Sierra Leone Telegraph: 14 August 2016
The National Organization of Sierra Leoneans in North America (NOSLINA), will be taking its mission to Sierra Leone in January, 2017, to promote its ‘Enabling Communities for a Better Sierra Leone’ agenda.
This announcement was made by the Vice Chairman – Audrey Pabs-Garnon, after it was officially endorsed at the NOSLINA 2016 Annual Forum and Gala, which was held on Saturday, May 7, at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel in the top end downtown Silver Spring, Maryland.
Inaugurated in spring 1998 in the wake of the reinstatement of the exiled democratically elected SLPP government, the organization’s members have a reason to celebrate the growth of NOSLINA into the leading voice for Sierra Leoneans in the Diaspora.
NOSLINA plans to embark on several strategic projects in Sierra Leone, in partnership with citizens and various organizations, to move the country to the next level of its development.
The purpose of the trip is to engage the Diaspora in giving back to Sierra Leone, especially in this post Ebola period. NOSLINA is seeking to encourage collaborative efforts and promote volunteerism locally, nationally and internationally.
The Diaspora being the 5th Province of Sierra Leone, NOSLINA’s intention is to become a major and central stakeholder in the well-being and future of Sierra Leone – the homeland.
Speaking at the 2016 Forum, Ms Pabs-Garnon said that Sierra Leoneans had a tendency to talk and operate in silos, which is why the NOSLINA forum and structure is providing the indispensable spark that fuels the mobilization of people and resources to advance Sierra Leone’s interests, and to improve the welfare of Sierra Leoneans.
Dr. Ibrahim Kamara, a Senior Epidemiologist at the US Department of Health and Human Services – who was one of the speakers on the Forum’s Health and Sanitation Panel, spoke about his experiences on the ground in Sierra Leone at the height of the Ebola epidemic, and of a post-Ebola nation. He also reflected on lessons that have been learned and looked ahead to a secured, post-Ebola society from a pragmatic clinical health perspective.
Dr. Emeric Palmer, a practicing physician who had just returned from Freetown after spending a week in the country, spoke from the heart, as he shared recollections of his interaction with officials on the ground and the general population.
It was clear from his remarks, that there had been a failure from an international, as well as national response to the Ebola epidemic. However, Dr. Palmer emphasized that the National Ebola Response Centre (NERC) had demonstrated positive results, even as he noted that more remains to be done in terms of attitudes, recovery and sustainability.
Speaking at the Forum also, Ms. Jonta Williams who is the Deputy Ebola Coordinator at the US Agency for International Development, informed NOSLINA members and Diaspora Sierra Leoneans about the US Government’s infrastructural contribution in excess of $169 million to help combat the Ebola scourge in Sierra Leone.
In addition to health, the money was spent on the development of other areas, such as communication and technology, food security, and governance and economic crisis mitigation.
Dr. Susan Shepler, an Associate Professor of International Peace and Conflict Resolution at the American University, and author of “Child Deployed”, is a member of NOSLINA’s Education and Cultural Arts Panel. She spoke about the importance of community-based education and grassroots academics. She stressed the need for the country’s educational standards to keep pace with global markers and levels of expectation.
Mrs. Akua Kouyate-Tate, a Senior Director of Education at the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, leads Wolf Trap’s national programs that use arts-integrated strategies to teach young children science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). She spoke about the value of the performing arts in early childhood education at the Forum.
She presented a range of materials showing how the performing arts can bridge the economic achievement gap, support STEM, provide children living in disadvantaged communities with better access to quality education, support language and literacy development, health and wellness, and also develop skills for successful students.
In closing, the Forum Chairman – Professor Cyrus Macfoy of the Biology Department at the Maryland University College, who is also the author of “Medicinal Plants and Traditional Medicine in Sierra Leone”, pulled the various strands of the forum discussions together.
He stressed the need for community engagement in the Diaspora and civic education on the home front, as fundamental to civil society. He expressed gratitude to all the presenters for their very informative contributions, and for stirring up excitement with recommendations that will enable communities to generate their action plans for a better and revitalized Sierra Leone.
Dr. Macfoy called upon NOSLINA members to renew and rededicate themselves to the finest ideals of a democratic Sierra Leone – a Sierra Leone where sound education, basic healthcare, and environmentally-friendly systems may be implemented and realized by its citizens.
The Annual Independence Day Banquet Awards Gala is NOSLINA’s signature fundraising event. As is customary and intriguing, Sierra Leoneans, descendants of Sierra Leone, as well as Sierra Leone’s friends and supporters from across the United States and abroad converge to mark the occasion – this time to recognize stellar contributions to the making of a modern-day post Ebola resurgent Sierra Leone, and to encourage future advancements.
At the height of the Ebola crisis in 2014, NOSLINA was part of the process that yielded about $55 million Ebola related aid to West Africa. Airlink, the organization that linked NOSLINA to airlines such as Brussels Air to ship the aid at no charge, was recognized with a distinguished service Award at the Gala.
In association with Airlink, NOSLINA helped bring together the Sierra Leone Diaspora community – North America, Europe, Africa – whereby all segments put forth an unprecedented and unified effort, resulting in alleviating the suffering of Ebola victims.
The Diamond Award for Distinguished Service – the Organization’s Highest Award – was given to Mr. Daniel Koroma, who is the first African appointed to the County Executive’s Office in Montgomery County, Maryland. He is the Community Outreach Manager and Liaison to African and Caribbean communities at the Montgomery County Office of Community Partnerships.
Mr. Koroma has used his position of prominence and authority to give a voice and face to the people of Sierra Leone, by helping to create the narrative of the number of Sierra Leoneans in the USA, engaging diaspora groups and creating an opportunity for those groups to partner directly with the US Census Bureau, ultimately leading to receiving of much needed products and services in their communities. (The complete list of NOSLINA 2016 Awardees is reproduced below).
NOSLINA’s Sadu Bah Law Scholarship Award
Dr. John Davies-Cole, Chairman of the Board of NOSLINA, used the opportunity of the Gala to congratulate NOSLINA’s very own Sadu Bah Memorial Scholarship recipient Mr. Abdulai Kondowa (Photo), who was awarded the Bachelor of Law Degree with Honors from Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone.
The late Attorney Mohamed Sadu Bah was a selfless and untiring legal counsel and Board member of NOSLINA until his untimely death in 2011.
In the aftermath of his passing, NOSLINA created the Mohamed Sadu Bah Law School Scholarship Fund. Mr. Kondowa is the first recipient of the Fund.
Attorney Sadu Bah (Jr), Sadu Bah’s son, other members of the family, friends, and colleagues were in attendance to celebrate the joyous milestone of Mr. Kondowa’s accomplishment with the NOSLINA family.
Mr. Kondowa, who has one more year before he will be invited to the Bar, extended his appreciation to NOSLINA in a message addressed to the NOSLINA Executive Director.
Entertainment for the Gala was provided by the hilarious and ever-so-funny Joseph Zozo Betts a.k.a. Pa Bangura of the Professionals.
The Professionals are Sierra Leone’s most beloved old comedy group that originated in Freetown. Their radio show in the 1980s and ’90s was a mainstay on the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service (SLBS), performing live throughout the country.
Members of the Professionals have come together again in the US to provide comic relief to the Sierra Leone community. Their brand of humor has been aptly described as a source of great comfort and a stress reliever.
Among principal performers are Donald Nat-George (“Dandogo”) and Joseph Betts (“Pa Bangura”), the latter rocked the NOSLINA Gala house with slapstick skits, evoking side-splitting laughter that morphed into tears.
As a progressive and forward-thinking organization, NOSLINA will continue its efforts of positively responding to the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in the task of building a better Sierra Leone.
As Dr. Davies-Cole puts it, “NOSLINA is extending our hands to everyone who has Sierra Leone at heart to join us in this sacred march. We will strive to maintain the highest standards of performance and accountability in all our endeavors.”
Professor Daphne Ntiri Quenum, distinguished Patron of NOSLINA’s campaigns and programs, underscores Davies-Cole’s hopes and beliefs when she remarks, “It is time to correct the distortions, prejudices and stereotypes about Sierra Leone and its people. Let’s create more legitimacy and identify those who can rebuild a country that needs rebuilding and rebirth.”
2016 NOSLINA Award Winners
Distinguished Service Award
Airlink a rapid-response humanitarian relief organization that links airlines with pre-qualified nonprofits
Distinguished Diamond Award
Daniel Koroma first African appointed to the County Executive’s office in Montgomery County, Maryland
Distinguished Community Leadership Award
Helping Children Worldwide by partnering with local government and child advocacy organizations in Sierra Leone
St. Joseph’s Secondary School Alumni Association US Mid-Atlantic Region for being ever faithful to the wellbeing of their alma mater
FSSGians Alumni Association-Washington Metropolitan Branch for continuing in the tradition of the school’s founders of supporting the school, its students, faculty and staff
Distinguished Humanitarian Leadership Award
Bishop Eugene Wellington for spearheading projects in Sierra Leone and in his local community of Slidell, Louisiana
Mr. Michael Fayia Kallon for standing out as a true Son of the Soil through his many years of loving devotion and support of the people of Koindu, Kissi Bendu
Mr. Foday Mansaray for relentlessly and persistently spearheading efforts in the Franklin Township of New Jersey to, among others, declare Sierra Leone Independence Day in the Township
Distinguished Entrepreneurial Leadership Award
Mr. Gibril Koroma for founding an online-newspaper that focuses on capturing breaking news in Sierra Leone
Mr. Patrick Goba for founding businesses both in Atlanta, Georgia, USA and Sierra Leone that over the years have led to employment opportunities for innumerable Sierra Leoneans
Mr. David Buakei Vandy for founding the first Sierra Leone theatre company in the USA.
For more information on how you can support the 2017 NOSLINA Mission to Sierra Leone, please contact Executive Director Suna Nallo at firstname.lastname@example.org or at +1-410-412-4311; web www.noslina.net.