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Profiles in Courage|
Sierra Leoneans putting thier hearts, minds, and money into rebuilding SweetSalone
PROFILE: THE VISAO FOUNDATION
The Visão Foundation has been operating in Sierra Leone for a year and a half. The foundation is currently providing assistance to kids in Freetown, but will eventually like to extend to the provinces. Its initial project was a four-day camp (Camp Visão ) that brought 9-14 year olds together for an intense period of learning and exposure to a diverse array of issues and ideas.
As Sierra Leoneans working and studying abroad, we the founders (Isata Boie-Kamara in Monaco & Liesel A. Renner in New York City) have witnessed the brain drain that continues to rob the country of its most productive citizens. And we were also concious of the frustrations of those Sierra Leoneans who remain in the country but are limited by the lack of educational, professional and economic opportunities. For this reason, the Visão Foundation (Visão is Portuguese for vision) was created to help Sierra Leonean youth envision how they could be a force for change in their nation. It stresses the need for diversity of professional contributions, high moral standards, and civic responsibility in rebuilding Sierra Leone.
The best part of working in Sierra Leone is giving back to our community and seeing first hand how much of a difference a little effort can make. Our advise to Sierra Leoneans who are interested in SL but do not know where to begin is to take baby steps! Do your research, ask questions. You can’t fix everything, but you can still do something. Avoid negativity and think positive. In the next 5yrs, hopefully we would have expanded and established more programs to help improve Sierra Leone.
To find out more about the Visao Foundation, visit http://visaofoundation.org
PROFILE: PETER CONTEH (FILM MAKER) "DIAMONDS ON THE SOLES OF HER SHOES"
Being born and raised somewhere between Bo, Sierra Leone (West Africa) and Bradford (West Yorkshire, UK) has provided an interesting perspective on life for me. Studying Anthropology at Goldsmiths College and training to be a documentary filmmaker at Manchester University has served to sharpen my desire to continue making documentary films focusing onWatch his film here: http://www.beam.tv/view.php/DOTSOHS.mov?vxrSJxncsJ
contemporary cultural and political themes.
'Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes' is my third documentary; the basic premise of the film is one of tracing the route an uncut diamond makes - from extraction to its export to European cutting houses. In doing so, I aim to draw attention to an important economic issue and reveal a way of life that is rarely documented. In contrast to the mystique of 'amour' and allure that surround the gemstones in the west, for gem-exporting countries such as Sierra Leone, diamonds are associated with smuggling, war, and corruption. This film focuses on the gem's initial exchange before it is cut into a diamond, offering
an alternative view to the glamour that surrounds diamonds.
For me the contrast between the perception of diamonds as a girl's best friend, the ultimate gift of undying love; and the reality of the diamond pipeline, stones extracted from the dirt, diggers paid in cups of rice, served as an initial stimulus for this project. On a more personal level, as a born Sierra Leonean, the recent end of the country's civil war, afforded me the opportunity to travel to the diamondiferous areas where the conflict had been concentrated. The ten years of civil was primarily a struggle between rebel forces, loosely organized under the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and those loyal
to the government. The RUF funded their campaign by seizing control of the diamond-producing districts of Kono and Tongo fields; thus linking any investigation into the gem trade in Sierra Leone to the recently halted conflict.
I was curious to discover the exact role of diamonds in the civil war, how the gems were mined, who was buying the illicitly mined 'blood diamonds,' and how they were smuggled from Sierra Leone into the global market. Many reports have illustrated this phenomenon, some explicitly from an anthropological perspective, and others from a more general journalistic point of view; however apart from brief new bulletins, and photo-journalistic reports, my research had discovered no detailed visual representation of the topic.
For speaking engagements or viewings contact peter: peter.contehATgmailDOTcom
MEET BIMBOLA CARROL: The Man Who Makes the World Visit Sierra Leone
How old are you?
It’s not courteous to ask a gentleman his age. (smiles) I’m 30.
Where are you from in Sierra Leone?
I was born in the Military Hospital in Wilberforce, Freetown. I lived and schooled in the West of Freetown all my life, with the exception of Fourah Bay College.
What do you do for a living?
What inspires you to do what you do?
Not sure what you mean. If you’re asking about my 9-5 I’d say the threat of starvation and bad credit. Regarding my other interests in Sierra Leone? I think everyone has a desire at one point or another for whatever reason, to do something positive which makes a difference to their lives and that of others. I’d rather do that something in Sierra Leone.
How long did it take for you to get VSL up and running (from getting the idea to putting all the info/stuff on a site?)
I’d say nearly all my life. Since I understood the concept of beautiful, I’ve thought Sierra Leone and its people were just that. I had always wanted to do something in tourism but no idea what or how.
How did you get the idea?
Mainly, through lack of positive information on Sierra Leone on the net but more specifically, there was also a lack of travel information. VSL is the first site to provide comprehensive travel and tourism information on Sierra Leone.
What was the response/feedback on VSL when it first began?
I was totally taken aback. The response was unbelievable – very positive, folks were sending emails to me asking me to check it out. Goes to show that Sierra Leoneans were crying out for some positive information about our lovely country.
Has that changed over time?
Not really, I still get emails commending the site and folks sign the guestbook with nice words but I think we have a much more diverse audience now than when it first began. Visitor numbers have also seen none stop growth, in fact it’s growing at a faster rate now than before.
Do you get any kind of assistance to run the site (financial/otherwise)
I get a lot of support from our forum community, what we affectionately refer to as the “VSL Family”. This includes Sierra Leoneans at home and abroad and non-Sierra Leoneans who offer vital travel information and assistance to visitors – they donate a lot of their time helping others which is just great. The National Tourist Board has also been quite helpful and we have a good working relationship. Various people have also contributed images and articles. No one’s handed me a fat cheque just yet but everyone’s time is valuable so I’m very appreciative of that.
How much time weekly do you spend doing VSL related stuff?
Lots. Even this is VSL related stuff, I should be watching fat nothing on TV.
Most surprising thing that’s happened related to VSL
Not sure about the most surprising, but the documentary I took part in for the BBC ranks amongst the most exciting. I want to see so much more of Sierra Leone.
Tourism in Sierra Leone, what direction should we take?
Personally, I’m surprised that the govt has not dedicated more time and energy to developing tourism in Sierra Leone. It is documented that tourism is increasingly recognised for its potential in poverty reduction in the least developed countries. I think a proper tourism strategy should be developed which demonstrates that we have learnt from the mistakes of those before us and ensure that local communities benefit from tourism. I would like to see the rebirth of all things Sierra Leonean. Our music, history, culture, food, drinks, crafts - there is just so much we have to share with the world.
What message if any do u have for Sierra Leoneans at home/Diaspora who want to actively participate in Sierra Leone’s development
I know there are many Sierra Leoneans who want to play some sort of part but sometimes they don’t know where to start. There are interesting initiatives out there – for instance by volunteering through the Brain Gain project you can donate some time to young folks in Sierra Leone even during your holiday. We talk about these and other initiatives all the time on the VSL forum, so we’d love to welcome folks to become part of our family there as well.
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Published on: 2007-02-14 (7837 reads)[ Go Back ]