African artist’s work benefits Sierra Leone
The story of Africa Yes is really the story of the remarkable village of Gbeworbu (BEH-wuh-boo), which hosted Peace Corps Volunteer Steve Cameron from 1989 to 1991. The partnership that resulted has withstood the intervention of a brutal civil war and thirteen years of separation. The villagers continue to demonstrate their resilience, determination, and work ethic as they rebuild and move forward.
The first project that grew out of the partnership between Steve and his hosts was a Village Health Worker program to provide low-cost basic medicines and medical advice from the book Where There is No Doctor. This was begun at the request of the villagers themselves — Steve’s primary project was outside the village, supervising a water project in a nearby town. Other villages heard about the program and asked to participate. Eventually, there were 14 villages in the area with Village Health Workers, and another 11 on the waiting list. The project was interrupted when the civil war in Liberia spilled into Sierra Leone. The villagers had to flee, and the country’s Peace Corps volunteers were evacuated. It would be 13 years before the horrific war-by-proxy would end.In the meantime, Steve returned to the United States and continued to try and make contact with his friends back in Sierra Leone. He exchanged letters with Munir Korma and Fodei Mansararay, and tried to send funds to support the Village Health Worker project.
But without the infrastructure for reliable communication and funds transfer, often the best that could be done was to say a prayer over an aerogramme with cash inside. Back in North Carolina, Steve reconnected with Braima Moiwai, a native Sierra Leonean who travelled back each year and was able to relay messages. And then one day Steve picked up his ringing telephone to hear Munir’s voice on the other end–Braima had given Munir Steve’s phone number, and expanding cellular phone service and availability meant that immediate communication was now a possibility. And so the seeds of Africa Yes! were sown.
The story of Africa Yes is really the story of the remarkable village of Gbeworbu (BEH-wuh-boo), which hosted Peace Corps Volunteer Steve Cameron from 1989 to 1991.
The partnership that resulted has withstood the intervention of a brutal civil war and thirteen years of separation. The villagers continue to demonstrate their resilience, determination, and work ethic as they rebuild and move forward.
Africa Yes! was officially founded in 2006 by Steve Cameron and Braima Mowai. They were soon joined on their informal board of directors by Juliet Jensen, a 1988 Duke University graduate and community activist. They applied for and received 501c(3) status as a non-profit organization in 2009. In the U.S., Africa Yes! is entirely a volunteer organization, so all donated funds are funneled directly into projects in the villages. Projects are conceived and directed by the villagers themselves, who have shown time and again that even small allocations of resources can be translated into big changes in individual lives.
An exciting new partnership has recently been forged between Africa Yes and Betsy Small-Campbell, a long-time supporter who was also a Peace Corps volunteer in Sierra Leone. Her own village of Tokpombu has requested help rebuilding their court barrie, which was destroyed in the war. As this aligns with the mission of Africa Yes, we have arranged to accept donations for this project, and Fodei has agreed to direct the construction effort. So far, funds totaling more than $1000 have been raised by Betsy and by Julia Emerson, a high school senior who did her senior project on development efforts in West Africa. Fodei has visited the village and met with the town elders to organize the work. Collection of materials is already taking place.
Africa Yes! funds a variety of programs in several villages in eastern Sierra Leone including rebuilding houses, creating a micro-credit loan program to create businesses, funding health clinics and schools and fostering sustainable agriculture.