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Community Organizing in Sierra Leone
September 20, 2019

Crop field in Sierra LeoneIn his childhood home in the Kambia District of Sierra Leone, Sam Sheka Moi was the keeper of the spoons.

“My uncle told me I would wash my father’s spoons and keep them safe so that no one would have access to them except him,” Sam says.

Ever the thoughtful and conscientious child, Sam knew from an early age that he wanted to make a change in his community.

“Everything I did I tried to do with integrity and passion,” Sam says. “Above all, I wanted to help the poorest of the poor in my community to live a better life.”

One night, as Sam lay awake in bed, the thought occurred to him: “How can I bring joy to the needy?”

Sam and participants at a 2019 YALILearns session
Sam and participants at a 2019 YALILearns session

With that question in mind, Sam took the YALI Network Online Course “Community Organizing for Action,” a set of lessons on planning a grassroots campaign, and decided to plan his own YALILearns session on the material.

“We ended up hosting 90 participants,” Sam says, “each interested in changing their community through business development and local advocacy.”

What made the session a success, as Sam explains, was close consultations with local leaders ahead of the meeting.

“I sat down with village heads, law enforcement officials and other stakeholders to discuss these ideas before planning my session,” Sam says. “We discussed what needs were the most critical and how we, together, could help address them.”

Other topics Sam covers in his meetings with community members include the opportunities afforded by agribusiness and the role farmers can play in growing the local economy.

“My aim was to educate participants about the value of agriculture,” Sam says. “I wanted them to see farming as a way to eradicate poverty in Sierra Leone.”

In moments of challenge, Sam returns to his passions and the value — quite simply — of diligence.

Photo from one of Sam's YALILearns events in the Banekeh village
Photo from one of Sam’s YALILearns events in the Banekeh village

“Hard work is always a good thing,” Sam says. “If you love what you are doing, you will be motivated to not only work hard but also to achieve your dreams.”

Sam advises young entrepreneurs deciding between projects to pursue the ideas that will affect their communities for years to come.

“When you have two projects in front of you, work on the one that will lead not just to immediate but also to long-term success — the project that will change society for the better.”

As Sam explains it, an ideal society is a community where people are invested in their shared future and are willing to work toward it, regardless of the costs.

“A perfect world is an inclusive one,” Sam says. “It’s a world where everyone is working to make a change, together.”

Interested in how you can also bring knowledge to those in your community? Find out how you can plan your own session on our YALILearns page.

The views and opinions expressed here belong to the author or interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of the YALI Network or the U.S. government.