By Allieu Christopher Moiwa (YES 2013-2014, Sierra Leone, placed with AFS-USA in Enterprise, OR)
After attending the Crip Camp Workshop in August 2020 and the Projects for All Workshop in November 2020 — both workshops held by the YES program in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the American with Disabilities Act — I became inspired to champion disability rights and be a voice for inclusion.
In 2011, the Sierra Leone Government signed the Persons with Disabilities Act into law, but the issues that preceded the Act still remain today. From the lack of enforcement of the protections of the rights of persons with disabilities to the lack of equal opportunities, the work is far from over. Sierra Leone, like many other nations, has got a lot to do to make a more inclusive and equitable society for all.
As a way of spreading the message, I applied for a follow-on Projects for All workshop grant for my project, Youthpreneurship for Social Change. My team and I provided training to 40 youths from various socioeconomic backgrounds on leadership, developing a business plan and seeking financing, community service, and activism for inclusion and other social inequalities. Participants prepared feasible, small-scale business plans, and we are now helping them to find financing to actualize these ingenious ideas. We also engaged in a community radio discussion on disability rights issues to spread the message to the wider community.
We were deliberate in ensuring that we had a diverse group of participants, with and without disabilities. The workshop proved important and impactful in addressing the many socioeconomic issues that we still struggle with, and the additional impact of the project will be continuously realized as participants pledged to be ambassadors of inclusion and behavioral change for persons with disabilities.
I would like to thank the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program, iEARN, and AFS for shaping my life and dreams. I am thankful for my amazing team and all the sacrifices and passion put into the project, including the American Corner, the Opportunity Training Center, and the great group of young people who are now agents of change on disability rights issues, inclusion, empowerment, and equal opportunity — and are now equipped to influence our leaders, government, NGOs, religious groups, and businesses.