"Nothing's gonna change in that village until you send the kids to school..."- one of the young leaders that helped us run a camp in the village
A NEW SCHOOL
When Ebola shuttered schools we found Saidu, a very special villager who tutored our students with amazing initiative, commitment, ability and communication skills.ﾠ Saidu gave us the confidence to open a school for 75 children in a village where there was NO school. Using the village meeting space, we began our Pre K – 5th school as a one room open-air schoolhouse. What YVA’s Tato Primary School lacks in facilities is made up for by the talent and commitment of the staff Saidu has assembled. He has gone beyond the confidence we had and in an amazing cultural shift, the village elders saw the achievements of the girls who often lead our classes and they themselves asked for a female teacher (we now have two)!
If you want a job in Sierra Leone you usually have to create it for yourself. Entrepreneurial economies demand confidence, initiative and creativity. In other words, they demand the skills of an Artist. Our first team trip was centered on modeling Drama, Music and Film instruction for the teachers there. This is refreshing for third world education that’s bound to play catch up to outdated colonial models (read passive, rote learning). It was a joy to see the kids and teachers finding and using their voice in a country that already loves music and has a rich tradition of storytelling. What we hope to do is fan these skills until they become innate attributes of future entrepreneurs.
THE VILLAGE CHURCH
As it turns out, the love of Christ is also the opportunity for female independence and self sufficiency. Called to reject polygamy, the women and girls who make up a majority of the church, are setting an absolutely new standard in this very conservative Muslim village. Princess, our female worship leader and one of our teachers at the school, sets an example for the girls of her song team, as an independent single mother. That was recently unheard of for a young woman in the village. She is also leading a small business venture for the women of the church. So the church is bringing new life in a very literal way! Reverend Enid left the congregation with a clear message of commitment to God and a new way of life distinct from their tradition. It’s our hope and prayer that our small congregation will find and feel God’s new life and love, directing and strengthening them in the midst of an otherwise completely Muslim village.
Prevention of Ebola.
Long before the actions of the U.S., the villages surrounding Blama Peri were actively protecting themselves, having received lifesaving information on the disease months before. Blama Peri is the center of our rural revitalization and a 6 year relationship including the building of a medical center gave us credibilty.
From the 12 villages served by our health center, we gathered together elders, teachers, and transportation providers (motorcyclists), to be educated on Ebola by our health staff and government representatives. Abdulai Swaray was back home on summer break from college, and he organized the efforts. YVA medical personnel distributed bleach and modeled its use in workshop format.
Children throughout Sierra Leone exist, malnourished on one meal a day or less. And yet so many of them take all their steps on rich fertile and fallow soil. That soil is an untapped resource in Sierra Leone, neglected because so many of it’s rural residents are struggling to live every day. These villagers are sick from parasites in the water, rain coming through their roofs and their inability to make a few dollars to buy more seeds. With a little help, a little motivation and the excitement of great results, all this can change.
YVA’s first community farm has already seen two harvests of Cassava and Peanuts. We are expanding to potatoes and now a food-processing operation sponsored by Ramapo College’s Enactus Organization. This farm is the road to self-sufficiency for these villagers and on both sides of the ocean we’re excited with every growing harvest!
THE FATMATA HEALTH CENTER
THE BASIC NEEDS
Mothers and healthy children
On the first trip to the village, the people pleaded, “Fix our roofs!” The leaky roofs were causing sickness and death during the cool, rainy season. Within two years, we built four three-family homes for 50 villagers, all possessing 15-year zinc roofs. It was a careful process.
We watched as the villagers pitched in alongside the local construction crew we hired. We finished fundraising just in time to secure the houses before the rainy season occurred, making our first project an adventure! We have since completed homes for 24 families, including widows and children.
It was time to take action when the only well in the village was running brown with rust. Many villagers took water from the nearby stream, which led to health problems from parasites and amoebas. The Sunday School of Trinity United Methodist Church in Highland Park raised $1000 in a week to replace the piping of the well mostly through the production of their music video.
Technicians were hired from the city of Bo to change the piping, and the water problem in Blama Perri was resolved. Young Vision Africa plans to build many wells throughout Sierra Leone and expand its efforts to neighboring countries.