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22nd July 2018

Caritas Transforms Ebola Survivor and Widow to a Local Business Celebrity

By Eliza Sillah (29/07/17)

Inspirational story where an Ebola survivor and struggling widow metamorphosed in to a very influential business woman in Sierra Leone.


Janet Harding now a business woman (selling used clothes) used to live with her family i.e. husband and three children, a very happy wife and a mother until the dreadful Ebola virus showed its ugly face to the people of Sierra Leone that changed her life forever. (Pictured: Caritas boss Father Conteh).

The cold hands of death snatched her husband who was the bread winner and her three lovely children leaving her infected and struggling to survive from the fistful of this vicious virus. 

Janet fought heroically and overcame the Ebola disease and was later re-integrated into her community. Life became devastated and very hard for Janet in the community and was stigmatised. Living all her hopes to God and few kind friends and few kind community people, Janet became a member of the Ebola Survivors/Widows Group that advocates for the wellbeing of their members.

One day, Janet received a message from an Ebola survivor friend that there is a rice distribution going on at the Sierra Leone Association of Ebola Survivors (SLAES) office for survivors and widows.

Janet came in to contact with Caritas Freetown at the Sierra Leone Association of Ebola Survivors office during a distribution of rice to people infected and affected by the Ebola virus. Janet was registered by Caritas Freetown as one of their beneficiaries for the said project.

For several weeks, Janet did not receive any feedback from SLAES office in respect to the registration that was done by Caritas. One day, Janet went to visit a friend who is also a survivor on her way back to her house when she met one of Caritas Freetown Staff (Idriss Gibson Mansarays) who had registered her during the food distribution. 

She signalled to the staff to enquire about the status of her registration; fortunately for her she realised that the project has started and a scheduled training on Business Management skills is about to commence that very day. 

Immediately she joined the staff to participate in the training where she acquired skills and techniques that will aid her in running a small scale business. At the end of the training, Janet being one of the 40 beneficiaries received a business capital (4 rubber palm oil, 5 bags of charcoal) from Caritas Freetown according to the project design. 

Eight months after Janet received her business capital commodities, Janet was able to:

Do her regular business; Able to provide her daily food; Contribute (above threshold) to the project monthly savings scheme; Beautify her sitting room and kitchen with ceramic tiles; Able to start the process of connecting electricity power to her house by providing all the necessary items (metal poles, cables, cements, sand, workmanship and pay for meter installation); Opened a savings account with a Guaranty Trust Bank Sierra Leone; Can now boast of 12 rubbers of palm oil and 12 bags of charcoals as her current business.

Through this project, Janet is now empowered economically and very influential woman in her community as a result of her initiative to start the connection process of electrifying her house which will give her neighbours the opportunity to do the same.

She is very appreciated by her neighbours and by giving her the opportunity to contribute to decision making with regards to development in her community. Turning scars into stars, that is what a celebrated Ebola survivor and widow did in Sierra Leone.  

Knowing that her monthly project savings will be handed over to her after the cycle to increase her capital base, Janet is planning to buy deep freezer, expanding on her business and diversifying her income.  

Doing her regular business on a daily basis, Janet was able to overcome the challenges and managed the business with the skills and techniques she acquired from the training and mentorship she received from Caritas Freetown and a local market woman who was consulted to share her skills in growing a business from nothing to something, Marie Bob Kandeh. 

Janet’s effort applied to the opportunity that present itself through Caritas Freetown has brought her this far from a devastating Ebola survivor and widow to an empowered and influential woman in the community.

She is grateful to God for the opportunity she has received through Caritas Freetown that has empowered and restored her dignity which was lost after losing everything she had in this life. 

Programmes Manager, Caritas Freetown, Ishmeal Alfred Charles said: “Putting smiles on the faces of vulnerable women bring joy to us, such a success makes you feel that you are doing the right thing and urged me to do more, we made 92% success in this project, all the women we targeted succeeded except only three that were not so successful,” he added.

This is how a small 10 months project with extremely small budget but with determination can bring so much transformation and impact.


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