Yehwah, 37, lives in Kenema, eastern Sierra Leone. Her name means ‘Great Mother,’ which appropriate since she regularly shares her food with other people and children.
Even when it isn’t harvest time, Yehwah is able to make room at her table for young and old alike. Every day she cooks for 29 students at her husband’s small school.
Although three out of every five people in the district live on less than a pound a day, the community is thriving. Although the country is beautiful, they suffered considerably during the country’s brutal 10-year long civil war and recovery is a slow process.
“We had a lot of difficulty finding food after the war. The rebels burned the bananas and rice. They torched our homes and destroyed the farms.”
Yehwah lost her father in the war but she survived by fleeing to another village where the Chief’s wife took her in. “From an early age I was exposed to very hard labour” she says. “I was accepted because I was used to a hard life. That is why I am not a weakling now”.
Like any mother, she wants her children to enjoy a good life. For her husband’s students, she does it because they need food to continue learning. She also wants to provide her children and others like them with the chance of security, which was denied to her. “When I went back home, after the war, I could see the ruins of our house that my father had started building. The rebels burned it to the ground. It offended me to see his hard work destroyed.”
Yehwah also runs a business selling chillies and vegetables and works on the family farm. Caritas Kenema, our local partner has worked with Yehwah and her community to help them build back their lives. We have supported long-term projects that they could run and own themselves. One of these was a community savings and loans scheme.
Members in the scheme can take loans when times are hard during the year, such as the ‘hungry season’ when it’s not possible to harvest food. The interest rate is low and ensures when there isn’t enough food to be harvested people can buy food.
It’s a brilliant example of how your kindness and compassion is helping people to help themselves.
“We now run the savings and loan scheme on our own” Yehway says: “Without it, life would be very difficult. We would find it hard to send our children to school and to get through the hungry season. We all know that if we want it to, the project will live on”.