Saturday, July 7, 2007

Background Information

This blog was created to share information with schools, family and friends while I am in Sierra Leone. The following letter was written to friends before my exploratory visit in March 2007. It provides background information on my involvement in this project, which has changed substantially since the letter was written. Plans for my upcoming trip in September follow the letter.

Jan 29, 2007

My news and a heads up. I'm going to Sierra Leone in West Africa for three weeks in March. Why? This is an incredibly interesting and hopeful time for Sierra Leone, emerging as it is from ten years of civil war. While still ranked the second poorest country in the world with a life expectancy of 40, highest infant mortality rate, 30% of the population displaced, traumatized child combatants and victims, and a literacy rate under 30%, there has been a relative level of stability, elections scheduled for July, a strengthening civil society, and key issues leading to the civil war such as control of the diamond mining areas receiving international attention and action. The country is home to valuable natural resources, which have historically been exploited (see the "blood diamonds" websites below).

So what will I be doing? I'll be visiting the rural centre of the country, which was devastated by the civil war. This is the former home of Thomas and Mary Turay, who are planning to eventually return to rebuild a rural-focused Centre for Development and Peace Education (the centre they used to run was destroyed by rebels during the war). I'm going to represent Peaceful Schools International and will be meeting with schools, communities, leaders, local NGOs; learning, listening, documenting all I can; and finding ways to create longer-term relationships of solidarity.

I'm writing to you, my friends, to let you know that I'll be away and to invite you to be involved in whatever way you can. Some suggestions:

Learn about Sierra Leone and the actions of NGOs and community groups addressing the role of Canadian mining corporations. See websites below.

Donate to the work of grassroots indigenous NGOs in Sierra Leone. 100% of funds raised for Sierra Leone by Peaceful Schools International will go directly to support the Centre for Development and Peace. I'm covering costs of the trip myself so all money raised will go to work on the ground. Donations for the Centre for Development and Peace are tax-deductible. Cheques for this work made out to Peaceful Schools International and earmarked Sierra Leone can be mailed to PSI, PO Box 660, Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, B0S 1A0.

Help with the documenting. I'm looking for a digital video and still camera to borrow and take with me, and welcome help with editing and web publishing on my return. I'll also be inviting you all to a follow-up slide show and talk.

If you are a teacher, invite me to come speak to your class as part of African Heritage Month. I'm putting together a presentation suitable for students from elementary up and will, with your permission, invite students to create messages for children in Sierra Leone.

There are thousands of websites dealing with Sierra Leone. Here are a few of interest.

A collection of photos
Canadian Mining Called to Account - Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace

Green Diamonds - Blood Diamonds by One Sky
The Heart of the Matter (Canadian mining in Sierra Leone) by Partnership Africa Canada

Diamonds and Human Security by Partnership Africa Canada

On regulating diamond mining by Partnership Africa Canada
UNICEF report
Children and armed conflict - UN committee
Children (Peace Diaries)
Reuters Alternet - UNDP statistics
Centre for Development and Peace

(End of initial explanatory letter. See the schools twinning page for more internet links.)


I will return to Sierra Leone in September 2007, as the volunteer manager of the International Partnerships Department for cdpeace and PSI volunteer. While in Sierra Leone, my main priorities will be to:

Establish and support cdpeace international partnerships:

  • Immersion learning of language, culture, communities, organizations
    • live in the communities of Mapaki and Makonkorie and learn Temne
    • share information through internet, slideshows, talks, etc.
  • Establish linkages and liaise between Canadian and Sierra Leonean organizations
    • schools (primary, secondary, and higher education)
    • community groups
    • funding agencies
    • cdpeace construction

Support peace/education school twinning at pilot schools:

  • Teacher training in peace education and other areas
    • needs assessment and weekly teacher workshops at pilot schools
    • model peace education activities with students
  • Exchange student-created peace education resources
    • letters between student groups
    • books of information about community peace efforts
    • photos, videos and/or internet exchanges
  • Support re-building of schools/materials
    • organize distribution of container materials
    • liaise with community Parent-Teacher Organizations re building process
  • Establish community library in Mapaki
    • organize books arriving on the container
    • set-up for community access
    • create “book mobile” for pilot school communities

Support community development initiatives:

  • Support re-establishment of community women’s initiatives
    • organize distribution of container materials
    • support as needed/requested
  • Provide logistical support for local development initiatives
    • set up solar power, word-processing, internet communication
    • provide support to local development planning as needed
Please check back frequently as I post updates on the above. Thanks!
Project Funding
September 1, 2007

A few people have asked how this work is being funded and what funding is still needed. The truth is that so far, we have not directed our energy towards fund-raising and we do need help with this. Essentially, the work I'll be doing is self-funded (I am on an unpaid leave from my teaching position).

We have two main priorities for raising money and welcome help with this. Our first priority is to rebuild the Centre for Development and Peace Education, which will enable Thomas and Mary to return and the work of the centre to continue. Once the centre is built, it will generate the funds needed to carry out its development and education projects. Our second priority is to fund development and peace education programmes of the centre while it is being built. So far people and groups have been contributing funds to specific projects such as a scholarship to enable women to become teachers, money for school needs (supplies and rebuilding), replacing the goats which were killed during the war, building a combined library/guest house, shipping the container, providing materials for a solar water still, solar power, etc. All of the money we've raised so far has come from individuals, schools, or community groups. We hope to apply to foundations or institutions and would welcome help with this. Samples of what we hope to raise include $2 000 for women teacher scholarships, $25 000 for cdpeace main building construction, $14 000 for schools, $4 000 for shipping and delivery of the container. We are also developing a funding proposal for the voluntary sector fund of CIDA for integrated education and agricultural work and would need to raise matching funds for this.Donations to any aspect of our work can be made through Peaceful Schools International, PO Box 660, Annapolis Royal, NS, Canada, B0S 1A0. Donations are tax-deductible and 100% of contributions go directly to the project.