To Banta and Beyond: Your Impact Reaches Far in Sierra Leone

01/02/13

Faith in every footstep, twelve-year-old Umu walks the six miles to school every day from her village in the Banta region of Sierra Leone. The day starts early as Umu gets up before sunrise and prepares for her journey. She used to walk with a friend but this friend recently moved closer to the school. Now Umu makes the trek alone. “I am the only one left on the road,” she says. 

 
It may seem odd that a child living six miles away would be in Children of the Nations’ (COTN) child sponsorship program, and attend COTN’s school near Ngolala, Sierra Leone.  But in the region of Banta, there are few other options for school.  To Umu, the long journey to COTN’s school is well worth the care and opportunities partners like you provide for her there.  
 
When asked about the intense effort she makes each day to learn, Umu smiles and laughs and sometimes covers her face with her hands, a little embarrassed by all the attention. However, when she speaks, sometimes in English and sometimes in Krio, the local language, Umu does so with confidence. “I want to come and learn,” she explains. Even in the midst of unfriendly weather, Umu will walk fast and often arrives before students living much closer to the school.  
 
At school she is in class five (equivalent to US fifth grade) where she is happy with how her teacher is helping her learn. “He has taught us a lot,” she comments. “I like math and science. When you understand science you will realize how sweet it is.” Though she has also shown interest in teaching when she is older, at the moment Umu is thinking of medicine. “When I am done at school, I want to be a nurse,” she says. 
 
Umu’s family doesn’t always have enough food to give her breakfast before she starts her long journey to school.  But thanks to sponsors like you who provide for Umu’s needs, she always gets a warm and nutritious meal at school.  She never goes home with an empty stomach. 
 
When Umu reaches home she still has much to do. She explains, “I cook at the farm and then I help my mother to harvest groundnuts. I go and harvest rice. We are at the farm until night comes and then we go back to town. When I reach town I take my book and study. I use my uncle’s light. When I get tired I go and lie down.” At the weekends Umu hikes deep into the forest to collect firewood to sell. 
 
Umu’s parents are Muslims but she enjoys singing the Christian worship songs she has learned at school with COTN, and often finds herself singing these songs as she collects her firewood. Out of the proceeds from these sales, her parents are able to prepare the one meal the family will enjoy that day.
 
“My sponsors help me and Papa helps me,” Umu says. She demonstrates one way in which her father has helped her when she proudly straightens out her leg to show off the black leather shoes her father was able to buy for her, thanks to your help providing for other necessities like school and food.  If Umu could meet her sponsors, she says, “I would say that I am greeting them. May God help them.” 
 
Umu’s school principal, Mr. William Quee, has been very impressed by Umu’s dedication to school. “What moves me about this child,” Mr. Quee explains, “is the distance that she covers. To set out so early. She comes to school very early. When asked why, she says she has a desire to learn and to help the people in her village.” 
 
As you support and pray for Umu, know the impact of your care will reach far beyond her life to impact her whole village.  Because of partners like you and dedicated students like Umu, the blessings of education, food, and the knowledge of Jesus will continue to spread throughout all of Banta—and beyond.
 
You can help a child, a community, and even a whole nation by sponsoring a child today!