Pen Portrait: Relieving stress with ‘American Stress,’ the Foulah Town hero
It was not the visit I had hoped for. I had called the previous afternoon to confirm our meeting the next day. He sounded very lively on the phone. That night, I saw a post on Facebook entreating us to pray for him as he was sick and had been rushed to the hospital. Kelvin Kamara, also known as American Stress, the blogger who posted videos of the Flash Flood on the Foulah Town community in the central part of Freetown and saved the lives of 40 people on August 14, was now physically drained and admitted at the Satellite Clinic, Macauley Street. The hospital is not far from the area where his heroic deeds that fateful day had earned him near national acclaim. (Photo: Osman Benk Sankoh, author)
In the creation story, we were told that on the seventh day, God rested. Kelvin Kamara was no God, not even an Angel. Since August 14 when the Flash foods affected his community and now, a month later, Kelvin is still working. He continues to visit the affected persons. He has been coordinating relief services for the victims. He continues to post videos on social media, drawing attention to the devastation that affected his community. People from all walks of life have been entrusting monies into his hands to buy and cater to the needs of the victims.
When I met him at the hospital taking some intravenous drips, some tablets and resting, people were still flocking to his bedside.
He took me back to September, 2016. He witnessed when a flash flood affected some slums and he knew then that if something was not done and done properly, a disaster was around the bend. He had spent several nights with his younger brother discussing the possibility of a flood. He described the Hillside Bye-pass road as a poor job and though August 14 was a natural disaster, he blamed the contractor who constructed that road. He had lived in his community for close to 26 years. “This has never happened. It was the force of gravity that occurred and it affected my community,” American Stress said, looking stressed.
Though he is not a meteorologist, he said, “I studied the sound of the rain hitting my roof,” adding that, on August 14,” it was different. We came outside because we feared that the Hillside Bye-Pass was going to cause a problem.” He defied the torrential downpour and with his brother, they went into action, rescuing 40 persons. Regretfully, they lost one person. “Time was not in our favor to save that life and the water swept that person away,” he said. It was one life lost too many for Kelvin.
Fuhard Sesay (his younger brother also known as Young American Stress) video recorded our ordeal because we wanted people to see and be aware about what had happened to our community. We wanted them to also know that the CSE Hill-Side Bye-pass was not a good job.”The video footage was posted on social media on August 14. The next day, another one was posted and on August 16, he did interviews with the affected victims and posted them also on social media. He encouraged people to provide the victims with relief items and that though he couldn’t setup a Go Fund Me account, he would be transparent enough to assist in coordinating such support.
True to his words, he used financial donations to buy needed items, kept the receipts, and invited the community to a public donation ceremony. While some ‘briefcase NGOs’ would choose to organize such a donation under the cover of darkness, American Stress believes that image matters. He does everything in the public and keeps all parties well informed.
Four days after the Flash flood, Kelvin organized his first donation. “The initial help came from Milford Bangura in the U.S who sent $1,000. We targeted 60 persons with 30 mattresses, 60 bags of 25kg rice hundreds of bundles of sachet water and 72 ‘Ghana must go bags.’” His second was what he described as a grand donation targeting 189 affected persons. Since then, he had not known rest. Even on his hospital bed, people were sending him text messages with information on monies to be collected at Western Union or Moneygram .
Looking dazed, he told me that he would not rest until he is able to disburse and account for every single penny. “I have overworked myself .I am exhausted. I feel pains all over my body and I am cold.”
For American Stress, his selfless efforts in his Foulah Town community have no political undertone. Others would seek political favors such as becoming a Councilor or a Member of Parliament for Foulah Town. “I am not running for Councilor, I am not a Mayor nor running for parliament. I just want the President Ernest Bai Koroma to know about the plight of my people. “He also had few recommendations. For him, the three-day and seven-day nonstop rains would happen every year and we should be prepared for them. He wants proper relocation for the affected victims of the flash flood and this should be done in the Hastings airfield or Rogbangba communities.
While he was talking to me, I kept wondering why this young man would bear the pseudonym, American Stress. He told me that he believes in creativity and innovation and if he is able to make it to America, the best of his potentials would be tapped and cultivated. Originally born Abdul Maalick Kamara, he changed his name to Kelvin in 2013 because he feared that Abdul Maalick, an Islamic name, would affect his chances of traveling to the United States. He didn’t want anything linked to terrorism, even faintly.
Kelvin Kamara, the promoter and blogger, is a dynamic young man. Those he saved during the floods would probably be grateful he hadn’t made it to the USA. The forty people he rescued on August 14 are still traumatized and struggling to pick up the pieces of their tragedies; but they live to tell their stories.
Many young Sierra Leoneans today dream of leaving the country for the West .Some have even lost their lives in the process. Meeting Kelvin one-on-one, in my view, I see a young man who needs to be supported. Why not arrange for him to visit other countries to learn best practices? By so doing, American Stress could potentially contribute more to the development of our country. Is someone listening?
By Osman Benk Sankoh
Disclaimer: Osman Benk Sankoh, a former editor of Concord Times, now works with the United Nations. Sentiments expressed in this piece are his and do not reflect those of his organization.
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