July 25, 2016 By Patrick J. Kamara
Birthdays are often celebrated with lavish pomp by middle class and rich parents, not least to make their children happy. But for Hanan Yeani Tommy, who celebrated her 10th birthday last Saturday, she chose to celebrate with Ebola and war orphans at God’s Will Children Home in Grafton, just outside Freetown.
To break from conventional practice, the celebrant and her parents decided instead to donate food items – twenty bags of rice, five jerry cans of vegetable cooking oil, cartons of sardine and basic cooking utensils – to Ebola and war orphans who desperately need food, than throw a lavish party.
The celebrant, a precocious pupil of the Ronsab Preparatory School, told the orphans that over the years she had celebrated her birthdays with family, friends and classmates, but chose to celebrate her 10th birthday with them this year.
In a very motivating tone, Hanan told the gathering that she believes in love and kindness, thus the reason for her choosing the theme of this year’s celebration – ‘Frozen’ – which is an allusion to two fictional characters, Elsa and her sister Anna. She explained that someone had wanted to kill Elsa, but Anna blocked the sword with her frozen body, in a demonstration of remarkable love.
She said she was aware that many children had lost their parents either during the war or the Ebola outbreak, thus finding it difficult to eke out a living daily. She encouraged them to focus on their education as it is the catalyst that could trigger a positive change in their present condition.
“My message to you today is: Life is not all about where you begin; it is about where or how you end. If we all work hard in school and listen to our teachers and guardians, we will become great leaders in the future,” she said, adding “I am giving you these food items in celebration of my birthday. Eat, enjoy and have fun. I will always remember you and I will come back to visit you.”
In a brief statement, her father, Ibrahim Tommy, who is Executive Director of Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law, said it was important that they thought of orphans in that part of the country, adding that Sierra Leoneans have a culture of forgetting too soon.
“Your today will not be your tomorrow; the only person that can stop you is yourself. So work harder because it is only hard work that will make the difference at the end of the day,” he admonished, noting that “like the war victims, there is a genuine fear that we may easily forget the Ebola orphans after the recovery plan may have ended.”
Caregiver at the orphanage, Margaret Tucker, said that was the first such gesture received by the home since it was established in 2004. She revealed that after the death of founder Reverend Father Joseph Berton in 2009, the home has been facing challenges.
She said that four of the forty-four children at the home are students at IMAT College in Kingtom, Freetown. She said they have been receiving much-needed support from an American couple.
She called on other non-governmental organisations and individuals to lend humanitarian support to the home.
Meanwhile, Mrs Mbalu Jenneh Tommy, said Hanan epitomises her name, which in Arabic means ‘compassion’. She described her daughter as “helpful, brilliant and compassionate” and expressed hope that the gesture would inspire the orphans to do well in school and overcome their individual challenges in life.