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10 January 2019

My homeland never forgotten

Jayden Kargbo was born in Sierra Leone in West Africa, a country that endured 11 years of civil war which resulted in the displacement of over two million people. Jayden was one of the thousands of refugees from Sierra Leone who were granted a humanitarian visa to settle in Australia. 

Fast forward more than 15 years, and Jayden is now working with CatholicCare as an Integrated Family Services Case Manager at our Dandenong Office. But his birthplace has not been forgotten.

In 2014, Sierra Leone recorded the first Ebola case. A total of 8,704 people were infected and 3,589 people died here, leaving many children orphaned with no family and no home.

Of those who died, 221 were healthcare workers, leading to a shortage in the country. November 2015 marked the end of the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, but it was not long before another catastrophe occurred.

In August 2017 Sierra Leone’s capital city, Freetown, and surrounding areas received torrential rainfall for three days which led to devastating mudslides. The mud and debris destroyed hundreds of buildings, killed 1,141 people and left more than 3,000 people homeless. Communities were cut off and power outages were prevalent.

Photo: Jayden handing out donations to children in Sierra Leone, West Africa. 

Seeing a problem – making a change

Jayden saw the dire need for support in Sierra Leone and decided to do something about it. Jayden and his colleagues at CatholicCare’s Dandenong office bought toys and clothing and packed them in boxes, which were sent to Sierra Leone by sea as he made the journey there himself.

He spent six weeks in Sierra Leone, where he visited the most vulnerable children and families in need and distributed the goods among them. Many of the donations went to the children and young people who lost their families during the civil war, the Ebola outbreak or the mudslide catastrophe in Sierra Leone.

‘These people need support to be able to get their lives back together and move on from their past trauma,’ said Jayden. 

‘Most of these people, especially the young children, are currently orphans and homeless and they need assistance with food, clothing, shelter, health care, school stationery and furniture to be able to live and walk through their trauma. Many cannot afford even one meal per day, and they cannot afford to live in a home or attend school.’

‘As I gave out the donations I was able to sense severe poverty in most of the children and I could see how unhealthy most of them had become due to living in unfinished houses and mostly on the streets. I felt so sad that I decided to take this issue up with some of my colleagues and managers at work and some members of the wider community to seek assistance to help these people.’

Photo: Children in Sierra Leone holding up the gifts in excitement. 

An unfinished story

Jayden plans to re-visit Sierra Leone again as well as other African countries if he finds the resources to do so. With help from colleagues, community members and possibly other organisations Jayden is hoping to gather clothing, food, school stationery, toys, furniture and tech items like computers and printers to bring to African children and families and help them move on from their past trauma, for a better future.

‘On my visit, one of the most heart-touching experiences I had was one of the children (a girl) came up to me and said – “I want be like you when I grow up. I want to assist people and help people in need.” I was touched by her words and I decided to take up the direct responsibility to support her education, and I’m looking into the possibility of adopting her in the near future. Her words touched my heart, and so I decided to make this a priority by appealing to other people to assist me in getting donations to support and sponsor more children and families on a regular basis.’

Photo: Jayden handing out donations to children in Sierra Leone, West Africa. 

Kate's Story

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