The international headlines are almost inevitable with Sierra Leone: ‘shock as blood-diamond-war-torn country manages to build a road / vote in peace / attract investment / make it through to the weekend’ etc…
The expected pre-requisite ‘war-ravished’ tag is clearly a hard one to shake. But in a week where Syria, the DRC and other Middle Eastern & African states become less secure, Sierra Leone’s security and potential has taken a not so small step forward.
A passion for politics
The election last week was the third vote since the war ended 12 years ago and the first one that has been ‘self-organised.’ On arrival into Freetown we got stuck in the final Sierra Leone People Party’s (SLPP) rally – the main opposition to the governing APC. A green sea of campaigners, dancers, ‘devils’ and whistle-blowers engulfed us we tried to make a break for the beach. Election day in John Obey at the new community centre was quiet and patient as men and women of all ages queued in hot sun to finger print the ballot boxes. APC and the re-election of Ernest Bai Koroma was the popular choice at the ‘exit-polls’ at this outpost. And so it seemed win John Obey and win the election as the results were announced – not that night – but 8 days later to jubilation in Freetown and beyond. Let’s see what this new political hope brings.
Stop the ‘san san’
One thing we hope the government brings fast is new job opportunities for the youth of John Obey who currently are spending most of their time digging sand from our neighboroughing beach for trucks in town. This is a big battle and one that any future sustainability development in the area – be it tourism or other resource – must be won, and soon. We’re doing our bit to fight it, as our Community Development volunteer Eimer Peters explains.
At Tribewanted the focus is on the 25-strong team’s development. Which to start with means introducing a full disciplinary process for staff, including verbal and written warnings. So far it seems to be having the necessary impact as it is implemented by our now General Manager Ibrahim Fatorma. Alongside this we are working on increasing the training at John Obey – lessons and workshops range from understanding what employment, contracts and budgets are and how to build a good team. Each employee has a ‘progress card’ reviewing his or her work and sets goals for the areas and skills they would like to develop. This all sounds run of the mill but remember most of these guys didn’t go to school (minimal literacy) and grew up during the war (lack of role models) – so any structure in their lives is a new concept and takes time to settle.
Meet the John Obey team I spent the last two weeks with.
There has been lots of other progress on maintenance jobs (water wells, solar house, beach huts etc…), organisation structure and community relations but as with all things in Salone – it’s very much ‘small small.’
One thing that does constantly change is the natural environment at the beach – we ‘busted the river’ last week to prevent flooding in the village – last week alone I saw a cameleon, crocodile, monkey, big storms, wild rivers, vast trees and a million ants. For food, sunlight, noise and colour, life on this West African beach is hard to beat.