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Sierra Leone: Hope after war

To look at how an educational charity is helping people to reclaim their lives after war.

by James Lamont

Suitable for Key Stage 4/5

Aims

To look at how an educational charity is helping people to reclaim their lives after war.

Preparation and materials

  • Download some pictures and a map to show the location of Sierra Leone. You might also like to download pictures from the recent war, or of UN peacekeepers.
  • For more details of the Craftshare project, see www.feedtheminds.org.uk.

Assembly

  1. Sierra Leone is a small nation in West Africa, home to 6 million people. In 2002 a brutal civil war, in which over 100,000 Sierra Leoneans died, ended with the intervention of United Nations soldiers. A special court was set up to investigate crimes committed during the war. After a drawn-out election, Earnest Bai Koroma became president, promising to cut down on corruption and human-rights abuses.
  2. Despite this, daily life in Sierra Leone is hard. The United Nations has listed it at second to bottom of its Human Development Index, which charts a nation’s development in areas including life expectancy, literacy, education, and gross domestic product. Life expectancy is a mere 41 years, just over half of that in Britain. Yet Sierra Leone is a nation with potential: it sits on huge natural resources and mineral reserves. Schools are reopening: 70,000 former combatants are now in education. Yet many former combatants, refugees and bystanders remain jobless. A major problem is the disruption of education owing to poverty, war and migration: a mere 35.1 per cent of the population are literate.
  3. In 1995 a group of Christians founded the Craftshare Vocational Training Centre. The aim was to enhance access to training and education and to improve the literacy levels and vocational skills development among young men and women. This will allow them to get jobs and help to rebuild Sierra Leone from the ashes of war, poverty and the AIDS epidemic. Classes for both adults and young people include literacy, numeracy, skills training for their sustainable development, HIV/AIDS modes of transmission and prevention, civic education such as gender issues and human rights, home management and trauma counselling.
  4. During 2009 Craftshare will help 400 young people and 400 adults, including the most disadvantaged. Located in Sierra Leone’s second city of Bo, it will allow the 800 attendees to become tailors, labourers and businesspeople. The number of total beneficiaries has been estimated at 25,000 over the city, with others benefiting from increased employment and prosperity.

    This is a good example of a better form of charity: training people to help themselves and not to rely on aid and handouts from richer nations. A literate populace will allow Sierra Leone to fully exploit her natural resources and raise the quality of life for her people. Yet Sierra Leone remains a fragile state: a return to civil war is not inconceivable. By providing vocational skills for former combatants, Craftshare reduces the risk of future war by maintaining a peaceful social order and increasing prosperity.
  5. The civil war in Sierra Leone was ended because of a large international intervention. Once again, outsiders are taking the lead in helping one of the world’s poorest nations stand tall. The path to peace is difficult, but it needs to be followed.

Time for reflection

We take our lives for granted.

Most of us will leave school being able to read and write, and take a full place in our democracy.

Take a moment to think about what your life would be like if you could neither read nor write.

If you had experienced war for most of your life.

If you lived in abject poverty, with little to eat.

Now take a moment to think about what we could do, as individuals and as a school, to help those who are so much less fortunate than we are.

Prayer

We give thanks for much that we take for granted:

for our literacy,

our schools and colleges,

our homes and families.

May those who are struggling today be granted the wherewithal to survive.

Help us to take our place,

to stand with the poor,

and further the peace of the world.
Amen.

Music

‘Peace on Earth’ by U2

‘Make me a channel of your peace’ (Hymns Old and New, 328)

Publication date: June 2009   (Vol.11 No.6)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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