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Orphans sing of their loss (in English)
Victor Saa Luceny tells of his child's gruesome death
Life in a foreign land: School of hope

Victor Saa Luceny has channelled his grief into helping others
School of hope

Victor Saa Luceny is a Sierra Leonean refugee in Guinea. He told Beatrice Murail how, after losing his wife and child in the war, he opened a school for refugee children.

Under the plum trees of Kissidougou, Victor Saa Luceny teaches his pupils. Despite having little in the way of educational materials, the Golden Rule Children Centre teaches more than 4,000 refugee children in Arabic, French and English.

The children - like the teachers - have nearly all fled the wars in Sierra Leone and Liberia. But local children also attend the school, attracted by its high standards.

This three-year-old girl now lives with Mr Saa Luceny after being found alone in the ruins of her parents' house
Mr Saa Luceny has taken eight of the orphaned children into his own home. At the school, they sing mournfully of the deaths of their parents, and the uncertainty of the future.

Song and dance help them come to terms with their past suffering, says Mr Saa Luceny.

“We have to help children. They are our future leaders. We have to put them on the right track for the benefit of all nations tomorrow.”

Mr Saa Luceny decided to set up the school after the gruesome death of his baby daughter.

He told me how six years ago soldiers had forced his wife to kill and cook their infant child. The soldiers then ate the child in the couple's presence.

His wife then killed herself, but before she died asked her husband to look after children for the rest of his life.

Victor, I beg you, I am your wife, please, until your death, take care of children without any discrimination.

"This is what I will continue do to until my death," says Mr Saa Luceny.

"I love children. They play together, they do things together, they become brothers and sisters. This is why they go to class together: for reconstruction, rehabilitation and reintegration."

Mr Saa Luceny has managed to trace the parents of dozens of children, and reunite the families.

Financial problems

He has approached international and non-governmental organisations for financial support for his project, without success. "I believe that we are helping the international community," he says, because educating children is vital for the future of the region.

The children are keen to learn as much as they can
"We find funds through voluntary contributions and volunteers' labour. For example, today, there are some people out on the field washing people's clothes, cleaning some things so we can buy chalk, pencils and copy books for children, so that they know we love them."

In addition to reading, spelling, writing or drawing, cultural activities are on offer, according to the children's ethnic and religious background - Christians, Muslims and non-believers.

"We also give them vocational training," Mr Saa Luceny says, "such as carpentry, masonry, tailoring or soap making. Especially for females, so that tomorrow they can challenge a man and say: `Yes Master, I can do it.' The world is not only men; we have to support girls too."

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