By Chelsea Quackenbush
SIERRA LEONE – Matilda Conteh, 25, approached Buckner in 2010 desperate for change after years of having to beg for survival and care for her three children.
One of nine children, she was adopted at a young age by her grandmother since her mother could not take care of her. By time she reached secondary school, her grandmother could no longer pay her fees, so a boyfriend started paying them for her. But then he stopped and Matilda was forced to drop out. She engaged in petty trading, got pregnant and had to beg from friends.
In October 2010, Matilda heard about the Global Connections Partnership Networks (now Kinexxus) skills training program for school dropouts when Buckner Sierra Leone conducted needs assessments and registered youth in the Jui Community. She learned the skills necessary to make gara tie dye products and run her own small business. She graduated in just seven months, and although she doesn’t have the capital to start her own business, she’s trying very hard to break into the competitive market.
“Before, she was helpless. But now she’s feeling proud, happy. Things have changed. Her life is much different now than it was then,” said Buckner Sierra Leone program director Alfred Kargbo.
Through the training and support of the CTC staff, Matilda, who was previously a Muslim, learned about Jesus and accepted Him as her Lord and Savior.
“When she started, she was not a Christian,” Kargbo said. “She had no confidence in anything but we drew it out of her and taught her who she was in Christ. She’s developing a relationship with Jesus and her influence is profound on all the students. She went through a lot of challenges but now she speaks to our trainees.”
The training program is practically-oriented and highly intensive. Students train for five hours a day Monday through Saturday. Graduates of the program are facing high barriers to entry in the gara tie dyeing market because they have to come up with their own capital and materials, something that was provided to them while they were in the program. The market also is competitive, so entrepreneurs must be well-equipped to be successful, Kargbo said.
Buckner Sierra Leone works with individuals for case management and mentoring trainees in business. Their three main roles are to provide needs assessment, design a skills training program, and design a monitoring and mentoring program throughout with training.
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