The “agony” of an abandoned child
“All that I ever wanted was to go to school, play with my friends and make my mother happy. This is not possible right now because my father abandoned us when we needed him the most. I feel sorry for my mother and it’s painful, but I am hopeful,” says 6-year-old Lahai*.
Lahai is a bright and enthusiastic boy living in the outskirts of Kenema district. Abandoned by his father when he was only two months old, he lives with his pregnant mother, step-father and 7-year-old brother.
Lahai’s parents are poor and do not have regular work: his step-father spends most of his days as a labourer in a community construction company. The mother, Hawa*, is expecting another baby but every day is busy for her. She gets up very early, prepares the morning meals, and then starts doing household chores. She then sells rice. Sometimes Hawa goes to the market to buy other products to resell.
Because he is not in school, Lahai goes with his mother to the market and helps her with the housework. After Lahai’s father abandoned them Hawa was devastated and did not know how to care for Lahai, his 7-year old brother and herself. Her community isolated her and to many she had mental disability.
On the morning of 15 August 2018, desperate to lead a life of hope for Lahai and her other children, Hawa and her family took to the streets of their impoverished village of Hanga, in search of her uncle- a Chiefdom Police Officer, who lived in the Kpetema section in the Kenema township. She decided to secure a loan scheme from her uncle to improve her business in the village, thereby continuing to secure little earnings to continue to survive.
Unfortunately for Hawa, this didn’t happen and her hopes for a better life seemed even more unattainable. After traveling approximately 4 miles, an exhausted Hawa started acting strangely, and began to scream aloud in the middle of the street as she stripped her clothes off her body.
As panic gripped Lahai, the situation aroused curiosity in Mohamed*, a local resident, who decided to interrogate Lahai and took him to a local police station for protective custody to ensure his safety. The local police division later referred the case to DCI-Sierra Leone’s trained social worker in Kenema district, who directly provided Lahai with life skills and other support before proceeding with the reintegration process. Lahai and his mother were also provided with psychological counselling. Lahai was additionally provided with a temporary shelter at his uncle’s place in Kenema.
Today, Lahai and his mother have moved to the Kenema township and for the first time in his life, Lahai wants to go to school, and fulfil his dream of becoming a doctor. He wants to help his family and support other vulnerable children in his village.