Education is the gateway to prosperity

November 2021

Bassie Kargbo remembers every inch of his four-mile walk to school when he lived in Sierra Leone: the rise and fall of the land, the fields where the cattle grazed, and the huts along the way, but mostly he recalls the hunger he felt every afternoon when he returned home.

“We began school early in the morning and could not afford to bring a lunch with us. Every day, when school was done, I walked with my siblings, feeling so tired and exhausted. As much as I loved school, I did not like the long journey every day there, and every day back.”

When Bassie escaped from Sierra Leone after the civil war and immigrated to Canada, these memories were etched in his mind. So much so, that when peace came to Sierra Leone and he could return, he decided to make a difference in the lives of children, who just like him, had to travel great distances in order to have an education.

With the financial help of First Presbyterian Church, the church that sponsored his immigration to Thunder Bay, Bassie organized a group of workers from Sierra Leone and built a school in 2009. It consisted of six classrooms and was located in Mabureh, a village about twenty miles from the capital city of Freetown. Soon after, in 2010, another school was built with the full support of the Port Arthur Rotary. What was amazing with this venture was the speed in which it was completed. Because Bassie could only stay in his home country for one month, he and his fellow workers worked day and night, completing the six-classroom school before Bassie had to return. Undaunted by the enormity of the task, Bassie returned again in 2014, 2017, 2020 and 2021 to build more schools. As of just one month ago, Bassie and his organization CanSerra, have built six schools.

“We’ve received most of our funding from private individuals, First Presbyterian Church, and the Port Arthur Rotary and I am so grateful. Without them, my dreams, and the dreams of these children in Sierra Leone couldn’t be realized. They have all been a great blessing.”

It hasn’t been easy though. During the civil war from 1991 to 2002, it is estimated that 1,270 primary schools were destroyed in Sierra Leone. Even now, almost twenty years later, there is still much to rebuild. Classrooms can be overcrowded, supplies stretched to the nigh, and teachers are paid the equivalent salary of one month’s worth of rice. But still Bassie is unhindered in his optimism.

“Education is the gateway to prosperity,” he says with a smile. “I don’t want kids to suffer the way that I did growing up. I see how things are so perfect in Canada and I want the same for my own country. Even though it is difficult, I know that to try and fail is not a disgrace. We cannot succeed if we do not try.”

So what’s to come now?

Bassie’s next dream is to build a vocational school. With many children unable to complete their education, there are many young adults who are in need of training so they can compete in the job market and/or create their own businesses. Bassie wants to provide training in tailoring, gara tie dyeing, (a specialized African style of designing material for clothing), and hair dressing. Later he hopes to add computer science classes, and building sessions for those who want to learn brick laying and carpentry. If he is able to secure solar panels to power the school during night time, classes could be held in one of the original schools, keeping the school occupied from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

“After we completed the first school, I stood back and looked at it and I said to myself, ‘Bassie, you tried something and it happened.’ I have grown to love this feeling of being very fulfilled and I wish for it to happen again and again.”

And the children have grown to love it too. Enrolment is up, and the last attendance report listed nearly 2,000 students in both primary and secondary schools. That’s a lot of futures being changed because of one man’s dream, the support of good people, and a lot of determination.

Additional programs have been added to the group’s agenda including scholarship programs for high school and university students, monthly allowances for orphans and needy students, school feeding programs, and health education. There are also plans to provide micro financing for graduates trying to establish small businesses.

If you wish to donate to CanSerra to provide books, school supplies and school uniforms, pay a worker, or provide building materials, go to

Tax receipts are issued for donations of $50 or more.

Donna White is an accomplished author and Jubilee Medal winner for her volunteer work with World Vision. Visit her website at

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