Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sierra Leone Independence Comes Early to Minnesota

MCs Juldeh Jalloh and Sarah Cassell
The Sierra Leonean Community in Minnesota (SLCM), celebrated the West African country's 51st independence anniversary from British colonial rule yesterday April 21, 2012 at the East Side Neighborhood in Minneapolis. Sierra Leone gained her independence on April 27, 1961, with Sir Milton A. S. Margai as the first Prime Minister.
Cross section of  Audience

SLCM is an umbrella organization formed to foster unity in the Sierra Leone community and cuts across regional, tribal  and political lines.

 Having seen the necessity of celebrating certain milestones and organizing certain common functions like a country community rather than fragmented groups, the following organizations; Kono Union, Tegloma Minnesota Chapter, Sierra Leoneans in Minnesota (Sierrasota), Sierra Leone Aid initiative (SLAI), Sierra Leone Union (SLU), came together to form SLCM.

The Sierra Leone Community in Minnesota, which should be a model for other Sierra Leoneans in the diaspora, assists Sierra Leoneans with information services, immigration, health and wellness, education and promotes the history and culture of the country.
Mothers listening

This year's celebration focused squarely on rural health care in Sierra Leone. The Keynote speaker was Dr. Gary Johnson of the Rural Health Care Initiative (RHCI), a collaborative effort of Sierra Leoneans and Minnesotans to address maternal and child health needs in Sierra Leone.

Keynote address
Dr. Johnson, an internal and occupational medicine specialist with Health Partners in Minnesota, pulled no punches as he outlined the grim statistics on maternal and child health in Sierra Leone, with particular emphasis on the Tikonko chiefdom in Bo district. He explained how he came to be involved with RHCI through his wife of 31 years Jeanne Ayers, a key figure in health care in Minnesota. He gave figures on infant and maternal deaths in Tikonko chiefdom and noted that the tragedy of the situation was that most of these deaths could be easily prevented with just basic timely intervention.

Gary, as Dr. Johnson prefers to be called, detailed the trip he made over the new year to Sierra Leone with two board members of RHCI, Alice Karpeh and Catherine Osborne, to lay the foundation for RHCI and get a better look at the health infrastructure in the country and intended area of operation. He noted how warmly the people had received the delegation, the existing and future challenges and opportunities that RHCI was confronted with, and his hopes for a future in which RHCI will work with with other partners to reverse the appalling health care statistics in the area.
Attentive audience

Dr. Johnson's keynote address was both sobering and encouraging as he had the full attention of the mixed audience of many in the West African community and Americans from all works of life.

Brooklyn Park Police being friendly
The Brooklyn Park police was also at hand to talk about some outreach programs they had to the mainly immigrant community. The police representative managed to put a human face to an organization that is both desired and feared by members of the immigrant community who sometimes feel targeted by the police.

RHCI Executive Director
Catherine Osborne
The night ended as usual with dancing and merrying. The food was tasty and great. Thanks SLCM.
RHCI Executive Director having fun
The Segbwema blogger is one of the founding members of RHCI

1 comment:

Salim I.Sheriff said...

Hei Sheku, We at khadarlis- Sierra Leone, a non-profit here in Providence, RI are amazed at your laudable initiative to keep the world informed and invite everybody to be involved with Sierra Leone now and for ever. May God bless you and grant us all our wishes for our motherland: that saod I personally want to invite you and ather readers to our page for us to think and strategise together for the benefit of our people in sierra Leone, please get us involved in future activities and we.ll always reciprocate, united we stand for a common cause, one country, one people...