Generous contributions from Brooklyn-based author Ishmael Beah funded Schools for Salone’s Junctionla Primary School project (pronounced Junc-schway–la), located in southern Sierra Leone near his home village of Mogbwemo. The school serves 3 nearby villages that were built as cluster relocation communities for people displaced by rutile mining activities in the area.
The original school was a small mud and stick structure which had lost its roof. The teachers and students had nowhere to go when the rains came, so school just stopped. The nearby villages were without clean water. Ishmael had lived in the area as a boy and wrote about his experiences in the war in the New York Times bestseller A Long Way Gone.
After meeting Schools for Salone’s executive director Cindy Nofziger in Seattle, Beah eagerly got involved with funding the project, which included 4 classrooms, an office and a storeroom, a 3 compartments pit toilet, 60 sets of furniture, plus two 30+ foot, concrete lined, hand pump water wells in surrounding villages. The completed school began serving 35 girls and 82 boys in 2008.
Ishmael’s friend, Leslie Mboka, worked tirelessly together with Joseph Lamin of Masanga Children’s Fund to turn this project into a reality.
Leslie later reported, “I am grateful to all for this project because it is going to serve a string of relocated communities impacted by rutile mining. These vulnerable communities include Junctionla, Lungi, Gnagama and Semabu, all in the Impere Chiefdom, Bonthe District. I am proud of Ishmael because he is a true son of the soil.”
In May of 2008, Ishmael visited the project site and presented school supply items purchased with a $500 donation from the students of Aspen Community Charter School in Woody Creek, Colorado for the children at Junctionla.
The items presented were:
– 5 drinking buckets
– 24 drinking cups
– 5 cartons of exercise books, each with 12 copies of 24 packets
-5 packets of duplicating paper
– 2 packets of pens
– 12 dozen pencils
– 20 packets of Crayons
After this trip, Ishmael reported, “I wanted first to say that Joseph is as wonderful as Cindy had said. It is really great to have a solid and reliable person on the ground. And he and Leslie together are really getting things done with the school at a remarkable rate… I was really moved by how much that school is needed at Junctionla and how much the people need and appreciate what is happening.”
By the end of June, 2008, the new school and its well were complete and the second well neared completion, having run into rock at 38 feet that required blasting.
Ishmael returned to Sierra Leone for the Junctionla Primary Opening Ceremony on July 13th, 2008.
Cindy Nofziger, Schools for Salone Executive Director, participated in the ceremonies via cell phone. Drs. Catherine and Richard Frazier, former Peace Corps Volunteers in Sierra Leone, also attended to make community contacts and begin preparations for Teacher Training in partnership with Schools for Salone next year.