The Teenager Who Is Preventing Cholera

Adama Fofanah is a Sierra Leonean teenager taking cholera prevention into her own hands.

Some people say, “Only the strongest survive”. I can’t help but wonder if I will be strong enough to endure the challenges that will come my way or if I will need support from elsewhere to make my dreams of having an education come true.

Where I live it is dry and dusty and life is slow. Many people have to fetch their water from a borehole and instead of electricity they use kerosene lamps and cook over firewood. Every day I sweep the rooms and fetch wood and my sister and I like washing the dishes so they are clean for visitors. Every morning we wake up early so that we can do our work before school because for some of us it’s a long walk.

I live in in Kabala in Sierra Leone. Life in Kabala is about struggling to survive. The majority of people who live in my town are farmers, most of whom suffer from poverty. We don’t have the basic amenities that people in big cities have. We don’t have taps. Most people depend on locally dug wells to pump water.

I was born and raised without a father. As tradition would permit, my stepfather married my mother as his second wife. This has been a problem for me as I was considered as one of the mistakes in our home.

I felt frustration and disappointment almost every hour of the day. I often felt that perhaps my existence was a mistake and that there would never be any hope for my future.

The only happiness I have enjoyed is, when I am in school. Most families I know don’t have the opportunity of sending their children to school. Most times children have to walk miles on foot to get to school since Kabala is the only town in the area that provides secondary education. There is no university here. School is often the only place where a child can see their efforts recognized, where there is some hope for the future. It is there that I allowed myself to dream and think about what I was told was impossible. I managed to finish high school with only the dream to go to university, but we cannot afford that dream. I know there is no hope of getting a tertiary education, as my mother always echoes the impossibilities of paying such fees.

In Kabala, there is little access to safe drinking water and cholera is a threat to the lives of the people. Early last year, I was given the chance to do something about it. When the organisation Innovate Salone came to our school, we realised that by taking their challenge we teenagers had the power to do something about the deadly disease that was taking over our community. I was fortunate to head a team of young teenagers. We proposed to chlorinate our wells, fence them to be secured from domestic animals, habilitate some local dig wells and educate the community about how vital this would be in the fight against cholera.

Being chosen as a finalist meant we would be given the resources to turn this project in the classroom into a reality within our town. This challenge was contagious. Other students from different schools rose up to help solve other development issues, from teenage pregnancy campaigning to garbage disposal and agriculture.

Life now in Kabala is very unique when compared to other towns and cities in Sierra Leone. We now live in a community where we have created a shared sense of responsibility to improve the lives our neighbours. In my community, I have only ever wished to champion these community driven projects. I no longer feel helpless or that I am mistake to my family, because I can do something to help. Youth can lead a generation of youngest stars to change their community in ways that are unimaginable.

My advice to all struggling youth, is to keep working hard and apply the little knowledge God has given you.

We can each make what we want of our time in this world.





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