It is still dark outside at 4:30am when Peter J. Bokarie, known affectionately as PJB in his home village of Mamboma, wakes andprepares himself for theday to come. PJB starts his day with morning prayers at the nearby church, where he also serves as a pastor. He then returns home to his wife, daughter, and four sons to eat breakfast. PJB assists his wife to prepare their children for school. Mornings are a busy time and PJB always seeks to get the most out of every day.
At around 8:00, PJB makes a round of the community to monitor community projects.
Recently, he has been observing the use of the newly-constructed latrines throughout the community. PJB takes great pride in his role as a monitor, as he himself worked hand-in-hand with OVP and his community to increase Mamboma’s latrine coverage to 100%.
Every day, PJB has some sort of meeting to attend at one of the many gathering places called baffas scattered throughout Mamboma. Today, PJB meets with the Paramount Chief of Peje Bongre Chiefdom, a strong ally of OVP, to discuss community undertakings and concerns.
In Sierra Leone, community members are often not included in decisions that impact the community and chiefdom. After their involvement with OVP, the Paramount Chief consults with PJB to make decisions and solve problems, and PJB has even been given the status to vote on proposed legislation.People from the community come to PJB to share their beliefs and challenges with him and trust that he will be a fair and considerate leader.
PJB’s late mornings and afternoons are spent farming, but not only in his own fields. PJB holds responsibilities in many farmers’ groups to mobilize members and share in the farming work. Recently, the youths of Mamboma appointed PJB to lead the Technical Assistance Foundation, a group that works to increase the yields of individual cocoa plantations in the community. Many mornings, you can find PJB organizing the group and working with them in the cocoa fields.
Today, PJB meets with the Sinava Group, a group of Nurturing Opportunities for Women program graduates. PJB serves as the trusted chairman for this group. The group formed a rice cooperative and received plots and rice seeds as a loan. They will pay back this investment over time, as well as save the excess income to support group members in times of struggle and fund community development projects. PJB and the women work together to weed their field and clear the brush that slowly creeps towards the succulent soils of the rice beds. Lively banter accompanies the squelch and gargle of mud beneath the workers’ feet.
When he is through attending farmers’ groups meetings, PJB stops at home for a small rest and lunch before heading off to tend to his own fields. He is a farmer by profession, and grows crops including palm, rice, cassava, groundnut, sweet potato, and other vegetables. Any of the produce that is not consumed in the home is sold in Mamboma for additional income to pay for school fees, household goods, construction, and anything else. He works on his farm until returning home to his family by 5:00.
After a long day of leadership activities, meetings, and farming, PJB comes home at 5:00 to relax and spend time with his loved ones. He chats with his family about the day and assists his children with their schoolwork. He eats dinner, and then goes through town to talk with his friends about goings-on in Mamboma. As darkness falls over the village, PJB reaches home for the last time today at 8:00. He helps put his children to sleep, reads his bible, and reflects on the day.
PJB is proud that he has many responsibilities. He knows that he misses time with his family for much of the day, but his wife is supportive of his leadership roles. She is equally proud of the family’s strong communication and well-respected status in the community. PJB believes that working with OVP has encouraged him to harness his leadership potential and use it for the good of his family and community.
PJB tells us: “I am making use of the skills from the Community Action Group by applying them in my daily life and as a result, I am getting rewards from the whole community. I have learned that money is not what makes us happy, but having respect and being trusted by your community in both big and small things brings much more happiness and self-esteem. I feel overjoyed that I am such a respected leader and role model to the community and to our children. It is my hope that I can continue to be a leader and see Mamboma develop.”