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Meet Sierra Leone’s Essential Workers: The Carpenter

by Alhassan Lamin

I’m a 61-year-old carpenter from Kono District. I started learning carpentry after my father passed away during the civil war. I perfected my skills when I moved to Freetown. Four years ago, I started working at this carpentry shop, which makes me the longest-serving person on staff.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, work was favorable for us because I would produce five beds along with other furniture a month on average. The more furniture I make, the more I earn. I don’t work on a salary. I earn money for every piece of furniture I make. For a bed, I earned SLL 250,000. But now, with the COVID-19 pandemic, work has been so slow, customers don’t come. I can go for a week without sales, and our boss spends so much on buying materials. We used to work from morning to 6 pm, now we only work half-day and some days are optional. I only make about two or three beds and a few furniture a month.

We never stopped working, my colleagues and I have to agree on a reduction in our earnings because we are all aware that business is slow. So from earning SLL 250,000 per bed, our agreement now is SLL 120,000 per bed. I have eight children, and we live together with their mom in a one-room and parlor apartment. Three of the kids are in public examination classes. My wife is a stay-home-mom. She applied for a microfinance loan several times but with no luck.

Credit: OSIWA/Essential Stories

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