The President is coming to Salone…

No not President Obama, but our very own Libby Hoffman.

Libby Hoffman, co-founder of FTI, will be visiting SL for ten days. She has no time to enjoy laka beach because she will be attending a monthly team meeting, meeting potential donors, visiting several communities, and witnessing a ceremony, hopefully in Koinadugu. A lot activities for ten days. All this will happen if the volcano in Iceland permits her to travel.

Last time Libby was here, at the end of January, she had the opportunity to visit two communities in Koinadugu District. Although the communities where in the same section their understanding of the program were on opposite sides of the spectrum. One community understood FTI’s approach and values clearly while the other one was asking for handouts. The community that was familiar with FTI’s approach hosted the 2nd anniversary where over 2000 people showed up. It was an amazing ceremony!

Since the inception of FT, Libby has actively visited the program in Sierra Leone. The Staff is looking forward to her arrival and want to wish her a safe flight to sweet salone.

Rolling out in Koinadugu — beginning with consultations

Koinadugu-Village_sm

Koinadugu District (in the north of Sierra Leone) is in the initial phase of the rollout of the Fambul Tok program — community consultation. Before we initiate any Fambul Tok activity, we broadly consult the people and ask them if they want us to facilitate the program in their respective communities. We are rooted in the consultative process — we do not go into a community and impose our program on them. Consultation creates the space for local ownership.

Koinadugu-drumming_sm

In mid January, staff from the FTI corporate headquarters office in Portland, ME (USA) — FTI President Libby Hoffman, and Director of Finance, Tammy Mazza — accompanied the Koinadugu district staff and national support staff to several communities in Koinadugu. The first community we visited, Koinadugu Village (same name as the district), was surprised but delighted with the Fambul Tok concept. Many elders and representatives expressed gratitude for the program and for its approach. They welcomed us with traditional dances, songs, and Woronanie (the giving of four kola nuts in water to visitors — it’s a sign of appreciation). Koinadugu Village was severely affected during the war, as were most communities in the district. It was a base for RUF, government, and eventually the junta. The atrocities that occurred in the village are unimaginable. The community is really looking forward to the implementation of the program. They expressed a strong desire to reconcile with each other and to come together as a family again, and an excitement about reviving their culture and traditions in support of that process.

Mobile-Restaurant_smThe second community we visited, Firarawa village, presented a slightly different experience. Although they expressed interest in Fambul Tok, they also clearly had some misconceptions about our approach.  They were used to handouts from the international community, and it was obvious they had an initial expectation that the Fambul Tok program would work along those lines.  The team worked hard to explain the Fambul Tok values and approach and to emphasize the importance of community ownership and full participation.

When you consult with people and communities, you will learn a lot about their needs and in return help build confidence in their abilities. The two visits were a great contrast for the team on the challenges of reconciling communities. It takes time if the need is to change the mindset of people, but this is simply one other sign of the reality that reconciliation is a process!