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Meet Sierra Leone’s Essential Workers: The Welder

by Alhassan Lamin
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I have been working as a welder for more than three decades now, and it all started after I dropped out of school Form 4 because of financial challenges. I set up my shop in 1995. Since then, I have recruited over 20 or more young people, many of whom now own their shop.

Working as a welder is a life-saving opportunity for me. Before COVID-19, I was getting contracts, but not as frequently as anyone might think of because there are other competitors around. When deals come in, I use the profits to pay rent for the shop, buy electricity top-up, and give a stipend to my staff. Sometimes I will purchase raw materials and equipment which were cheaper before COVID-19.

Now with COVID-19, the situation and work have been complicated. The materials have become more expensive, and clients don’t come as they used to. When clients don’t come, I search for scrap materials to make one or two standby gates or doors, which can sell. Other times people with cars or motorbikes come to weld small problems and what we get for such work is sometimes too small to even eat well.

There is also an increase in thefts. Recently a client’s door was stolen, and when things like that happen—I pay the price. For now, as things stand, I can’t even tell what will happen in the next six months, and it’s worrisome for me as a father and business owner.

With the negative effect of COVID-19, my family has faced several challenges. From eating every day before, we only eat when income is available now, and the children are all stuck at home. Two of them have taken the West African Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) to enter university. Still, there are substantial financial challenges, so they are just at home doing nothing. Their mom is trying to support, but there is no business to do, so sometimes she comes over and supervises the staff.

Credit: OSIWA/Essential Stories

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