Aspiring journalist Augustine Conteh, aka “Big Chief”, reports from Freetown, Sierra Leone

First, let me introduce myself: my name is Augustine Conteh. I am currently in my third form at Senior Secondary School. I am the eldest of the fifteen kids of MercyHome Freetown. My dream is to become a journalist in the future.

There was a burning issue affecting us for some years and under the old management we had no control or choice. It is the issue of continually changing from one place to another, from one school to another, from one administrative situation to another, without our consent. This affected us emotionally. Now we thank God for sending us MercyHome Freetown and [manager] Pastor Obi, who has been a source of hope, inspiration and comfort to us. He has totally involved us in the decision-making and our views are respected and our needs prioritized.

Our former compound at Fire Mambo was nice, but there were some areas that were not well suited to a children’s home. There was no water in the compound, and no proper fencing. Also there was no proper separation between the boys and the girls. This was a problem for the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs (M.S.W.G.C.A). So it took Pastor Obi a long time and a lot of effort to find a new place. There were lots of challenges along the way. And it was an expensive process.

Starting a new chapter

Eventually we found a new house at Koyo Bai Lane and so the other kids and I were motivated to help with the work that needed doing. I was responsible for painting the walls of the building – as well as myself! During all the work, we were having regular meetings with Pastor Obi to decide on the development of the new place. I was involved in the negotiations of the rental contract and acted as a witness when it was signed.

When the day finally came to move, Pastor Obi hired a big truck to transport all our belongings and we also brought the dogs over from the old compound. It has not been easy for Pastor Obi and the other staff, because they have been working voluntarily for the past couple of months.

With the current cost of living and low standards of living in our beloved country, Sierra Leone, education and health have become difficult for the average person. For us as vulnerable kids, our situation would be much worse if we were left uncared for or unsupported. That is why a lot of young people have been forced to drop out of school, to live on the streets, and girls forced into prostitution. Over 50% of young people have been forced into criminality.

That is why we, the children of MercyHome Freetown, are kindly asking for your support to secure our education and future. I would also be remiss if I did not mention the staff who are helping us to achieve our future goals. On behalf of my brothers and sisters at the home, I am also pleading for the support of our dear staff. Please kindly sponsor us; may God bless you.

I faithfully submit these words.

Augustine Conteh (Big Chief)