On Mission | Recovery After the Susan’s Bay Inferno

by Nancy Green, World Hope International

 “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13 (NKJ)

World Hope International (WHI) was founded 25 years ago by Dr. Jo Anne Lyon to provide relief and healing to communities around the world who have been devastated by war, famine, injustice, and persecution. Today, believers like you partner with WHI to demonstrate the love of God through market-based and community-led solutions, building hope in countries like Sierra Leone and Haiti—each of which are currently recovering from separate disasters this year. Compelled and empowered by God’s love, WHI is building deep and transformative relationships in countries including Sierra Leone, Liberia, Haiti, Cambodia, and the Philippines.

WHI has been working in Sierra Leone for over two decades to alleviate poverty, suffering and injustice by providing clean water and sanitation, health, protection, and emergency response. Along the coast of Freetown, Sierra Leone lies the community of Susan’s Bay, one of the largest informal settlements in the city—and the site of a terrible disaster this year.

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On March 24,2021, a devastating fire ripped through Susan’s Bay, completely destroying the community. Sierra Leone’s fire brigade responded quickly, but a lack of access to roads because overcrowding prevented the fire engines from getting into the community. The fire burned for more than seven hours, affecting over 7,000 people. Thousands were left homeless and lost property.

Families had to sleep outside, fearing the exposure to mosquito bites that in turn could lead to malaria. Children could not return to school, because they lost all their school materials, and the goods women sold in the markets went up with the flames.

Along with exposure to illness and hunger, families living in makeshift tents also left them at risk for theft and physical and sexual abuse, especially for women and children.

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With generous support from The Chapel and other donors, WHI was able to positively impact the community for five months by establishing a Protection Desk with the Sierra Leone National Disaster Management Agency and Ministry of Social Welfare. With a mission to ensure all Sierra Leoneans, especially women and children, were equitably and adequately supported, the Protection Desk helped to coordinate activities of service providers working in the area.

WHI immediately provided tarpaulins and supplies to vulnerable community members and partnered with West End Clinic to set up a pop-up health clinic within the community. In total, 802 residents went through a wellness checkup and were also provided with same-day treatment and after-care advice. WHI equipped children with various school supplies such as backpacks, books, writing tablets and held daily play therapy sessions where children in the community could come after school to learn and, for those traumatized by the fire, receive counseling.

In June, World Hope International provided business grants to 50 people, primarily women, who were deemed among the most vulnerable members of the community. Each community member received $150 to help them revamp their businesses. Before dispersing this aid, the WHI team conducted a two-day training workshop for participants on budgeting and savings, gender empowerment, human rights and human trafficking, referral mechanism, and child protection.

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A story of hope! Meet Yelie, a community leader: “Every day I pray that God will continue sending people to our aid, and that soon life will go back to normal.”

Yelie is a community leader and street trader residing in the Susan’s Bay community. Before the fire disaster, Yelie sold coal and soap to make a living and, as with many others, her entire market was consumed by the fire, leaving her with no money and no way to earn any. Despite the devastation brought on by the fire, Yelie continues to be a leader and humanitarian in the Susan’s Bay community. Since receiving the grant from WHI, Yelie has used a portion of her funds to buy cement to lay a foundation where she has built a small shelter. Community residents can go there for protection during the rains. She also used the funding to replace the coal and soap she lost in the flames. Moving forward, Yelie plans on re-investing the profits from her business into her community.

World Hope International is grateful to have been able to respond powerfully and meaningfully to the disaster that struck Susan’s Bay community—a holistic, healing presence in the community has left a long-lasting impression and positively impacted many lives.

World Hope International is a Christian relief and development organization working to alleviate poverty, suffering and injustice by implementing clean water and energy, global health, protection, and market-based social ventures to provide those in need with opportunity, dignity and hope so they can possess the tools for change in themselves, their family, and community. For more information visit www.worldhope.org.