From Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown

Local News
In Sierra Leone, YMCA Ends Non-Violence Training for Youth
By Sayoh Kamara (Intern)
Aug 11, 2010, 17:14

Violence in schools, communities, among and between peoples in Sierra Leone is a worrying concern to organizations advocating for peace, giving rise to funding alternative ways to address the issue. One of the organizations committed to addressing this escalating social issue particularly involving youths is the Young Men Christian Association – Sierra Leone (YMCA-SL), an affiliate of the global YMCA movement. In response to this concern, YMCA-SL, in partnership with the Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) – Sierra Leone, conducted a three-day training workshop for youth on gender-sensitive non-violence from 3–5 August 2010 at the YMCA operational hall in Freetown. The workshop facilitated by Maria Zoe Latumbo, a VSO volunteer from the Philippines, brought together 17 youths from school-based Hi-Y clubs, slum communities, and YMCA branches in the Western Area to be trained as peer educators on various aspects of non-violence.

In the opening program, Christian M. Kamara, YMCA-SL National General Secretary,  noted that the essence of the workshop is to impart knowledge to the participants that would be beneficial to them and their various schools and communities. “What you would be learning here over the next three days we expect, would be disseminated in order that the knowledge gained can bear fruits by spreading it out,” Mr. Kamara emphasized. He also encouraged participants to take the workshop seriously by listening well and participating actively.

Cheerful participants at the end of the workshop

The rationale of the training according to the YMCA Western Area Coordinator, Mohamed Oman Buahin Sandy, is to educate the participants on the meaning of violence and non-violence, the principles of non-violence, the root causes of violence, the differences between violence and non-violence and the destructive effects of violence on human life and the quality of life, so that they can better be able to take positive decisions whenever they are confronted with challenges of violence, and how to timely and positively intervene in situations threatened by violence.

“YMCA believes in the principle of developing the body, mind and spirit of individuals and this training is aimed at disengaging the minds of young people from anti-social activities and inculcating best attitudinal and behavioural standards in their communities,” Mr. Sandy stressed.

He assured the participants that by the time the training ends, “Your perceptions would have changed completely to one of being thoughtful, tolerant and responsible by the way you would be thinking and acting in situations threatened by violence,” the Western Area coordinator assured.

The participants during the course of the three-day session were taught gender orientation and sensitivity as it relates to violence, gender parity and disparity, violence (types and issues behind violence), responses to violence and non-violent strategies. They were also exposed to the strategic methods of non-violence and rules necessary for direct action in transforming violent situations to a non-violent one. Decision-making exercises were also facilitated to encourage participatory decision-making in relation to youth program planning and implementation.

The facilitator, Zoe Latumbo, in ensuring that her messages were better absorbed by the learners, adopted a series of strategies which included participatory approaches, practical exercises, and direct participation through experience sharing.

The workshop ended with a plan of action proposed by the participants to which they expressed willingness to implement in their various schools and communities. These include community engagements through meetings, media discussions, provision of promotional materials, social activities, and the establishment of peace clubs in the participants’ respective schools and communities.

© Copyright 2005, Freetown, Sierra Leone.