As Sierra Leone contemplates the long road to recovery, they are facing new challenges and new obstacles to overcome. But this weekend they will have a new champion facing his own heroic (and frankly insane) struggle in support of their efforts.
I’ve always admired the efforts of the young men and women that Georgie supports through her Ngbotima charity. Their struggles through school in the face of poverty and corruption have been nothing short of heroic. Every day they face the challenges of daily life in one of the toughest countries of the world with good grace and good humour. From the moment I met them they inspired me, and they welcomed me as a friend, too. You couldn’t wish to meet a more courageous or welcoming group of people, all of them desperate to gain an education and to improve their lives and the lives of their communities.
Back in 2006 Georgie hand selected this promising group of youngsters, male and female, choosing children whose families might not otherwise have been able to support them to complete their education. She visited the schools, interviewed the children and spoke to their families. When she returned to England Georgie started Ngbotima (the word means “let us help”) and began fundraising to pay for the children’s school fees, uniforms, textbooks and their supplementary costs. At times Ngbotima has supported the children when they have been at risk of becoming homeless, or has paid medical costs when they have been severely ill. Through this support the charity has supported these vulnerable boys and girls and kept them in school as they have grown into young adults.
There have been ups and downs. We’ve had some great successes: Sahr Yongai now runs his own charity, supporting other young people and he regularly appears on a national radio programme advocating for young people’s rights. Frank Conteh is studying law at the university of Makeni, Foday and Fengai are learning computer skills.
But it’s not all been easy. We’re finding it increasingly difficult to encourage the young women, in particular, to complete their education when there are so many external pressures and obstacles in their way. As with so many countries across the world, opportunities for women can be more limited in Sierra Leone and the young women of Ngbotima are under different pressures to support their families, to get married and to have children. We’re looking for ways to support them in living the lives they want to lead and to give them the best possible chance at a better future.
We’ve faced problems with families falling apart, corruption in the schools and sickness amongst the children.
We now have 10 youngsters still in school and we’re continuing to provide some support to a few of the older kids as they begin their next chapters. Ngbotima was never intended as a crutch, but in some cases is providing a valuable leg up to young people who might not otherwise have received an education or benefitted from the wonderful support that the young people themselves have learned to provide for each other. Their mutual networks of support are a heartwarming thing to behold.
We want to maintain this support in the future, be it through advice, investment or simply through the bonds of friendship that have been formed between this new Sierra Leonean generation and their supporters in the West.
Doing something amazing for incredible people
Now to my cousin John Price who is once again competing in Iron Man Wales. I understand it’s one of the hardest Iron Man competitions (which is like talking about the ‘hottest volcano’…) – taking place as it does in the inhospitable climes of deepest Wales.
This weekend John must swim 2.4 miles in the icy Atlantic, cycle 112 miles of damp cobbled pavements and twisty hill roads and finally, just to finish off, run a full marathon – all one after the other.
It’s a staggering athletic feat and this year we are thrilled and proud to say that he is running it in support of Ngbotima. He has a justgiving page here.
As John’s family I’d implore you to support his brilliant efforts in any case, I’m amazed that anyone would choose to do something like this, and as supporters of Ngbotima we can tell you that you’ll be backing a really great cause that is directly improving the lives of young people in Sierra Leone.
Thank you in advance!