Yambasu Jina is a volunteer Community Action Group member in Ngolahun where the community recently began construction on 105 latrine pits that will lead to 100% latrine coverage for all the households. Before we started work in Ngolahun, Yambasu was not involved in community development – he was a young guy, somewhat reserved, who had never really been given the chance to be involved. During OVP’s Community Action Group selection process in Ngolahun, Yambasu requested for the chance to be selected – he was very eager. He was given the opportunity to be involved after an interview with me even though he didn’t have any experience.
Selecting Community Action Group members from diverse backgrounds, education, and experience is very important to us, in addition to ensuring equal representation of both males and females in the group. We have found that this diversity creates room for new and emerging community role models and leaders to be born. Having people come from different backgrounds also helps to develop cooperation and unity. The Community Action Group members see that their differences are not a barrier to achieving success together. Working towards a single goal, they are able to accept one and other and this helps the community to see things in a very different way.
In the early stages of our facilitation training with the Community Action Group, Yambasu was quiet and not very involved – you could tell this was a new environment for him. As the training progressed, he started improving gradually and now, Yambasu is an inspiring Change Agent and role model for his community. As a spirited partner for OVP, he has taken on the role of monitoring all the project materials during implementation of the latrine project – without even being asked to do so. We gave Yambasu a comfortable space to be a leader, provided an opportunity for him to participate and gave him a chance to use his voice.
Leadership in Sierra Leone often only focuses on bettering a selected few – traditional leaders don’t look out for the entire community and they act in a very authoritative way. Due to the nature of leadership within communities, there are a lot of strain and disunity. We have found that through facilitation trainings, Community Action Group members develop skills as facilitators that they can use in their community to be leaders in development. The Community Action group leads in a different way, they become very consultative and allow community people to come forward with their own ideas.
Ultimately, OVP’s openness and impartial selection of the Community Action Group and training to be a facilitative leader is what allowed Yambasu to realize his leadership capability. If our process only looked for experienced leaders, think of all the innovative and motivated Change Agents that may never have an opportunity to shine!
Introducing OVP NOW Project Coordinator: Sheku M. Gassimu
Sheku M. Gassimu is the Community Projects Supervisor from Kenema, Sierra Leone. Sheku shares that OVP’s approach is different, it is inclusive and very transparent to the community members. Sheku says he is motivated every day by learning new things and seeing the community’s transformation.
Something you might not know about Sierra Leone? Sheku shares…
Traditionally in Sierra Leone men are highly influential and have access and control over resources whereas women do not. Before the war, village Chiefs (strictly men) had complete authority over the community, even taking young men to court when they tried to marry women in the community that they didn’t approve of. The young men couldn’t afford to fight the Chiefs in court, so they fled the area and came back as rebels to gain revenge. Since the war, people here have returned to their villages and they are now recognizing the disunity that the traditional leadership structure has caused. Many NGOs come into Sierra Leone and work with the Chiefs, where the fruits of their labor are only shared with a select few. OVP focuses on the entire community and uses the Community Action Group as a catalyst to enact widespread change and development within communities. We involve traditional leaders but they are not the key to our success. Development is taking a different step within this area – and I believe as we move to other communities this will spread and we will see development revolutionized.