| Feb 5, 2019
Cultivating an Emerging Young Leadership
Freetown First Responders Graduation Ceremony
Following the 2017 mudslides that devastated the Freetown area in Sierra Leone, IsraAID has been working with its local partners to bolster capacity should another tragedy strike the affected communities. Since IsraAID’s deployment to Sierra Leone amid the 2014 Ebola outbreak, the team on the ground has worked in the fields of psychosocial support and disaster risk reduction to ensure that a network of local leaders is trained and ready for the future.
IsraAID partnered with the Sierra Leone Red Cross and Restless Development, a civil society organization, to increase community involvement in emergency response. A Community Action Plan was developed in partnership with local organizations to identify hazards and prepare for future potential disasters, emphasizing cultivating young community leaders. The program includes school visits and public discourse in marketplaces to raise awareness of this strategy, and engage more citizens in this ongoing discussion.
Nineteen community-based organizations from across the areas of Kamayama and Kaningo worked together with IsraAID in coordinating a response plan, and bringing crucial awareness to members of the community. Studies show that when a plan is in place, people are much more able to bounce back better in amid challenges. This widespread local involvement is key to long-term mitigation of disaster impact.
IsraAID Sierra Leone has worked on additional issues facing local society. For example, IsraAID has worked to strengthen awareness of child protection issues within the justice system including separating the issue of children in conflict with the law from the general criminal justice sector; providing rehabilitation capacity building for juveniles; and increasing psychosocial programming to support the reintegration of children into their communities.
Additionally, IsraAID has worked in partnership with Grand Challenges Canada to improve maternal health education through psychosocial support provided in peer group sessions to women and men aged 13 to 25. Sierra Leone has seen a significant increase in the number of teenage pregnancies in the last two decades, since the civil war ended in 2002, following the 2014 outbreak of Ebola, and the 2017 mudslides. By creating a network of better-informed young mothers and fathers, the 16-module program increases emotional resiliency and mental health among these often stigmatized vulnerable populations.
Sara, an 18-year-old woman, became pregnant as a teenager and dropped out of school. “My family was disappointed. I was considered a disgrace to them...My mother was shattered…I was devastated. It became even worse when I was forced into early marriage. It was like throwing my life away and being another statistic…In the community, with friends, established relationships were broken. I was forced into isolation…During the sessions with IsraAID, I made friends whose situation was like mine or even worse. Together as a group, we built a family. The sessions have had a positive impact on my life. I have found inner peace, strength, and resilience to bounce back and make the best out of life…I have decided to enroll [myself in school] so I can further my education…I feel grateful and empowered to achieve the best I can. It feels like I have been awakened to pursue something. The IsraAID team has created the foundation for my friends and me.”
Thank you for your support of these essential programs in Sierra Leone!
IsraAID Staff leads psychosocial support sessions