Hanging onto hope when the mountain falls | Humanitarian Coalition

photo: CARE

Hanging onto hope when the mountain falls
October 30, 2018
“I lost my home and everything in the mudslide, so I really needed the emergency food and other items that I received from CARE.”

“My three children, my husband and I were sleeping when my brother in-law woke us up shouting that water was carrying away everyone in the neighborhood,” says Sento Timbo, a 30 year old mother in Sierra Leone.

Sento says she was living happily with her husband, two daughters and her newborn baby boy, Sheku when disaster struck more than a year ago.

They got up and saw that the road beside their house had been washed away, and there was chaos everywhere. While they were frantically searching for an escape route, a flash flood swept by and scattered everyone.

Sento managed to climb out of the water and get on dry land, where she found her 4-year old daughter Hannah. She rescued her from the rubble, and they continued the search for her husband, baby and her eldest daughter.

“I remember when I realized they were gone,” she recalls. “The water was so powerful, there was no way they could have survived.”

Two days of heavy rains had caused a hillside to collapse into a densely populated neighbourhood of Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, killing at least 500 people, destroying houses, and putting 20,000 people at risk.

Later that day as the flood subsided, rescue teams continued their desperate search for survivors. While searching, they heard a chicken clucking from the concrete basin of a toilet that had not been swept away by the flood and mudslide. Rescue teams were amazed that the chicken was alive, and when they went to save it, they were surprised to see a bundle of clothes beside it.

“When they opened the bundle, they found my baby Sheku! They picked him up and, to everyone’s surprise, he started crying. We were all in shock, it was a miracle!” exclaims Sento. Sheku was immediately taken to the hospital for a checkup, where the doctors found that he was fine.

As the days following the mudslide passed with no sign of Sento’s 11-year old daughter and her husband, Sento went to stay with her sister-in-law’s family to begin the process of rebuilding her life with her 4-year old daughter and her newborn son.

“I lost my home and everything in the mudslide, so I really needed the emergency food and other items that I received from CARE,” Sento says. “The blanket was particularly useful for us in those first few days – it helped keep us warm in a cold season.”

The Humanitarian Coalition and the Government of Canada supported CARE Canada’s disaster relief in Freetown through the Canadian Humanitarian Assistance Fund.

Apart from providing emergency necessities, CARE also installed water tanks and taught people in the community about the importance of good hygiene practices.

“We use the water for cooking, drinking, and bathing, so we can look clean and neat and interact with people within the community,” says Sento.

“I found courage in the fact that there are people out there who cared about my loss, people who don’t even know me,” she says. “I knew I was not alone.”