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I am heading out to Sierra Leone in May to visit Street Child projects and run in my 5th Sierra Leone Marathon. Why Street Child? Why Sierra Leone?
At the outset it was the thought of trying to help children in the most inaccessible parts of one of the poorest countries in the world that were living on the streets and had no access to education. It also offered another of my passions; adventure travel. In 2011 I didn’t know anyone who had been to Sierra Leone. Mentioning the name conjured up images of a brutal civil war, child soldiers and the film Blood Diamond. Add to that the idea of running a marathon there and I couldn’t resist.
So I had the adventure, we raised a lot of money (over £21,000 from our 12 strong Gibraltar team) so why did I go back? Been there, done that, got the t shirt. There are other causes to support, other adventures to be had.
It was a trip to Tambakha in 2013 that finally hooked me to a longer term commitment. Tambakha is such a remote location. It is such a vast area that had virtually no formal education. The poorest region in one of the world’s poorest countries. I travelled there with Tom Dannatt, the founder and CEO of Street Child. This is where we spent the money you raised last year he told me. I saw schools being built, met teachers undergoing formal teacher training. Later on the same trip I met outreach workers seeking out and befriending street children to get them back into homes and schools. Isn’t that we want we want to know when we donate to a charity? Where does the money go? What good does it do? There it was before my eyes and I could meet the beneficiaries.
So for 2015 we had to throw ebola into the mix. 3,500 children lost both parents. 12,000 lost their primary care giver. All this happened in the 17 month period sandwiched between the Sierra Leone Marathons of 2014 and 2015.
So what does Street Child do?
1. Find and befriend street children and aim to reunite them with a family – usually their own – through a process of counselling and mediation. Settle them in a safe environment and get them back to school.
Give access to education to children in rural areas, construct schools and train teachers. Street Child has created first ever access to education for more than 17,000 children in rural communities. Those communities are given grants and support to enable them to generate income to sustain the school and pay teachers until the government is in a position to take over.
Helps girls as young as 14 who rely on commercial sex to survive. Provide them with vocational training and a safe place to live whilst they rebuild their lives.
Provide medical, psychological and educational support to more than 180 child amputees.
Emergency support, reunification with extended family, trauma counselling and family business set up and support to help ebola orphans and get them back to school.
There is also a more recent initiative aimed at helping girls. Girls are more likely to drop out of school in order to help support the family, others to early pregnancy.
So what does your money do?
1. Takes children off the streets into a safe, nurturing environment.
2. Provides education where before there was little or none.
3. Saves girls from having to trade sex for food.
4. Gives families help to generate their own income.
5. Supports ebola orphans and their carers to overcome their tragic loss and move forward.
I want to close by congratulating you and thanking you for your generosity. Your money will soon be hard at work. I will write a blog and take lots of photos of my trip so that you can see exactly where your money goes.