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OPARD-SL Shoe Making Project To Benefit Youths at Mile 91

Peggy and Glen
Peggy and Glen

In Sierra Leone , the guns are silent, the war is over but yet the aftermath is still threatening the national security of our sovereign nation. The 11 year from the guns-echo has left a generation of Sierra Leonean youths with nothing but abysmal memories. The exponential increase in the number of educationally underprivileged youths has inadvertently affected our national intellectual capacity. 
According to one international expert and head of the Africa Programme at London ‘s Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), Dr. Knox Chitiyo, “the country is relatively stable, but it would be premature to rule out a return to civil war. High unemployment and lack of vocational training for the youth – many of whom were former soldiers – are serious problems.” 

This observation is common among many local and international experts. The question is, what life-changing skills training programs are appropriate for these youths, looking at the length of time they’ve spent outside classrooms, and how marketable should these skills be, taking into account the economic realities in the country?  

In this cross road, the Organization for Peace, Reconciliation and Development Sierra Leone (OPARDSL) employs simple and realistic approach towards creating locally marketable and short term skills training programs that meet the demand of every  members of our society.

 

That is why from the mountains of Virginia  one of American most experienced teacher of shoemaking, Glen Leasure who has been in high-quality shoemaking trade for over two decades is set to arrive at the shores of Sierra Lone, on January 5, 2010. 

Glen’s move from the “Mountains of Virginia” to the Lion Mountain of Sierra Leone came from an invitation from OPARDSL Director Ahmed Muckson Sesay, to train local youths in his shoemaking trade at Mile 91, Sierra Leone . His first contacts, Childhelpsl in Makenni and OPRDSL will be partners in receiving Mr Glen’s teachings.

Mr. Leasure’s decision to leave his Wife Peggy and three children, and the comforts of his home for several months is what many see as courageous determination to avoid being  just a spectator in the effort of helping war ravaged nations like Sierra Leone.  
 
For phase 1 of the project,  Mr. Leasure and his wife Peggy, has so far secured and shipped 2 pallets of tools and materials collected from many donors in USA. A 20 foot container of leather and shoemaking materials for OPARDSL and Childhelpsl has also been secured and shipping money is being raised. These materials will be used for phase 2 of the project where 60,000 or more pairs of sandals and/or shoes are expected to be created.   Upon his arrival in Sierra Leone, Glen will be training 3 students per week for 3 weeks.
 
Leading to the completion of the training program, graduates students will be awarded certificates and are expected to be able to design different type of shoes, ranging from Athletic, Balmoral, All Season Boot, and down to Tourist Sandals footwear.   Each successful student will be loaned a  complete package of tool kits valued $250 US to start her/his own trade.

 

Before his arrival,  Glen is sending his worm greetings to the people of  Mile 91, Sierra Leone:

“My heartiest greetings from Virginia, USA to my future friends in Sierra Leone! I can hardly express my excitement to be coming to you and humbly thank you all for allowing me to be with you and teach my craft. By God’s grace I come as now I think that all my 26 years making shoes has been in preparation for this visit with you. My heart is filled with Joy and Gratitude for this amazing opportunity.
I have received the support of several hundred people in and around my village and all across the USA and am honored to be trusted to bring all I can to share with your villages and Sierra Leone. There is no way we could have done this alone. We have invested almost a year of our time on this project and it has been for me one of the best years of my life.
I look forward to the day when the People of Sierra Leone are known for their quality shoes and become leaders in Africa of this trade. The word is that Sierra Leone has the best beaches in all of Africa. One day this will draw in lots of tourists who will all want to buy the sandals that the inland people will make and ship to the coast. The time for this project is right and together we can make it work!

 

Our highest regards,
Glen & Peggy Leasure
Rockbridge County, Virginia, USA” 
 
Earlier this year, under our youth’s capacity building initiative, OPARDSL received joint funding from UNDP/American Embassy in Freetown through Youth  Employment  Scheme (YES) for a Food Security Project which has seen the completion of a food processing construction plant, for processing of food crops into juices, jams and preserves. This project, which will boost our poorly managed food crops (Mangos, Oranges , Cassava, etc) into a value-added form, is expected to be fully operational in March 2010. The project is estimated to create 100 jobs for youths in the rural community of Mile 91 by the end of 2010.
 
According to December 16, 2009 Mid-Term Project Review by the Ministry Of Education Youth And Sport, Youth Employment  Scheme (YES), the Ministry lauded OPRD-SL for implementing the Songi Model in Mile 91, Sierra Leone. The report stared that:
 
“Project: [ 1.2.2 The OPARD Example
The second illustration, currently implemented by OPARD at Mile 91, is based upon the Songhai Model in Benin. It is noteworthy because it:
Explicitly links agriculture to industry and commerce
Supports both producers’ cooperatives and large-scale agribusiness
Utilizes technology to process oft-neglected agricultural commodities to maximize farmers’ income
.. OPARD guarantees purchase of the farmers produce for processing at its sizeable agribusiness complex, thereby reducing farmer credit risk. Juices, syrups, jams and yoghurt are manufactured thereby enabling value addition to crops commonly omitted from the processing chain, ie mangoes, pineapple etc. A further source of employment is also created by the use of sales agents to market the produce.]” the report concluded 
“Now is the time to act, and prevent the current levels of poverty in Sierra Leone from escalating into unrest or even conflict. With a proven track record of projects and locally relevant yet internationally respected expertise, no organization is better poised to lead the way to development by Sierra Leoneans for Sierra Leoneans than OPARD-SL.“ – Muckson Sesay OPARD-SL Canada Representative and Director IMITT-CENTER (www.imittcenter.com 
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