Betty sits inside her mother’s house surrounded by her laughing daughters and son. She smiles as they hang on her neck and playfully impersonate the adults moving around the house. She begins her story by recalling the past year with fondness.
I spent another year very much enjoying myself. I ate great food and played with my three kids many times. I’m happy about free education because I don’t need to pay much to educate my children—only for the uniform, shoes, socks, and their lunch. The government even provides pens, pencils, notebooks, and textbooks.
If we had free education in the past I would have stayed in school. I stopped going in Junior Secondary School (JSS) three because of school fees. I likely won’t return to school because I want to educate my three children now. If my town had a program to educate women who left school, I’d go out of my own curiosity.
My mother runs a business outside of our home. I help her to sell peanuts, kola nut, gari, and other food items. The business does fine and brings money to the home. My husband farms for us as well. It’s difficult to find food during the rainy season so we plan ahead and keep extra during the dry months. This way we will not suffer. Our farm has rice, peanuts, beni (sesame seed), jiblox, and cassava. We pick the cassava leaf and sell it too. We dig up and sell the cassava itself when it grows to a big size.
I was at the river one day during the Ebola outbreak when water entered my eye. It began to hurt so I went to the town hospital and they helped me for Le 50,000 (USD ~6). They weren’t able to treat me properly so it still hurt afterwards. They told me to visit Serabu Government Hospital for more treatment. I told my brother in Freetown about everything. He paid to send me because he had good work as a driver. My family had no idea I left town so quickly because it was my own decision. I even stopped breastfeeding my middle child to go since the pain was too much.
Serabu Hospital gave me lodging in a village one mile away. The man who lived there stole my money and had only cassava to eat, not even rice or peanuts. I stayed anyway and went to the hospital the next day. After reaching by foot, I met with the nurses and we said a Christian prayer together. Then they asked me to look at a poster on the wall with writing of different sizes. I covered one eye and tried to read it. I could read fine with one, but could only see darkness with the other. They said a sore grew on my eye because I did not seek treatment quickly. They pierced my eye through the bottom eyelid with a medicine drip to try and heal the sore. It didn’t work completely. I think it would have worked if the white doctors were there to help, but they left.
Something wants to cover my eye but I don’t have the means to remove it. Even today I still don’t know what happened. My one wish would be to fix my eye completely. This year my brother in Freetown can’t help me because his boss fired him. Nobody else in my family can help for now since they all have their own problems. I still thank God that everything else is okay. I’m happy to live in peace. As long as I have my life, I will have hope.