By Sahr Ngaujah; Edited by Katie Hackett
“Hunger was one of my greatest fears during Ebola,” says Mariama, 12, remembering one day when she went to bed after only eating coconut. “All through the night, I was holding my stomach and crying.”
Among the many negative effects of Ebola was extreme economic hardship and widespread hunger in families.
“We could hardly afford a day’s meal. We felt our entire world had crashed,” Mariama’s mom, Fudia, remembers. “During Ebola, nobody could give out loans. Everybody was saving for the unforeseen.”
To help get them through the crisis, World Vision helped Fudia and 16 other community members set up a savings group.
In the past, Fudia had sold food at the local market but that source of income dried up as people started running out of money. The new savings group become a source of hope.
“I started seeing changes in our home when my mom joined,” Mariama says. “She started taking loans in the group in order to solve family issues. We weren’t going to school then because of the nine-month school closure during Ebola, but our medical bills, food and other basic needs were covered. And this brought smiles again in the home.”
Fudia is one of the key holders for her savings group, responsible for keeping the keys to the box where the members’ contributions are kept safe.
“Apart from the access I have to loans, the group has taught me to be responsible,” Fudia says. “It makes me feel that people’s resources are being entrusted in my hands.”
Six months after the savings group started, World Vision helped the members take things one step further, by setting up a community garden. With necessary items like hoes, watering cans and seeds, they were able to start growing food quickly.
This was a game-changer for the 17 members, which include nine women and eight men. After their first harvest, they sold a portion of the produce and set some money aside for savings. The leftover food was shared amongst the members, which was a source of excitement for Fudia’s family.
“There was food at home,” Mariama remembers. “My favourite food among the many things they planted was and is still corn.”
When schools opened again, Fudia used her profits to pay her four children’s school fees and cover their basic needs.
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