When Arlene Golembiewski met Chief Charles Caulker in Sierra Leone four decades ago, she was a Peace Corps volunteer. She revisited the country in 2011 for a second time and reconnected with Caulker, who had established a secondary school for young girls whose parents couldn't afford to pay the $20 a year for them to attend.
Seeing a need in the community, Golembiewski created a scholarship fund for families to send their daughters to school.
She returned to Sierra Leone many times after and then, in an attempt to give the Bumpeh Chiefdom a volunteer presence in the U.S., founded Sherbro Foundation
Golembiewski, a Columbia-Tusculum resident and Procter & Gamble retiree, and Caulker will be at the Hyde Park Methodist Church on April 6 at 7 p.m. to discuss Sherbro Foundation and its partnership with Chief Caulker. Their programs include advancing girls' education, adult literacy and computer literacy to help the Bumpeh Chiefdom people overcome poverty.
"The program is meant to be a unique opportunity for people not to just hear from someone in Sierra Leone but from a traditional leader in Sierra Leone," Golembiewski says. "This is one of the things that makes our work different — if not unique — in that we're working with the local community and their leader down to the village level."
Chief Caulker has lead Bumpeh Chiefdom for three decades, including an 11-year long civil war and 2014 Ebola outbreak. The chiefdom is one of Sierra Leone's most rural and poor chiefdoms; most residents live on $1 a day.
But disaster didn't stop Caulker from feeling defeated.
In collaboration with Sherbro Foundation, Caulker created the first Community Computer Center. And most recently, the chiefdom is trying to introduce village fruit orchards that will empower residents to generate a sustainable income to fund their children's education and community development.
Golembiewski encourages anyone who is interested in learning about Sierra Leone and helping the country rebuild to attend the free program.
"Everyone here can make a difference," she says. "People think it's difficult to tackle something like poverty in one of the poorest countries on the other side of the world, but it's not impossible."
• Attend the program at 7 p.m. April 6 at Hyde Park Methodist Church, 1342 Grace Ave., Hyde Park.
to help support Sherbro Foundation's programs and mission.
Arlene Golembiewski for more information on how you can help.