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Meet Sierra Leone’s Essential Workers: The Trader

by Frañkvin Bob McEwen
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What I’m doing to survive is this: if I come to work one day and God blesses me and I make a sale of SLL 100,000 ($10), I manage that. How my family used to eat before Coronavirus is not how we eat now. Before we cooked every day; we cooked rice and sauce but now I tell them let’s learn to eat just plain rice. So, first thing in the morning, we cook four cups of rice. I tease them like my mom used to do to me and I say where the rice stops the water will take up the rest of the space. 

Back in December, last year there were so many people here; every stall had at least 3 or 4 customers. The business was sweet for us here at the Big Market: we made money. Coronavirus has affected our business because there are no flights. People who travel are the ones that buy from us. Only a few locals come here. They’ll say they won’t choose shopping overfeeding their families. ⁠

Most of the traders don’t even come to the market anymore. If you come today, the next day you won’t come. In my section, we are less than 10 that are working today. About 50 more traders have not come today. So many live far away. If you take transport to come and you don’t make any sales, it’s a waste of money. 

I had stopped coming too but I started coming back because I have small children at home. We live in Congo Town. Before my mom died, I studied to be a State Enrolled Community Health Nurse. I used to volunteer at Connaught Hospital, but I had to stop because I needed to earn money and I wasn’t formerly employed as a nurse. I have three children of my own, and then there is my sister and my cousin. There are six of us at home. You can’t have children to feed and work without pay. ⁠

Credits: Essential Stories/OSIWA

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