iEARN Educator Ibrahim A. Kamara Interviewed for His Work on Fighting Hunger and Poverty

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Ibrahim A. Kamar, a former iEARN student and current iEARN educator from Sierra Leone, was interviewed by Kids Can Make a Difference (KIDS) to discuss his role in teaching students about the root causes and potential solutions to hunger and poverty, his work to provide disaster relief for his community following natural disasters, and his achievements in empowering youth. Ibrahim's inspiring work as an educator, founder of a school, and creator of a disaster relief organization showcase his innovation and achievements in improving the quality of life for those in his community. 

We have republished the full text of the interview below with the permission of Kids Can Make a Difference (KIDS).

Let's start with where you are from and your background

My name is Ibrahim A Kamara from Sierra Leone. I am a global educator, a member of iEARN (International Education and Resources Network) which enables students and educators worldwide to design and participate in global projects as part of their regular classroom and after-school programs. I was trained as a teacher in Sierra Leone. I am a committed advocate for quality education and safe housing in Sierra Leone. For the past eleven years, I have been running a school in the slums of Freetown. As part of that effort, I founded the Empowering Children School and SHARP Sierra Leone. Alongside my teaching commitments, I am the administrator for Empowering Children School. I also lead a team for disaster relief during floods.

What interested you in hunger and education?

For the past eleven years, I have been working in the slums of Freetown. The slums are communities of tiny shacks made of zinc sheeting. Many of the residents live on less than $2.00 per day. Most of the adults are illiterate and rely on small trading businesses or manual labor to earn money. They face hunger, outbreaks of disease and shelter challenges. Flooding happens multiple times each year. Families lose all their possessions, children lose their school uniforms and supplies, and the small trading businesses are lost. It is from my experience working with these families that I started looking at the SDG’s Goal 1, No Poverty, and Goal 2, Zero Hunger. I wanted to help families find ways to get out of poverty and hunger. My initial approach was through education; I believe when the younger students become well- educated and skilled, that is one solution out of poverty. In my school, students and teachers chose to work on the Finding Solution to Hunger project of iEARN. I am interested in this project very deeply. The pupils that I teach and their families are living the root causes of Hunger.

On what issues do you work and why?

One of the pressing issues is to reduce the high level of literacy in the slums of Freetown by teaching children and youth the skills and knowledge to lift their paths out of poverty, to create a better life and a living for themselves. Another vital issue is that of the effects of cyclical flooding. I lead a team for disaster relief during floods and have established SHARP (Safe Haven Adaptive Response Program), an organization of supporting efforts to reach a wider range of families and children. Multiple times each year, SHARP responds to the emergencies of the flood disaster victims, particularly families affected in the slums. SHARP responds with desperately needed supplies after floods that include food, dry clothing, sleeping sheets and temporal shelter. SHARP aids families, especially the children, to get to safety.

Hunger is currently one of the biggest problems in the slums. After every flood disaster, food is usually the most desperate need. During this CVOID-19 global pandemic, as we go through lockdown and face tougher restrictions down economic activities have greatly slowed, as they have in so many other countries. People living in the slums are the most impacted, with thousands going hungry every day. Families in the slums are increasingly at a higher risk of infection because of their environmental conditions.

For students at the Empowering Children School, learning about hunger is how they live each day, but also, they are also learning how hunger’s causes can be changed with action. They are learning to identity the causes of hunger in the slums so that changes can be created.

SHARP is collaborating with Finding Solution to Hunger on a 40 acre farm project to ensure food security and reduce hungry. We are also supporting local farmers and slum residents with seeds to grow their own food. The step-by-step farming activities are taking families out of the densely populated slums to the fields, which is not just a solution to hunger but also distancing them from each other in this time of social distancing.

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What are the biggest challenges for the issues that you care most about today?

One of the biggest challenges are materials and tools for both our school and our farm. My school is struggling to secure a safe building space for the two hundred children currently admitted. Although our school is now closed due to the Covid -19 pandemic, when classes resume, we are in need of a building, one that we would even be able to renovate.

Another great challenge in support of the people of Freetown is the effect of the flooding. The continuous flooding in communities staggers our efforts and our work in the slum. It reverses families, but we begin our efforts to a new fresh start every year and also multiple of times during the rains. Funding to support families during our disaster relief effort is difficult and tough to obtain. This spring we received several hundred dollars, using it to pay farm laborer and purchase limited seed supplies. As a result, we are ready to plant a first crop in a few weeks. As funding will hopefully continue, we will achieve our goal of a secure school building and a working, thriving farm.

Farm work is also challenging because it requires a significant amount of manpower and hard labor. We are also facing challenges to secure high-quality seeds. In the future we will need technology tools to help speed up work and reduce hard labor

My zeal and zest are helping me overcome some of the daily challenges I face each day as an opportunity to learn how best to work within the challenges that I face, how to create ways for the people of Freetown to live without those challenges, and to be the teacher of children that I have always been.

What drives you?

What drives me most is passion and love to help humanity and our planet. I have a deep fear for mankind and our planet as we are threatened by problems in our world that I believe we all need to play a part to resolve. Thanks to the United Nations for setting the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and for making the end of Poverty and Hunger the first two goals on the list.

iEARN not just trained me as a student many years ago. IEARN inspires me now as a teacher, connecting my students with those of other countries as we work to understand the issues that we most care about.

In conclusion, what message do you want to deliver to our readers?

My message is: I will not give up; I will stand strong and have the faith. We have the start of a farm and a school. We will succeed if not today, but some day. It could be one of you reading this article who could clear our path to educate over two hundred children at the Empowering Children School, to help hundreds of families in the disaster-prone slums and creeks, to work on acres of farm lands with farmers struggling with seeds and tools in the fields. You can join our effort and our work and make a difference in the world. We are not too late. The world must win.

What do you think your legacy should be?

I want to leave a well-educated generation by which it would be a slum free society where every day would begin with jobs and opportunities. Everyone would be able to live a decent life. With that there would be no poverty and no hunger. I want to leave a world of Sierra Leone with more farmers who would produce sufficient and nutritious food.

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