By Ornette Turay
It all started on November 30 2014. It was during the peak of the West Africa Ebola outbreak that affected Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Gbassay Kamara’s husband, Abdulai Kamara had left her, and their five children at their Grafton Displaced Camp home in the
outskirts of Freetown for work. Then a few hours later, ‘’I received a call from one of his workmates that my husband had fallen ill and had been taken to one of the government hospitals,’’Gbassay vividly recalled. She had not noticed any visible signs of ill-health from her
husband when he left home that day for work.
Later that same day, Abdulai was pronounced dead. They say it was from the deadly hemorrhagic fever. As is standard procedure during Ebola outbreaks, Gbassay and her five children were quarantined for 21 days. She said they were left without sufficient food. The camp where they reside was short of safe drinking water, and the sanitary condition posed a danger to the health of her children in addition to being restricted from moving out and about, and playing with other kids. “My family and I depended on handouts from people who sympathised with our situation,” Gbassay recounts.
She and her kids did not have the benefit of giving a befitting funeral to their lost loved one. “I would never know where my husband’s grave is until I die,’’ Gbassay sobbed. Left with no breadwinner for the family and care for the kids, Gbassay’s biggest worry in addition to grieving for her deceased husband was where to call home for her and the children. The Grafton Displaced Camp was about to be shut down, and the house her late husband was constructing was still far from completion.
Thanks to Jamie, a Good Samaritan neighbour close to her late husband’s unfinished house, Gbassay and her kids were given some place to lay their heads. It was a reprieve – a cramped room with a bare floor. While this was what they needed, it did not go a long way to solving their situation permanently. She needed more. And out of nowhere, the Jamil & Nyanga Jaward Foundation stepped in and changed their lives probably forever.
They evaluated proposals of a group of widows sent to them and selected Gbassay as the recipient of a small business grant. They, however, realised that accommodation for Gbassay and her kids was a problem, “ and we agreed to complete the house,” Jamil disclosed. With resources from their pockets, they got a contractor to complete the house, make it habitable and fully stocked the shop with wares for her to start a business that would support Gbassay, and the children.
And on Tuesday, November 6, last year, her tears of sorrow were turned to tears of joy when she received the keys and cut the ribbon to her newly finished house at Grafton, in the outskirts of the capital, Freetown. Guests who were in attendance were also emotionally touched. She had never thought that she would be a proud owner of a beautiful home. “Sleeping in a modern home completed for my kids and I by the Jamil & Nyanga Jaward Foundation is a big blessing from God,” she said.
At the ceremony was Deputy Minister of Mines, Madam Evelyn Blackie. She expressed gratitude to the Jamil & Nyanga Jaward Foundation for their humanitarian efforts in restoring the dignity and hope of Gbassay and her children. For her, “The Jamil & Nyanga Jaward Foundation is determined to change the narrative of those who are less privileged in our society.”
Chairman for the occasion, Ambassador Rupert Davies described Jamil & Nyanga as passionate individuals in helping the needy wherever they serve in the world. “They have for the past ten years rendered financial and other assistance to the needy in various communities, and there has always been a desire to formalise a more structured programme that will have a lasting legacy and reach more recipients,’’ the Chairman revealed.
Mr Lamin Mansaray, the Headman of Grafton Community, described the event as a historical one in his community. ‘He appealed to the Foundation to extend its assistance to other vulnerable people in his community. “We have many widows who lost their husbands to Ebola. We also have children who are orphans as a result of the Ebola epidemic we had in the country,’’ the Headman appealed.
Speaking on behalf of the Foundation, the Country Coordinator, Reverend Josephine Bankole said, “ The Foundation found it more beneficial to implement a lasting project by completing the unfinished building Gbassay’s late husband left.”