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A welcome return to Sierra Leone

 

After the Covid-19 pandemic forced a hiatus to our evaluation visits, it was exciting to head back to Sierra Leone and visit our five in country partners.

Our Africa Programme Manager, Ash Philips was joined by Katie Wilson, our Head of Fundraising and Communications, for a two-week trip to visit trainees, workshops, new business and of course our partners delivering our training projects.  

Our project cycle has been forced out of sync with the pandemic, but the trip enabled Ash and Katie to visit both current trainees and recent graduates who completed their training in the 2021 and 2022 project cycles.

In all, they met hundreds of trainees, who were studying tailoring, auto mechanic repairs, building, carpentry, catering, hairdressing, welding and electrical repair. The pair were also thrilled to see many graduates at their new places of work across the major cities in Freetown, Bo and Kenema.

Alongside this, Ash and Katie could bring all the partners together for an important network and learning session. It was a great opportunity to share ideas, project designs, and increase our partnership impact for trainees.


Meet Margaret

During the trip Ash and Katie visited our partners ECBVI and met a trainee welding group who were in the final weeks of their 12-month course. They were working hard on soldering chairs when Ash and Katie arrived, and they shared their enthusiasm for launching their new business together.

Margaret was one of the trainees. She is 28 years old and now a highly determined young woman. She left school at 18 and before starting the course, she was taking on piece meal work and felt unsure what she wanted to do with her life, but she always knew she wanted to achieve more.

When she heard the radio jingle advertising the opportunity, she jumped at the chance to join the welding course in Graffton, just outside the capital city of Freetown.

She said she wanted to prove just what women in Sierra Leone can achieve, and especially carrying out the ‘hard work just like men’ – and she says ‘maybe even better!’. She told us, “I am going to be successful. I know what I want to do, and now I know I can do it.”


Auto-mechanics in Bo City

Ash and Katie went to visit recent graduates from Mobility Sierra Leone courses.

Based in Bo City, Mobility Sierra Leone focus on enabling those with disability and their dependents to make an impact in their community and build a positive future. 

It was a pleasure to meet a number of graduate business groups during the visit. We heard first-hand how two groups have chosen to come together to maximise profit and enable them to rent a large workspace. 

In a country where 81% of the population is aged under 35 and 62% under 25, finding ways to compete in a busy market are essential – seeing the groups come together to fix motorbikes was a really encouraging sign.


Meet Isatu

Isatu is 32 years old and Ash and Katie met her when she was halfway through her 12-month hairdressing course with our partner Craftshare. Hairdressing is a trade that will become increasingly important in our mission to help more woman achieve sustainable livelihoods.

Isatu has three children and therefore the provision at Craftshare is very important to her. She told us that before she came to the project she was confused and ‘not in a good place’.

Now, she is determined to set up her own hairdressing business called ‘success’ and aims to help other women into employment and to benefit from the opportunities she has. 

 


Our evaluation visits are vital in our learning, to hear directly from our trainees about their experiences and capacity build with our partners. We look forward to visiting Uganda in the new year which will round off our visits from the 2020 and 2021 projects. 

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