| AYPAD to reform street kids in Sierra Leone
By Sama Garrick
Nov 15, 2006, 17:07
A local youth organization, Africa Youths for Peace and Development (AYPAD), last Saturday, 12th November, organized a day’s forum for street kids at the Victoria Park, in Freetown. The forum, which was organized in collaboration with an international organization called ‘Taking It Global (TIG),’ was aimed at strategizing possible ways of reforming street children and youths in the country.
In his opening remarks, Chairman of AYPAD, Abdul Aziz Conteh, who also chaired the occasion, intimated his audience about the aims and objectives their organization, one of which, he said, was working to reform street children and youths. "We are in constant contact with the youth and children on the streets, in order to be able to know what their constraints are, and to see how best we can cheep in to assist," the Chairman stated.
In his statement, the Project Coordinator, Salifu Bangura, said among other things, that though the Child Right Act was enacted since 1992, very little has been done to address child rights violation in the country. "The number of youths and children in the street increases everyday," Bangura said.
He further went on to appeal to the Government, as well as NGOs and donor agencies to be more proactive in addressing the needs of the youth and children in the streets.
The Program Coordinator also urged NGOs working with children to ensure that funds received for the welfare of children are used for their intended purposes.
Speaking on behalf of the street children, 12-year old, shabby-looking Francis Amara narrated a tragic story that led him to take to the streets. According to Francis, he has been living in the street for the past three years, after he left his poor parents in Guinea in search of fortune in Sierra Leone. "My only source of livelihood is sweeping, toting and doing other odd jobs," Francis informed the gathering. Other street kids also took turns in explaining circumstances that led them to the streets.
Having listened to the plight of children, participants brainstormed on the strategies to be put in place in order to tackle the issue. At the end of the discussion, it was agreed , among other thing, that a coalition of youth groups present at the forum be formed to work with other child-rights organizations in a bid to address the welfare of this targeted group.
In his contribution, a friend of AYPAD, Ibrahim Bakarr Kamara, who has been very much supportive of such programmes, pledged his continued support to the organization.
Speaking to Awareness Times shortly after the programme, Kamara intimated that he has been in the United States all this while. "I returned home in January this year to see what contributions I can offer to my country," he said, adding that he received a letter from the organistion a couple of weeks ago, asking him for support. "I went through all their documents attached and I discovered that it was a sober organization and got interested in them right away. That was how I became a friend of the organization and that was how I came in to assist them in organizing this all important event," he said.
Ibrahim Kamara is businessman who is also deeply involved in youth activities. He holds a BSc. degree in Economics and a Masters in Public Administration from the Baltimore University in Maryland, USA.
present at the forum were the Public Relations Officer of AYPAD, Abdul Deensee and the Secretary General, Mohamed Sankoh, among others.
AYPAD is a member of Taking It Global (TIG), an international organization developed within the context of several emerging trends; from the devastating effects of HIV/AIDS and other diseases, to the emerging crisis of global warming, to the threat of terrorism or the specter of war. TIG is encouraging its members all over the world, including AYPAD, to run an open-space forum in their communities.
© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.