OUR WORK

HELPING AFRICA

It started with 5 widows trying to keep their children safe from leaking roofs during the rainy season. While visiting the new homes we built, we were beset by children asking for school…meanwhile in a country with one of the highest infant mortality rates, there was not a clean room to deliver babies…all of this became our work!

EDUCATION

"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

AND SO WE BEGAN EDUCATING…

We sent five village children to attend the Middle School 5 miles away. At that time the village had ONE child attending middle school. Now these students are in high school helping define Young Vision Africa.  This means that their academic success has been only apart of their growth. Boarding in the city of Bo, they are looked after daily by our young adult employees who help with tutoring as well.  Most of them also attend church a few days a week, have a one hour chat session with an AMERICAN MENTOR.  This is discipleship, community support and love but it is also accountability and challenge.  When our teens clearly fall short, we do not continue their scholarship unless their issues improve.  The purpose of it is to reproduce young people who will change their country with God’s help.  Only serious and committed individuals will do this successfully.

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)!

CREATIVE CONFIDENCE…

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

Ever since we first traveled to the village, some of the Muslim villagers asked us to start a church. Our 2015 trip was blessed by the presence of Reverend Enid, a YVA volunteer from Guyana. At the end of that trip, Reverend Enid was committed to coming back to the village to stay 6 months. This idea itself was radical and unheard of, but we had learned not to doubt Reverend Enid! Nine months later she was with us again and this time she was staying in the village for five months after the rest of us left!  As the first foreigner brave enough to live without running water, electricity, transport etc in a subsistence farming, illiterate village, Reverend Enid is clearly the bravest member of YVA!!  She went there to grow our new church and to assist our school.  Her term climaxed with a crusade she organized that led to the baptism of 16 people! (Many of them were converts)
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.

AMERICAN TEAM TRIPS

PREVENTING EBOLA

$700 million US dollars spent on Ebola never touched our remote area of Sierra Leone, where the people originally believed Ebola was a plot by the government. The stories of the sick being taken away by men in suits to never be heard from again only heightened the people’s fears. To an illiterate population without access to any media, the best story wins the narrative.

BLAMA PERI

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.

THE RESULTS

The truths about Ebola were not only shared, but also understood. The people were educated on the fatal dangers of Ebola, and so the villages implemented a very serious plan that restricted travel and normal visitation. To this day we’ve never heard of anyone else implementing a program like ours. It is nothing short of terrifying to consider what could have happened had we not intervened. The people we taught initially shared the same misconceptions as other communities in West Africa. In this case relationship and trust proved more valuable then millions of dollars.

EBOLA FREE

Our district of Pujehun was the first in all of Sierra Leone to be declared completely Ebola free.

LOW COST

What was the amount we spent on our program? – $1,000!

TRUST

Relationship and trust proved more valuable then millions of dollars.

AGRICULTURE

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

Sierra Leone boasts the 2nd highest first day and first month mortality rate for newborns (2nd to Somalia). It holds the highest rate of death for children under 5 years old. 185 children out of every 1000 will not live to see their 5th birthday.

THE BASIC NEEDS

Healthcare

During Alan’s first trip to the village, the women pleaded for a space where they could have hygienic births. It took several years and much support from the Thaakat Foundation, but in the end, the Fatmata Health Center, named after the mother of Abdulai Swaray, was opened. After initially negotiations with the government of Sierra Leone, they gave us full support. The government pays for the attending nurse and for the monthly vaccines. The principle donor organization, the Thaakat foundation partners with us to run the center along with the government of Sierra Leone.

SUPPORT

Mothers and healthy children

At Fatmata, mothers are educated and given resources to ensure that they have healthy children. The center currently has three rooms, furniture, nursing quarters, a front desk, a waiting area, and an area for storage. Plastered walls and tiled floors make sanitizing easier. The amazing solar energy system brought the first lights and the first refrigerator (for medicine) to the village. To date, 5000 people have been treated and provided healthcare services. Fatmata supports malaria prevention programs, infant and toddler acute malnutrition programs, and general healthcare initiatives for people of all ages.

BUILDING HOUSES

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.

CLEAN WATER

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.

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Designed by: Omar Padilla

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Young Vision Africa 2017. All Rights Reserved.
Designed by: Omar Padilla