The Family Homes Movement (FHM) is a lay Christian non-governmental organization, which was started in 1985 in Bumbuna, Northern Sierra Leone by a Xaverian missionary priest, Rev. Fr. Berton S.X. The main objective was to provide food, clothing, shelter and, above all, education to the semi-transient children in Bumbuna and the surrounding area.
Although the origins of FHM can be traced back to Bumbuna in 1985, it was only some years later that the need was felt to formalise the Movement; the Government of Sierra Leone registered FHM as a Friendly Society on September 30th 1996. It was a providential move as, only a year later, FHM was called on to help in the recovery of child-soldiers when the rebels attacked, and for nine months controlled, Freetown. In collaboration with UNICEF and the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender, and Children’s Affairs, FHM started operations in Freetown in order to provide interim care to war-affected children. In 1997, the movement gained child protection status from UNICEF. Over the following few years more than 5000 war affected children passed though the interim care centre at St. Michael’s Lodge, Lakka. Some of the children remained at Lakka for many years as their families could not be traced, or they were rejected by their families because they had joined the fighting forces, or the children themselves were afraid to go back to their communities for fear of reprisals. For these reasons FHM decided to place some of the children into foster care, or group homes for those over 18, and take responsibility for their care.
Sierra Leone, a society still dealing with the aftermath of the war while also undergoing a period of rapid cultural transition, continues to produce homeless children and vulnerable people. The Family Homes Movement, recognising compassion, especially towards children, as an inalienable Christian virtue, continues to provide assistance for young people in need. Today more than 300 children are directly helped by FHM while many others obtain benefit from the programmes and institutions established by the Movement.