys Conteh, the woman who works for us. We were a little worried about Kadija because she had just had a bad bout of malaria the week before. But, on the day of her party, she was fine and very excited about her party. She had a lot new dresses to wear for the party. So every so often Kadija would appear in a new outfit. Maybe you can count all the different ones. Tailoring is very cheap here and they do amazing work.

When we arrived at 4pm, the scheduled time, everyone in the compound was still getting ready. Gladys lives in one of the old wooden Creole cottages that were built in the early 1900’s and gives Freetown its distinctive historic feel. Her father was given this house by his employer, a Krio woman, also named Gladys. Her picture, an old framed b&W photograph, hangs prominently in the living room.

Meanwhile in the small compound chairs had been set out. Another room had a sound system operated by a DJ and this was where the main party was held. It turned out to be way too small for all the people who came. As Gladys said more people came then she expected. She lives in a very crowded area and when there is a party in the neighborhood lots of people just show up. She also said that when they see white people coming they know it is going to be a good party with lots to eat, etc. So we added to her party in unexpected ways.

The party room, which was quite small, was festively decorated with balloons. Fortunately the DJ adjusted the speakers so the sound system didn’t blow us away. The party was officially started by Gladys’ minister who blessed Kadija and her mother and her father. Kadija’s father is from a very strict Muslim family. He and Gladys were never able to get together due to religious differences. There are other families who do work out these problems but it is more difficult when the families are more conservative.

After the blessing the children played musical chairs which they had great fun with. But it was sort of expected that Kadija would win and she did!

Kadija's Birthday Party Continued

After that food and drinks were served. We were amazed at the food that came out of Gladys kitchen and wondered how she could afford this. But, as Gladys(wearing yellow and green top) later explained, a lot of the food, drinks, birthday cake, music were donated by her friends. She has a lot of good friends as she is the kind of person who, in return, is very generous. We are very lucky to have met her and that she agreed to come work for us.

The last highlight was the birthday cake. Each of the seven candles was lit by a special person. And then Kadija was joined by her father and mother to blow them out! A perfect ending to a very special party for a very special, and much loved girl!