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NOSLINA turns 18 to great acclamation and aplomb

1 July 2016 at 00:29 | 1216 views

By Sampha Kalokoh, USA.

The Annual Forum and Gala of the National Organization of Sierra Leoneans in North America (NOSLINA) were held on Saturday, May 7. Inaugurated during spring, 1998, in the wake of the reinstatement of the exiled democratically-elected SLPP Government, the organization’s members have reason to celebrate the burgeoning of NOSLINA into the leading voice for Sierra Leoneans in the Diaspora.

The group, which experienced birth pangs during its formative years, kicked off its 18th year, with a high-powered forum (photo) in the morning at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel in the top end downtown Silver Spring, Maryland! The Gala was held in the evening at the same venue.

Chaired by Professor Cyrus Macfoy of the Biology Department, University of Maryland University College (UMUC), who authored "Medicinal Plants and Traditional Medicine in Sierra Leone", the Forum was held under the theme "Enabling Communities for a Better Sierra Leone."

Spotlighting a Post-Ebola nation, the initial presenter on the Health/Sanitation Panel, Dr. Ibrahim Kamara, Senior Epidemiologist, US Department of Health and Human Services, spoke to his experiences on the ground in Sierra Leone at the height of the Epidemic. He dwelled on lessons learned and looked ahead to a secured post-Ebola society from a pragmatic clinical health perspective.

Ms. Jonta Williams, Deputy Ebola Coordinator, US Agency for International Development, informed an audience of NOSLINA Members and Diaspora Sierra Leoneans of the US Government’s infrastructural input in excess of $169 million in Sierra Leone while they contributed to help combat the Ebola scourge. In addition to the health arena, the money was also spent for development in other such areas as communication and technology, food security, and governance and economic crisis mitigation.

Dr. Emeric Palmer, a practicing physician, who had just returned from Freetown after a week’s stay, spoke from the heart sharing fresh recollections of his interaction with officials on the ground and the general populace. It was clear from his remarks, that there had been a failure from an international, as well as national, response to the Ebola epidemic. However, Dr. Palmer emphasized that the National Ebola Response Centre (NERC) had demonstrated positive movement even as, he noted, more remains to be done in terms of attitudes, recovery and sustainability.

Dr. Susan Shepler, Associate Professor of International Peace and Conflict Resolution at American University and author of "Child Deployed", as a member on the Education and Cultural Arts Panel, spoke on community-based education and grassroots academics. She stressed the need for the country’s educational standards to keep apace with global markers and levels of expectation.

Mrs. Akua Kouyate-Tate, Senior Director, Education at Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, leads Wolf Trap’s national programs that use arts-integrated strategies to teach young children science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). She spoke about the value of the performing arts in early childhood education and how it can bridge the economic achievement gap, support STEM, provide children living in disadvantaged communities better access to quality education, support language and literacy development, health and wellness, and also develop skills for successful students.

Among contributors during the lively Q and A session was Dr. Jaisie Stevens of Sierra Leone Empowerment Network (SLEN) - she inquired from Ms Williams about the prospect of a Diaspora Advisory Board, by way of USAID, providing much-needed insights and expertise for challenging post-Ebola development tasks at hand. Ms Williams did promise to provide SLEN and NOSLINA legislative contacts whereby the groups could possibly partner to engage US Congressional action on central core issues relating to Sierra Leone.

NOSLINA Vice chair Ms. Audrey Pabs-Garnon lamented that Sierra Leoneans had a tendency to talk and operate in silos thus gatherings, such as the NOSLINA forum and structure, provide the indispensable spark to fuel mobilization to advance Sierra Leone’s interests and to improve the welfare of Sierra Leoneans. Hence NOSLINA’s decision to spearhead a Mission Trip to Sierra Leone in January 2017 under the theme: "Enabling Communities for a Better Sierra Leone."

In closing, Dr. Cyrus Macfoy, chair of the Forum, tied the strands of the Forum together, stressing the need for community engagement in the Diaspora and civic education on the home front among fundamentals of Civil Society. He expressed gratitude to presenters for their very informative contributions and for stirring up excitement with recommendations that will enable communities generate an action plan for a better revitalized Sierra Leone. Dr. Macfoy, further, looked to NOSLINA members to renew and rededicate themselves to the finest ideals of a democratic Sierra Leone – a Sierra Leone where sound educational, basic healthcare, and environmentally-friendly systems may be implemented and realized by its citizens.

The Annual Independence Day Banquet Awards Gala is NOSLINA’s signature fundraising event. As is customary and intriguing, Sierra Leoneans, descendants of Sierra Leone, as well as Sierra Leone’s friends and supporters from across the United States and abroad converged at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel – this time to recognize stellar contributions to the making of a modern-day post Ebola resurgent Sierra Leone and to encourage future advancements.

Awards

At the height of the Ebola crisis in 2014, NOSLINA was part of the process that yielded about $55 million Ebola related aid to West Africa. Airlink, the organization that linked NOSLINA to airlines such as Brussels Air to ship the aid at no charge, was recognized with a distinguished service Award at the Gala.

In association with Airlink, NOSLINA helped bring together the Sierra Leone Diaspora community - North America, Europe, Africa – whereby all segments put forth an unprecedented unified effort resulting in alleviating the suffering of Ebola victims!

The Diamond Award for Distinguished Service - the Organization’s Highest Award – was rendered to Mr. Daniel Koroma who is the first African appointed to the County Executive’s Office in Montgomery County, Maryland. He is the Community Outreach Manager and Liaison to African and Caribbean communities at the Montgomery County Office of Community Partnerships.

Daniel Koroma

Mr. Koroma has used his position of prominence and authority to give a voice and face to the people of Sierra Leone by helping to create the narrative of the number of Sierra Leoneans in the USA, engaging diaspora groups and creating an opportunity for those groups to partner directly with the US Census Bureau, ultimately leading to the receiving of much needed products and services in their communities. (The complete list of NOSLINA 2016 Awardees is reproduced at the end of this article.)

Graduation of Noslina Sadu Bah Law Scholarship Awardee

Dr. John Davies-Cole, Chairman of the Board of NOSLINA, used the opportunity of the Gala to congratulate NOSLINA’s very own Sadu Bah Memorial Scholarship recipient Mr. Abdulai Kondowa for being awarded his Bachelor of Law Degree with Honors from Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone. The late Attorney Mohamed Sadu Bah was a selfless and untiring legal counsel and Board member of NOSLINA until his untimely death in 2011. In the aftermath of his passing, NOSLINA created the Mohamed Sadu Bah Law School Scholarship Fund – Mr. Kondowa is the first recipient of the Fund.

Abdulai Kondowa

Attorney Sadu Bah, Jr, Sadu Bah’s son, other members of the family, friends, and colleagues were in attendance to celebrate the joyous milestone of Mr. Kondowa’s accomplishment with the NOSLINA family! Mr. Kondowa, who has one more year to go to be invited to the Bar, extended his appreciation to NOSLINA in a message addressed to the NOSLINA Executive Director.

Entertainment

Entertainment for the Gala was provided by the hilarious and ever-so-funny Joseph Zozo Betts a.k.a. Pa Bangura of the Professionals. The Professionals are Sierra Leone’s most beloved old comedy troupe that originated in Freetown. Their radio show in the 1980s and ’90s was a mainstay on the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service (SLBS) and they performed live throughout the country.

Members of the Professionals have come together again in the US to provide comic relief to the Sierra Leone community. Their brand of humor has been aptly described as a source of great comfort and a stress reliever! Among principal performers are Donald Nat-George ("Dandogo") and Joseph Betts ("Pa Bangura"), the latter rocked the NOSLINA Gala house with slapstick skits evoking side-splitting laughter that morphed to tears!

NOSLINA MISSION TRIP 2017

NOSLINA plans to embark on several strategic projects in Sierra Leone, in partnership with Sierra Leoneans and various organizations in Sierra Leone, to move the country to the next level. In this regard, NOSLINA will be spearheading a mission trip to Sierra Leone in January, 2017.

The purpose of the trip is to engage the Diaspora in giving back to Sierra Leone especially in this post Ebola period; the theme is "Enabling Communities for a Better Sierra Leone." NOSLINA is seeking to encourage collaborative efforts and promote volunteerism locally, nationally and internationally.

The Diaspora being the 5th Province of Sierra Leone, NOSLINA’s intention is to become a major and central stakeholder in the well-being and future of Sierra Leone, the homeland. For more information on how you can support the NOSLINA Mission Trip, please contact Executive Director Suna Nallo at nallosgn@gmail.com or at +1-410-412-4311; web www.noslina.net.

As a progressive and forward-thinking organization, NOSLINA will continue its efforts of positively responding to the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in the task of building a better Sierra Leone. As Dr. Davies-Cole puts it, “NOSLINA is extending our hands to everyone who has Sierra Leone at heart to join us in this sacred march. We will strive to maintain the highest standards of performance and accountability in all our endeavors.”

Professor Daphne Ntiri Quenum, distinguished Patron of NOSLINA’s campaigns and programs, underscores Davies-Cole’s hopes and beliefs when she remarks, “It is time to correct the distortions, prejudices and stereotypes about Sierra Leone and its people. Let’s create more legitimacy and identify those who can rebuild a country that needs rebuilding and rebirth.”

Complete List of NOSLINA 2016 Awardees

Distinguished Service Award
Airlink a rapid-response humanitarian relief organization that links airlines with pre-qualified nonprofits

Distinguished Diamond Award
Daniel Koroma first African appointed to the County Executive’s office in Montgomery County, Maryland

Distinguished Community Leadership Award
Helping Children Worldwide by partnering with local government and child advocacy organizations in Sierra Leone

St. Joseph’s Secondary School Alumni Association US Mid-Atlantic Region for being ever faithful to the wellbeing of their alma mater

FSSGians Alumni Association-Washington Metropolitan Branch for continuing in the tradition of the school’s founders of supporting the school, its students, faculty and staff

Distinguished Humanitarian Leadership Award
Bishop Eugene Wellington for spearheading projects in Sierra Leone and in his local community of Slidell, Louisiana

Mr. Michael Fayia Kallon for standing out as a true Son of the Soil through his many years of loving devotion and support of the people of Koindu, Kissi Bendu

Mr. Foday Mansaray for relentlessly and persistently spearheading efforts in the Franklin Township of New Jersey to, among others, declare Sierra Leone Independence Day in the Township

Distinguished Entrepreneurial Leadership Award
Mr. Gibril Koroma for founding an online-newspaper (the Patriotic Vanguard) that focuses on capturing breaking news in Sierra Leone.

Mr. Patrick Goba for founding businesses both in Atlanta, Georgia, USA and Sierra Leone that over the years have led to employment opportunities for innumerable Sierra Leoneans

Mr. David Buakei Vandy for founding the first Sierra Leone theatre company in the USA

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