I moved to Sierra Leone two years ago to join the work 25 Project was doing among street children living in Waterloo. I met Morlai and Abdulai as they were finishing up high school and trying to navigate their next steps. At times, I look at pictures from when they first joined our ministry as young boys. It’s hard to believe the transformation they have already been through.
These two had spent most of their preteen years on the streets. There they worked in the market to make just enough money to eat each day. When they joined the 25 Project and resumed school as teenagers, the gaps in their education became apparent. Though they persisted in their education, they had struggled to advance smoothly through each grade.
Looking for Options
Knowing that any advanced degree would not be an option for them, we started looking at trade schools. Becoming mechanics sparked the interest of both young men. We found a great vocational school in a neighboring town that would train them well for their future careers. At that point, Morlai and Abdulai were our first Waterloo boys to begin an advanced program.
After moving Morlai and Abdulai to Muraldo Vocational School, they were learning in the classroom. In addition, they were learning how to be successful adults by managing their time and monthly stipend for their living expenses.
A month after the two-year program had begun, we paid the young men a visit. It was amazing to see in only one month’s time how much confidence these young men had already gained. I saw the same change in them I often see in our elementary-age children who put on a school uniform for the first time. Their smiles were bigger; they stood straighter, and their heads were held higher. As a result, Abdulai – always the talkative comedian – had become focused and committed. Similarly, Morlai – once quiet and withdrawn– had become talkative, interacting enthusiastically with his neighbors, classmates and instructors. Both were excited to show me what they were learning in the auto shop and beamed with pride at the compliments they received from their instructors.
Two years has flown by quickly. Morlai and Abdulai are now back in Waterloo starting the practical skills portion of their program. Abdulai could not wait to show me his report card with passing marks. He has even laminated it to ensure it would be preserved for years to come! In December, we will take one more trip to the vocational school in Lunsar, where these two young men will have a graduation party and receive their certificate of completion in auto mechanics. It will be a huge celebration for all of us, and a reminder of how faithful God has been to the children in our program – and over the 25 Project – these seven years!
This article was first featured in our 2019 Annual Report and was written by our Director of Operations in Sierra Leone, Shara Johnson.
Morlai and Abdulai graduated on December 14, 2019. Shara wrote “Today was such a great, memorable day! We celebrated our very first graduates from vocational school!! Abdulai and Morlai started in our 25 Project sponsorship program 7 years ago, and they are now certified auto-mechanics. We could not be more proud of the work they have done these last 2 years to achieve their certificates. It was also huge for our boys who just started their vocational programs this fall to see what’s waiting for them if they keep on keeping on.”