Janet, a student in junior secondary school three (JSS3), spends time at her house with her mother, sister, and three schoolmates. She poses for a portrait and shares her story much to the enjoyment of her family and friends.
I love to sing! When I lived in Freetown, I joined the choir at Greater Evangelism World Crusade Church. It’s a very popular place and almost everybody in town knows it.
Sister Esther led the choir and she worked with Brother Peter. They taught us how to sing properly. On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays we practiced gospel songs like “Lift Your Name High” and “Tel Am Tenki” (“Tell Him Thank You”). During Sunday service, Sister Esther would begin each song and we’d follow her lead. The congregation would clap, dance, and sing along with us. They’d shake their bodies and jump while saying “Hey!” or “Jump for Jesus!” Everybody in the church would be so happy.
I enjoyed living in Freetown and spending time with my friends Aminata, Fatmata, and Kadiatu—we would jog around the city all the time. I lived with my auntie and she always made sure I felt happy. She would work hard to get me anything I asked for, even though I didn’t ask for much. My schoolmates would wear fine shoes and socks so my auntie made sure I had the same; she didn’t want me to feel ashamed. I love her and appreciate everything she’s done for me.
My aunt died in her late thirties from belly pain. I know that a witch gun killed her. That’s when a person puts a small stone under their long fingernail. Then they flick the stone towards the person they want to hurt. I don’t like this practice; it’s not good for people. After she died I moved to a small town to stay with my mom and sister.
In my new town I attend a church near my house. It’s not as lively as Greater Evangelism in Freetown so I only go to service once in a while. I sing much less now and don’t even jog anymore. My new secondary school doesn’t have a music program, but my friend’s school does. She offered to introduce me to her choir teacher. I hope they can help me, but maybe not unless I change schools.
In the future I want to become a better singer. If I had a private teacher I’d be very happy. I love listening to Sierra Leonean singers like Lady Laurish and Vida. Vida knows how to dance very well and Lady Laurish knows how to dress fine. They both inspire me and their voices are so beautiful. My favorite Lady Laurish song goes something like, “my picture, it won’t ever take your place / your letters won’t ever speak to me / too many phone calls, I’m tired / baby come home.”
I want to give advice to my friends and other girls who read my story. Use your talents, don’t waste them. If you’re a really good dancer, don’t feel ashamed to dance. If you know how to sing, be brave and sing. All of my teachers enjoy my participation in school because I’m not ashamed. Find someone who supports you and loves the same things you do, then your shame will become confidence.