With the Queen’s Young Leaders Programme coming to an end this December, we went for our last project visit to Sierra Leone to discuss how the project could be sustainable without the UK partners involved.
With our partners at Y Care and YMCA Sierra Leone, we took part in a sustainability workshop with the other key organisations in the project, putting forward different ideas and methods which could be used to generate income from the Solar Learning Labs and MoPo mobile power unit, discussing the best possible outcomes for the communities and service users.
We heard from the local team about some of the statistics from the project, and we're pleased to report they are mostly positive:
- There have been 2 hubs created which have benefitted 580 young people (348 female, 232 male) as well as other community members.
- The YMCA has delivered psycho-social training to 50 young people in Freetown, 261 in Makeni and 290 in Pujehun. They have provided leadership and life skills training to 50 young people in Freetown, 261 in Makeni and 290 in Pujehun. They have provided literacy and numeracy training to 580 young people - 290 in Makeni and 290 in Pujehun.
- Completed training for 50 young people in Freetown, ongoing ICT training for 126 young people in Makeni and 194 in Pujehun. Provided entrepreneurship training, coaching and mentoring support to 600 young people (360 female, 240 male) in Freetown, Makeni and Pujehun.
- Supported 80 young people (33 male, 47 female) in vocational and technical training in Makeni, Pujehun and Kenema.
- Provided business start-up capital to 350 young people (177 male, 233 female). This includes 30 in Freetown, 126 in Makeni and 194 in Pujehun.
- Delivered business coaching and mentoring (ongoing) to 350 young people (177 male, 233 female)
- Delivered savings and credit training to 300 offline beneficiaries and 14 community coaches
- Established partnerships with the Ministry of Youth, UTB, ACTB and MFIs.
- Of the 50 youth trained in ICT in Freetown, 13 are now creative designers, 12 are bloggers and 1 works at the Queen Elizabeth 2nd Quay. 150 businesses have been established from the business grants, 66% are run by marginalised women.
We were off on the road on day 2 to visit the lab in Makeni, after a long drive we had the pleasure of meeting some of the local entrepreneurs who had benefitted from the project. It was especially encouraging to hear that the technology had helped with literacy for some of the service users who previously hadn't been able to read and write. Listening to the stories about how the training and grant had helped businesses grow and develop gave a good sense that the project had been positive for the community here.
Seeing the lab being used at maximum capacity for the IT session we attended was heartening, just like any class where the students are eager to learn, there was a good mix of questions and traditional lecture-style teaching. Students followed along on the lab computers and on the laptops, learning some more advanced techniques of Powerpoint.
Talking with some of the students and trainers after the session it was interesting to see the variety in ambition, with some wanting to own their own business, some wanting to go into banking or business administration, and some aiming to study further to become doctors and politicians.
Up early again to head off on the bumpy road to Pujehun, the location of the second lab. Pujehun doesn't have electricity so, during the project, MoPo came on board with their mobile power solution. The rechargeable power packs have been transformational for the town, people can now light their homes, power electronic devices and charge their mobiles affordably and easily. The power packs are popular, with a fully charged one rarely being left unrented.
Meeting with the beneficiaries in Pujehun, it became obvious that the majority hadn't had the chance to go to school, or had only gone for a short amount of time. The technology seems to have helped with literacy and the recording of business transactions, and YMCA had taken the training aspect of the project even further and offered vocational training in welding and sewing for the youth of Pujehun.
Reflecting on our trip, it's clear that technology will have a big impact on the youth in Sierra Leone. More opportunities for work and education would help to create a clear route for the youth in these areas to improve their lives. Now with access to technology and power for their devices, we hope that they will be able to research jobs, look for scholarships for university and find new opportunities to improve their lives.