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Strengthening Families to Reduce Vulnerability in Sierra Leone – the work of Helping Children Worldwide

Laura Horvath's picture

Children and staff at the CRCHelping Children Worldwide has joined the Call to Action: Strengthening the Social Service Workforce to Better Protect Children and Achieve the SDGs because the ideas and recommendations reflect major goals of their programs in Bo, Sierra Leone. The organization supports the Child Rescue Centre (CRC), which provides education, health care, mentoring and programming to break the cycle of poverty for 600 vulnerable children and families throughout Sierra Leone.

The CRC has been working for nearly 20 years to improve the lives of vulnerable children living in chronic, systemic conditions of extreme poverty by ensuring that they can attend school, have access to free medical care, and live safely in family, kinship and foster-based care, supported by strong case management. Additionally, the CRC provides families access to parenting workshops, life skills training, individual and family counseling, family strengthening activities, and access to financial literacy training and microfinance loans, to help families work toward self-sustainability. 

To support children at the CRC in continuing their education and developing professional skills, Helping Children Worldwide covers school fees and offers scholarships. Henry is one of those beneficiaries, who has returned as a social worker to work at the CRC and help the next generation.  Henry’s story is unique in that he was a child supported by the CRC’s Child Support Program, which provided health and education support from primary through secondary school. After graduation, he applied for and won a Promise Scholarship which enabled him to attend university. Graduating with honors, Henry holds a Bachelor of Science in Social Work from Njala University. As the Assistant Coordinator for the Sponsor A Child program at the CRC, Henry is responsible for the cases of 70 children supported by the CRC’s programs.

Henry credits being a CRC student with his path toward becoming a social worker. He was drawn to social work out of a desire to help people - particularly those who are most vulnerable. He has always been interested in community development and work has a deep, lasting and positive impact. Being a case manager for vulnerable children and their families helps him see that impact every day, he says. Henry finds the work at CRC particularly rewarding. In supporting CRC’s vision and focus, he is positively giving back to the community of Bo.

The Child Rescue Centre is also pioneering implementation of best practices in transitioning child welfare programs from institutional care and orphanage model settings to family-based care within the community. Helping Children Worldwide and the Child Rescue Centre contribute to the knowledge exchange by working closely with the Sierra Leone Ministry of Social Welfare and Gender Affairs as well as with other child-focused NGOs in the Bo region and in country, by meeting regularly to share knowledge and best practices (focused on family reintegration and transition from institutional care, as well as compliance with global research and standards for robust case management) at a time when all residential children’s programs in Sierra Leone are making the transition to family-based care. The CRC is helping lead the way, and in June 2018 successfully reintegrated the remaining 20 students living in group homes in the community into family homes, foster or kinship care.  

Henry’s deepest hopes for the children on his caseload are the same as for his own two-year-old son: to do well in school, find a bright future, and know how deeply they are blessed by God to be in a loving family.

Helping Children Worldwide recognizes that one way to strengthen families is to strengthen the skills of the social service workers, including social workers like Henry, who work with children and vulnerable families. HCW is committed to continuing to support the Child Rescue Center as it works to build capacity of social workers and case management staff striving to meet global standards in the care of children at risk.