Heaven Homes

Posted on Aug 26, 2015

Hannah

What’s in a name? Our partners in Sierra Leone are ActionAid. And that’s what they do- they use aid to produce real action in changing lives.

What I like most about ActionAid is this: they seek to empower the poor and disadvantaged they work with to take control of their lives and solve their own problems. They take the lead from those they seek to help.

Whether it is building primary schools in partnership with us at The Millione Foundation, championing women’s rights or working to establish food security in remote rural areas, ActionAid always work to empower the powerless. It is a strategy based on human rights that seeks to address the causes of poverty and enable long term root and branch change.

In Sierra Leone the violence and disruption from the decade long 1991-2002 civil war led to an influx of aid organisations. Some, like ActionAid, have been working there since before the war. Others have sprung up more recently. They range from large to small, International Government Organisations to independent NGO’s (Non-Government Organisations). All share the broad aim of improving life for the people of the country. But their history and focus vary.

This blog and the next look two NGO’s doing good things.

HEAVEN HOMES

A few months ago an email came to me through the Millione website. This is what it said:

“Hi

This is amazing really! Getting about my Saturday business I come across a little tag with “Millione Frizzante Rose” written on it. I don’t drink alcohol and just cannot think how the tag happened to find its way into my shopping basket. Well I think it must be fate. I am from Sierra Leone and I totally understand why you would be moved to invest in the lives of the people, especially children. On behalf of the people of SL – Thank You.

I went back to SL to help rebuild after 24+years and found the same devastation you speak of. It has propelled me to give all I have to enrich the lives of the children. I founded Heaven Homes as a result. We have so far built one primary school in Newton, and are now working post-ebola to rebuild lives with dignity. We have worked with partners and friends to start building homes NOT ORPHANAGES..to provide safety and rebuild the lives of children who lost their parents to the disease. Challenging though this is, we have 58 children in our care, with a further 200 on our waiting list. For more information, please see our website www.heaven-homes.org. We hope our paths will cross at some point in the future, and again thank you thank you, or as we say in Salone* – TENKI!

Sincerely
Kippy
Founder of Heaven Homes”

 

Kids with care package

This lovely email made me want to learn more about Kippy’s story and Heaven Homes. Here is what I found out:

“I was a very sickly child and collapsed in my school a couple of weeks before the start of the summer holidays, and my parents decided that I should come to the UK for a medical check-up in August 1989. My father was in politics at the time. A few days after we arrived my dad phoned my mum and I later found out the conversation was about political unrest, and it was decided that I would be safer in the UK. I was then enrolled in school, and my mum returned to SL. I was 13 at the time. I stayed with family and the struggle which followed resulted in me moving from one extended family home to another just to survive.

In relation to tensions in SL, my dad was removed as a parliamentary minister, and just before he was reinstated, there was a coup which saw him and others who had been in govt during the preceding 15 years arrested and imprisoned for over 12 months. During the period of imprisonment some of his colleagues were executed and my dad now tells us that he believed he was going to be killed, and that all he prayed for, was that it would be painless and quick.

During that period my mother was under house arrest with my siblings, who had all been taken out of school, and the family was financially reliant on me…I was 15 at that time. I started to work (cleaning office toilets at Canary Wharf) illegally and every penny paid was smuggled into SL to my parents when I could find someone to take the money with them. I was paid £70 every 2 weeks, and used to go into work at 5.30am, clean 4 floors of toilets, then catch an early bus to school. When I arrived at school the cleaners would still be there and I was usually so early, I turned the heating on in our classroom.

A Beccles-Davies commission of enquiry ensued which exonerated my dad, and he and the remaining colleagues were released as an NPRC* good will gesture. However, he remained under house arrest.

This was a very difficult period for all involved…my mother had her passport returned and I took my first loan, bought her a ticket to come over to the UK on holiday, which was the first time I saw her since 1989. Think I was about 19 then. She later went to the US to visit other family. The Civil War, loss of property… most of the family became refugees in Guinea. “

The Heaven Homes project is in Newton (JoeTown), near the capital Freetown, on 44 acres of prime farmland. They also hope to develop a sustainable farm project in future. Funding has come primarily from friends, individuals, schools and churches in the UK.

Kippy writes that in the UK “our work with primary schools involves small assembly workshops which focus on building friendships between the school children with our children in Heaven Homes. We hold age appropriate discussions to highlight similarities and differences between children in UK and SL.”

In Sierra Leone Kippy works to train adults in “safeguarding”.
She explains:

“Safeguarding is training those working with children to be able to know the different types of abuse children suffer – physical, emotional, sexual etc, and then teach them how to recognise the signs of each and what to do.

We are working to promote child welfare and raise awareness of abuse which is becoming increasingly normalised. We want to (in time) train police and provide a safe house for children reporting abuse.

SL track record has not been the best in this area. So now attention on ebola is fading we want to be in a position to Build Back Salone 2015/2020.”

Heaven Homes is a small organisation with a handful of committed volunteers in the UK and staff running the home in Sierra Leone. It is testament to one woman’s determination to create positive change. The last word goes to her:

“I suppose my journey has taught me that family is not necessarily blood ties, but those who value you, support your goals, and encourage you to attain them within a loving environment.”

* Salone means Sierra Leone in Krio, the principal language

**National Provisional Ruling Council, the military junta that ruled Sierra Leone from 1992-1996.

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