Hear Me

I'd rather beg than let my daughter miss class

Suad Mansaray, on life after the mudslide
By Joshua Yarjah
16 July 2021
Suad Mansaray, Mortomeh

I was away upcountry, looking after my sick mother, when I got to know it was raining heavily in Freetown. I had my two younger daughters with me. My three boys had stayed behind with their father.

On the morning of the 14th [August 2017], I got a phone call. I was told that something had happened in Mortomeh and I needed to come home.

I asked for my husband, but they said I couldn’t talk to him. I asked if my husband was sick. They said no. Then I asked for my eldest son, Ibrahim. I  was told he couldn’t speak to me because he had an accident and fell. I asked for Foday-Abdulai, my second, and then Alusine, my third. I was told they could not be reached. I took the transport back home that very day and on the way learnt that there had been an accident where I lived.

When I came to the site… I saw nothing, just empty ground. I saw nothing, absolutely nothing. I asked people, “Was this the work of a machine?” I was told that this was not a machine, but that the hill had fallen down.

If I had lost only the house and properties, and my family had been saved, I would have taken courage. But no family was left, no property was left. All I had left was God.

The next day, Red Cross workers came. We were told the government would send us money. I received a sum of Le 2,380,000 [approximately US $232], but since then the supplies that we were supposed to receive from the government did not come. The promise to provide us with accommodation came to nothing.

I wish someone could see where we live. It’s not easy for us. If this happened to me alone I would have said that it was a witchcraft attack against me, but I wasn’t the only one. So, this is what God wants. I know God looks after even the ants in the ground, so he’s going to look after us too. I know that God will send me a helper.

I have rented a pan-bodi [makeshift zinc shelter] and live with my remaining kids. There are four of us and we break and sell granite stones every day to live.

This mudslide has opened my eyes to life. When you don’t have anything, people don’t respect you. Just last month, our things were thrown out of the pan-bodi we rent for Le 600,000 [approx. $54]. I couldn’t risk my daughter’s school fees to pay rent because I didn’t want her to miss classes. I figured that if I get disgraced for house rent, that is better. I would rather beg than have my daughter missing school. Someone helped me. Someone begged on my behalf to the landlord to give me two months to raise the money. I had to break stones very quickly just to raise the rent. My hands have developed blisters. If I don’t break stones, my kids cannot go to school.

At this point, the only family left are my daughters. Right now, my eldest daughter has just finished school and wants to go to college. I do not know how to get her into college. If my daughter could complete her education, she would be able to get a good job and help the family. I am calling on the government to help me. I need shelter and the opportunity for my children to get a good education.

Photograph: Joshua Yarjah