The Van Fossen Theatre at Bloomfield College, Bloomfield in New Jersey was last SundayÂ the scene of emotional appeals for help to aid the children of Sierra Leone during a fund-raising ceremony organized by the Abdul Mustapha Foundation, an organization set up by a young, patriotic Sierra Leonean lady, Jelikatu Mustapha.
The Abdul Mustapha Foundation, according to program notes, “is one that is dedicated to giving a voice to the otherwise voiceless children of Sierra Leone “.Â It is a major humanitarian work in progress andÂ when the Foundation organized Sunday’s program to create awareness about the plight of children in Sierra Leone, the response was overwhelming.
Sierra Leone was represented at the program by the Minister PlenipotentiaryÂ to the United Nations who is also C-10 and Media and Public AffairsÂ Coordinator for the government of Sierra Leone in the United States, Leeroy Wilfred Kabs-Kanu ,who deputized the Permanent Representative of Sierra Leone to the United Nations, Ambassador Shekou M. Touray. The program was attended by a cross-section of Sierra Leoneans and Friends of Sierra Leone , including the Mayor of the Township of Bloomfield, Mr. Raymond MaCarthy ;Â Judge Julien Neals of the Corporate Council of the City of Newark in New Jersey ; the President of the International School of Art ,Business and Technology in Ghana , Mr. Jonathan Thurston; the Vice-President of Student Affairs at Bloomfield College, Dr. Patrick Lamy ; the Senior Policy Advisor of the New Jersey Governor’s Office, Mr. Nashon Hornsby and the founder/CEO of Brands Nu Words and author of IÂ Am Barak Obama ,Ms. Charisse Carney-Nunes,ESQ , among others.
Among notable Sierra LeoneansÂ present were the Public Relations Officer of the All People’s Congress North America, Mr. Foday Mansaray; Ms. Mayeney Kamara and her sister Masiray and indeed the founder of the Abdul Mustapha Foundation, Ms.Jelikatu Mustapha and her partner Mr. Abdul Savage.
The program started with performances by the Umoja Dance Troupe’s DrummersÂ .This was followed by the singing of the American and Sierra Leonean national anthems by the NJ Intermediate Youth Chorus .Then there were opening remarks by Dr. Lamy , Mr. Thurston and Jelikatu Mustapha, followed by a danceÂ by the Umoja Dance Troupe and a musical performance by the Newark Boys Choir.
In his appeal for help for the children of Sierra Leone, Senior Policy Advisor of the Governor’s Office, Nashon Hornsby, revealed some of the plight of kids in Sierra Leone including atrocities they suffered during the war, whileÂ author Charise Carney-Nunez explained efforts she made to reach the hearts of kids of the Southern Regional capital, Bo, with a book she wrote specially for children. She disclosed thatÂ sixty percent of the sales of theÂ book and ‘I am Barack OBama ‘ will go to the Abdul Mustapha Foundation. She appealed for everybody to open their hearts to the children of Sierra Leone and donate whatever they could afford to relieve the plight of the Sierra Leonean child.
The Mayor of Bloomfield, Mr. Raymond Macarthy, Â looked at the humanitarian dimension of the suffering of kids in Sierra Leone and not only appealed passionately for help for the children but pledged the support of his township to the Abdul Mustapha Foundation and the children in Sierra Leone . Judge Julien Neals provided statistics to demonstrate that Sierra Leone is the worst place on earth for a kid to be born and raised. He spoke about the atrocities performed on kids in Sierra Leone during the war, including being used as child soldiers, labourers and porters and young girls as sex slaves of the fighting forces .He appealed to the conscience of the world to come to the assistance of the kids.
The speeches were followed by more moving performances , including a sorrowful poem and song on behalf of the children of Sierra LeoneÂ by Ms. Tempess WilliamsÂ and an audio video show titled ‘The Plight of the Children of Sierra Leone’ which showed kids whose limbs were amputated during the war, the daily hurstle by kids of Sierra Leone to survive and some of the slums , like Susan’s Bay, whereÂ children are seen Â interfacing with pigs , shanty dwellings, filth and squalor. The video also showed an exclusive interview about the plight of kids .It was conducted with the Minister of Information and Communications , Hon. Ibrahim Ben Kargbo by Jelikatu Mustapha , during the last UN General Assembly in New York.
In his keynote address, Minister Plenipotentiary Kabs-Kanu, on behalf of Permanent Representative Ambassador Shekou M.Touray and the Sierra Leone Permanent Mission to the United Nations , as well as the government of Sierra Leone, Â thanked the Abdul Mustapha Foundation and all those who took time off their busy schedules to attend the fund raiserÂ He thanked them for their commitment to Sierra Leone and the cause of the country’s kids. The Minister said that the children of Sierra Leone underwent situations during the war that none in the hall would ever see or experience in their lives even if they lived for 100 years. He outlined the psychological damage inflicted on the kids by warring factions who did not only rape their parents and family members in their presence but in many cases forced the kids to partake in the horror . He spoke about the kids being also used as child soldiers to perform monstrous war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Minister Kabs-Kanu told his audience that the government of Sierra Leone , under the leadership of President Ernest Bai Koroma, was working hard to put in place structures that will help to ameliorate the problems of the kids of Sierra Leone. He said thatÂ the Minister of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs, Dr. Soccoh Kabia recently told the press that the government had succeeded in putting in place directorates ,with one directly devoted to children .The government, he went on, has rehabilitated a lot of the kids traumatized by the war and sent them to school. With the help of UNICEF , Save the Children UK and many other NGOs, Â Child Welfare committees have been formed at community levels , involving teachers, traditional leaders , representatives of parents and children , to provide support for vulnerable families and to ensure that kids stay home and do not run away. The Minister also stated that UNICEFÂ was also supporting the government in setting up systems for monitoring children’s homes across the country to ensure proper running of orphanages and to avoid child trafficking.
The Minister said that despite the best efforts of the government and NGOs and international organizations, the situation remains desperate and he called on the international community and benevolent organizations in America to step in and help solve the problems faced by kids in Sierra Leone.
In her closing statement, the founder of the Abdul Mustapha Foundation, Jelikatu Mustapha, thanked everybody for coming to the program. She said that the first quest of her organizationÂ was to create awareness about the plight of children in Sierra Leone .She promised to organize more fund-raising programs to help address the needs of the Sierra Leonean child.
The program ended with a reception where foods and refreshments were served.