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Meet Sierra Leone’s Essential Workers: The TV Host and Journalist

by Alhassan Lamin
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Maybe in another 12 to 24 months, the pandemic will end. I don’t like the new normal. I’m nostalgic for what was, and I want that back.  

This pandemic has given my heart quite a beating, the kind they give to gold to make it expand. Like any beating, actual or metaphorical, it hurts. I wasn’t prepared for it. 

When the pandemic started, my instinct was to care for others. I was oblivious to the ways I would, in turn, need care and nurturing.  

I launched the C19 Dignity Project, a citizen mobilization campaign to raise funds for emergency medical supplies for COVID-19 treatment centers. We did well for our community. We provided relief to over 400 treatment beds at a dozen government hospitals nationwide. For many hospitals, we were there with thermometers and oximeters even before the government could organize its COVID-19 response. I went to hospitals to meet with frontline health workers, to bear witness, and to express my gratitude to them for the sacrifices they were making to serve at the frontlines of the pandemic. I’m a well-known TV Host in Sierra Leone. I didn’t consider the impact frontline stories would have on me. In the end, hearing the indignities and conditions under which workers and patients alike were asked to endure broke my heart.  

To make it worse, I got this documentary human interest gig with OSIWA to conduct interviews with essential workers–human interest stories. Again I didn’t consider how documentary work during a global crisis could impact me.  

One too many stories of mothers not being able to feed their children during this crisis took a toll on me. I’m a mother. I was separated from my five-year-old son for six months during the pandemic, but he had enough to eat—most of the children in Sierra Leone don’t. When I came Face-to-face with heads of households living in food insecurity, I knew I couldn’t do anything for them but to document their story; it weighed more on my heart. 

The things I heard and saw during the pandemic broke my heart. I have chest pains still. I went to get an EKG to check my heart because I was scared, the pain was sharp and recurring, but the EKG results came back normal. The doctor gave me muscle relaxers. He told me that a heart could hurt if the heart’s muscles overwork. Also, during this pandemic, I lost my best friend. All of it together was debilitating. 

I’ve been in therapy since July. My therapist lives in Kenya; we call weekly for talk therapy sessions. That has truly been a blessing to my mental health. She always reminds me of the two questions I asked her in our first session: Will I ever get back to being myself? Will my heart ever heal? 

I’ve expanded beyond my wildest imagination during this pandemic. I’ve learned to recognize my fragility and humanity. My new normal is a heart that feels deep emotions and aches often for others and myself. I don’t know if it will ever go back to the way it was, but I’m hopeful. 

I’m a TV Host and Journalist from Freetown in Sierra Leone.

Credit: OSIWA/Essential Stories

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