By Linda Svitak and David Feroe, 2017 Travelers
In November, we traveled with OneVillage Partners to Sierra Leone, exploring Yandohun and the neighboring villages. Through our experiences we formed two strong impressions.
First, we affirmed what we had heard many times—from everyone who has visited the villages—that the people are remarkable and deserving of support to overcome the devastation that a brutal civil war and an Ebola outbreak caused. Second, OneVillage Partners changes lives. It has the programs and staffing to capably support sustainable development in the rural villages of Sierra Leone.
Meeting the people, living in their homes, and participating in community life demonstrated to us the resiliency, resourcefulness and generosity of the villagers. The villages are proud and hardworking, mutually supporting communities. In talking to farmers, teachers, children and chiefs, we came to understand that the villagers do not want anything that they can provide for themselves. For example, when latrines are built, the villagers design the construction, provide the labor, and supply the mud bricks. OneVillage Partners, in turn, supplies the concrete for the flooring and zinc metal roofing, materials that cannot be locally sourced. This way of working fosters self-reliance and efficiently leverages the financial support that OneVillage Partners provides. Consequently, 20 villages with a population of 22,000 have benefited from OneVillage Partners programs.
Traveling to Sierra Leone with OneVillage Partners rewarded us with an abundance of proof that sustainable development is working. Because of OneVillage Partners, a traveler arriving in Yandohun is greeted as friend- with a triple hand shake- trust already having been established. It is possible to measure the results of OneVillage Partners’ programs, both with quantifiable methods and through the observer’s eye. All the supported villages are advancing, particularly in the public health domain, with the resultant decline in the incidence and mortality associated with diarrhea among young children. The economy is evolving from subsistence agriculture to a cash crop economy, predicated on rice and palm oil. The additional resources are being invested in education to increase the productivity of the next generation. The village of Mamboma has gone furthest in working to diversify its economy with new manufacturing experiments, involving soap and cassava cereal production.
The NOW program is broadly strengthening women, families, and communities. We hear voices growing stronger, see skills and confidence increasing. We heard testimony from participants that family budgeting methods are improving and school enrollment is increasing (only grades 1 – 6 are free). Neighboring villages not yet participating in OneVillage Partners programs express the hope of becoming involved, because they have seen what a collaboration with OneVillage Partners can do.
Need exists around the world, including in our own country, but OneVillage Partners has proven to us that it changes lives- effectively and efficiently addressing the needs of the people it serves which—as we think about it—makes its quite unique and worth expanding through continued financial support by people like us. Ka-ayin gaOma. (Excellent!)