LIFT a Village
Ali is a shy, lanky, two-year-old boy who looks down at the ground when he talks to you. He’s very respectful. As he mixes mortar to pave the roads in his neighborhood, I asked him why he is not at school. “I don’t go to school”, he said. Instead, his parents send him to a Madrasa, a sort of Islamic “bible study,” where he spends an hour each day memorizing sections of the Qur’an. He will likely continue mixing mortar for the rest of his life. Once he is older, he will get paid for his back-breaking work, but for now, he is just considered an apprentice.
Fatmata is a shy, beautiful eleven-year-old girl who lives nearby with her grandmother because her mother either refuses or is unable to take care of her. Her grandmother practices voodoo witchcraft and, instead of sending Fatmata to school, is teaching her the ways of the craft. Part of the practice involves ceremonial mutilations and prostitution. Fatmata has never been to school and is afraid to speak or even make eye contact with you. She will likely die young without ever having the opportunity to raise herself out of her miserable situation.
Ali and Fatmata live in the West African country of Sierra Leone, best known in the U.S. from the movie Blood Diamonds. Unfortunately, the plight of children like these is mostly unknown, and therefore many children suffer without even the knowledge that there could be a better life.
My name is Aisha Koroma, and I just returned from that country. I was born there, but I escaped at the age of 12 and am now a U.S. citizen. Why did I go back? To help kids like Ali and Fatmata.
Alim Kamara, a rapper/storyteller/poet from England and Zainab Remi King a student from Memphis traveled with me to Sierra Leone in January 2014. They are friends and associates of mine in our quest to help the people of our native land.
Our trip was the result of a year’s worth of work in collecting these items along with much needed funds to support our mission. But the story begins even farther back than that. In 2000, I migrated to the United States during the civil war in my native land. As a young Sierra Leonean who witnessed horrific acts against humanity; this experience changed my outlook on life. Achieving citizenship in the U.S. made me realize our profound responsibility as American citizens to share our ample bounty with the less fortunate. I’ve vowed to always remember where I come from, and as a result I have since gone back on several occasions to help in various capacities.
From listening to the concerns of local adults and children in Freetown, I’ve gathered that compassion is a simple gift we can offer all persons during their desperate times. When you take the time to know and understand people, you open a path of rewarding encounters. Whether it’s feeding the homeless or simply talking to someone on the street, letting that person know that you acknowledge their existence is a gift that will last a lifetime. My mission is to set an example of leadership for people to take control of their lives while making a difference in the lives of others.
In 2002, Sierra Leone emerged from a long and violent civil war that displaced two million people, killed more than 50,000 and fostered widespread abuse of human rights. With an infant mortality rate of 76.64 deaths per 1,000 births, Sierra Leone is ranked number one in the world in both post-birth maternal deaths and infant mortality rate. Twenty one percent of children under the age of five are malnourished and underweight. Just two years ago, the life expectancy was just 37 years; hence, Sierra Leone held the record for the world’s shortest life expectancy.
In a country where more than 70 percent of the population is unemployed and 30 percent of children do not live past the age of 5, it’s quite clear that Sierra Leone should be a top priority in terms of humanitarian aid. Though the United Nations (UN) is doing as much as it can for Sierra Leone, we shouldn’t limit the sources for help to just the UN and other non-governmental organizations. If each and every one of us would do our part in paying our due diligence to humanity, then a country like Sierra Leone, full of natural resources would not be ranked as one of the poorest countries in the world. For example, if someone invested a little time educating Sierra Leoneans about the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, 49,000 of them might be spared from living with HIV/AIDs today.
According to the United Nations’ Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) institute for statistics, the percentage of girls/women ages 15-24 who can, with understanding, read and write short simple statements is only 28.9 percent. If past generations of Sierra Leoneans were taught how to utilize their natural resources, 70 percent of the country’s population would not be below the poverty line today. Let us all join hands in helping the next generation prepare for a prosperous Sierra Leone and Africa as a whole.
LIFT a Village
I founded LIFT a Village (LIFT) in October 2012. LIFT stands for Lead, Ignite Feed and Teach and campaign to raise funds and awareness to minimize illiteracy and create better living conditions for children and young adults in African urban/rural areas. The aims to empower, motivate and educate students by providing resources needed for them to succeed academically and in life.
All children deserve an opportunity to live, hope, and pursue their dreams in life. That’s why here at LIFT, we work tirelessly to touch lives and make a positive difference in African villages. Every year, LIFT hopes to make it possible for underprivileged children to lay hold of the tools they need to surmount the enemies of genuine advancement such as poverty, illiteracy, hopelessness and the lack of vision these tend to spawn.
Our vision is to eradicate illiteracy by giving every child in underdeveloped African countries the opportunity to earn a quality education and live a normal life in suitable conditions.
As mentioned, in January of this year, LIFT in collaboration with A-Scholars International founded by British poet, rapper, and storyteller Alim Kamara, traveled to Sierra Leone with the intention to help with the very little that we collected. With the help of generous individuals, we were able to provide clothing, shoes, toys, school supplies, food, personal hygiene products, and other much needed items to 817 students in the northern village of Gbinti. I was also fortunate to host an event with Zainab Remi King, founder of Community Empowerment through Education (C.E.T.E) at Bottom School in Freetown in which 120 students were served breakfast and provided stationery.
Along with a team of volunteers, LIFT also traveled 715 miles within six districts in Sierra Leone, made ten stops in rural areas including Makeni, Ma-Gbalay Junction plus 3 neighboring villages, Kroo Bay, Alusainya (Kabala), Yele (Bo), Kenema, and Lawson Lane and impacted more than 1,000 lives. The team paid school fees for 408 students, provided school supplies and personal hygiene items to over 300 children, fed 270, and clothed more than 550 individuals in the locations listed above.
Education is the road that children follow to reach their full potential in life. Yet many children around the world do not get a quality education where they can learn and develop to advance learning. LIFT has sponsorship programs that provide safe, nurturing schools for children whose families have little or no economic means. We also support educational programs for children in the classroom and at home by:
- Training teachers to engage students through effective teaching practices;
- Empowering parents and caregivers with the necessary tools to provide a strong desire and foundation for early childhood learning;
- Introducing children to the power of artistic expression through fine arts.
- Promoting stability in the face of economic crisis for the continuation of education.
- Providing nutritious meals at no cost to stimulate brain power.
Gender Focus: Hearts 2 Hearts
The Hearts 2 Hearts (H2H) program focuses on empowering, uplifting and encouraging young women to acknowledge their true potential. The essential goal is to encourage women to use their voices to impact their lives and that of others. From a very young age I learned that society stamps labels on women and as a result, can lead to a phenomenon called self-helplessness. I observed that many young women with great potential allow the ‘labels’ of society to negatively impact their lives.
Many of the ladies I met were young teen mothers without resources for obtaining an education; those who had resources lacked determination. Some of the main issues that the country faces in the female gender sector are teen pregnancy, maternal mortality, gender violence (particularly rape and abuse), and illiteracy.
With sufficient funds, the right educational programs, and voices to speak out, we can help reduce teen pregnancy rates, the heartbreaking death rate of women during and after childbirth, illiteracy and the significantly low life expectancy rate of children in Sierra Leone.
Our goals for the coming year include providing the following items and services to 1,000 students in ten schools:
- academic scholarships
- basic life necessity personal items
- sex education
- programs for extra-curricular activities
- classes on self-motivation
- school supplies
Ways to get involved
In order to successfully carry out the plans stated above, we need help. Help from individuals, companies, and the community as a whole.
Today I am reaching out to request for assistance that will aid in the fight to make life a bit better for the underprivileged.
As each school year approaches, many students face the worry of not being able to attend school due to the lack of supplies. Please help make this school year a better one for many underprivileged students by donating school supplies and funds to purchase supplies. Below you’ll find a list of things considered to be immediate needs for the students:
- Drawstring backpacks
- Scientific calculators
- Khaki uniform pants
- Bar soaps
- Hot Cocoa packs
- Lipton tea bags
- Canned Tuna
- Individual sugar packs
You can also help ease some of the daily life struggles of helpless children by offering to be an annual academic sponsor for as little $15 ($5 tuition only) per elementary student, $28 ($18 tuition only) per middle school student, and $33 ($23 tuition only) per high school student. Your support provides:
- Annual tuition
- Extracurricular activities
When children find out they’ve been sponsored, the joy they feel is indescribable. Just knowing that someone across the globe cares means more than you can imagine. Sponsoring a child will profoundly change the future for him or her, and will change your own.
If interested in sponsoring one of our schools, the immediate needs for the schools are listed below:
- Solar-powered classrooms
- Chalk and blackboard
- Classroom furniture
- Electronic devices such as computers, tablets, laptops
- Sponsor a teacher (Sponsorship includes paying their salary and providing the necessary tools to become better equipped educators ($93.75 per term and $281.25 per year)
If you or someone you know will be interested in assisting, you may contact at LIFT at email@example.com
For more information about the project and other ways to get involved please us today at www.liftavillage.org We are so grateful to all the generous individuals who have already stepped forward to make a difference in the world and looking forward to your involvement.
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