WASHINGTON, DC, December 14, 2006 — Africare hosted the launch of a new nonprofit, the Sierra Leone Fund, on Thursday, December 14, and opened the doors for discussion of past and present efforts to deliver aid to Sierra Leone. The event took place one week after the release of the feature film, Blood Diamond, and served as an opportunity to garner support and international awareness about the country’s development needs.
“It speaks to Africare’s mission in general,” comments Travis Adkins, program manager for East and West Anglophone Africa. “We help in Sierra Leone… but also there’s a way for us to give assistance here, even if it’s something as small as lending our space in this case. It helps in terms of grassroots assistance, in terms of capacity building, in terms of people helping people.”
Authentic Sierra Leonean cuisine and music united the community for the organization’s debut. The Sierra Leone Fund was founded as part of a grassroots effort to alleviate the aftermath of the 10-year civil war in Sierra Leone, which began in 1991. Tens of thousands were killed during the war. More than 2 million others were displaced by the conflict — many of whom, Sierra Leone Fund Co-Founder Jeneba Ghatt says, are still impacted by the war.
“I co-founded the Sierra Leone Fund with another expatriate who wanted to finally do our part to help out our native country rather than passively wait for others to do it for us,” said Ghatt.
In remarks at Thursday’s reception, Africare President Julius E. Coles commented on the drive and youthful spirit of the new organization’s founders. He reminded all in attendance that Africare was also once a small “basement operation” with a few people and a vision: a vision that later extended into 36 nations across the African continent, and some $592 million in development assistance to improve the quality of life for African people.
In Sierra Leone, Africare’s work began in 1984 when the Ministry of Health requested Africare staff replicate a similar program developed in the Gambia. Their goal, in partnership with UNICEF and the World Bank, was to improve management and distribution of essential drugs to rural areas. Alan Alemian, former Africare East and West Anglophone Africa director, was a member of that team and a key player in the emergency relief programs developed to aid refugees when civil war erupted in 1991.
“We should be very, very proud of what we did in Sierra Leone,” commented Alemian. “We saved lives and we kept people productive.”
The emergency camps, in addition to food distribution and medical assistance, developed agricultural relief programs that provided land for displaced refugees to produce their own crops and reduce dependence on food aid. These programs continued throughout the duration of the war before transitioning into post-conflict programs like CORAD.
“CORAD stands for Consortium for Rehabilitation and Development,” notes Adkins. “It focuses on health and revitalization of livelihoods … because a lot of people lost their livelihoods during the war.”
Sierra Leone is one of 25 countries in Africa currently benefiting from self-help programs like CORAD set up by Africare. Ghatt says her non-profit aims to develop similar programs in Sierra Leone that specialize in health, education, sanitation and nutrition. The Fund hopes to reach over 5 million people who remain negatively affected by the 10-year civil war.
For more on the Sierra Leone Fund, visit: www.sierraleonefund.org.
Africare is a leader in development assistance and humanitarian aid to Africa as well as the oldest and largest African-American led organization specializing in African aid. Over its 37-year history, Africare has delivered more than $592 million in assistance — representing over 2,000 projects and millions of beneficiaries — to 36 countries Africa-wide.
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