In 1996, twelve-year-old Santigie Bayo Dumbuya was among several boys who were taken from Kamabonko Village to fight for the Revolutionary United Front during the Sierra Leone Civil War. Fighting near the Guinean border, by the age of fourteen Santigie had sustained multiple bullet and shrapnel wounds.
In 1999, Santigie’s unit were stationed near a town called Sanyah.
‘When we entered the town in the evening the heavy gunfight sounded like music, but full of death and sorrow. What I saw on that day was so terrible. Some of my close friends were killed. During the fighting I saw a female child at the age of 5-6 years old crying. I saw two people lying on the ground, one was already dead and the other is struggling to die.’ Santigie remembered his village and the person whom he was raised to be – ‘that was the day of my revolution and my heart was inspired.’
He dropped his gun and ran through the crossfire to save the girl. With no food or water, Santigie carried her for two days and two nights to safety. He saved her life.
Santigie never saw the girl again. He went to Freetown to recover from the war, complete his education and founded We Yone Child Foundation (WYCF) in 2009. Santigie decided to focus WYCF’s efforts on Kroo Bay and George Brook. The appalling conditions in these two communities called for action and no other organisation was producing results.
‘We Yone’ means ‘our own’ in the locally spoken Krio language. It is the perfect description for the way we feel about the children we work for every day.