Our board members are deeply tuned to the belief that we work to empower leaders in their own communities. When we travel to Sierra Leone (SL), we are focused on leadership development with our local team in Mankneh. Our trips consist of visiting the community, observing the programs, identifying challenges, training our leaders, and helping our team there work through issues and make future plans.
There are always issues. That’s quite a bold statement, but the truth of the matter is that when working in a country with such a high rate of poverty, such as Sierra Leone, people want more. We are working with our SL team to help change expectations. Impact a Life Foundation (ILF) is not there to give them things. We are there to help them understand that they matter. That without them putting in the effort, none of this would sustain. Oftentimes, non-governmental organizations (NGO) come and go, wells are installed and forgotten about – which means the wells are not maintained and they break down. What was once considered amazing, life changing work of providing clean water to a community ends up being only a temporary fix. If the communities themselves don’t have the education needed to maintain and sustain the gifts given to them, how will they grow? This is a problem we are trying to address in Sierra Leone. We have to educate. Without a focus on educating a community and empowering people to become leaders, systems break. Motivation is lost. Nothing gets done. In Mankneh, we’ve seen a poor, starving, sick community grow into a more stable, healthy, and plentiful community. We’ve set projects in motion, by way of our leadership there, and now the community is coming together as a think tank and leading new efforts to improve their village. Here’s a recent example of how our efforts are translating on the ground in Sierra Leone through the Sustainable Farming Program. ILF gave rice seeds to families who were willing to participate in our sustainable farming program and we hired a native farmer to train the villagers how to farm effectively. We gave each family a plot of land to farm with an expectation that they would give a percent of their harvest back to our program. They took the seed, and went out and farmed the land. The harvest was plentiful! The rice they provided back to ILF was used to feed the families of our elementary students at Revive Africa Christian School.
After two seasons of harvesting rice, the community came together and decided that they would plant an orchard consisting of the following:
  1. Cashews
  2. Avocado
  3. Mangoes
  4. Pawpaw
  5. Pineapples
  6. Cassava
  7. Sweet Potatoes
  8. Pears
The community members went around and collected seeds and starts, planted them, and even built a fence around the plant nursery which they set up right by the water well so they could keep the seeds and plants watered and nurture their growth. When the plants are big enough, they will transfer them to land they have set aside for their orchard. This project was completely the idea of the community members, and they implemented the whole thing. Not once did they come to us asking for money to build a fence, or money to buy some seeds or other supplies. They experienced the benefit of their work through the rice harvest, and they took it upon themselves to expand their work.
In a culture where foreigners and NGO’s are looked at as an easy source of money, we’re working to break barriers and change the expectations of the people. We wholeheartedly believe that this mode of operation, empowering the people, is the way to promote change and help communities rise out of poverty.
Our beloved friends in Sierra Leone are growing, they are taking control of their future, to be the change they want to see. They are so proud of their work. And we are SO proud of them. What a testimony to all God is doing through this ministry!