Raising Awareness About Sierra Leone
1. Listen to the music of Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars and hold a listening party/fundraiser. Find out when the All Stars are playing in your area from their Facebook, become their friend and buy their album Living Like a Refugee from their official website. Hold a listening party/fundraiser for a group helping refugees in Western Africa.
2. Investigate the relationship of so-called “blood diamonds” to the conflict in Sierra Leone. Publicize your findings and check to ensure that jewelry retailers in your community do not sell “conflict diamonds.” Find out more about the issue from the United Nations’ website. Be an educated consumer: from diamonds to coffee to clothing, be aware of where the products you are purchasing come from. Most products employing fair trade practices will have a fair trade certified label on the box.
4. Investigate the roots of conflicts in Sierra Leone (or other African nations) and post the results of your investigation on your blog or other relevant websites and share them with others in your community. Include the historic impact of European colonialism, current U.S. foreign policy and the practices of multinational corporations in your research.
You can start by reading through the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Report. The commission addresses the violent conflicts and human-rights abuses committed during the eleven years of the Sierra Leone Civil War and serves as a way for all Sierra Leoneans to examine their own roles in the conflict and move forward in peace and harmony. Learn more about the conflict by reading the extensive and detailed full report, or read the children’s version of the Truth and Reconciliation Report, which explains what happened in simple and powerful terms.
For more background information on conflict in Sierra Leone, read the articles in this site’s Sierra Leone’s Civil War section and download our Delve Deeper (PDF) guide for more suggested books and videos.
5. Help draw attention to ongoing tragedies in places like Darfur or Congo. Highlight the needs of refugees affected by those conflicts. A good place to learn more is the Save Darfur website. Save Darfur is an alliance of over 100 faith-based, humanitarian and human rights organizations. Visit the website of the Washington D.C.-based advocacy organization Friends of the Congo to find out more about the on-going conflict in that region of Africa.
6. Learn about the needs of the residents of a refugee camp and find a way to help. Check out the Human Rights Organizations section to find groups that are working on these issues.
Human Rights Organizations
Ninemillion.org: There are roughly nine million refugee children living in the world today. Ninemillion.org is a UNHCR (The UN Refugee Agency) led campaign to raise awareness and funds for education and sport programs for refugee youth, many of whom are forced to spend years of their young lives away from home with little hope of returning. What happens to them now, during their years as refugees, is up to all of us.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees:
The UN Refugee Agency coordinates international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. For the status of specific projects related to this film, search for “Guinea” and “Sierra Leone.”
Le Centre Canadien d’Etude et de Coopération Internationale (CECI): The Canadian Center for International Study and Cooperation is a Canadian non-governmental organization that helps fight poverty throughout the world. CECI donated instruments to the Refugee All-Stars.
International Rescue Committee: The IRC helps people fleeing persecution and war. Its website includes a reference library with documents related to refugee issues.
Witness: Witness uses video and online technologies to publicize human rights violations. The site includes references to several important pieces related to Sierra Leone (search for “Sierra Leone” on the site’s home page).
Human Rights Watch: HRW is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting human rights around the globe. Its Web site includes annual assessments of hotspots; including a range of reports on Sierra Leone.
Save the Children: This nonprofit organization works in more than 50 countries, including the United States, and serves more than 37 million children and 24 million adults working to save and improve children’s lives, including parents, community members, local organizations and government agencies. Through their site you can sponsor a child, learn how to get your own child involved, and view an interactive map displaying their programs around the world.
The Ishmael Beah Foundation: This private, independent institution is dedicated to helping former child soldiers reintegrate into society and improve their lives. The Foundation aims at creating and financing educational and vocational opportunities for children and youth who have been affected by war, so that they can be empowered to choose a life free of conflict. The Foundation will focus its efforts in closely monitoring children during and after the rehabilitation phase to prevent them from re-entering the cycle of conflict and violence.