Note: This AYM report covers operations in Mattru Jong from November 2006 through December 2007. The report details Dennis Glover’s first year in Sierra Leone. The objective of Dennis’s trip was to reassess the AYM program in Sierra Leone and the foundations of the Mattru Jong project. What seemed like a quick get-in-get-out-trip lasted for three years! At the end of it all, we became fully aware of the challenges ahead and appropriately conceived of strategies to transcend them. I must confess, it has not been easy. As part of my retrospective series, this first person AYM report by Dennis Charles Glover is a story worth sharing. As always, your comments and suggestions are welcome.
The first objective was for me to get acquainted with the country, the local officials, the language, the culture, the community leaders, and the previous and existing AYM members. In Mattru Jong I met with all of the local chiefs, line ministries in education, agriculture, and health, the schools and principals, business leaders, respected elders, and got acquainted with the community very quickly. I gathered complete information on the activities of AYM from January 2004 through November 2006. Most of the previous members of AYM had left for other opportunities, the CBO (community-based organization) status had expired in 2005, and the bank account had been built up with membership dues and emptied on logistics reimbursement and other small expenses. The support AYM had received in the form of seed rice and groundnuts had been divided among the members and basically no tangible program was created during this timeframe. There were few remaining members, but I met with all of them individually, and I began recruiting new people immediately.
I held several public meetings in the Mattru Jong Court Barrie community building informing people about AYM’s intentions in starting a new vibrant program in the area. Several people volunteered to take on the creation of a tourist beach and vegetable garden on a piece of land donated to AYM called Moselleh, about 1 ½ miles from Mattru Jong.The volunteers cleared and rebuilt the road from Moselleh to Mattru Jong, they built two bridges out of Palm Tree logs and rocks, and cleared a large area of brush from three connected beaches on Moselleh along the Jong River leading to the great waterfalls. We also held dances and other events to honor, recognize, reward, and celebrate with our volunteers.
The vegetable garden established on Moselleh was created from the work of 60 volunteers. I also established two other vegetable garden sites, in Georma (30 miles from Mattru Jong, and with 150 volunteers), and in Mobimbi (17 miles from Mattru Jong, and with 40 volunteers). All sites successfully grew fruits, vegetables, and herbs, such as corn, pumpkins, beans, peas, squash, radishes, carrots, peppers, onions, tomatoes, okra, lettuce, watermelons, cucumbers, basil, coriander, and potatoes. Most of the seeds grown were donated to AYM in the United States. AYM shipped two barrels full of packets of seeds to Sierra Leone in March 2007. The first large vegetable harvest at all three sites was collected and sold to AllTerrain Services group (the company providing meals and hospitality management to over 2,000 employees at Sierra Rutile Mining company) for just over one million Leones (approx. $350 USD).
Three United States tourists visited Sierra Leone as guests of AYM, and utilized our volunteer network for guided tours and traveling. One visitor is a photographer named Clint Fandrich, who spent one month in the Mattru Jong area, interviewing chiefs from the eight sections of Jong Chiefdom and AYM participants. Another visitor is an engineer named Chris Lankford, who brought with him a water purification project for AYM volunteers to begin utilizing. Chris spent two weeks in Sierra Leone with AYM. The third visitor, Danielle Kegler, is the AYM Volunteer Coordinator from the United States, and she spent over two months with the volunteers in Sierra Leone. Each of the three visitors had “the trip of their lifetime,” and are planning to make a return trip in 2008 with more people.
Chris “Dude” Lankford brought a 5-stage reverse osmosis water filtration system including a UV-light micro-
organism eliminator to AYM in Sierra Leone. It is powered by a solar panel, charging a 150 amp hour battery, so that it can continue to provide power in the absence of the sun. This machine has the ability to pump out 75 gallons of fresh, clean water each day. Currently, this safe potable water is being provided to members of the community in Moriba Town who come by and fill up, including children from the community and local schools, people from community groups, policemen, and others.
I built a formidable relationship between AYM in Sierra Leone and the Sierra Rutile Limited (SRL) mining company. The AYM vegetable garden operating at Mobimbi is on SRL land, and in a secured area. Our local volunteers have SRL identification badges which allow them to board SRL buses and vehicles, and to enter the security entrances to the garden. SRL has also given AYM full access to office space for accessing internet, printing, copying, meeting space, and other administration assistance. SRL donated 600,000 Leones (approx $200 USD) toward the pouring libation ceremony at Moselleh in March 2007. Also, SRL has generously donated $3,750 toward the shipping of a 40-foot container from the United States to Sierra Leone for transporting donated items AYM has been collecting, such as clothes, books, toys, computers, bags, furniture, mattresses, bicycles and artworks.
I signed a contract on behalf of AYM with a local man in Mattru Jong for AYM to begin renovation and management of a two-story building from where we intend to operate our headquarters office activities. Also planned is the creation of a dining
and entertainment business, a retail shop for provisions and other items, and high-scale guest rooms. The contract gives AYM control over the entire property, which includes several rooms in the large building, and a side house in a strategic location in Timbo section of Mattru Jong, near Centennial Secondary School across the road to Moselleh beach.
submitted by Dennis C. Glover