Sierra Leone President receives the Young Professionals group at State House in Freetown - 12.01.15
“The ‘Young Professionals’, a true reflection of the spirit of Sierra Leone’s new middle class”—President Koroma.
The contagious nature of the Ebola virus disease has necessitated the destruction of the personal effects of infected persons-beddings, mattresses, household utensils- all burnt down. Others lose their small scale businesses during the course of admission at treatment centers.
Given that most of the affected people live below a dollar a day, life after Ebola becomes particularly difficult.
They were struck by this economic hardship the Ebola outbreak wrecked upon the survivors. They started raising funds from individual contributions from their members. Then they ‘adopted’ the Hastings Ebola Treatment Center, donating what became known as “discharge packages”.
This philanthropy and strategic thinking by the “Young Professionals” caught the attention of many and soon, several other groups and non- governmental organizations followed suit, providing food and non-food items to survivors at Hastings and elsewhere.
These start- up (discharge) packages which now 'accompany’ survivors from treatment centers to their homes, significantly ameliorate that hardship inflicted by the outbreak.
Observers say this gesture may have also served as a motivation for sick people to report early; knowing that in addition to the high probability of survival, there is also the certainty for some livelihood support.
Therefore, for their ingenuity and more so, their sense of responsibility to their compatriots, the YPs have drawn lots of commendations from many quarters.
Impressed with their work, the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), in December 2014, became the first institution to provide funding to support the work of the young professionals.
On 12th January, 2015, the Fountain of Honor and the Grand Commander of the Order of the Rokel, His Excellency President Ernest Koroma, received in audience the membership of his younger compatriots.
Mr. Brima Koroma, a private legal practioner who spoke on behalf of his organization acknowledged President Koroma’s social mobilization efforts. Then he explained the motivations/objectives, current and planned activities of the ‘Young Professionals’.
“We were touched by the effects of the Ebola Epidemic on our people so we decided that we must do something. We started by raising funds from individual contributions until a month ago when OSIWA supported us”.
Brima Koroma went on to state that, in addition to donating food and non-food items to survivors at Hastings, the YP has also engaged on public sensitization about Ebola on radio and television and; “we intend on transform into a think tank to contribute to the formulation of national policy”, he said.
The Young Professionals also presented several recommendations to President Koroma including the timely payment of hazard and other incentives to health workers, the payment of the death benefits to the families of fallen health workers, phased reopening of schools, the establishment of a center for disease control and the general strengthening of the country’s health infrastructure.
“Never again must this country suffer such a sudden surge of such an epidemic”, said Brima Koroma. Nicky Spencer-Coker, another member of the YP, added that the organization is on course for another round of public education, this time on sanitation and hygiene.
In his rejoinder, President Koroma commended the Young Professionals on their initiative. “This is a reflection of the true spirit expected of Sierra Leone’s new middle class; which is a symbol of the present and the future. I am particularly happy that you have come up with this initiative without any prompting from anywhere” the President went on adding, “It is a new wave of thinking of change in this country”.
President Koroma then assured the Young Professional that most of the issues raised are already being addressed.
“We are going to hold a meeting to resolve the issues around the hazard pay; we have identified Kerry Town for a state-of-the art Center for Disease control. The President disclosed that the World Bank and the African Development Bank have already expressed interest to support this initiative”.
President Koroma also informed his young compatriots that the government is already working on the phased reopening of schools. "Weighing both sides, I am convinced that it is better to have schools re-opened”.
He also expressed his personal commitment to support the Young Professionals on their plan to establish a think tank and encouraged them to remain professionals no matter what.
“The transformation of a country is dependent on the thinking and behavior of its middle class", the president asserted.