By Osman Benk Sankoh
The 2014 Ebola outbreak that ravaged Sierra Leone Guinea and Liberia cost economies an estimated 53 billion US Dollars (Reuters), but for Madam Gbassay Kamara, her loss was more than financial figures. Her husband was among the more than 11, 000 persons that succumbed to the deadly hemorrhagic fever. As for all suspected cases, he was quarantined at an Ebola Holding Center and never returned home. Before that, their house was isolated, and all property burned down to stem the transmission.
He died leaving Gbassay with 5 kids, and with their home gone, Gbassay had to squat in the living room of another family with all her kids.
Before the husband passed, he started constructing what he hopes was going to be the family’s home at Looking Town, Grafton in the outskirt of Freetown. Now, with no husband, Gbassay’s source of livelihood selling mangoes was not enough to rent a house let alone complete the construction of one. She was in dire need of a place to call her own home.
Thanks to the Jamil & Nyanga Jaward Foundation, they heard her compelling story and through their Widow’s program aimed at setting up small business for beneficiaries, Gbassay Kamara was all with smiles and tears of joy when the keys to her completed 5-room bedroom house were handed over to her at a colourful ceremony Tuesday, November 6.
With an approximately 6,000 USD, the Foundation completed the house and added a shop fully stocked to it for Gbassay to be able to take care of herself and her kids. Hopefully, she will now be able to send her kids back to school
Amidst tears, she thanked Nyanga and her husband, Jamil for providing a shoulder for her and her five kids to lean on at a time they needed it most. She said although her husband may be dead, the kids will forever consider the Foundation as their parents.
This is not the first time Nyanga and Jamil Jaward are placing a smile on the face of someone in need of one. In Bo, Sierra Leone’s second capital city, a widow’s life was transformed from merely sleeping in a kitchen when they rented a house for her and gave her money to set up her own business.
They are not stopping their goodwill gesture. Later in the month, the Foundation hopes to provide backpacks for kids who cannot afford to take a bag to school. They plan to spread this gesture across the country particularly to kids that are most in need of it – but there is a catch. You must hand in a plastic bag (which most poor kids use for school) in return for a backpack.
They are also planning on throwing a Christmas party for 250 children of our military at one of the barracks in Freetown (details still being worked out).
In January next year, yours truly is working closely with the foundation to release its maiden edition of the Hidden Voices quarterly magazine in Sierra Leone. The concept of the magazine first started in Kenya where Nyanga and her husband had worked. The magazine will be focusing on telling humanitarian- related compelling stories so at to inspire or motivate others to lift someone from the debris of despair. If you are doing something wonderful in your community, but no one recognises your effort, this is the platform for you. If you know of someone who you think is a hero or heroine in his or her own right and deserves a pat on the back, this is the magazine for you. We are in the process of compiling our stories, and you can help us in doing that with the submission of a poem, a short story, a Feature, an Op-ed, pictures etc. We are also making room for Science and Technology, Fashion, Tourism, Arts & Culture, Religion etc. etc
We may not have the Oscars or the Grammys in Sierra Leone, but Hidden Voices magazine will seek to recognise those hidden voices and shine the spotlight on them.
For now, the story to be told is that of Gbassay Kamara and her five kids moving from the living room of a friend to their own home at Grafton. She deserves a big smile and for the Jamil and Nyanga Jaward Foundation, a breast of chicken awaits you in heaven.