Junior proposes initiatives in Sierra Leone


Last week junior Musa Kpaka presented to a group in Gaiser Auditorium about his Youth Development Initiatives in Sierra Leone, a national project that helps young people design and implement community service projects. Junior proposes initiatives in Sierra

Kpaka was one of two Whitman students who submitted a winning proposal to the “100 Projects for Peace” competition and was awarded $10,000 to implement his project over the summer.

Kpaka sought to design a project that would improve his war-torn home country of Sierra Leone and that would empower young people. He also aimed to create a grassroots program that bypasses bureaucratic obstacles that hinder action.

Sierra Leone’s infrastructure has been damaged by years of war and corruption and is ranked 176 out of 177 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index, which measures things such as education, standard of living and life expectancy.

“I think the whole process itself was very challenging. Really the challenge was first writing the proposal, and then once I got that, it was really about how I was going to be able to implement this,” said Kpaka.

“Mostly that was very challenging given the circumstances back home as well, because while I was doing the project it, was also during the election process, and there was a lot of violence.”

Kpaka traveled the country, visiting schools to invite them to his three-day National Youth Empowerment Workshop.

“It took me a while to be able to get across the country to visit all the schools that I invited. And the other challenge is coming up with a group of people back home that could relate to what I was saying, to the idea and to the message I was bringing, and that would help me,” said Kpaka.

The workshop was attended by 150 students and 15 teachers, as well as by speakers from the government and from the United Nations Children’s Fund.

Attendees were trained to be community peer health educators and to design their own community service projects. Kpaka challenged the students to come up with a project and awarded $500 to the winning proposal.

The winning project was a grassroots campaign that targeted malaria with mosquito nets.

The workshop marked the start of the Youth Development Initiatives. Both the attendees and the nation showed overwhelming interest and support.

The goal now is to raise funds so that Kpaka can return in December to launch at least one project in each of the 14 districts. The hope is that, once the results are presented to the government and local donors, the YDI will be adopted by them and will be less dependent on external donors.

“When I launched the program back home, I made a pronouncement to the whole country, saying, you know what, you can give money to youth and they are able to change things. So the idea was that people back home would get inspired and do the same thing. Reports I’m getting are not very positive,” said Kpaka. “Nobody’s really willing to give money yet. The thing is they know it’s a good project, but they just want that extra push. They want to see the next step and are waiting to see it.”