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.