In Sierra Leone, ChildHope is working with a volunteer-led organisation called Future Focus Foundation, which supports women and children in rural areas across the east of the country. We caught up with volunteer Umaro Sherriff to find out more.
Good to meet you Umaro. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I am 29 years old and I live with my widow mother and two sisters in Simbeck section of the township of Kenema. It a quiet and calm community with lots of mango trees, two primary schools and a secondary school. I love reading and playing football as hobbies, and I am interested in seeking the welfare of children and deprived women in the community.
How did you first get involved with Future Focus Foundation?
I heard about FFF through one of their radio discussions on a local radio station in my community. I started my volunteering work in 2014 during the Ebola crisis. I wanted to fight Ebola, and I was also motivated by Future Foundation’s interventions, especially in the area of child protection and women’s rights.
What are the challenges faced by women and children in your community, and how is Future Focus Foundation tackling those challenges?
The challenges are poverty, illiteracy, gender-based violence and child abuse. Illiteracy has reduced to some extent through our interventions, for example we provide adult literacy education, vocational skills and also some civic rights education. Through partners, FFF has introduced a group savings and credit scheme for rural women, which has increased their earnings. FFF has also supported the fight against gender-based violence by conducting campaigns on violence against women and children. We have strengthened children protection structures and referral pathways and these have helped to reduce the rate of child abuse and violence against women to a great extent.
What does your role involve?
Some of my roles are community mobilization, monitoring project activities and reporting to the National Team Leader. I feel comfortable being a volunteer because I am always motivated by the National Team Leader, and also my passion for humanity.
What’s the best thing about volunteering?
Volunteering with Future Focus Foundation has been very educative for me. I have learnt about project monitoring, reporting, resource mobilisation skills and I have had exposure to other like-minded organizations. I have also acquired knowledge in child safeguarding practices with training conducted by ChildHope.
Can you give us some examples of what you learned about child safeguarding with ChildHope?
I learned many important things in the training with ChildHope, for example the principle of do no harm: your action should help protect the child and not increase the abuse. I learned about whistleblowing, treating all children equally and giving children the opportunity to talk at their own pace. I learned that there should be a second adult present when you are with children, especially if the children are not known to you.
Do you think volunteering has changed you?
Volunteering has changed me in diverse ways. It has given me the ability to understand the behaviour of other people and also given me high self-esteem.
What are your hopes for the future?
My hope as a volunteer is to be gainfully employed so I can take care of my widow mother and two sisters. I also wish that Future Focus Foundation will continue their intervention on a large scale.
Finally, can you share any success stories with us?
In Talia Makaya community, 42-year-old Musu is a female household head after the protracted illness of her husband. Musu benefited from Future Focus Foundation’s economic empowerment initiative for women and took out a loan from the savings scheme to establish a small enterprise selling food items. She is now happy providing food for the home and supporting her children’s education. She has been recently appointed a women leader in her community.
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