Sierra Leone is a small country on the bulge of West Africa. It’s a potentially rich country, but it’s been impoverished first, by a brutal eleven-year civil war that ended in 2002—think child soldiers and Blood Diamonds. The war killed thousands of people and decimated the country's already shaky infrastructure.
As if that wasn’t enough—in 2014-15 Sierra Leone was hard hit by the Ebola epidemic that killed thousands and left many more people discouraged, apathetic and fearful.
In addition to financial resources, Sierra Leone needs a lot of inspiration, hope and guidance.
Giraffe Heroes Sierra Leone (GH-SL),an NGO launched in 2011, helps the citizens of Sierra Leone provide all three.
GH-SL uses both traditional and social media to tell Sierra Leoneans the stories of their own heroes working for peace and combating disease. These stories inspire many more people to act with courage and persistence to advance their country's future by helping solve problems such as poverty, corruption and political violence.
GH-SL is an independent, Sierra Leonean-run affiliate of Giraffe Heroes International, an American NGO started in 1982. GHI Director John Graham spent eight days in the country in May, 2011 and came away impressed not just with the enormous tasks of governance and development at hand, but also with the longing of the people he met—from political leaders in Freetown to war victims in small camps upcountry—to heal the country's wounds and restart development work.
Everywhere in Sierra Leone, billboards proclaim “Na wi country,” which is translated not just as “This is our country” but “This is OUR country.” The signs are symbols of a national pride rooted in the common good and a positive vision of the future that just might finally produce the stability and well-being that have long been promised but never delivered.
GH-SL was launched in collaboration with the B-Gifted Foundation, led by Andrew Greene, which focuses on war victims, women's issues and the environment. As the devastation of Ebola eased, GH-SL began honoring its first Giraffe Heroes in 2015 (see below).
Do you know the story of a Sierra Leonean man, woman or youth who is “sticking her or his neck out” to make a difference for their country?
If you do, contact GH-SL Director Ibrahim Kamara. His numbers are:
Tel:# 00232 - 78 - 361752; 00232 - 33 - 361752;
00232 - 77 - 361752
John Graham at war victims camp, Makeni, Sierra Leone. To compound the misery here, Makeni has been at the epicenter of the recent Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone.
A Welcome from the Director
Success Ibrahim Sei Kamara is my name and I’m the Country Director for Giraffe Heroes Sierra Leone (GHSL). Before my appointment, I worked as communications and development Officer at the B-Gifted Foundation SL and the Gondobay Manga Foundation. I hold a B.A Hons in Mass Communications from Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone and a number of certificates and recognitions in the journalism field, where I’ve made active contributions on key social issues including Ebola and gender-based violence. You can find a fuller account of my background here.
The mission of GHSL is to find and tell the stories of people who “stick their necks” out to make Sierra Leone a better place and to give then tools to succeed. When we broadcast these stories over traditional and social media, other citizens are inspired to take action too. This story-telling strategy is simple—but it’s worked in every culture for thousands of years. and it works here too.
Most of the Giraffe Heroes GHSL honors are social, democratic and economic rights activists. All are standing up against injustice, backwardness, and utter violations of people’s rights. All are doing something positive for the community. You can read their stories below.
We have just started. There are many more Giraffe Heroes in Sierra Leone, working bravely to combat the effects of war, poverty, corruption and Ebola. Now their stories need to be told to the nation so they can inspire all of us to renew our hope and inspire us to step forward to help meet the severe challenges our country faces.
Help GHSL find these “silent heroes” who have contributed so much and who can inspire present and future generations through their work.
Do you know of a fellow Sierra Leonean—man or woman, young or old, from any tribal, economic, political, social, religious or professional background, who is acting bravely to help solve one of our country’s pressing problems? Those problems, well known to all of us, include poverty, poor infrastructure, mismanagement, corruption, arrant violations of democratic tenets and the mammoth challenges in almost every sphere of the country’s economy.
If you do, email the information to me at Success Ibrahim Sei Kamara ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’ or on skype “successilicious22231”
Giraffe Heroes Sierra Leone, as all other Giraffe Heroes programs around the globe, will not take sides with any one political party or ethnic group. Rather, it will find and celebrate the work of those citizens whose lives rise above party, ethnicity and class—people whose work is dedicated to the betterment of the lives of all the people in the country, from all parties and all groups.d.
As nominations for more Giraffe Heroes are received, a broad-based bench of citizens will select which candidates fully meet the main criterion for being a Giraffe Hero—spirited action that serves the common good. Those candidates selected as Giraffe Heroes will have their stories told throughout the nation in newspapers and magazines and on the web, and over television, radio and social media. Each story will end with a call for more nominations.
As GHSL grows and more and more Sierra Leoneans learn about it, we will initiate training and mentoring programs in civic action, including a curriculum helping young people from elementary through university age gain the inspiration and skills to build lives as brave and kind-hearted citizens.
Every effort will be made to convince our country’s leaders that Giraffe Heroes Sierra Leone serves them as well as the entire country. It is in the interest of all political parties to support Giraffe Heroes Sierra Leone as a powerful means for harnessing the problem-solving ideals and efforts of every citizen.
Thanks for getting in touch!
Ibrahim Success Kamara, Director
Giraffe Hero Ibrahim Tommy is leading a a group of Ebola survivors who have filed suit against the government of Sierra Leone, seeking redress for violation of citizens’ rights to life and health as a result of the Government’s mismanagement of Ebola funds meant to address the May 2014 Ebola outbreak which claimed the lives of thousands and left many more with ineradicable health challenges. The suit claims that: “The government “failed to adhere to relevant accounting and procurement controls which led to the loss of one-third of the available resources, and was responsible for a greater number of deaths from Ebola than would otherwise have occurred.”
Giraffe Heroes in Sierra Leone
Mabel Kabba is a young, hardworking, vibrant Sierra Leonean radio journalist, who has worked her way up in an industry biased against women. She’s challenged politicians who have withheld information from her and tried to cajole or harass her.. She speaks out on behalf of poor communities and risked her life interviewing people during the Ebola crisis. More
Victor Lansana Koroma is the founder and Executive Director of Health Alert-Sierra Leone, an organization committed to helping citizens—especially women and children—obtain access to free health care products and services. Some of Koroma’s campaigns have challenged the government, and as a result, he’s been verbally attacked and received death threats. More
Despite threats and assaults over 20 years, Marcella Samba Sesay continues to be a forceful voice for justice and equality for Sierra Leone’s citizens, in particular its poor and female citizens. Sesay has formed coalitions and given her own time and money to ensure that Sierra Leone’s government treats its citizens with respect and gives them the services they need. More
Joe Pemagbi has been a fighter for social justice since 2001. As Sierra Leone Country Officer for the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) he’s courageously taken up public interest campaigns, insisting on access to information, justice, and respect for human rights. His demands are not something many corrupt leaders appreciate. More
Outspoken and bold, Sierra Leonean economic justice activist Edmond Abu, Jr., “speaks truth to power,” panning government political and petroleum products abuses and supporting human rights. For his efforts he’s been labeled a “security threat” and forcefully arrested by the government of Sierra Leone for demanding a decrease in fuel prices across the country. More
Mohamed Osman Kamara, an albino living in Sierra Leone, fights to free albinos from discrimination and exclusion. His organization also teaches people about albinism and provides prevention and treatment to albinos threatened with skin cancer. Kamara has faced constant antagonism from those who see albinos as cursed, who do not believe in helping them, and in fact who do everything they can to isolate and threaten them. More
Fatou Taqi Nee Cole fights for women’s rights in Sierra Leone. Despite intimidation from both the government and individuals, she advocates for female representation in government, for the prevention of gender-based violence, for the abolition of forced early marriages, and for women’s participation and leadership in communities. More
Hawa Sally Samai is the founder and CEO of Advocacy Movement Network (AMNet), an NGO in Sierra Leone that promotes children’s and women’s issues, particularly the banning of female genital mutilation. Death threats, political opposition, and the consequences of challenging long-held traditions have not stopped her. More
Pa Momo Fofanah has spent decades defending the rights of Sierra Leone citizens, particularly children—and particularly children who in the past were forced into the military; because of his efforts, the recruitment of child soldiers was eventually considered a war crime. He's been threatened with injury and death many times . More.
Lawyer Francis Ben Kaifala has been threatened, intimidated, and otherwise verbally attacked—all for demanding that the government of Sierra Leone respect human rights and the rule of law. Since he was appointed to head Sierra Leone’s “Anti-Graft Agency” in June 2018, however, Sierra Leone has dramatically reduced the incidence of corruption. More
Summary: Thomas Bobby Smith gave up his nice life and marriage in the US to return home to Sierra Leone to start a nonprofit that provides hope, opportunity, sustainability and education for young people in Sierra Leone suffering from poverty and hunger in the wake of a brutal civil war and Ebola outbreak. More
Justina Conteh leads an NGO that provides care and assistance to children—mostly girls—who are homeless because of, e.g., disease, sexual abuse, or abandonment. SGF provides these children with counseling, medical and legal assistance, education, and a safe place to live. Conteh is continually sexually harassed herself and has to fight traditional norms that oppress females. More
William Sao Lamin has consistently fought corruption and ignorance in Sierra Leone. His major effort has been to force implementation of the country’s Constitution and specifically the anti-corruption recommendations of Auditor General reports.For that he's been attacked and harassed. More
Youth in Sierra Leone have often been used as an instrument of violence by politicians during elections. Many young people have been killed, and the police have done little to stop the incidents. Ngolo Katta fights to end this practice. He's been threatened with arrest but is determined to effect change in the upcoming 2018 elections. More
Siaka Sama is a strong voice for farmers in southern Sierra Leone who for decades have been fighting the appropriation of their lands without adequate compensation by corporations eager to make a buck from lucrative export crops. When Sama and others protest, they are typically arrested and thrown in jail. See updated story: : More
Emmerson Amidu Bockarie is a Sierra Leonean Afropop singer and songwriter who has become well known in his country for lyrics that promote social change and criticize government corruption. Bockarie has been intimidated in many ways, but continues to be one of Sierra Leone’s most effective agents for change. More
For years, Valnora Edwin has tackled issues in Sierra Leone such as gender rights, children’s rights, HIV/AIDS, Ebola, mining, and elections. Opponents have threatened her life numerous times. but she continues to represent citizens, now as a member of Sierra Leone’s Civil Registration Authority. More
Theophilus Gbenda is a radio journalist in Sierra Leone who is continually harassed and threatened for his dedication to representing his people, regardless of the political elite’s responses to his challenges. He remains a trusted source of information and advocacy in the country. More
Sorious Samura, a Sierra Leonean journalist, risked his life to film on the front lines during his country’s long and brutal civil war. His self-funded “Cry Freetown” depicts the most brutal period of that war when Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels attacked the capital city in January 1999. More
Journalist Thomas Dixon challenges corruption, abuses of power, and neglect of the poor by the powers-that-be. A radio and TV analyst, he fights for a free press and citizen access to information. His fearless efforts draw fire from both members of the public and government officials. More
Hannah Foullah is a Sierra Leonean broadcaster whose sacrifice for her country has put her in harm’s way countless times. Nevertheless, she's never given up taking risks to benefit her fellow citizens, including broadcasting accurate bulletins from a “pirate” radio station during Sierra Leone’s brutal civil war. More
Emmanuel Saffa Abulai is an attorney, a newspaper publisher, and an activist. Despite personal and professional attacks from the government and some individuals, he continues to represent besieged clients, push for laws that are more just, and advocate for policies that protect disadvantaged citizens. More
Gibril Gottor is a Sierra Leone journalist who has continually suffered slander, threats, and arrests, as well as assaults so brutal that he has had to be hospitalized at least twice. Gottor contributes reports on the radio and in print, focusing on government corruption and military malfeasance. More
Mamaja Jalloh (aka DJ Base) is a popular radio disc jockey in Sierra Leone who’s worked for years to make people aware of core issues, from protecting women from sexual assault to the misappropriation of government funds. For this, he’s been threatened, harassed, and beaten up by police. More
Melron Nicol-Wilson, a Sierra Leone attorney, represents people who cannot afford legal counsel. Despite threats to his career and even his life, Nicol-Wilson has remained true to his cause. Many of the causes for which he's been a staunch advocate in Sierra Leone have been taken up by the majority. More
Sierra Leone Army Doctor Billy Sankoh was one of the first physicians to work at the country’s new Ebola Treatment Center. The Ebola virus was raging throughout the country, and Sankoh oversaw hundreds of dying patients, including his fellow doctors. Every day, Sankoh risked his life. More
Outspoken Sierra Leonean journalist Jonathan Leigh continually risks arrest and imprisonment by the government as a result of his editorials. In 2013-2014, he and a colleague spent a year in confinement because of an editorial questioning the integrity of President Koroma. Leigh continues to challenge the government. More
Since being raped and getting an illegal abortion as a teenager, Naasu Fofanah has fought for women’s rights in Sierra Leone. For three years as a government advisor she lobbied for a “Safe Abortion Bill” that the President refused to sign. In the end, she challenged too many traditional males and was removed from her post. More
Trained in social work in the US, Hindola Pokawa put aside a career there to start the Sierra Leone Foundation for a New Democracy, providing education, child care, and trainings in sustainable farming and peace-building in the poorest and most neglected villages in Sierra Leone and—ultimately— throughout Africa. More
Catholic Priest Peter Konteh risked his life to care for his fellow citizens of Sierra Leone when the Ebola virus devastated the country in 2014. Konteh has also worked to halt the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) and to build schools and educate the impoverished youth of Sierra Leone. More
In Freetown, Sierra Leone, Vinod Khatumal manages an import/export business, but during Sierra Leone's vicious civil war, he spent much of his time and income assisting farmers displaced by the fighting. More