Photodiary: Young people powering Sierra Leone

Recently, Diletta Morinello and Vera Borsboom travelled to Sierra Leone to visit the Queens Young Leaders project.

The project will develop the skills of 930 young men and women through training sessions at an ICT hub in Freetown and in solar powered entrepreneurship hubs in Makeni and Pujehun. As project coordinator, Vera was visiting to stay up to date with how the project was developing and providing management support for its final year to our YMCA partners. Meanwhile, Diletta was providing monitoring and evaluation skills training to our partners to enable them to measure the impact, key successes and any points of improvement of the project.

Follow their photo diary to find out more about their trip!

Day 1 – Arriving in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone.

A bit of context about the country…

Sierra Leone derives from the Portuguese ‘Sierra Lyoa’, literally translating as ‘mountains of the lion’ and given to the country at the time of colonialism.

The country currently ranks 184 out of 189 on the Human Development Index, which measures life expectancy, education, and income. Though the economy has begun to grow, the country remains one of the poorest in the world and is still recovering from a debilitating civil war which ran from 1991-2002. Most recently, Sierra Leone was hit by an Ebola outbreak in 2014/15 which killed an estimated 3,500 people.


Day 2 – A full day of meetings with our partners

The Queens Young Leaders project is delivered by a consortium of NGOs, microfinance providers, vocational training centres and savings groups. The lead partner is Sierra Leone YMCA and partners include Y Care International, On Our Radar, Computer Aid, Sensi Tech Hub. We also work with Global Youth Network, the Centre for Dialogue on Human Settlement and Poverty Alleviation (CODOHSAPA) and A Call to Business.

The varied consortium brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the project that provides more resource and effective working.

Diletta spotted a potential office puppy for Y Care International in London…


Day 3 – More days in the office

Here is Sierra Leone YMCA’s building. Like many YMCA’s, the organisation has been established in the beating heart of the community since 1912 and serves young people in the country thurogh a variety of services, such as skills training, slum development, agricultural development, business and entrepreneurship.

Y Care International has partnered with YMCA Sierra Leone to support enterprise projects. On the walk to the office we saw one of the businesses that Y Care International helped to rebuild post-Ebola through a different project. It’s great to see the tangible impact of our work – supporting young people into work and out of poverty through decent work. This barber shop is someone’s livelihood.


Day 4 – Visiting the Youth Entrepreneurship Hub or ZubaBox

Vera and Diletta headed over to the Entrepreneurship Hub in Makeni where training was taking place with young people. These hubs are set up in containers and enable connectivity to the internet. Young people are trained on how to use computer equipment with a specific focus on entrepreneurship and business skills. The young people then become key figures in their communities who share knowledge to benefit their peers.


Day 5 – All partners learning session

Diletta the monitoring and evaluation expert at work!

Diletta facilitated a learning workshop for the partner staff about key learning that partners have reported halfway through the project. Y Care International sees this as a very important aspect of our work. Building the capacity of our partners, specifically the YMCA partners, enables the projects to be far more sustainable. Enabling our partners to host and develop their own projects allows Y Care International to empower others rather than providing a short-term fix.

Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him to fish, you feed him for a lifetime – Chinese proverb

Day 6 – Another visit to a Zuba box

With the learning workshop complete, Diletta returned to the UK. Vera had training workshops to lead. But first, she visited the Zuba box in Pujehun. Pujehun is a small rural town, around 2 hours from the main city called Bo. It’s a very remote area and most beneficiaries had never seen a computer before. Now, the Zuba box is seen as a place where young people can go and hang out, as well as be offered their training.


Day 7  – Vera explores local training centres

As project coordinator, it was important for Vera to visit the vocational training centers in Kenema to see what they look like, how they work and meet the students. This is to help Y Care International understand the services available to young people regionally and how we could potentially collaborate on projects to teach our beneficiaries specific skills.

One of these was Kenema YMCA – part of our YMCA family! Vera stopped here for lunch which was prepared by some of the students and showcased the skills they learned in the catering department.


Day 8 – Time to travel home

 Diletta: “It was a great pleasure to visit Sierra Leone and to see first-hand our partners in actions. It was so inspiring to see young people taking control of their future who are so passionate about learning new skills and contributing to society.”

Vera: “Sierra Leone is a beautiful country and its people are very friendly and welcoming. It’s fantastic to see the potential of young people and how much they are able to achieve if only they are given the chance to learn, the skills to succeed and the encouragement and confidence to continue.”


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