We were delighted to send a CAFOD speaker along to speak at mass at St John the
Evangelist, Kirkdale last week. Clara Burton was previously based in CAFOD’s London office for three years but she moved out to Sierra Leone with her husband and toddler daughter, in March. She now works as a programme development and funding officer for CAFOD in the Sierra Leone and Liberia office, based in the capital city, Freetown, Sierra Leone.
Clara said, “It has been an eye-opening experience – sad, inspiring, humbling’, she has witnessed first-hand how the people of Sierra Leone and Liberia are recovering in the wake of Ebola – a deadly disease that infected over 20,000 people across both countries, killing over 9,000 people.
CAFOD and its local partners are playing a crucial role in the recovery, having been at the forefront of the Ebola response, in particularly in Sierra Leone where we are working in some of the worst affected areas.
In these communities, we are supporting men and women to build (and re-build) a livelihood, for example in farming, carpentry or tailoring so that they can provide for their families. We are supporting Ebola survivor children to return to school by kitting them out with essential items like uniforms and materials – essentially contributing to re-building the lives of people who have been so badly affected by Ebola.
Clara recently visited a community just outside of the capital city in Sierra Leone where the majority of households have lost family members to Ebola – mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, children. It is a wonder how they can keep going. But they do. Mainly because of their resilient and strong-willed nature but also because of the support they receive from organisations like CAFOD.
She met Salimatu, a 35 year old mother of three who lost her husband to Ebola. She says her family is ‘only just surviving’ on the meagre amount she farms herself on a small plot of land. She explained that at times she went hungry so that she could afford her children’s schooling. She said “my business is just too small at the moment so I hope this project will allow me to buy more seed to earn greater profits”.
We will support Salimatu to grow her business by providing her with business development skills training and a small grant.
CAFOD is also bringing clean water and toilet facilities to some of the most remote and difficult to reach parts of Sierra Leone – it was the lack of these facilities that allowed Ebola to ravage communities.
As well as latrine-style toilets and washing facilities, CAFOD has provided a water well so
that all of the community have access to clean water. On my visit, we held a meeting with the community to get their feedback on the work that had be done – they said that as well as preventing the re-occurrence of Ebola (as well as other infectious diseases), they had brought back dignity to their lives, which had been taken away by Ebola.
Clara said, “I was delighted to be able to speak at mass at St. John, the Evangelist in Kirkdale. This parish, like many others across England and Wales, have given very generously towards CAFOD’s Ebola appeal, so it was great to be able to give them an update on how this funding is money used to support communities in Sierra Leone and Liberia”.