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a tribute to Zainab Janneh, co-founder of the Kabor Project

We were deeply saddened to hear about the recent death of Zainab Janneh, co-founder of The Kabor Project in Sierra Leone, colleague and friend to many of us.

You may not know that Zainab began working at asphaleia as a House Parent many years ago. Her native country was Sierra Leone and Zainab had often expressed a dream to go back to her country and help her own people in the aftermath of the 10-year Civil War in the country.

Many young women and girls in the country suffered sexual abuse during the war or were kept as ‘bush wives’ and dragged across the country as the war fronts shifted. Many of the girls had also been living on the streets as prostitutes. Low self-esteem, depression and infection were common outcomes of the experience if the experience was survived.

For those of you who knew Dave Cottrell, founder of asphaleia, he and Zainab decided to turn Zainab’s dream into a reality and The Kabor Project in Sierra Leone was born! The Project was funded by asphaleia over 16 years.

At the time, Zainab moved back to Sierra Leone, found a building and employed some teachers and professionals to teach English, sewing, catering, beadwork, to mentor and counsel the young women and girls, educating them in their human rights and safe living practices, whilst their babies were looked after at The Kabor Creche, often receiving their only meals of the day there. Another development was Zainab setting up an agricultural project with education on farming methods to achieve self-sufficiency for local villagers.

The Kabor Project started with 26 young people and over the course of the years, 1000’s were helped by Zainab and her vision.

The journey was not an easy one for Zainab. I was in touch with Zainab over the years, following her progress both professionally and personally. I visited Zainab in Freetown twice and came to realise that this was a woman working very much against the odds, in a very poor, patriarchal society, with many crisis points along the way: Civil War, floods, Ebola, landslides, corrupt governments and many personal tragedies in her own private life.

It is impossible to really give a full picture of all that Zainab achieved during her lifetime but one thing we at asphaleia will always remember is her joy, her unwavering faith in God and humanity, her courage and her big smile. There will never be another quite like Zainab Janneh.


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