In Freetown, Sierra Leone, the morning that Gbessey’s mother died, Gbessey was only two days old. Gbessey has All As One (AAO) to thank, the organization which has helped over 35,000 women, children and families with medical care and other services. Gbessey has been at the All As One Children’s Center ever since and turns 13 years old this year. Like so many other poor children of Sierra Leone, Gbessey has AAO to thank for their tenacious pursuit of access to health, education and social security networks.
Sierra Leone Civil War
John Bellows and Edward Miguel, scholars at the Dept. of Economics at the University of California, Berkeley, in their article on war and collective action, said that the effects of the Sierra Leone civil war on institutions, politics and social norms have been more devastating than the economic effects.
During the height of the war in 1992, people looted and destroyed medical facilities in the country. Although pregnant women have the legal right to free health care, the country has been unable to provide it. There are only about 22 physicians for every million people and about 60% of the rural population without adequate access to clean drinking water.
Filling the Gaps in the Social Safety Net
AAO, as an organization, works toward filling the gaps in the social safety net in Freetown, Sierra Leone. AAO focuses its efforts on the many orphaned and abandoned poor children of Freetown. In the AAO Children’s Center, employees provide exceptional care beyond shelter and nutrition.
The organization also vows to offer supplementary medical treatment and education for those children that are under their care. Registered nurses are available when necessary, as well as local doctors who are called when further medical treatment is needed. It also seeks to hire local teachers to enhance the learning of students as well as with implementing subject matter relevant to their lives.
Further, not only does All As One provide medical attention and education for the children under their care, but they also work to attend to those in need in the surrounding community of Freetown. On top of the 200 children of Sierra Leone it aids around the clock, the organization receives between 200 to 300 requests for assistance each month from families who are not already in the programming.
All As One’s Origins
Deanna Wallace and Steven Amara started All As One in 2000 to provide care to the abandoned and neglected poor children of Sierra Leone. What makes AAO a community-based organization isn’t just their efforts to maintain social welfare but also their collaboration with community businesses like JA Resorts & Hotels. Amara has thanked JA Resorts & Hotels for “their support and the generous gifts they have made at the times when we most need it. [JA Resorts & Hotels] have helped to keep our doors open,” Discovery Magazine reported.
Although on paper, the poor children of Sierra Leone may seem to be completely helpless. However, the people of All As One have given them a different story to tell. That story is one of resilience, community engagement and emergent response to the crisis at hand, all around the clock.
– Joy Maina