A message from Executive Director Melody Curtiss Why CRC Matters in 2019

The purpose of the Child Rescue Centre is to transform lives through child and family supports.

Helping Children Worldwide (HCW) knows that transformation of lives is necessary in developing countries to overcome barriers to sustainable futures. Those barriers are huge; poverty, hunger, illiteracy, disease and hopelessness.

It’s difficult to pick one barrier to focus on, so HCW supports several programs in Sierra Leone. But our roots come from a desire to help the most vulnerable children in the world. In Sierra Leone, twenty years ago, the CRC was founded to provide crisis housing for 40 children. HCW's first goal in Sierra Leone was stabilizing these vulnerable children in a safe and loving environment and ensuring they had access to education. Our founders saw education as the key to bringing these children out of poverty and giving them a future.

Since initiation of the mission in Sierra Leone, HCW has matured from the development & fund-raising wing of a volunteer-run, very small budget nonprofit to a small to medium size organization with professional staff and multiple supported programs. The CRC has matured as well. It is no longer crisis housing for children.

So, twenty years later, why does HCW still consider the CRC a vital institution and education the most crucial need for the children of Sierra Leone?

A recent government education initiative in Sierra Leone may lead to free public school education in three to five years. But for now, while children may go to school "tuition free" – that isn't free education. Instead of tuition, they may be required to pay a fee to have a desk or a bench or chair to sit on, and they will be required to pay for uniforms, most school materials and other use fees, and they will share a tiny classroom with 60 other students, or only be able to go for half a day, so all students may attend.

Helping Children Worldwide staff gathers statistics on Sierra Leone industry to help define the problems that we are helping to address. 90% of Sierra Leoneans work in non-skilled labor-intensive work, and 70% are illiterate.


But the true story isn’t statistics. It is in the faces of children when they graduate from primary school, when they pass the national exams, when they are admitted to college or start their own profitable business, or reach out to help another family member succeed.

I spent all of January working in Sierra Leone. Unlike my trip last year, I had moments when I could look up from the task at hand.

What did I see? I saw entire families, aunts, uncles, cousins, from toddlers to grandparents, working to dig sand from a sandbar at the bottom of the riverbed. One member would paddle to the far side of the river, leap into the water and begin repeatedly diving to the bottom and rising with a bucketful of sand to dump into the hand-carved canoe.

Family owned business - sand dredging .....on shore division - shoveling sand to be carried up the hill

The diving and digging continued until the hull of the loaded boat sank up to the gunwale. The diver would then paddle the heavy-laden boat back across and shovel the sand out onto a pile on the bank. On the bank, a strong member of the family shoveled the wet sand into baskets perched atop a tripod platform. When the basket was full, another hoisted the basket on top of his or her head to carry it up the side of the steep hill, passing another who was returning with an empty basket for the next load. The sand was carried up the hill to one of many large heaps of sand alongside the roadway. Large trucks arrived throughout the day to negotiate a price for the sand, and, if they were lucky, their family would sell the entire heap they secured that day to companies to supply builders who needed it for their work. The movement never stopped. Food was cooked, people were fed, children were bathed, but the digging and shoveling and hauling were constant and ceaseless.

At the same time, I saw brand new bridges, roads and buildings being built, probably with the sand these people were dredging by hand from the riverbed. I also know that one of the things these families are doing with their money, is sending their children to school. I know this, because the Child Rescue Centre is helping families to focus on their future, and I have had these discussions with parents and community leaders, village elders and the talented staff of the CRC. The CRC works with families who do not have enough resources to pay for the extras. They are working hard, they are working together, not just for today, but also for their future.

making gravel - a family owned business

Someday in the future, families will no longer be seen hauling sand by hand, crushing stones into gravel with hammers and rocks, and children won’t be required to work in rice fields, or carry ten-gallon jugs of water, 20 lb. bags of rice, or balance enormous baskets of bananas, pineapples and mangos on their heads. They will no longer be seen standing alongside the road in hopes that somebody will stop and buy what they are carrying, so they can return home with a few thousand Leones to pay for things they cannot grow in a tiny garden in their village. Someday, the work these families have done to invest in educating their children will reap rewards. Someday, the low-skilled manual labor these families must engage in to raise enough money to pay for food and send their children to school will be done by machines, and their adult children will make their living in less backbreaking, dangerous activities.

The expectation of a basic education for every child will raise the literacy level. The educated children will become doctors, social workers, engineers, scientists and teachers. I know this, because the CRC has supported the education of children to that end, and continues to fund scholarships for post secondary education.

Someday, this new generation and their children will be able to reach out a hand and help the vulnerable children of the world, knowing that it is their turn to be the strong ones. That day is what I see when I read the reports of the CRC, when I look at the pictures from my trip, and when I recall my conversations in Sierra Leone.

That day is ever present in my mind, my heart and my prayers, as I know it is in yours. That day is closer, because of the work of the Child Rescue Centre, and your support of Helping Children Worldwide.

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a copyright violation, please follow the DMCA section in the Terms of Use.