For 11 years, SonRise Church in Pueblo West, Colorado has been supporting a school in Makeni, Sierra Leone. This school educates children who must work during the day to help support their families due to parent’s death in the Ebola outbreak or parent’s disability after the civil war. Rev. Somalia Sesay and his wife Susan began the School for Working Kids for children would not be able to get an education if not for this school teaching them later in the day after they have gone out to help support their family, usually by begging or assisting an older family member who begs. In honor of the yearly commitment to these working children, the school is being renamed: SonRise School for Working Children.
In 2009, Rev. John and Elaine Blinn shared with SonRise stories of their visits to Makeni and Kabala, Sierra Leone. “Money for chop, money for chop,” words spoken by a 6 year old boy asking for food as he held the hand of a blind man, caught their attention. These stories touched the heart of Marie Moore, a 1st grader, who began saving coins and selling knitted potholders to raise money to help the children. The church’s Adult Fellowship group quickly got on board when Nancy and Jim Simons suggested holding a turkey dinner to raise money for the children of Sierra Leone, and “Thanksgiving in May” was created.
The cost of providing academic support to the school annually totals $3,000. This covers teacher’s salaries and school supplies. This year the school has begun a feeding program as many of the children were arriving at school lacking sufficient nutrition. This program is run on $150 per month, or $1,800 per year.
Thanksgiving in May is held each year, sponsored by the Adult Fellowship group. The group pays for entertainment ranging from high school choral groups to a favorite local bluegrass band. Tickets are sold to attend the dinner, and all food is provided, prepared and served by the SonRise family so that all money raised will go to the school. A silent dessert auction was added to generate more money, and some friendly competition!
Each year over 100 people enjoy music, food and fellowship as well as an update on the school from John and Elaine Blinn and/or Les and Hope Law. Because of the pandemic, the 2020 fundraiser became a Sunday morning ‘telethon’. Members of the youth group answered the phones to receive pledges from our church members. The telethon was hosted by Pastor Carrie and Marie Moore, who is now a college student! Marie shared her passion for the children through songs and personal testimony. Videos of children in Sierra Leone and their plight were also shared. This telethon was quite a successful fundraising event, raising over $4,400.
SonRise Church is the sole supporter of the School for Working Kids, and continued their support even during the Ebola crisis when the children weren’t able to attend the school. Over the years, $31,000 has been raised for the school. Other missions supported in Sierra Leone include Abu’s Orphanage, NarSarah Clinic, School for the Hearing Impaired, and Kabala UMC.