My background does not define me, does yours?


I grew up in a zinc shack (pan body) in the not-so-fancy Congo Town neighborhood right next to the local market.  At the time, we lived in two-bedroom house which my two sisters and I together with our parents shared with our grandfather. Our parents occupied one room and our grandfather the other. We governed the parlour/living room where we would move the furniture at night to make room for our sponge mattress. Yes sponge, not foam. I vividly remember how my sisters and I would dread late night visits from folks that talked too much and stayed too long because that often meant that we couldn’t go to ‘bed’ until after they had left when we could move the chairs. This was our situation up until SSS3 when I was appointed Deputy Head Girl at St. Joseph’s Secondary School, Brookfields, Freetown.

When it rained, it poured in our house. There were more vats and bins than our house could hold because it was leaking everywhere (there were many holes in our roof). Not to mention our sleeping space significantly shrunk when it was raining because we competed for space with the vats and bins that collected the water. I remember reading the poem ‘Night Rain’ and thinking the author must have written that poem about us, LOL. Interestingly, our roof had the habit of flying off EVERY single time it rained heavily and so we would wake up in the morning with half of our roof gone. How embarrassing! #lifeinapanbody

There was nothing like a normal day’s meal. It was only normal to go without food. Our staple at the time was Gari in conjunction with whatever was available at the time. (I consider myself an expert in the area of Gari combinations by the way). Gari and sugar. Gari and milk. Gari and plam kernel oil (nahtie). Plain Gari. Gari and groundnut. Gari and palm oil. You name it. We may or may not have exhausted the possibilities in that area. Cooking was an event in itself. We cooked once a month, after my dad received his monthly salary, and it was usually groundnut/peanut sauce with mullet (mollit) fish. I have no recollection of my mom cooking any of the local vegetable sauce when we were kids. They were simply out of our league. On the day we’d cook, we’d usually finish late at night when we’d all eat from one big bowl under the dim light of a kerosene lamp (remember those lamps?:-)) after which we’d go to bed. My parents would usually excuse themselves after the a few spoons feigning a full stomach just so we kids would eat and be full. In the few days following, we’d have rice and sardines which we considered a delicacy at the time. There was nothing like three meals a day. Oosai e dey comot? We ate once a day. In fact, up until class 4 (4th grade?) I didn’t know what it was like to have lunch to school. Our school was the local municipal school just down the road from our house and so we would come home during lunch hours and return in time for the remainder of classes during the day. The idea was to make our friends think we were going home to eat when in fact we just passed time with our mom until it was time to go back. My patents, especially my mom, made us understand that our condition wasn’t permanent and one way was to make sure we never begged/asked for favors from the neighbors. Even though everyone in our neighborhood knew we were struggling, we were not allowed to accept any invitation to eat from neighbors without our mom’s express permission.

Chicken! The all mighty imported chicken was a delicacy that we looked forward to all year round. It made its special appearance at Christmas when my dad, who worked at the National Petroleum (NP) would get  TWO WHOLE chickens as part of his Christmas bonus along with toys including dolls for us. My mom, ever the economist, knew how to make that chicken last! We had chicken at Christmas, and on Boxing Day and New Year’s day.  Good times!

My dad might have drawn up a mental scale of preference where books always came out on top and clothes never made the list or were too far down the list. And so we didn’t have that many clothes. We only had ‘church’ clothes and ‘house’ clothes; casual clothes were a luxury we couldn’t afford.  Since my sisters and I had similar body shapes and sizes, we shared clothes and because we pretty much maintained the same body weight over time, we wore the same clothes over and over again. We never grew out of them; we just grew tired of them. Consequently, parties and the school fetes were out of the question (my friends from school can confirm). The first ‘jump’/ school fete I attended was in 2002 when I was in SSS2. I had just returned from a one month long trip to Canada where I had represented Sierra Leone at a youth conference and had some new clothes (a pair of jeans) to show off. I vividly remember what I wore because I wore the same outfit to my cousin’s birthday party not too long after. Did we ever wish we had nicer clothes or could go out more? Yes we did but it wasn’t enough to lure us into the streets. Nothing was.

With the limited resources that we had, my mom being the strong and industrious woman that she is tried her hand at many trades just to supplement our family income. My dad provided the capital for the many business ventures. On one occasion, my mom  bought an assortment of items from town and sold it on credit to the market women who paid in installments over time. That business failed because it was usually past the agreed date by the time the last person paid off her debt and most of the money had gone in the daily maintenance of the home anyway.  But that was just one of many ventures. I like to think we’ve sold everything in the book. Butterscotch. Tombi (tamarind). Dry milk/ evaporated milk. Ice/Kool Aid. Cold water. Yogurt. Cookery. Soft drinks. The list goes on. The ventures were many as they were varied. As our income increased our items of trade become more sophisticated. Ice and Yogurt for example made the list after we bought our first fourth-hand (no not second hand) refrigerator. The thing had too many issues and the infrequent power supply didn’t help the situation at all.

We may not have had everything we wanted or even needed but we always had each other. My family bonded well during those times and that bond has only deepened over the years. Of the many values my parents passed on to us I am most grateful for that of contentment. My parents made us believe that 1) it was only a matter of time before we could get those things we desired and 2) focusing on things that mattered, God and our education,  will get us to our desired point . And they were right. Many many years later, our lives are dramatically different from what they used to be. God has been truly faithful to us.  Looking back, I can proudly say that I am not my background but that my background was integral to my development as a person and as the woman God intended me to be. Because of my background I am able to understand the current  struggles/challenges of an economically disadvantaged person and still believe in a better tomorrow; if it happened for me, it can happen for anyone. My background doesn’t define me; it inspires me.

But godliness with contentment is great gain. 1 Timothy 6:6-11


Daughter of the King

About Sadia

Independent business and research consultant with a passion for writing. Skidmore College graduate - Management and Business major, International Affairs minor. Davis United World College scholar. Motivational Speaker. Creative writer. Friend. Sister. Daughter. Beloved Wife. For further information/speaking engagements please email me at:
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43 Responses to My background does not define me, does yours?

  1. Julia says:

    Very inspiring piece Sadia.


  2. Binta Akibo-Betts says:

    Truly inspiring, and a great lesson, especially for the younger ladies & girls. God continue to bless you!!!


  3. Akua says:

    Very inspirational. May God bless all your endeavours. You have wonderful parents who taught you that money does not equate to happiness or peace of mind.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Mamish says:

    I am so proud of your parents for making u the woman u r. N yes ur background doesn’t define u. I love ur story and hope ur parents are still alive to see the wonderful woman they brought up. bravo 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾👌

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Tough time don’t last but tough people do!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Egla Fynn says:

    Very very beautiful…Sadia I’m so proud of you.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Randolph says:

    Indeed it doesn’t define you but shows the strength you possess. Everything fades away with time. #gladiator #God’swillbedone

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Randolph says:

    Indeed it doesn’t define you but shows the strength you possess. Everything does fade away with time. #gladiator #God’swill

    Liked by 1 person

  9. MIRACLE says:


    Liked by 1 person

  10. Victor Doherty says:

    Interesting indeed any life without a story is meaning less

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Victor Doherty says:

    Inspirational indeed any life without a story is meaning less.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Desiree says:

    Sadia, I am always inspired by you. And I know you can achieve all that you wish for yourself. Proud of you always.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Rugi says:

    Only the grace of God. Thanks for sharing. God bless you.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Rosaline says:

    Your story is inspiring. Godliness with contentment is grate gain. Love your piece

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Manika says:

    Keep it up Sadia.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Iye says:

    My story is similar to yours but thank God for our determined parents and the perseverance -to -succeed in life that is burning in us the ‘tity’ and ‘borbor’ strain. One can’t imagine why does of us that use the ‘pan lamp’ (locally made kerosine lattern from empty peak milk tin and cotton/ old cotton cloth.) To study earn better grades than those who were previledged to study under the flouriscent lights.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Sis, I saw your pic before, Liked it but never read what message it brings. I thought I have more to it but you just made my broken thought whole again. I know, understand and still pray that the God who have brought us this far will surely take us through. And I know for sure that our kids will not go through it. My son use to say, “my mother has suffer it all so I will not suffer” and I will forever say Amen to it. It will never be a chain work.

    Liked by 1 person

    • sadisoe1808 says:

      Hey Zyna, thank you for your comment. whatever you’re going through/have gone through will work for your good in Jesus name. And amen to what your son said, our kids won’t go through what we went through and will be grateful for it. God bless you!


  18. Titoh Sallay Sheriff says:

    Yes!! Our Background does not define us .Very Inspirational Sadia.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Larrylyn Bangura says:

    Very inspiring story. Keep up the good work my dear.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Salmah says:

    Love your piece of writing. Very inspirational, intelligent with a good sense of humour too . Hope others will learn from it . Hope to read your publications some day.
    Stay blessed.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. nemjones says:

    Hay Sadiatu, you are one in a million to be very proud of your past and background .Indeed your background does not really define you. Am so proud of you as a fellow conventonian . You blogs are really Inspirational . Indead God really loves ordinary people and he will continue to prove to us that our trust and faith in him will always prove itself in our lives.


  22. Judah Zubairu says:

    Dis piece is truly beautiful owing to the fact that it is a true life story. I heard d shorter version previously frm u, but this breaks it all down 4 my understanding. Wow! Trust me dear, ur glory days are still ahead of u, this is jst a start. Keep that in mind. Godspeed


  23. Judah Zubairu says:

    This piece is truly beautiful owing to the fact that it is a true life story. I heard the shorter version previously from you, but this breaks it all down for my understanding. Wow! Trust me dear, your glory days are still ahead of you, this is jst a start. Keep that in mind. Godspeed


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