Robert, like many men in his village and in the eastern region of Sierra Leone is a farmer, working mostly on cash crops such as cocoa and rice. His community of Ngolahun suffered greatly during the Ebola virus outbreak in 2014, in which about 58 people died, largely because of the lack of understanding of the importance of improved sanitation. Due to this lack of understanding, many village members were still openly defecating and did not prioritize health, by saving money to build latrines. According to Robert, the community as a whole had a very limited understanding of its needs and the importance of working together to achieve collective goals. Robert was inspired by OneVillage Partners’ commitment to community-led development, in which the communities themselves use their own hands to implement projects. Robert took it upon himself to inspire others.
Through the LEARN process in the preliminary stages of OneVillage Partners’ work, where elected community volunteers map their communities and learn about their resources and needs, Robert was able to see the importance of sanitation. He also started to learn about effective communication and began attempting this both in his community work and at home. At this time, Ngolahun was still facing much residual division following the civil war and it also lacked a sense of collective community spirit. Even once his community decided to focus their project around latrine construction, the volunteers of the Community Action Group still faced challenges in mobilizing the necessary resources. Robert dedicated himself to this task and volunteered more time, providing necessary resources, and encouraging others to do the same.
Through the precedent set by Richard, Ngolahun has seen the effective completion of the latrine construction and the community has begun to prioritize health and sanitation needs. Following the success of the project, the community has even decided to remove all domestic animals from the center of the village, to minimize contamination from animal feces. Robert believes that when you increase community knowledge on real development, you naturally inspire the greater interest, ownership, and pooling of resources necessary to ensure a sustainable project.