sierra leone communinty in minnesota
Our education programming focuses on three key areas
Since 2014, SLCM has awarded over 22 annual scholarships ranging from $300 to $600 dollars per person to college-bound. Eligible students must have at least one parent be from Sierra Leone or of Sierra Leonean heritage. They must be in 12th grade preparing for college or be in Year 1 as a full time college student. So far, all eligible applicants have been awarded scholarship. Please click here to learn more about this program. Our website also provides links to other scholarship opportunities.
SLCM, through the Sierra Leone Aid Initiative (SLAI), provides tuition, books, uniforms, and school supplies assistance to primary and secondary school students in Sierra Leone. SLAI has helped over 5,000 pupils since 2000. This program is supported by other partners such as Grace Lutheran Church in Saint Paul, MN, and various donors of school bags and school supplies
Sierra Leone Aid Initiative (SLAI)
SLAI is a member organization under SLCM. SLAI was founded by eight Minnesota families in 1998 to address the problem of Street Children in Freetown after the rebel invasion of the capital on January 6, 1998. Street children were defined by the government of Sierra Leone as child victims of the civil war that have lost homes and families, and had no apparent family connections or home to go to. While there were many such children in the entire country, Freetown was especially populated by Street Children because many of them, having lost families and homes, found their way to the capital. Within the decade after the official end of the war, street children still proliferated the streets of Freetown and were subject to human trafficking.
While managing a clinic and foster home in Sierra Leone, SLAI solicited donations from individuals and churches in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul to provide food, shelter, and basic medical care for the children. A few years later, SLAI formed a partnership with another organization that assisted street children called the Leonenet Street Children Project (LSCP). Ms. Pinkie McCann-Willis served as the first Country Director for LSCP. Ms. Clementina Kamara, who passed away in 2006, was the first Country Director for the joint services of SLAI and LSCP. Services offered included basic family care of food, shelter, and clinical services. SLAI and LSCP also worked with United Nations organizations and other non-governmental organizations to provide family reunification services for the children.
The next stage of service provision was placement in foster care facilities around the Western area for children without families. SLAI also provided placement assistance in schools, and later provided tuition and book assistance and scholarships for many of the children.
For most of the period between 2010 and 2019, the majority of SLAI’s services go towards disbursement of scholarships for school fees, books and uniforms for children in twenty-four schools in the Western area and an orphanage in Bo. Scholarships for secondary schools students were for school fees only, and are awarded on a three year basis, starting either at the start of Junior Secondary School (JSS), or at the start of Senior Secondary School (SSS). For primary school students, school fees were lower or not applicable, so SLAI included provision for books and uniforms. The Country Director monitors student progress, and interacts with families and school administrators to process payments and provide reports to the SLAI administration in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
Since the government of president Bio announced free tuition in schools, SLAI has expanded the support program to include more schools and school supplies. In many instances, “other fees” have replaced tuition and so SLAI makes assessments of needs and applies the support resources accordingly
The STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) program was introduced in our community in 2016. In addition to a mission to increase literacy in science and technology, the STEM program expanded to include students of all ages and created a network of parents who worked together to help kids with their homework, especially focusing on the under-privileged. This initiative provides young minds opportunities to build skills in critical thinking collaboration, communication and creativity in problem-solving.
Please find below activities community kids have been involved with over the past years.