On March 31st 2021 a delegation from SLIP met with Colm Brophy T.D. Minister for Overseas Development and the Diaspora to discuss the future of Irish involvement in Sierra Leone.
The discussions afforded us the opportunity to present some of our concerns in relation to strengthening the political, economic and cultural ties with Sierra Leone.
We are very cognisant of the long tradition of the Irish missionary presence in parishes, schools and medical facilities which are now staffed by local personnel, and the Irish missionary presence has declined. In the light of this, and with a view to more overtly profiling Irish people’s continuing financial support to SL we sought increased support for a Salesian Order project, Don Bosco Fambul Bus.
This social welfare project in the community supporting adolescent girls and boys in the poorer areas of Freetown provides food, clothing, education and on-going support until the young people are re-united with their families. Providing increased funding for the ‘bus project’ would strengthen its impact by improving its outreach.
SLIP proposes that this project be given special status and recognised as an Irish Aid ‘Special Partnership Project’, with dedicated funding.
The Minister gave a commitment to continuing support for SL which is already the recipient of important grants from Irish Aid. He is particularly committed to the cause of education for girls which was one of the themes of the SLIP Seminar on Education in Sierra Leone held last year in conjunction with the Dept of International Development in Maynooth University. Arising from the seminar, online meetings have been held between the Teaching Council in Ireland and the Sierra Leone Teaching Commission with the aim of strengthening teacher training in Sierra Leone.
We also spoke of the issue of obstetric fistula a condition which can be caused by early pregnancy and lack of access to medical care.
Minister Brophy said he would like to visit Sierra Leone when travel restrictions are lifted. He reiterated his commitment and determination to stay involved in Sierra Leone.
We thanked him for his interest and support and look forward to continuing the dialogue.