IRC Mourns Loss of Child Protection Staff Member and Role Model to Thousands of Children in West Africa
The International Rescue Committee is deeply saddened by the death of child protection worker and advocate Samuel Tamba Kamanda, known to most as T-Boy.
T-boy, who had been managing the IRC’s demobilization and reintegration program for ex-child combatants in Liberia, was representing the IRC at an aid conference in Guinea last week when he fell ill with malaria. He returned to his native Sierra Leone to seek treatment. His condition deteriorated on Wednesday, February 9 and he passed away the following evening. He was 37 years old.
He leaves his wife, Ramatu, and two sons and a daughter, Sahr, Satu and Tamba, all under the age of six. The IRC extends its heartfelt condolences to his family at this time of great loss.
T-Boy was first hired by the IRC in 1999 as a social worker in Sierra Leone and quickly rose to become one of the IRC’s key staff members leading the IRC’s programs for war-affected children. He managed two of the IRC’s interim care centers and became a role model for the thousands of child ex-combatants and other separated children that he eventually helped reunite with their families.
In January 2004, T-Boy’s expertise was sought by the IRC in neighboring Liberia as that country began its own demobilization process. He was soon hired as a technical manager and set to work, caring for and helping reunify 2,400 former child combatants in Nimba and Lofa counties.
Colleagues and friends describe T-boy as a man of boundless energy and enthusiasm, deeply committed to helping and restoring hope for former child soldiers.
“He had incredible and infectious charisma and personality,” says Nicky Smith, the IRC’s country director in Liberia. “It was truly inspiring to watch him work with former child soldiers and to see his positive effect on them. He was big man in all aspects of the word; big stature, big smile and big laugh. T-Boy will be deeply missed by all in our community, especially by those of us whose lives he touched.”
Marie de la Soudière, who oversees the IRC’s programs for war-affected children, describes T-Boy as a man of extraordinary dedication and compassion, who worked tirelessly on every aspect of the programs in which he was involved.
“He patiently listened to sometimes demanding and difficult youth, and became a great and very much needed role model for them,” she said. “He spared no professional or personal effort to trace families of separated children even when he had very little information to go by. And he was almost always successful in this quest.”
“We also learned a great deal from T-boy about life during the Sierra Leonean civil war; how people coped, the culture and beliefs, of and how we, outsiders, could be of help.”
Catherine Wiesner, the IRC’s former child protection coordinator in Sierra Leone, recalls his courage and sacrifice.
“During times when fighting in Sierra Leone flared up, programs were suspended, and international staff were evacuated, T-Boy and his team continued to protect and look after the children in their care, despite direct threats to their own safety,” Wiesner said.
T-Boy never left Sierra Leone during its 10 terrible years of war. He was injured in an ambush on a civilian convoy and later endured the abduction and eventual return of his mother by rebel forces. “Still,” Wiesner adds, “T-Boy remained an active and courageous force for good in the midst of chaos.”
T-Boy would some times recount the numerous times when his life and that of his family were in danger, according to Marie de la Soudière. “He would talk about how they were forced to flee and hide for long periods; how they were scared and hungry, but always coming out, somehow, miraculously, safe,” she says. “It is a sad irony that it was malaria – an everyday occurrence in his country – that did to him what the vicious war could not do.”
The IRC offices in Liberia will be closed on Monday, February 14, in T-Boy’s honor. Memorial services will be held in Sierra Leone, the Liberian capital Monrovia, as well as in the Liberian towns of Ganta and Voinjama.