DECEMBER 8, 2014
As a complement to the government-led efforts in the fight against Ebola in Sierra Leone, Fambul Tok International-Sierra Leone, in partnership with nine non-governmental organizations and over 30 community-based organizations in Sierra Leone, has formed the Bridging Communities Network (BCN) to provide a critical bridge to communities.
As Fambul Tok provides leadership for the new initiative, BCN will coordinate at national, district and community levels. It is creating a platform of organized citizen action groups to interface with the National Ebola Response Centre (NERC) at national and district levels. The BCN will lead in mobilizing and coordinating a nationally-networked, community level response to the Ebola crisis.
The engagement of the network will support processes that meet the urgent need of stopping the spread of the virus, while strengthening citizen and community capacity for crisis resilience for the future.
As a way of soliciting input from organizations and networks with direct presence in communities, and to broad based consensus building and ownership among network members on issues such as community confidence building, its thrust, engagement efforts and facilitate stakeholder mapping of existing organizations (NGOs/CBOs) at all levels, BCN has started consultations across the country.
Formally launching the consultation in Port Loko on November 26, Fambul Tok International-Sierra Leone Executive Director, John Caulker, said the network was formed to facilitate a community-led response to the Ebola crisis plaguing the entire country. He said Sierra Leoneans should start finding solutions to their own problems rather than waiting for or relying on external leadership in responding to crises.
“As Sierra Leoneans and also civil society groups, we are mobilizing now to provide collective leadership from within Sierra Leone, based on the understanding that our social capital is our greatest resource, not only to stop the spread of Ebola, but to deal with its long-term impact,” said Caulker.
He went on to state that the 10 national NGOs in the network will provide leadership in different regions, adding that the Centre for the Coordination of Youth Activities (CCYA) is responsible for BCN work in Port Loko.
He further stated that the consultations will bring participants from all chiefdoms across the country, adding that during the meetings, facilitators will explain BCN concept and scope. He said data gathering of organizations and network emerging as a result of the Ebola crisis will be done.
The director disclosed that each participant, on behalf of his/her chiefdom, will receive a brand new phone with hi-technology (WhatsApp and other features) to enable them send accurate and timely information to the BCN secretariat in Freetown. Training on the use of the phones was also done before delivery.
CCYA Executive Director, Ngolo Katta, in his remarks, said it is always vital to empower communities because they know their problems and have answers to them. He said participants should take the lead in sensitizing their people on Ebola, adding that BCN will work with them to close the communication gap that exists in communities.
Meanwhile, consultations have been concluded in Bombali, Koinadugu and Moyamba districts respectively where stakeholders and CBOs interacted to find a way forward and work closely to fight Ebola and respond to future crisis. Consultations will continue in other regions.
The long-term goal is to create a positive legacy for the current crisis, with permanent and lasting structures in place in communities themselves that support a network of vibrant, healthy, whole communities that are able to advocate for their needs, facilitate their local development efforts and use outside resources wisely for the benefit of its citizens and communities.
Members of the network include: Fambul Tok International Sierra Leone (FTI-SL), Society Learning and Yearning for Equal Opportunities (SLYEO), Advocacy Movement Network (AMNet), Community Initiative and Development Organisation (CIDO), Centre for Coordination of Youth Activities (CCYA), Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law (CARL), Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD), Defence for Children International (DCI), Campaign for Good Governance (CGG), and Media Foundation for Peace Development (MFPD).