Dr. Judy Kuriansky & Berny’s Hope Foundation Provides Psychosocial Experience to Fire Victims

By Amin Kef Sesay

The tragic fire incident on the 5th November,2022 at Wellington sparked by the explosion of a fuel tanker that consumed so many lives, left some with permanent scars and destroyed properties worth billions of Leones is still fresh in the minds of not only the victims but other well meaning individuals and organizations.

To help the survivors and their families heal, internationally known psychologist, Dr. Judy Kuriansky, teamed up with Freetown-based Berny’s Hope Foundation to hold a one-day psychosocial resilience experience on April 29th, 2022. Forty-six survivors and their families were in attendance.

As Dr. Kuriansky, being the focal person of three international NGOs: United African Congress, Give Them A Hand Foundation and the International Association of Applied Psychology, accredited at the United Nations in February of 2022, these organizations teamed up with the Berny’s Hope Foundation to provide financial and emotional support to some 60 survivors of the inferno with a donation of over Le140,975,000 divided amongst them.

Dr Kuriansky has a long-time commitment to psychological and humanitarian work in Sierra Leone, which was recognized on Wednesday’s Annual Independence Day Insignia Awards at State House on April 27, when she was awarded the “Grand Commander of the Order of the Rokel” (GCOR) by President Julius Maada Bio.

Her contributions to the country trace way back to the warring days, educating communities about HIV/AIDS prevention, then boosting communities’ resilience during and after the Ebola pandemic, mudslide, the COVID-19, and now, the fuel tanker accident.

The theme for the April seminar was “Hope Is Alive”. At the end of the 5-hour- long program, the participants experienced hope, and were elated through the activities to feel strength within themselves, empowered that they can cope, and more strongly connected to their community.

All the participants expressed feeling empowered knowing that “where there is life, there is hope” and that they can “bounce back from this tragedy, even stronger” despite the serious losses. They expressed that hope is the fuel of their deep faith, no matter their religion, and were energized with faith in believing that a better life is a reality.

One of the beneficiaries, Adama Sankoh, who is now a single mother of 5 children shed tears while holding up a tattered picture of her husband who died in the last explosion and whose body has not to date, been found.

However, her face turned to a glowing smile when telling the team how much fun she had on the day.

Elizabeth lost 3 sisters, whose children are now under her care, along with two of her own biological children, but said that she felt relieved for the first time after the event, saying that: “Every day I cannot imagine how I can take care of all these children, but today is the first day, whilst here, that I am not worried.”

Joseph, who lost his business in the explosion, shared how he feels more inspired from the support and love of others as he rebuilds.

Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, Memunatu Pratt, made a surprise visit to the workshop and encouraged the participants to be more hopeful than ever before.

She expressed being impressed with the program and noted the importance of long-term psychosocial support for the people also making a promise to liaise with the Minister of Social Welfare saying such falls directly under that Ministry’s jurisdiction.

It is expected that the pilot program, which is a sub-component of a Mental Health initiative being implemented by Dr. Kuriansky and her international and local partners, will be continued and cascaded to various communities in the country.

Dr. Kuriansky was fully supported by the CEO/Founder of Berny’s Hope, Madam Bernadette Sanko Kamara and her devoted volunteers here in Freetown.


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