Ye Mattu and her friends recently returned from Friday prayers at the nearby mosque. Ye Mattu’s great-granddaughter Fati plays in the background. Ye, a sign of respect, means mother in the Mende language. 

Ye Mattu's Story

I lived in America for ten years with my son and grandchildren. During that time, I preferred to speak Mende and avoided learning English formally. Then I returned to Sierra Leone to reunite with my family and the country that I missed so much. 

Ye Mattu (left) sits at her house with her friends Ye Soa and Ye Nancy.

When I prayed at home in the United States, my granddaughter would sit on a bench and watch me. Sometimes she would shout “Everybody be quiet! Grandma is talking to God.” Other times she wore a scarf over her head to mimic me. Then she’d ask “Are you talking to God? Tell him me and my brother said hi.” 

My late husband had many wives; they would come and go frequently so I’m not even sure how many he had. To support my own children, I worked as a cook for a boarding school. Then I saved all of my money to fund my daughters’ education. Many years later, they pooled their money together to construct a beautiful house for me. Their success gives me joy. 

Ye Mattu poses with a print of her portrait