Stories of Farato
"Stick" Mama Has Surgery
“Stick Mama” earned her name years ago during our Big Party. The kids were whipped into a frenzy of happiness and behavior was unusually wild. I noticed that if this Mama even leaned down, as if to pick up a stick, kids shaped up instantly. They know she will use the stick if there are any infractions whatsoever.
She is easily one of the most elderly of the village, but she has not lost her energy. No matter what’s going on, she is always there, monitoring the action. She is also known to kiss us on the lips.
This year she approached me and showed me her eyes. Karen confirmed she has cataracts. Mama wanted us to give her glasses or medicine, which wouldn’t help a person with cataracts. This was sad news.
And THEN… we visited the local hospital, at Brikama. This is the busiest hospital in The Gambia. They are wildly understaffed and under equipped. But they have an eye clinic. The clinic performs cataract surgery!! What? How much? $50.??!!
We told Mama that she could have the surgery. She explained, as a traditional person, that any cutting on the body is forbidden. We tried to convince her and I explained that I had the surgery and I can see like a young person. Finally she said she would ask the man in the family. Not squandering that moment, we marched over to her house and woke up her son. We explained the surgery to her son who just said, yes, of course she should have the surgery. He would take her himself!
Happily, Mama has completed cataract surgery on both eyes!
This Farato girl has a difficult story. She suffered routine physical abuse at the hands of her father. Several years ago, she was hospitalized for a week. Biran called the police and her father was arrested.
Fortunately, the Gambia has strong laws against domestic violence. Biran took the girl into his household to protect her from further abuse.
Days later, the father was released from jail at the request of some elders. He has 4 wives and many children who would all be at risk without his support.
Our manager arranged for community speakers to address the village on domestic violence. The talk was well received, but days later, a man from another area beat up our manager. Some men don't want any interference on how they manage their families.
Future for Farato supports ongoing information programs about the evils of domestic violence.
Meet Sirah. Sirah’s mother died and her father didn’t have another wife to take care of the child. Since then, Sirah has become part of the Sallah family and the Farato “Swarm” of preschoolers. Biran's sister, Maram, is caring for Sirah. She
is bright, loves the library and is anxious to learn. She always has a book with her.
Sirah's mother’s family lives in Senegal and is interested in taking Sirah back there. If she returns to Senegal, then she will definitely not be in school. As it stands now, Sirah is planning to start school with her friends in Farato. Biran’s family is just hoping the family will let Brian’s sister keep her so she can get an education.
Biran’s sister, Maram is a loving woman who has no children of her own. We just hope the family continues to agree to let this promising little girl stay in Farato and go to school.
Walking home from school one afternoon, this 15 year old girl was dragged into an empty storefront and raped. Biran took her to the hospital for treatment.
Our manager got his policemen friends to track the rapist down. He was arrested, convicted of rape, and sentenced to more than three years.
Meanwhile, our student is surrounded by the love of her family and community. She prefers not to talk about the rape but is slowly returning to her old self.
Future for Farato sponsors community leaders to visit the village and address the issues of domestic and sexual violence.
The family of our Executive Director, Biran Sallah, has also experienced tragedy.
In 2016, Biran lost his brother to an unknown fate in Libya. Sulayman had been looking for work and was kidnapped by rebels in Mali. He and others were then sold to rebels in Libya. Libya is a lawless no mans land and sub Saharan Africans are in danger. The family hadn't heard from him for almost a year. Everyone feared the worst. His fifth child was born months after his disappearance.
On our last night in 2017, Biran received a text from an airport official informing him that his brother was at the airport! Sulayman had been imprisoned in Libya for a year. He had survived on one small plate of spaghetti per day. He was deported and transported home by the UN. He is now reunited with his jubilant family and community in Farato.
This is a picture of Sulayman, his wife, 5 children and extended family. This was his first morning home.
Bubacarr is a brilliant and endearing high school student with a challenging family situation. His father is among the army of West Africans desperate for work. Three years ago, his father left for Libya with the dream of making it to Italy.
Libya is a death trap for SubSaharan Africans. Buba’s family hasn’t heard from his father since he left.
In his absence Buba's mother has was struggling to keep the family afloat on her own. She walked to the forest each day in search of wood to sell for cooking fires. The forest is not close and the work is exhausting. The oldest brother of four children, Buba uses the cart and donkey that their father left and looks for work transporting things. All work is scarce.
Buba’s family was hungry. Given the stress, it’s nearly impossible to keep up with work and school. He was missing school and his grades were falling. He also became ill and required help from the traditional healer.
Since then, the charity helped the mother start a business and supplied the family with enough rice to feed everyone until she realizes profits. Bubacarr is better and back in school.