Helping the children of blind beggars get to school
A very common sight in Makeni in 2009 was to see a young child [of school age] leading a blind relative around the town begging for money. This child through no fault of its own, is being denied an education and a childhood, so when we were introduced to ‘The Blind Beggars Association’ we decided we wanted to help those children. The ‘Blind Beggars Association’ consists of about 60 families where the principal carer is blind, who meet on a Saturday morning to pay in to a hardship’ fund –just a few leones each week- and this money saved can be used by them in the future, to cover funeral expenses, medical bills etc.
We attended several Saturday morning meetings and the problems of daily living were shared with us. There is no social security so begging for money is the way a lot of blind adults support themselves. However, they can not raise enough money to pay for their rent, food and school fees for their children. Their greatest request was for school fees for their children. We agreed that we would find the fees for one child in each family to go to school. Without an education the poverty cycle for these families is perpetuated.
In the academic year 2009/10 we started with 43 scholarships for these children. In 2010/11, 20 more children joined the scheme and we provided 63 scholarships. In 2011/12, having received satisfactory school reports, we have continued with the same 63 children. It costs £15 for a primary child to attend school for the year and £30 for a secondary child. This money includes a new school uniform for each child at the start of the school year. The picture shows Kadiatu Kamara with one of the sponsored children – Isha Kamara.
A local councillor – Councillor Sentu, works on a voluntary basis with the Blind Beggars and carries out school checks to make sure the children are attending and reads their end of year report. The picture shows Councillor Sentu and John Kalowa with a gathering of the sponsored children.
There are many causes of blindness, river blindness, measles, meningitis, malaria, hereditary causes etc and although Sightsavers operates in Freetown they can not cure all cases of blindness.
Undergraduate students at the University of Makeni
The Trust has supported some of the students at the university who, when nearing the end of their studies, run into unforeseeable financial difficulties which threaten to ruin all their hard work.
In 2015, we are supporting some students who have had financial difficulties as a result of the Ebola Virus Disease.
Professional development for university staff
The Trust has also supported the professional development of university staff by paying the fees of a member of the administration in studying for an MBA in Human Resource Management at Uganda Martyrs University.
In 2014 a successful IT student has been supported in following further studies in Ghana, to strengthen the UNIMAK IT faculty on his return.
Coordination with Educaid
The Trust is pleased to work with Educaid by supporting some of their staff in their professional development, and an ex-student who is studying medicine at College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences (COMAHS) in Freetown.