Sierra Leone 20 years on - Land Rover and Red Cross rebuilding lives

Published: 31 March 2011 11:54 CET

Kalie Kamara, like thousands of young Sierra Leoneans, was caught up in the atrocities of the civil war which raged for 11 years. Many children lost families and homes and faced a life of exploitation with some 17,000 becoming child soldiers at as young as six years old. When the war ended in 2002, young people were left with no support and few opportunities.

Kalie explains “After all the soldiers were disarmed, I was living an awful life. I was drinking and stealing and pretty miserable. Even though my friend tried to persuade me to go to the Red Cross I refused, because I was so unhappy.”

Eventually, Kalie enrolled in the child advocacy and rehabilitation (CAR) programme run by the Sierra Leone Red Cross, which helps young people like Kalie to recover from their experiences and reintegrate into society. Supported by Land Rover through a global partnership with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the programme provides young people with counselling support, basic education and vocational training, as well as ensuring they are accepted and reintegrated within their community.

“I’m learning brick block laying and concreting and I hope to get an apprenticeship when I graduate from my course” Kalie continues. “I already found a contractor who will take me on as an apprentice. I feel my commitment and good work will also help me get even more work when I finish my apprenticeship. My dream is that I will be somebody in the future, somebody respected in the community.”

The five CAR centres in Sierra Leone have helped 12,600 young people just like Kalie regain a sense of direction in their lives after the suffering they have endured. This has been made possible through Land Rover and IFRC’s global partnership entitled ‘Reaching Vulnerable People Around the World’, which was launched in 2010. Building upon Land Rover’s commitment to the IFRC, which has seen the company pledge over £3.5 million in support since 2008, the partnership ensures support for programmes in 15 countries such as Sierra Leone and China, as well as the UK, South Africa, Brazil and Austria.

Thanks to the support of the Red Cross and Land Rover, Kalie has recently graduated from the programme and received a construction start-up kit so he can continue to earn a living in the local community. Now working as an apprentice with a local builder, he is helping to construct a youth centre in the Kailahun district. For thousands of young people around the country like Kalie, the Red Cross is enabling them to move on from the horrors of the war and rebuild their lives.