This is Sierra Leone!
May 31st 2017. CAC’s Jordan Stephenson wrote about his experience in Freetown, Sierra Leone working with our fantastic partner Street Soccer Foundation, Sierra Leone.
The first thing you notice when arriving in Sierra Leone is that it is an adventurous nation! From walking off the plane and getting hit with a wall of heat – you know you’ve landed in the right place! The great thing about arriving in Freetown is that you need to take 3 modes of transport to get there: once arriving at the airport you take a short bus journey to the beach and from there you get on a boat which travels for 30 minutes across the ocean into Freetown! Being a Newcastle United supporter, when arriving at the hotel I immediate was caught up in a debate about who Rafa Benitez should be bringing in next season following our promotion to the Premier League, from then I knew this was a nation of sport lovers! Therefore it seems like an appropriate place to be doing our line of work…
The training consisted of 100 community coaches and Physical Education teachers from all across the country who’s passion and love of sport exemplified the spirit of the nation. We were lucky enough to have the training in the National Football Stadium, and although the pitch wasn’t what you’d expect to be an international venue to be like, it provided a wonderful amphitheater for the weeks training.
Mr Abu Johnson, CEO of Street Soccer Foundation highlighted that “this is the first time that the people of Sierra Leone are having training on a national level to cultivate the energy of change agents to create long term sustainable change through sport”. I certainly felt like it was very important to the nation as we were greeted with journalists from TV and radio who wanted to know what we were trying to achieve and how we’re trying to achieve it – that even meant sitting watching myself on TV and on the radio!
The training itself was a huge success as we explored the ways that the communities in Sierra Leone can embrace sport as an essential vehicle to achieve strong development goals, with an important aspect being one of including community elders and village chiefs within discussions and programs, especially so they can see the value of education through sport as that is something they never experienced growing up.
A stand out memory for me was a discussion about the number of children people had across Sierra Leone and the impact that has on communities. It was said that in urban communities, like Freetown, it is more beneficial to have less children as it costs more to feed children and it becomes harder for families to send their children to school due to tuition fees; whereas in remote parts of the community, children are seen as assets to the family as they can be used as labor to harvest food, farming and for street traders in order to bring in more income to the family, at the expense of a quality education.
Looking forward at the three year partnership we have with Street Soccer Foundation, it is very exciting to see how the 100 participants are continuing to be supported and that more community legacies can be created through sport. Street Soccer Foundation are working tirelessly to continue to engage stakeholders such as Sierra Leone Football Association, Ministry of Sport and Ministry of Education in order to have a country wide effort to tackling social change through sport.
And to all of the people of the peaceful nation of Sierra Leone.. Thank you!