"My family survived Ebola (my aunt was infected), but because of stigma – there was name calling, like “Ebola pikin dem” (“Ebola child”) – we were forced to move across town, to a place where no one knew us. Moving solved that problem but not the hunger and the poverty. Depending on hand-outs was horrible.
"Like almost every Ebola-affected family we lost our business and savings in the chaos. But we were lucky, because in January Aunty was given money from Street Child donors to start a firewood business. She is doing it well. She has expanded it recently and started selling palm oil too.
"So things had become better. But still one big thing was not right – no school. Until finally, last week, schools opened again! When, in February, I first heard the rumors about school restarting, I was anxious to ask Aunty if we could go. I was so happy when she promised that we would – thanks to the little money she is making from the firewood and oil.
"I wanted to look out for my old uniform, but straight away I remembered how it was burned along with all our property when they disinfected our old house. I felt strange inside. I cried. Partly because I felt sad remembering what happened and also because I was worried again. Normally you cannot go to school without uniform. But I learned that these rules have now been relaxed. The government is trying to make going to school cheaper because it knows that everyone, not just those who were hit by Ebola, is so much poorer now.
"Many of my friends are not at school at all. So far, only about 30% are back. Hopefully, they will come later but some I know won’t. The ones who are pregnant will not come back. And for the others, even though school is cheaper, it still costs and many can not afford it. Their families need them to work to help them survive.
"I am not lucky at all – my family got Ebola – but at least because of that we got help. Everyone was smashed by Ebola here in Kenema – the quarantine threw us all into deeper poverty. Unless my other friends are helped like we have been, will I ever see them in school again? If not, what will become of them?"
How your support has helped
Bintu, who is now back in school thanks to your support, is one of 3,000 children whom Street Child provided with school materials - including a new uniform! - in the Kenema region alone. The firewood business that her Aunty set up in January with a Street Child grant is doing well – and she has now started selling palm oil too.
"Last Tuesday, I dressed in my new uniform and went to school – excited and proud. But school is now different. Upon arrival, there is a teacher taking the temperature of each of us before we enter the compound and we are pointed to a bucket with soap and water to wash our hands. Life is tough here. People always have problems. But it is about surviving. I have survived! We have survived! And now there is school, at least. I have hope."
From Street Child, Bintu, and Bintu's Aunty, a huge thank you to everyone who made this possible. Join us in leaving a legacy of hope for Bintu and others like her.