In 1996, Santigie Bayo Dumbuya was captured from his village and forced to fight for the Revolutionary United Front during Sierra Leone’s devastating Civil War. He was 12 years old. Over the next 3 years Santigie lived the life of a child soldier – frequently intoxicated and constantly exposed to danger and sickness.
He recalls an incident which took place in 1999 when his unit was fighting on the Guinean border – “…the heavy gunfight sounded like music but full of death and sorrow…During the fighting I saw a female child at the age of 5-6 years old crying. I saw two people lying on the ground, one was already dead and the other is struggling to die.” Santigie then remembered his village and the person whom he was raised to be – “that was the day of my revolution to change and my heart was inspired”. He dropped his gun and ran through the cross-fire to save the girl. With no food or water, Santigie carried her for two days and two nights to safety.
Santigie escaped the war and, with the help of his family, spent the next 10 years completing his education and working for local NGOs in Freetown. He founded We Yone Child Foundation, literally ‘Our Own’ Child Foundation, in 2009 to ensure that no child experiences the trauma that he and the girl he saved were forced to endure during the Civil War. School, Santigie believes, is the best way to do this.
WYCF now provides primary school education to over 300 children every day in Kroo Bay and George Brook two slum communities in Central Freetown. Our staff and teachers have become a respected and trusted presence in both communities; receiving national press and governmental awards for our work.
A good start, we think, but it leaves us with much to do.