The world’s third poorest country
Driving through Freetown gave us a clear idea of the poverty levels in Sierra Leone. As a team, we were shocked as we saw shacks lined up the road and many unfinished buildings. Somehow the housing crisis in Ireland seems to be replicated a million times in this little corner of West Africa.
Sierra Leone has had many shocks in recent decades, such as the civil war, the Ebola outbreak and a devastating mudslide in 2017. As a result, essential services, such as water, secondary level education, and public transport are all lacking. Sierra Leone remains the world’s third poorest country.
The next day we travelled by jeep along hills and valleys to the village where Kumba lives. We passed by the area where the devastating landslide killed hundreds of people two years ago. The silence in the car was palpable. Not only with the excitement of finally meeting Kumba and her family, but also with the realisation of what happened here that devastated so many families.
We arrived at the school where Kumba, her father Sahr and little sister Fatu are waiting for us. All shy and full of smiles, Kumba tells us that she is now nine years old. Fatu also tells us with a mischievous smile that she is seven.
Standing in front of the school built with Trócaire funds, Sahr tells us proudly that ‘Kumba always wants to go to school, she likes school, and Fatu likes school as well’. Asking Fatu about the subjects that she is doing in class, she paused and thought before confidently telling us that she is doing Maths.
Inviting us to their home, Kumba’s mother Finda turned around and said, ‘You have come healthy, we hope you leave healthy’. A Sierra Leonean phrase that touched us all!