The successful Sierra Leone Arc of Hope (SLAHOPE) fund-raising event held at the Mirage Hall in Maryland, USA on Saturday October 2nd 2010, may have slightly altered the meaning of the idiomatic expression, “charity begins at home”. The expression simply means that we should try to help our family and friends before we attempt to help others. Our duties and responsibilities to our families should be placed on top of our charitable or humanitarian preferences.
SLAHOPE has focused on building a state of the art hospital in Sierra Leone that would serve Sierra Leoneans who are in dire need of better, and as many medical facilities as possible. We cannot over-emphasize the need for such humanitarian efforts without mentioning the pleasant irony that the founding members of SLAHOPE began their charitable work away from home – in the Diaspora. We may then correctly say that, the SLAHOPE humanitarian endeavor began abroad, not at Home – in Sierra Leone. Hence charity does not always begin at home.
The humanitarian fund-raising event held on Saturday, October 2nd, was graced by people from all walks of life. There were diplomats, politicians, religious leaders, members of the press, business owners and leaders of other philanthropic organizations all of whom donated lavishly to the worthy cause of building a state of the art hospital in Sierra Leone. When all the donations and speeches were over, Mr. Donald Moore, the provider and selector of the beats and groves did not relent as he carefully selected the songs which forced the most diplomatic Diplomat to take the dance floor, partying as if it was the last day on earth.
Rev. Leeroy Kabbs Kanu, Minister Plenipotentiary to the United Nations in New York, and proprietor of the Cocorioko online newspaper started the proverbial ball rolling with Christian prayers. Muslim prayers were conducted by SLAHOPE board member, Retired Col. Lansana Turay, a man who many secret female admirers at the event whispered that he does not look his age. He was immaculately dressed and he looked very good.
Under the watchful eyes of her mother, and Retired Colonel Turay, who is a Child Abuse Investigator for the Department of Children and Families; the young Sierra Leone-American born Miss Virginia Pre-Teen Beauty Queen, Janet Lagah-Bonah sang the Sierra Leone and United States national anthems, to the amazement of her audience who lavished her with loud and sustained applause. The audience’s response to the national anthems offered a hint, which sent a clear message across the room that the evening was going to be filled with a common philanthropic spirit, patriotic fun and entertainment.
Dr. John Sandy, Chairman of the Arc of Hope Board, quickly realized that the loud applause in reaction to young Janet Lagah-Bonah’s renditions of the Sierra Leone and American national anthems, were a hint that the audience was there to enjoy themselves and raise funds for Sierra Leone, not to listen to too many long speeches. Dr. Sandy thanked some of the people who had made some of the most significant contributions to the Arc of Hope Humanitarian endeavor. Amongst recipients of the prestigious humanitarian awards were Mrs. Florence Koroma on behalf of Mount Zion Home Health Agency, Mr Sheikh and Mrs. Juliana Darboh on behalf of Prelude Health Care.
His Excellency, Ambassador Bockarie Stevens, Sierra Leone’s ambassador to the United States, SLAHOPE Board Member and visionary leader, was also brief in his statements. He reminded that SLAHOPE is not a political organization but a humanitarian one, which encourages all Sierra Leoneans to become members. He did not hesitate to point out that he (Amb. Stevens) was APC and a Mende/Limba, while Dr. John Sandy is Mende and a legitimate strong SLPP member. He also mentioned the names of other SLAHOPE members who are members of the PMDC and other political parties.
Ambassador Bockarie Stevens, the brain behind the Arc of Hope humanitarian idea, said Sierra Leone’s future would be jeopardized if the children who would make up our future are not provided excellent medical care.
After the short speeches, Mr. David Vandy of Voice of America and medical practitioner Dr. Noahleen Betts, the MCs of the occasion, were handed two separate microphones, the audience then finally realized that it was time for fund-raising, fun and laughter. The live fund-raising event started with a auction of household electronic equipments and other items. The generous participants did not hesitate to increase their bids every time an item seemed to slip away from their possession of it.
When all the inanimate objects were auctioned off, H.E. Ambassador Bockarie Stevens was placed on the auction floor. For the first time since the abolition of slavery, hilarious comedian and MC Mr. David Vandy, legally opened up bids on the First Sierra Leonean, here in the USA, H.E. Ambassador Stevens. The bid offer was that the highest bidder would spend some quality time on the dance floor (dancing) with H.E. Bockarie Stevens. Mrs Stevens, suspiciously looked around the room filled with some of the most beautiful women. In the end, it was fun and laughter all throughout the bidding process which was changed from dancing with the ambassador to this writer competing against him.
As the bidding progressed, Mr. David Vandy became very supportive of this writer, every time he offered a counter bid for a dancing competition. By the time the determined Mrs. Stevens realized it, a bid which started from $500, progressed to $800 and as it appeared to have stopped at $1000, this writer interrupted the process, quickly forcing the bid to end at $3000 (three thousand). A determined Mrs. Stevens did not yield to the highest bidder other than her protective, honorable and loving self. She won amidst loud applause, causing this writer (the challenger) to concede as he had depended on the audience to pitch in had he won the bid.
The vote of thanks for the event was graciously offered by Ms. Nanette Thomas, Secretary of SLAHOPE and President of the APC North America Dallas, Chapter. Ms. Thomas said she had great pleasure in giving the vote of thanks on behalf of the organization. First, she thanked the organizers, which includes her humble and hardworking self. She talked about the usual high standards the organization maintains, in ensuring that all guests are always guaranteed of their security, memorable and pleasant moments in all SLAHOPE functions.
The beautiful and eloquent Ms. Thomas made it clear that SLAHOPE had embarked on a righteous and moral battle. She said that it was a battle for, “the building of a State of the Art Hospital in Sierra Leone, to help save the lives of mothers and children.”
“We cannot do it alone, and we need all of you in this room and out of this room to help us fight and win this battle, so that at the end of the day our children and grandchildren will stand tall and tell the world that my grandmother or my grandfather contributed to the building of this hospital,” she pleaded, as she offered one of the most gracious and beautiful smiles money cannot buy. She concluded by pointing out that, “the Ghanians, and Indians have done it and yes we can.” She rhetorically asked whether, the attendees will support SLAHOPE on this great venture? Resoundingly, like in a Barack Obama campaign rally all said, YES WE WILL!
This report will be incomplete if the individual contributions of DJ Donald Moore, Ms. Nanette Thomas, Mr. Komkanda Bangura and Mrs. Banadette Kamara are not not prominently featured. If Disk Jockeying was awarded a degree, Mr Donald Moore would have earned himself a Ph. D on that fun-filled night. Mr. Donald Moore’s research capabilities in the selection of successive favorite songs, left the most diplomatic individual present in the room no choice but to dance. Mr. Moore confirmed that, playing music for an audience is an art or science which requires assessing the audience and playing exactly the songs that keep them dancing. Because of Mr. Moore’s, carefully selected songs, this writer, could not contain himself when he grabbed the microphone and started singing along, in live performance, that left Rev. Kabs Kanu, Mr. Aziz Nabe and others spellbound and well entertained.
Within a few minutes of a solo entertainment quest, nearly the entire audience went crazy and joined in the sing-along. Mrs. Marie Saleem (Muckni), Mrs. Kadie Kargbo, H. E. Bockarie Stevens, Dr. and Mrs. John Sandy, Mr. Unisa Thorlu Conteh and others all joined the fun. Hit after hit, DJ Donald Moore gave more and more, rocking the audience, with old and new songs. When Mrs. Marie Saleem (Muckni) joined this writer in doing some late Michael Jackson dance moves, then everyone finally understood that there was no stopping the fun.
Ms. Nanette Thomas’ performance in her function as the gate keeper, justifies why she is referred to as the “Iron Lady.” Everyone, including Amb. Stevens, Dr. John Sandy, all members of SLAHOPE, including my humble self who erroneously thought that I could enter the hall because I had been promoting the event, had to pay the minimum of fifty dollars to enter the event.
The friendly but firm and incorruptible Mrs. Banadette Kamara, was the other tough lady strategically placed in care of selling the coupons to purchase drinks and refreshments. Just like a soldier who takes no prisoners, Mrs. Kamara discouraged everyone from asking for change. Her policy seemed to have been, no change issued, indicating that one must spend all your money for the benefit of the suffering people of Sierra Leone. With her contagious smile and resilience, no one dared to argue with her, because of her constant friendly reminders. Those who encountered her before getting to the bar, yielded to her friendly reminders of “no change policy” for the benefit of the Sierra Leone.
Photos at the event were courtesy of Mr. Komkanda Bangura of Maryland USA. Within a two hour notice, Mr. Bangura appeared at the event to donate his time, energy and resources to video tape and take photos of the event as he whole-hardheartedly endorsed and supports the Sierra Leone Arc of Hope’s humanitarian endeavor in building a state of the art hospital in Sierra Leone. Because of all the hard work of all these individuals, it can no longer remain true that charity begins only at home, because Arc of Hope has changed history and will continue to make history. Charity began abroad.
© Copyright by Awareness Times
Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.