Bay Area sponsorship goes far in Sierra Leone

November 24, 2011 7:51:27 AM PST
The West African nation of Sierra Leone is in the process of rebuilding following a brutal 10 year civil war. Nearly 200 people in the Bay Area have committed to making a difference there by sponsoring a child. ABC7 wanted to see first-hand how the money they invest each month is used to lift up entire communities.

Some villages in the Lugbu Chiefdom of Sierra Leone are easier to reach by river, because roads don't extend this far into the bush that we visited. While many of the villagers have never ventured into a city, help is reaching them from generous donations around the world from people who sponsor children like Mariama. It's help her mother hopes will transform her daughter's life.

"My dream is for her to become educated," Iba Bah, Mariama's mother, says through a translator.

Schools, like the one Mariama attends, are supported by World Vision Donors. Mariama's sponsor lives more than 8,000 miles away in the Bay Area.

Dr. Abbi Alemu is a general surgeon who practices in Antioch, but she's also a mother herself who remembers her own childhood in Ethiopia.

Mariama is one of nine children she sponsors through World Vision.

"I want to see that her basic needs are met," Alemu said. "You have a sense of responsibility that you should give back."

The money -- $35 a month -- is not spent directly on Mariama but on projects to make life better in her village, from the school to a water pump.

"The contributions of sponsors are making a lot of changes in the lives of children," said Catherine Sillah with World Vision. "Some communities are now proud of schools. So many other good initiatives are coming as a result of the support they are receiving from sponsors. It's really marvelous."

Isatu Navo also has a Bay Area sponsor. Her village is still struggling to recover from the 10 year war that ravaged Sierra Leone. The Navo family home was burned to the ground in the civil war as were almost all the homes in the village. They did manage to salvage metal sheets that they now use for the ceiling.

Inside their small home, there is hope: Isatu's father tells her the sponsorship money is providing a fresh opportunity for her and other village children in the wake of the destruction. Her village now has a school and Isatu dreams of becoming a nurse.

Isatu's sponsor, Helen Stuart, is a grandmother in Walnut Creek.

"If what I'm doing can help, I'm happy," said Stuart.

World Vision estimates its sponsors impact the lives of 100 million people in nearly 100 countries, working together to build better communities. Projects are run and maintained by the villagers themselves, making them sustainable for the long term.

For sponsors, it's a powerful investment.

"I want to see kids being safe," said Alemu. "Now that I have my own daughter, it's even more imperative."

World Vision is a partner with ABC News for the Million Moms Challenge, an effort to connect millions here with millions more in the developing world.


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