"Nothing's gonna change in that village until you send the kids to school..."- one of the teen orphans that helped us run a camp in the village
A NEW SCHOOL…Parents at Blama Peri asked us to open a school so their children could learn to read. Using the village meeting space, we began our Pre K – 5 school as a one room open-air schoolhouse. What YVA’s Tato Primary School lacks in facilities, it makes up for by the talent and commitment of the staff our head teacher’s assembled. In an amazing cultural shift, the village elders saw the achievements of the girls at the head of their class, and asked us for a female teacher! We now have two! CLICK FOR VIDEO. Two years of success has brought us to the point where we know we have something that works. To move forward and teach these kids to read and write most effectively, we need classrooms and a building so our teachers can focus on their children and vice versa, without distraction.
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 This is refreshing for third world education that’s bound to play catch up to outdated colonial models (read passive, rote learning).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 as they seek a different way of life.
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, had put us in a position of respect and trust with the people. It was this trust that allowed us to communicate the urgent truth.
From the 6 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. Medical personnel distributed bleach and modeled its use in workshop format. Abdulai Swaray, an orphan whose work with YVA brought him to America, was home on summer break from college. He saw the danger of the epidemic and the urgent need, and he organized the efforts to make this happen.
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 as simple as ours. It is sobering to consider what could have happened had Abdulai not been there to put our relationship with the area to crucial use. This area initially shared the same misconceptions as other communities in West Africa. In this case relationship and trust proved more valuable then millions of dollars.
THE FATMATA HEALTH CENTER
THE BASIC NEEDS
During Alan’s first trip to the village, the women pleaded for a space where they could have hygienic births. The Fatmata Health Center was opened coincidentally at the very start of the Ebola epidemic, during Alan’s second visit. The center is a Sierra Leone PHU (Peripheral Health Unit) and is technically under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Health. Nurse Mariama was assigned to manage it and she has been an incredible blessing to the area. An independent woman who tirelessly delivers babies in the middle of the night (that has happened on every single one of our trips), Mariama’s smile says it all. Since then YVA has turned the US oversight of the center, over to one of our former donating organizations.
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.