Hear Me

I dream of having my own tailoring business

Esther Conteh, on life after the mudslide
By Joshua Yarjah‍
9 July 2021
Esther Conteh, Regent

I recall it had been raining all night.

My four-year-old daughter, Memunatu, woke me up early in the morning. She wanted to urinate. When I took her outside our house, there was so much water. It was rising from the ground, as if a pipe had burst below.

Hearing my cries, my husband came out to see what was happening. My sister and other adults in the house came out, too. It was when they were trying to stop the water from flooding our house that I heard the first rumble. I saw a mango tree crashing down. There was dirt and mud flying through the air. And suddenly, in a matter of seconds, the whole area was covered in mud.

There was so much panic and confusion. I couldn’t see Memunatu anymore. I saw our house was buried under mud and rocks.

The mountain rumbled for a second time when we were searching for our children. Mud and earth covered us again. I felt something hit my leg, but I felt no pain.

When the second mudslide stopped, we tried to find our children. My sister found her way to her daughter in the dirt and pulled her out. We couldn't find my eldest, Mafereh, anywhere.

Later, rescuers pulled out Mafereh from the ground. She was alive, but her body was crushed. She died soon after.

I thought I had lost Memunatu, too. But miraculously, she survived. Emergency workers found her squatting beside corpses they had pulled out. I thought my daughter was born mute, but that day, I was told she spoke and told my name to emergency workers.

My daughter and I were taken to the Don Bosco camp. The reverend fathers there looked after us. They taught me to sew. I also learnt to make bead designs.

Some of us who lost everything were given new houses by the government. We were not so lucky. But the reverend fathers gave us some money to rent a place. We now live in Looking Town, on the opposite side of the valley. My husband has found a job as a security guard.

I am grateful for my time at Don Bosco. I learnt a new skill. I can now sew men’s trousers and women’s dresses. I haven’t learnt the cutting technique yet. I am still learning. I dream of having my own tailoring one day. If only I had my own sewing machine, I could learn faster.

I am a woman of faith. I know everything that happens is the will of God. The mudslide must be His will, too.

Photograph: Joshua Yarjah