Madina is a small village in the Peje West Chiefdom of the Kailahun District. Like many other communities in rural Sierra Leone, Madina has experienced much political division, heightened by a high illiteracy rate. Many young people lost faith in their leadership, and people, like Henry Gbevo, felt restricted from seeking leadership positions. Despite these challenges, Henry hoped that someday his community would be united and pioneer community mobilization.
That fortune of hope finally arrived when Henry’s community was selected to work with OneVillage Partners in the Community Action Program. Henry attended the first meeting with mixed feelings, given the previous experience of meetings in Madina where free speech had been stifled. He quickly understood that his voice would be heard and signed up to become a volunteer for the Community Action Group. He became motivated and committed himself to be in Madina’s first ever Community Action Group to effect change in his community. His involvement in the Community Action Group raised his level of awareness and increased his knowledge of leadership and community mobilization.
Henry realized the need for his increased commitment and became so passionate about development work, motivating colleagues and mobilizing the community for meetings. Through his efforts he was selected as secretary of the Community Action Group. Alongside this work, Henry created two communal work groups and mobilized 150 women to form three saving groups where members regularly meet to contribute and save for future plans and lend to group members from the group’s savings.
However, as Henry’s passion grew, community motivation dropped, making Henry doubt his ability as a leader. He began to realize that he was dedicating much of his free time to his community and sacrificing his work on his farm. When members of the savings groups he had created began to drop out, Henry consulted his colleagues in the Community Action Group and re-planned his activities in the community. He decided to look beyond these challenges and continued his commitment to fostering change in Madina. He took the bold step of accepting additional leadership responsibilities in the town including the position of Community Sanitary Officer. In this role, he educated community members on handwashing, use of toilet training seats for children, dangers of open defecation, and wellbeing. Henry also monitored the completed OneVillage Partners project and served as the lead to enforce by-laws on latrine use and proper hygiene practices in Madina.
Little by little Henry began to believe in himself, and as he truly saw himself as a leader, his community gained confidence in him. His efforts sharpened community members’ minds to apply commitment to saving their money, cooperate in general community works, and adopt personal hygienic and sanitary practices in their households. As a result of Henry’s examples and efforts, his community is more financially stable, with 150 people saving money. Henry’s leadership qualities have inspired many people in Madina to mobilize the community for work and properly save their earnings. “My financial advice helped my neighbor Watta Brima to budget her income and be able to save for future use which has improved the livelihood standard of her and her four children,” Henry proudly stated. He realized that the more committed a person is to achieving his/her dream, the clearer the possibility is to create a total community change.