I hope that the New Year met you and yours in the best of spirits and in the best of health. I am writing to inform of an exciting opportunity to give young Sierra Leoneans a voice and a stake in their nation’s development. The year 2007 is a significant year in Sierra Leone’s past and present. This year marks the 200th anniversary of the abolishment of slavery in British territories and the creation of Freetown, the capital, as a settlement for freed slaves. 2007 also marks the fifth anniversary of the end of the civil conflict in Sierra Leone. Ironically, a key contributing factor to the conflict–youth marginalization–continues to afflict many young people. Several reports including the Truth & Reconciliation Commission Findings and Recommendations, World Bank Report on Sierra Leone Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper Implementation 2005-2006, the final draft consultation for the European Commission\UK Department for International Development Joint Strategy Paper for Sierra Leone 2006, and the Government of Sierra Leone National Youth Policy 2002 highlight young people as crucial to the maintenance of peace and stability in Sierra Leone. These reports suggest that though much has been done to incorporate youth in decision making, young people in Sierra Leone still have very few opportunities to acquire new skills and participate in their country’s development. Peace and stability in Sierra Leone, depends on the incorporation of young people in decision-making and also providing them with opportunities for personal growth and development.
The Think Build Change Salone Initiative came out of an assessment of the 177 registered NGOs in Sierra Leone. Though there are several organizations that focus on youth and vocational training, there are no organizations that focus on professional skill and career development in formal educational settings. And except for a handful of private companies that employ one or two interns a year the concept of interning is for the most part none existent in Sierra Leone. Also, while, many international volunteers make their way to Sierra Leone every year, the 500,000 or more Sierra Leoneans living outside of Sierra Leone remain unaware of the various volunteer and community-service opportunities available in their country. The Think Build Change Salone Initiative will (1) encourage Sierra Leonean youth to participate in the countries social development, (2) make SL youth employable, (3) create a database of existing NGOs and their activities, and (4) highlight individual Sierra Leoneans living at home and abroad who are giving back to their country. I want to tell you about how you can help Sierra Leoneans change Sierra Leone by supporting the Think Build Change Salone Initiative.
The Think Build Change Salone Initiative is about Sierra Leoneans old and young, at home and abroad participating in Sierra Leone’s social development. The three parts of the Initiative include; the TBC Salone Internship Program, the TBC Salone “Profiles in Courage”, and the TBC Salone Social Development Database.
The Think Build Change Salone Internship Program will provide students in SL with stipends of $50 a month for three months so that they may engage and participate in development projects on local, district, and national levels. Each intern will be assigned a mentor. Mentors will monitor student progress during the internship period, help students overcome obstacles, and serve as a resource towards the intern’s professional development. Students will work on projects being implemented by the state, private, and non profit sector, that relate to social development, such as adult literacy, women’s rights, agriculture, HIV/AIDS sensitization, water & sanitary construction etc. We expect participating students to learn about project management and fundraising, gain valuable leadership and professional skills, and become empowered by their participation in Sierra Leone’s Development. Every young Sierra Leonean should have professional work experience before they leave school. If our graduates are not well trained they will not be employable despite having obtained a college degree.
The TBC Salone Social Development Database
The Think Build Change Salone Social Development Non-governmental (NGOs)/Community Based Organization (CBOs) database will show all registered NGOs/CBOs in Sierra Leone and the sectors in which they function. This will allow Sierra Leoneans living at home and abroad to search for any kind of development project/activity being done in SL, identify the organizations implementing a particular project, and contact them. We will regularly update information for all NGOs/CBOs so as to facilitate community service efforts for those interested in volunteering in Sierra Leone. We will also provide a platform for NGOs/CBOs to announce their human resource needs and recruit volunteers among Sierra Leoneans at home and abroad. The Think Build Change Salone database will allow those who go to Sierra Leone and volunteer to receive updated information on the organizations and projects in which they participated.
TBC Salone “Profiles in Courage”
The Think Build Change Salone “Profiles in Courage” will highlight Sierra Leoneans living in SL doing positive things and contributing to the nation’s development in the public, private, and non-profit sector. We will profile extraordinary Sierra Leoneans from the diaspora who have returned home to invest in Salone’s development. We will highlight everyday Sierra Leonean professionals, civil society leaders, traders, students, parents, teachers, children, and all Sierra Leoneans who go above and beyond the call of duty and give more than is expected. “Profiles in Courage” will boost morale of Sierra Leoneans everywhere and give them a sense of communal pride and nationalism. Sierra Leone is a beautiful country, with beautiful people, a proud and brilliant history, and a religiously tolerant society. Sierra Leone is culturally dynamic with tons of potential.
What I am Doing and What You Can Do.
In June of this year, I will move to Sierra Leone in order implement and oversee the Think Build Change Salone Initiative in Collaboration with an already established 501c non-profit Sierra Leonean organization, SierraVisions, Inc. I am going to Sierra Leone of my own free will and with the sole purpose of making a contribution to the social development of my country. My responsibility is to create awareness about the Initiative before I leave for Sierra Leone and to raise financial support for the implementation of the initiative. All funds raised will go towards intern stipends and program implementation. Many people here in the US and at home in Sierra Leone share my vision and are willing to do everything in their power to ensure this Initiative is a success. However, to guarantee that this program is even more successful, YOU TOO must participate.
PLEASE SHARE THIS INITIATIVE WITH OTHERS SO THAT THEY TOO CAN CONTRIBUTE TO SIERRA LEONE’S SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT AND BECOME A SPONSOR OF THE THINK BUILD CHANGE SALONE INITIATIVE.