Child Protection and Guidance Mid Political Uncertainty
As Sierra Leoneans prepare for a Presidential run-off election, the intensity of the political uncertainty compounded by the seasonally hottest part of the year offers no reprieve for the public. Despite the anxiety from the political climate, VMM’s partners are committed to developing pilot projects to protect children and provide guidance to teens in the community.
VMM Developing Community Projects
In February VMM’s Executive Director, Louise Talbot Beirne, came to visit our partners in Sierra Leone. She brought with her a powerful participatory mapping tool that not only engaged partners into exploring current issues affecting the community but also became the baseline for a needs assessment. By posing a question like ‘If your ancestors were to visit Makeni today, what would they see,’ participants from UNIMAK workshop launched into thinking mode generating factors and linking them up with causal relationships.
These were the main issues that emerged from the workshop:
- Teenage pregnancy
- Sexual/Reproductive Health
- Substance abuse
- Early marriage
- Child abuse
Partnering to Support and Protect Children and Teens
Since these issues more or less affect teens, the UNIMAK team, comprised of professors and professional educators, have put forward a three-pronged approach to tackle the social problem.
The pilot seeks …
- To build awareness through a series of radio broadcasts on their own station called Radio Maria. This will break down the barriers in terms of talking about taboo topics facing teens and send positive messaging throughout Sierra Leone.
- Engage schools by partnering up with Heal the Woman Salone, a community based NGO. They aim to target peer educators to raise awareness and provide referrals to teens in need of counselling.
- Offer counseling support from two certified counselors at UNIMAK who will volunteer their time to serve teens in the community.
The interactive mapping exercise was also employed at the Caritas Makeni workshop; however, a slightly different question was posed: ‘If your ancestors were to visit a child in the community today what would they see?’ The Caritas Team were quick to jot down their thoughts and came up with the following issues affecting the child:
- Child abuse
- Psychological trauma
- Teenage pregnancy
By mapping out these cause and effect linkages, the Caritas Team agreed that the most logical pathway to mitigate these issues is to provide more support to children in schools.
In fact, the Caritas Team have already drafted a proposal focusing on a ‘model community’ pilot that seeks to safeguard children in one of its parish communities just 7km from Makeni town. In this prospective community, the Team will work to ensure child protection, using a peer-to-teacher support approach. The goal is to provide counseling support in the classroom from a teacher and in the community to create a safer school.
VMM Partnering with Grass-Roots Development
No matter the outcome of the presidential election, one thing is for certain for Sierra Leone: there is an upwelling of hope and need for grass-roots development, and that is where VMM and its partners share common ground.
If you would like to volunteer on such inspiring, grass-roots, capacity building projects check out our international development and short-term volunteering opportunities and be part of amazing community work for change and experience amazing cultural immersion in a continent and a world on the rise. Find out more about VMM International, read volunteer blogs, donate and be sure to keep up with the latest news by following us on Facebook: @VMMInternational, Twitter: @VMM_Int.