By Hassan Koroma
Dr. Ahnal Purohit, Chairman of AWASH, a Freetown-based non-profit organization and a Philanthropist from USA has, during the Christmas season, presented the sum of Le15 million as seed money to form a sustainable business for a group of disabled persons – 15 in number – located at Wilberforce Street in the centre business district of Freetown.
Talking to Concord Times in an exclusive interview, the Philanthropist disclosed that they have been in the country over the years and have seen a lot of young people begging on the streets of Freetown for their living, which he described as pathetic.
According to the Chairman of AWASH, their families have been giving these beggars regular money and food to eat but this time around they have seen it necessary to engage them to be self-reliant by providing the adequate funds – one million Leones per person – which they will use to buy used clothing and other items that will engage them in small businesses which will, hopefully, keep them off the streets.
They said they are doing this because they have love, sympathy and respect for humanity despite their present condition. AWASH believes giving the right incentives and resources, they can change their lives and make them normal members of our beautiful society.
“We are doing this for humanitarian reasons. Some of these people were not born disabled. Some of them became disabled through accident and some are victims of the 11 years civil war. I also believe there are lots of other well-to-do-people in this country that can do the same to change the lives of these people,” he said. “We want to use this as a start and as time goes on we will like to extend same gesture to other disabled persons across the country because they are all important to us.”
Chairman of the 15 strong disabled groups, Joseph S. Conteh, said they have known the founders of AWASH for a long time now as they have been giving them money, rice and other items over the years.
Mr. Conteh also said it was a total surprise to them when the Good Samaritans walked over to them and told them that they will be giving them the sum of fifteen million Leones to start a business that will remove them from the streets as beggars.
He recalled that after the war they have been on the street begging for their living.
“Some of us have families to take care of but with the intervention of the Good Samaritans we now feel useful in society. We will make sure we use the money for the right purpose and keep off the street and live a new and responsible life in the country,” he stated.
“The Good Samaritans said they will give us the sum of fifteen million Leones for us to do business and pay back in 10 years’ time but we want to surprise the donors by paying back in two years’ time,” he pledged.
Beneficiary Mohamed Jaber, who is an important and integral part of the story and trades in used clothing at Wilberforce Street, said he will be supervising the disabled group and ensure that they utilize the money for the right purpose. He also has agreed to help keep the “business books” for the disabled.
People with disabilities make up about 10 percent of the population in Sierra Leone; mainly because of the civil war that devastated the country for more than a decade. People with disabilities have for years been silent and sidelined. But this is slowly but surely changing – the voice of persons with disabilities and their rights have been amplified in a new law on disabilities ensuring inclusion on all fronts in the country’s development and political plans.