Life after temple run: ‘I haven’t seen my mother in over two years’
Each year thousands of young Sierra Leoneans make the decision to leave their homeland in search of a new life in Europe. They leave socio-economic issues behind for the ‘temple run’. This decision however, costs them greatly.
It’s a mistake many young Sierra Leoneans have made. Some risk family ties and relationships for a journey that cost a minimum of $3,000 paid to fake agents or traffickers.
Fewer and fewer families will raise that amount willingly for a child; they’ve heard too much about how the temple run can end in slavery or death.
Jamilatu Sheriff, a 21-year-old Sierra Leonean woman also embarked on the ‘temple run’ journey and so she took money from her mother’s room to fund her trip. To return home, she escaped with Fatmata Bangaru.
“One day my mum went out of the house and I was cleaning her room. I saw this money bag and I decided to take 13 million leons ($3,500) and then I left the house straight away.”
But the money didn’t belong to her mother, but her mother’s creditors. Jamilatu’s mother had just started a microcredit business for her neighbours.
“Everyday people came to the house shouting, ‘give me my money’ again and again. My mum had to leave the community.”
“My mother doesn’t want to talk to me because of the money. Since I’ve come back I have not seen my mother and I want to see her. It’s been over two years and I have still not seen her,” Jamilatu said.
After Jamilatu left and the furious creditors besieged her mother’s house, threatening to kill her if she didn’t return the money. She was forced to flee Freetown for Bo, three hours away in the south of the country, leaving her three other children behind with their father.
After a visit from Jamilatu to her mother’s new community, the two had a conversation. Her mother accepted Jamilatu’s apology and asked for the money to be returned.
This story is part of a series on illegal migration from Sierra Leone and the ‘temple run’.