The history of Laughter Africa

Our timeline documents both landmark moments in the life of Laughter Africa and key events that occurred in the world at the same time that may have had some bearing on our work, such as the Ebola crisis in 2014. We will continue to update our timeline capturing all key dates and events, both for Laughter Africa and the world around us, as we develop and grow. We are only at the beginning of our journey so we don’t have too many noteworthy dates to share just yet. We hope that in the years to come our timeline will be a rich and fascinating history documenting significant world events and each memorable date and milestone within our own lifeline too.

2013-01-01 00:00:00

Laughter Africa is born!

The process of setting up Laughter Africa started in January 2013. The chairperson of Trustees wrote the constitution of Laughter Africa as well as recruiting the trustees.

2013-04-02 00:00:00

The first ever Laughter Africa Trustee Meeting

The first ever Trustee Meeting takes place in the UK

2013-11-22 00:00:00

Laughter Africa becomes an officially registered charity with the Charity Commission

Before the Trustees applied to the Charity Commission, it was decided that it would be better to have all the policies in place first. Over most of 2013 the trustees wrote over 700 pages of policies including the safeguarding policy, all the financial policies, all the workplace policies, all the security policies, all the risk management policies, among many more. Laughter Africa has every applicable policy recommended by the Charity Commission. An application was made to the Charity Commission to become a registered charity in the UK and on the 22nd November, Laughter Africa was given an official charity number. The next stage of the process was applying for a bank account. The final task of 2013 was designing the formats for all the different financial reporting e.g. budgeting, chart of accounts etc.....

2014-01-01 18:37:20

All the UK administration of the organisation is completed

In 2014, the Trustees arranged the accounts software, set up the Laughter Africa database, made the necessary insurance arrangements and received gift aid status. In regard to safeguarding, the Trustees arranged all the safeguarding procedures and joined the Youth Federation who are acting as the umbrella safeguarding organisation for DBS checks for Laughter Africa. However, the job that took most of the trustees’ time in 2014 was creating the Laughter Africa website. Accountability is important to the Trustees and the best way of ensuring this is by having an attractive, engaging website with all the relevant information. The Trustees oversaw the design and content of the website. This included joining different online giving sites and preparing written material which will be published on the website including legacy information, A- Z fundraising packs and online presentations. The website was not launched though until March 2016. Other important jobs completed successfully in 2014 were the design of an official Laughter Africa logo and the design of the Laughter Africa T-shirt. The trustees planned for Laughter Africa to start work in Sierra Leone at the beginning of September 2014. However, because of the escalating Ebola epidemic, it was decided to postpone the plans until January 2015.

2014-05-26 18:37:20

Ebola comes to Sierra Leone

Ebola spread to Sierra Leone in May 2014. The first reported death was on 26th May 2014.

2015-01-28 18:37:20

The Founder moves to Sierra Leone

The Founder finally arrived in Sierra Leone on 28th January 2015 and started the registration process straight away.

2015-04-24 18:37:20

Laughter Africa officially becomes a charity for the first time in Sierra Leone

As it was Laughter Africa’s first year operating as a charity in Sierra Leone, there was a lot of preparation involved with establishing the organisation. From January to April, Laughter Africa was becoming registered as a new NGO in Sierra Leone. Laughter Africa registered with the Ministry of Social Welfare in February, SLANGO in March and the NGO Unit at MOFED in March. In February and March Laughter Africa obtained the required documentation needed for registration; police certificates, tax clearance certificates, residential permits, work permits and a charity bank account. Laughter Africa finally registered with the government in mid March. On Friday 24th April, Laughter Africa was officially given permission from the NGO Unit at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development to become an operational charity in Sierra Leone.

2015-04-25 18:37:20

The first ever Laughter Africa staff were appointed

Laughter Africa interviewed and appointed their first ever staff on Saturday 25th April 2015. Jobs were advertised publically in the local newspaper Awoko as well as on the notice board at the Ministry of Labour. Five staff were appointed. All the staff obtained police clearance certificates from the CID headquarters before they began working with the children. Laughter Africa opened staff salary bank accounts, followed up on staff references and made sure that each staff member had a labour card, signed contract and a NASSIT number.

2015-06-15 18:37:20

Laughter Africa officially starts work in Sierra Leone

On the 15th June 2015, Laughter Africa opened the Interim Care Centre for the first time. On the first night, we had 14 street children come and stay. Between registering with the Government and becoming operational, a number of jobs had to be completed. A property for the Interim Care Centre was found in Adonkia. It took most of February and March to find a suitable building and arrange contracts. In March and April, a thorough procurement process was followed for acquiring furniture, a generator, insurance, electrical items and employing a security firm. The local fire service installed smoke alarms and a fire extinguisher at the Centre. Laughter Africa also arranged the appropriate insurance for burglary and fire for the Interim Care Centre. Staff contracts, job descriptions and HR polices had to be all been written so that they were in accordance with Sierra Leonean law. The Ministry of Labour attested the legality of all the Labour policies produced. Laughter Africa joined NASSIT in June and completed the PAYE requirements with NRA and fulfilled other tax obligations. Staff insurance was arranged at the beginning of June which included life insurance, hospital and medical insurance and group personal accident insurance. After all the above was completed Laughter Africa was ready to start work.

2015-11-07 18:37:20

The Ebola criss comes to an end.

On the 7th November 2015, the World Health Organisation declared Sierra Leone Ebola free. Sadly, 3,955 people died in Sierra Leone.

2016-03-01 18:37:20

The Laughter Africa Volunteer scheme is launched.

On 1st March 2016, the new volunteer scheme began in Sierra Leone. In 2016, seven interns and three volunteers had worked with Laughter Africa. In 2017 we worked with fifteen volunteers.

2016-03-06 18:37:20

The Laughter Africa website launches for the first time!

The Laughter Africa officially launched on 6th March 2016.

2016-12-03 18:37:20

The first ever Laughter Africa Christmas Party takes place

The party was for all the children with whom we have worked and who are still at home. A local DJ was hired. There was a talent show, dancing competition and Mr and Mrs Laughter competition. The children were given a small Christmas party bag which contained a few small gifts. Food and drink were provided and all the children said how much they had enjoyed it. Another event is planned to celebrate the international day of the street child in April 2017. •It was the first time that most of the Laughter Africa children had ever met each other (unless they knew each other previously from the streets). It was truly emotional watching the children meet, talk, play, dance and laugh together. They came together as family. It was a WOW moment to see how much Laughter Africa had accomplished in the last one and a half years.

2017-01-30 18:37:20

The new mobile project started in Sierra Leone

Laughter Africa started its new mobile project on the streets for those street children who wished to remain on the streets. Up until this point, our work consisted of day and night surveys, the Interim Care Centre and Family Reunification. The new mobile project provides food, medicine, counselling and other activities to the children still living on the streets.

2017-02-01 18:37:20

We started our UK educational work!

In February 2017, we started our official UK educational programme. This is where volunteers in the UK visit different schools and churches raising awareness of Laughter Africa’s work. We visit schools and churches throughout the year but our busiest time seemed to be February/March 2017 and February/March 2018. We do a range of activities including African dancing and lots of games.....

2017-04-12 18:37:20

We celebrated the International Day of Street Children for the first time!

On 12th April 2017, we celebrated the international day for street children for the first time. Kaday Turay, the Director of Communications, Advocacy and campaigns appeared on morning television on African Young Voices Television & TV which is the biggest news empire in Sierra Leone. She was also heard on Air Radio, Kiddie's Radio, Sky Radio and was interviewed by a local newspaper 'the Spectator.' Ten of our street children spoke on different radio shows as did other staff and volunteers. Other advocacy and campaigning events via the media in 2017 revolved around two days; the Day of the African Child (June 16th) and the International Day of Peace (September 21st). On each day, we had different street children representing all three departments of Laughter Africa on different radio stations and other media. We also had two parties to celebrate the day; one in mobile and one in the ICC for all the street children with whom we have worked with who are still at home. We had a lovely time celebrating the day!

2017-08-14 18:37:20

Mudslide

Sadly there was a mudslide in Regent, a mountainous town 15 miles east of Freetown on the 14th August 2017. Around 1,100 were tragically killed while about 3,000 survivors were displaced and left homeless.

2017-12-20 18:37:20

First mobile trip out!

On the 20th December 2017, we had our first mobile trip to the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary. There are plans for more monthly trips in 2018. Places on the list to visit include; Freetown Amusement Park; the Railway Museum, The Peace Museum, the National Museum, the water quay, a Waterfall and the Stadium.

2018-03-07 18:37:20

The 2018 election

On 7th March 2018, Sierra Leone held their presidential elections. The SLPP won slightly more than the ruling APC in the first round. However, neither party reached above 55% of the vote which meant that a run-off had to take place between the two on 27th March 2018 to determine which party will be the ruling party in Sierra Leone for the next five years.

2018-04-04 00:00:00

Electoral violence sweeps across Sierra Leone

The presidential run off took place on 31st March. On 4th April, the results were revealed. Julius Maada Bio, from the opposition party - the SLPP- was crowned the new president of Sierra Leone. The country then erupted into violence at the beginning of April 2018 when the election results we revealed; from Freetown to Bo to Kenema. There were fights, mass bawls, people carrying machetes, people setting homes on fire. The list goes on. There were lots of people seriously injured. Some people also died. Even the local Caritas office was ransacked and attacked. The photos that were coming out of Sierra Leone were horrifying. Our main worry was that some of the street children would end up getting swept up in the violence and altercations. Thankfully peace and stability reigned upon Sierra Leone a few days later and by mid April 2018 all was calm again.

2018-06-01 00:00:00

Girls ICC

We decided that in the ICC, we would focus on girls living on the streets. Since June 2018 up to March 2019 we have welcomed over 140 girls in the ICC. They have come from a variety of areas including Grafton, Aberdeen, Cockle Bay, Tombo, Susan’s Bay, Lumley, Funkai and Waterloo.

2018-11-01 18:37:20

We had the first ever themed month at mobile.

Our first ever themed month took place at mobile in November 2018. It was a Harry Potter themed month. Since then we have had the following themed months: -Christmas -Football -Superhero -record breakers

2018-11-05 00:00:00

Sheku's death

One of our children, Sheku, died on the 5th November 2018. He was the first child who we have worked ever who has died. He was stabbed in the neck on the streets. We were all heart-broken.

2019-04-15 00:00:00

We had our first themed week at the ICC

We had our very first themed week in the ICC. The first themed week we had was an Easter themed week which included Easter egg hunts, making chocolate Easter eggs with Balloons, making Easter bonnets and having an Easter bonnet parade among other activities. We also had a Disney themed week in April. We made Disney related arts and crafts as well as played Disney themed games. We also learned the words to some classic disney songs!

2019-05-12 00:00:00

Mohamed's death

One of our lovely boys Mohamed G Sanko who lived in Makeni tragically died on Sunday 12th May. He died after contacting TB and Hepatitis. He was 15 years old. We first met Mohamed in January 2017 when he was living on the streets and we reunified him with his mother a month later. He has stayed home since his reunification and we have been paying school for him since he returned home. At the beginning of April 2019, Mohamed and his mum came to us and he was just skin and bone. He had been sick for a while and gone to a traditional healer without success so they came here for treatment. After a few days his mum left him and returned to the village. We paid for him to stay in one of the best hospitals in Sierra Leone 'Number 34' as his case was so complicated. 2 weeks before he died, Mohamed's aunt came to visit him, We thought that she had come to stay with him while he was in the hospital but in fact her plan was to take him back to the village. 30 minutes after she arrived, she and Mohamed left for Makeni. The doctors begged him and begged him to stay but the aunty resisted their pleas and took him anyway. He went with her willingly as he was growing frustrated with the treatment. The social workers did all they could to convince them to stay but with no success. They had made up their mind. They wanted to go back to try traditional medicine not conventional medical treatment. We kept trying to phone his family to ask him to bring him back but the calls were not answered. Lucy, the Director of the ICC, travelled to the village as soon as we heard about Mohamed’s death to offer our support to his family and help with the funeral arrangements. Although we are angry that they took him away from treatment- we made a promise to Mohamed that he would always be our pikin, even in death so we want to ensure that he is buried as respectfully as possible. His family are hurting too and we want to be there for them. They thought they were helping him by taking him away. His mother talked Lucy through Mohamed’s final two weeks. On the day he died, he asked his mother, “Take me back to Laughter. “ His mum replied that Laughter would be angry with her as she took him away from Freetown. He replied to her, “ You don’t know Laughter. They will not get angry with you. The moment they see me they will accept me. So I want you to take me back to Laughter.” His mother agreed to take him back to us on the Monday. Sadly, he died on the Sunday, the day before he was due to travel. What makes us so bloody angry is that that he had no need to die. There is vaccine both for TB and Hepatitis available in the Western world. There is also medical treatment for both illnesses. He could have lived. It was such an unnecessary death. Such a waste of a life. We blame ourselves that we couldn't convince him to stay and fight. Not to have given up. We should have fought harder. It never gets easier losing a child. You never get used to that feeling of loss. After loosing Sheku last year, we thought it would get easier but it really doesn't. Rest in peace Mohamed, our little boy. Sleep well!

2019-09-01 18:37:20

As of the beginning of September 2019, Laughter has worked with over 1000 street children.

Laughter Africa has worked with over 1000 street children since 15th June 2015 which is when Laughter Africa began its work in Sierra Leone. We have worked with 450 street children in the ICC and over 450 street children at the mobile project. Of the 450 children that Laughter Africa has reunited with their families, 75% are still at home.This is considerably higher than any other organisation working with street children in Sierra Leone. Given the differing needs and backgrounds of every child, this figure is likely to fluctuate; it does however indicate the positive and lasting impact of Laughter Africa's activities. Many of the children had been affected by different issues which include; substance abuse; violence and sexual abuse (at home and on the streets); commercial sex work; HIV and other sexually transmitted infections;under-age marriage; pregnancy; even cancer. Laughter Africa has worked with girls, the orphaned, the disabled and even children as young as six years old who were living on the streets. Some young people had been on the streets for a short time while others had been on the streets for as many as five, eight, nine or even, in one case, ten years.

The history of Laughter Africa

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