The intake of Sherriff Karama
February 18, 2010
We took part in an “intake” today. The children coming to the orphanage are processed through the Department of Social Welfare, a government agency much like what we have here in the States. There was a child in the Kissybrook area of Freetown brought to the attention of the department. His name was Sherriff (Pronounced Sharee) Kamara, a six-year-old boy whose father abandoned him before birth and whose mother recently died. The social welfare department had granted permission for the boy to be moved to the orphanage.
Our team arrived in the area known as Kissybrook, which looks like so many other sections of Freetown: dirty, shanties, people without jobs who spend the day sitting in the heat. Sherriff lived with his grandmother in a concrete 12’x6′ block room sandwiched in between all the other concrete block buildings on a long, steep dirt street. There were no windows, and a mattress on the floor stretched from wall to wall. There were four people living in this room, five before Sherriff’s mother died. The grandmother could not read or write, so she put her thumb print on the government papers releasing her grandchild to The Covering. She wept as she stood there with her grandson but said she knew this was the only way to give him a better life. Sherriff told his friends, who had gathered in the street around his house, goodbye, and left for his new home. When asked if he was ready to go, he nodded his head. His grandmother hid her face in her skirt as she wept for him.
When he arrived at the orphanage, all the children had heard there was a new boy arriving and came outside to greet him. Sherriff stood at the entry gate to his new home where he was surrounded by children saying hello. He was then taken upstairs, shown his knew bunk bed and given new clothes. Afterwards he ate dinner with the other children. This was a deeply emotional day for all the team. I had tears of joy and tears of grief for little Sherriff, all at the same time. He will probably never see his friends from Kissybrook again. But I know he has a chance now, that he goes against the statistics, that he will be safe and loved. He was also looking forward to going to school. His life changed today and so did mine.