AAPDEP leaders meet in Sierra Leone to organize and continue building for self-determination

Ayesha Fleary, Director of Information & Education for the All African People's Development and Empowerment Project (AAPDEP), gives her personal account on her visit to Sierra Leone in January 2012:
Our sisters and brothers spend so much time doing something that could take minutes, because we don’t have control over our own resources and labor
Outside was pitch black when the pilot announced that we were preparing for descent into Sierra Leone’s airport at Lungi. I had never experienced flying into any city and not being able to see lights below. But alas we were in Africa, a continent that when looked at by satellite, is one of the least electrified continents in the world.
This is just one of the glaring contradictions that exist in a country so abundant in the world’s most valuable minerals.

As the International Executive Committee (IEC) of AAPDEP, we were in Sierra Leone during January at the request of the Executive Committee of AAPDEP Sierra Leone (AAPDEP-SL), with the purpose to tour and ascertain the needs of the projects in the villages of Kabaima, Mokanji, Gbangbatoke, Moriba Town, Brama and the city of Freetown.
We also needed to meet our colleagues and comrades in their own context, experience their strength and success, as well as problems they face.
More importantly, we needed to discuss the current work and develop plans of action that would strengthen our infrastructure and enhance communication between the international body and the national body in Sierra Leone.
Maternal clinic and proud graduating nurses in the land of health contradictions
Our first day should have been an indication of the hectic schedule we could expect during the course of our trip.
We woke early in the morning to prepare for the reopening of the AAPDEP-WIND Maternal Health clinic in Allen Town.
We knew it was time to go to the clinic when the AAPDEP Allen Town members met us with song at the home of AAPDEP-SL Director, Nurse Midwife Mary Koroma.
We were asked to join the procession and we began to walk toward the clinic. All the while, members danced and sang songs in native language, which acted as a call to anyone around to join the procession.
As we passed home after home, our procession grew with more people as they ran out to join us, some wearing their nurse uniforms and others wearing their AAPDEP-SL t-shirts.
This ceremony would be repeated in every village that we visited, leaving us with the feeling of a strong community, united in a mutual goal.
On the road leading to the clinic, we were met with a sign “AAPDEP-SL Maternal Health Clinic” which indicated that we had arrived to our destination.
Attendees were already seated and awaiting our arrival when we reached the top of the road.
After formal introductions, Dr. Aisha Fields, International Director of AAPDEP, was given the mic to say a few words. She spoke of the significance of the clinic and gave warm thanks for all of the hard work the AAPDEP members did to get this clinic established.
Secretary General of APSP, Gaida Kambon, and Secretary General of the ASI, Luwezi Kinshasha, reiterated those sentiments when they were provided the opportunity to speak.  

After a tour of the maternity clinic, which has a birthing room, recovery area and nursery, we had to hurry to get to the AAPDEP School of Nursing graduation ceremony.
After a quick change into our African attire, we arrived at the ceremony and were met with a sea of family members and graduates waiting for their certificates.
Here, comrade Gaida Kambon gave a powerful speech to the graduating nurses about health contradictions that exist in Sierra Leone against the backdrop of the mineral wealth that is being stolen from the land.
When it was time to distribute the certificates, Dr. Aisha Fields was called to the stage to greet the graduates.
One by one the graduates came, and as they descended the stage, their families rushed them away in a jubilant circle.  It was amazing to see the joy that ensued every time someone got their certificate.

Sorrows of our continent: mining diamonds amid scarcity of electricity and water
After the ceremony, we went back to the house for a brief respite before attending the fundraising dinner that evening.
As the sun began its descent, little battery operated hand-held lights began to dot the landscape, outside fires began to light up an otherwise dark area and gasoline powered generators began their hum until the wee hours of the night or until its $5 USD per gallon gasoline was exhausted.
It wasn’t surprising to see people walking along in the darkness to get to their destination on dirt roads with dangerous crevices that at any misstep could leave a walker injured.
Along the main roads there remain remnants of street lamps, some of which probably hadn’t felt electricity since Sierra Leone gained independence from its colonial rulers.  

As we prepared for the fundraising dinner in bathrooms with no running water, just a bucket of water and floor drain, it frustrated me that something that should take only a few minutes took so much time to prepare for.
It helped me to understand that our people in Sierra Leone are organizers because they have to organize their entire day. From sun up to sun down everything is planned from the children visiting the well for fresh water to the ongoing cooking that happens to make sure families are fed for the day.
Our sisters and brothers spend so much time doing something that could take minutes, because we don’t have control over our own resources and labor. The money that comes from mining diamonds, rutile, gold etc. should be nationalized in order to pay for the country wide plumbing needed to pump water to every house or the nationwide power grid needed to electrify every home.
Until there is a revolutionary change in overturning imperialism, a majority of our people in Sierra Leone and Africans worldwide will continue to be engaged in these cyclical chores that leave little time to organize and implement ideas for self-determination.

The fundraising event went well. We arrived to a Sierra Leonean reggae band playing music that could rival any celebrity reggae group.
As we danced with the recent nursing graduates and other attendees in a dimly lit courtyard, there was a feeling of belonging that resonated within.
We left when there was still dancing happening, but we had to prepare ourselves for the next day. We would begin our three day trip to the provinces to visit the project sites.
Meeting communities on project sites: Brama, Kabaima, Mokanji, Gbangbatoke and Moriba Town
We were supposed to leave at 8am but because of contradictions with transportation, we ended up leaving in late afternoon, which caused us to be significantly behind schedule.
Our first stop was supposed to be Brama, where we were told there was a crowd waiting for our arrival, which unfortunately we had to pass because of time.
We arrived in Kabaima (Cuh-bye-muh) approximately six hours later.
We were severely behind schedule when we arrived; the people had been waiting since 3pm, but they were still anticipating our arrival.  We were met by the community and its musicians.
We could only stay a short time before moving on to Mokanji where we would sleep. We met with the elders of the community and some AAPDEP members. Unfortunately, we were not able to visit the projects that were initiated there because it was so dark.

In Mokanji, we rested for the night and the morning presented another busy day.
The morning gave me the opportunity to get video footage of the town, some interviews and photos of the people.
After some brief down time, we began our walk toward the community center where a crowd of people were waiting. Again we were met with dancing and song.
Aisha, Gaida and Luwezi had the opportunity to speak along with the community elders and AAPDEP organizers.
After the conference, we were led to the project sites by a procession of our AAPDEP nursery children, vocational school students, community members and the community’s marching band that I thought were just as good as our HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and University) marching bands in the U.S.

Our first stop was the renovated nursery school. Our second stop was the renovated vocational institute, which is still in need of more work. Our last stop was to the cassava farm.  The farm land was enormous and will yield a projected 100 bags of ground cassava that will be used to generate resources for the work.  

After the farm tour, we hurried back to our rooms to collect our bags so that we could get on the road to Gbangbatoke (Bahng-bah-took).
We arrived at a place that was described as a hotel but looked more like a conference hall with private rooms along the side, where we were escorted to where we would sleep for the night.
In the morning we met with the AAPDEP Gbangbatoke group and proceeded to start our procession through town and on to the location of our fishing project.
There the boat was blessed in Muslim and Christian prayer (which happened at every event) and we were encouraged to pour libation to contribute to the blessing.
Next, we visited the site of the AAPDEP Gbangbatoke Office, which is still in its construction phase.
Following the tour of the office, we went back to the hotel to give our AAPDEP presentation and to convene a meeting in which we heard reports from AAPDEP groups in other areas.
We then had to quickly leave so that we could arrive in Moriba (Mo-ree-bah) Town in good time.

It didn’t take us very long to arrive in Moriba Town. Again we were met with singing and dancing followed by a tour of the project site.
I was blown away when they showed us the garden space. As we walked down the path that led us to the marsh, the trees opened up to reveal a vast area of bright green growing out of the ground.
The entire area did not belong to the AAPDEP project, just a section, but the site was really spectacular.
I was told that there was a running joke that they expected us to ask what was this or that. In fact one of the AAPDEP members walked around jokingly pointing to the vegetables and naming what they were. In this garden we are growing tomatoes, lettuce, spring onion, cucumber, cabbage among others.
I could have stayed there forever if they left me, but we had to get back to the town to start the meeting.
Rev. Moses Madiyei, National Public Relations Officer, gave a powerful speech on self-determination, which really assured us that the dissemination of AAPDEP’s message was not being confused with the charity model that many in Sierra Leone are familiar with.

Instead of conclusions, we need to regain our resources 
Following the meeting, we drove back to Mokanji to rest for the night. We awoke early the next morning at 4am to make sure we made it to Freetown in good time.
We had some time to rest before our meeting with the AAPDEP-SL Executive Board in the AAPDEP School of Nursing .
Our coming together was important to ascertain the roles of the Sierra Leone Executive Members and determining how we are going to move forward not only in Sierra Leone.
We made incredible headway in this area. This meeting also helped us to understand the significant constraints that exist, despite the tremendous gains in the AAPDEP work.
Access to resources that could make the work grow faster, such as reliable transportation, communication, tools and materials for projects just are not easily accessible or affordable in the country.
After these areas were discussed, we resolved to take on these questions and bring them to states and make the work in Sierra Leone explode and with time increase membership throughout the world.
The meeting closed out with a feeling of great accomplishment and strengthened resolve to continue the work.
Inspiration that will drive us all

On our last day in Sierra Leone, we took in all that we had experienced. We were sad to be leaving but excited to get back to the States to tell the world of the significant strides that Sierra Leone AAPDEP is making.
They have inspired us all and showed us what self-determination in our own hands look like when African people unite to build dual and contending power.
The AAPDEP Sierra Leone leadership constantly reiterated the need for African led development. They knew that no NGO, government or charity could solve the problems that African people face.
We are one African people, who are uniting beyond religion, tribe, lineage and location. We are connecting, organizing, taking responsibility and power over our own future.
Our task is to grow AAPDEP’s  membership, develop our relationships and engage Africans everywhere in the task of building development projects in response to the colonial conditions that Africans have had to endure for far too long.

In the coming weeks, AAPDEP will be announcing several opportunities for people to contribute to individual projects in Sierra Leone.
We also encourage Africans to become members of our organization to build branches wherever we are located, to initiate a worldwide initiative of Africans contributing their skills to benefit African communities at home and abroad.
Visit developmentforafrica.org to become a member and contribute to the work of AAPDEP.

Uhuru! One Africa! One Nation!  Touch One! Touch All!
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