The handing over of thirty (30) houses to Amputees / War wounded has taken place at NORWAY near Hangha town on the Kenema – Tongo highway in the Nongowa chiefdom in the Kenema district.
Sierra Leone Venner (SLV) meaning Norwegian Friends of Sierra Leone is an NGO established to continue the shelter program for amputees and war wounded after the phase out of the Norwegian Refugees Council (NRC) in 2005. SLV has provided 500 houses for amputees and war-wounded countrywide. The Norwegian authorities have acknowledged the successful implementation of the programme.
In his opening remarks the chairman of the occasion who is also the Provincial Secretary East Alhaji Salia Magona described the occasion as historic and said serving humanity is the work of God. He appreciated the work of the Norwegian Friends of Sierra Leone and the local people in making the project a success.
In his welcome address the section chief of Gbo-Lambaya in Nongowa chiefdom chief Brima Kargbo appealed to donors and the government for electricity, water, medical, and recreational facilities to be made available at Norway so that the occupants will live a decent life.
The Paramount Chief of Nongowa chiefdom PC Alhaji Amara Bonya Vangahun described himself as a peacemaker and says he is ever ready to push peace business ahead. He said the gesture is not only for Kenema but also for the entire country. He cautioned the occupants to live peacefully in their new settlement.
The President of the National Amputee/War wounded Association, Alhaji Lamin Jusu Jarka on behalf of the Amputees, war wounded, the sexually abused, war widows and widowers, war orphans all of whom are today referred to as the living relics of the just concluded decade long rebel war in this our beloved country registered his “utmost appreciation to the Government of Sierra Leone for creating a stable and peaceful environment which in no small measure has acted as a pull factor to a number of Humanitarian Organizations that are currently in the country delivering Humanitarian Assistance to the diverse categories of war victims and other vulnerable groups.”
He congratulated the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) the first NGO who provided a cumulative figure of 420 housing units for Amputees and War wounded across the entire country, spanning the period 2001 – 2006. “We are also deeply indebted to the Norwegian Friends of Sierra Leone, who provided a total number of 80 housing units for Amputees and War Wounded during 2007 and 2008, thus totaling to 500 houses constructed for Amputees and War Wounded. The provision of these houses by the Norwegian Refugees Council and Norwegian Friends of Sierra Leone has provided a source of psychological therapy for both the Acute Trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD) we have been subjected to as a result of the war” he said.
“We want to implore the government to sustain and preserve the already established bilateral relationship between our country and Norway” the Amputee Chairman echoed, adding “We are grateful to the Country Director of NRC Madam Elisa Schanke for maintaining constant interface with us and ensuring that what is due war victims actually reach them.”
Alhaji Jarka appealed to the Norwegian government to continue supporting them especially their brothers and sisters who are in the hinterland or the provinces who have not benefited from the housing package.
He called on the International Community to support the Government of Sierra Leone in its effort to implement the recommendations of the TRC especially the Reparations programme, “which I presume to be at an advanced stage in the pre-implementation arrangements.”
The Country Director, SLV (Norwegian Friends of Sierra Leone), Elise Schanke in her speech gave the full background of the project, saying that it all started with a needs assessment survey conducted by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) in 2000 among amputees/war wounded,
This survey she said showed that all respondents ranked shelter, next to food, as their most pressing need, hence all have had their houses burnt down by the rebels. Income opportunities, access to medical services and education for their children followed as other priority areas for aid intervention.
The present project implemented by SLV is a continuation of the Amputee project, which was implemented by Norwegian Refugee Council NRC (2000-2004) where 420 houses were built countrywide.
About 3,000 persons (beneficiaries and family members) who were residing in IDP camps in Freetown benefited from the NRC Housing and Reintegration Programme during 2000-2003 and another 100 amputees/war-wounded and their families (about 1,000 persons) from remote villages in Kono, Bonthe, Bumpeh and Pujehun became house owners during 2004.
Father Maurizio of the Catholic Mission has funded One hundred (100) houses.
The Norwegian Government stopped further funding and NRC phased out of the country early 2005.
The target group of 80 beneficiaries had already been identified when NRC phased out, comprising amputees/war-wounded in Bo, Kenema and Kailahun Districts. Some of them were extremely brutalized, for example double amputees, and gang raped or badly tortured women with sticks and guns. Most of these war affected population groups, and in particular female victims, were living a miserable life in remote areas, without receiving any attention or assistance from outside. In view of their traumatic experience, the provision of housing and reintegration support would help to enhance their capacity for personal autonomy, self-reliance and a smooth integration into the society.
It was in this perspective that the Norwegian manager of the NRC Amputee Program, Elise Schanke, wanted to establish a new organization in order to continue to assist the war victims in Sierra Leone. Backed up by colleagues, who also have seen the plight of the amputees, the Sierra Leones Venner (SLV) was formed in 2005. The organisation is registered in Norway and as an International Non Governmental Organisation (INGO) in Sierra Leone. The English name: Norwegian Friends of Sierra Leone (NFSL). (Website: www.slvenner.com)
The Norwegian Foreign Ministry (MFA) decided to respond to NFSLs proposal to continue the Amputee/War-wounded Housing project, and funded 20 houses in 2006 and another 60 in 2007/2008. Thus, the first goal of NFSL, which is to build 80 houses is completed (April, 2008).
However, there is still a need to continue the project as only 50% of the survivor amputees have so far received housing assistance. Therefore, NFSL will continue to request for funds from the Norwegian Government and other sources.
She said the project aims at restoring the dignity of the Amputees/war-wounded and enabling them to be self-dependant by providing them with shelter and reintegration support and it’s overall goal is to contribute to peace and reconciliation by addressing the needs of the amputees and severely affected war victims in Sierra Leone.
By building shelters for amputees and severely war-wounded, carrying out community sensitisation, resettling them and assisting the reintegration process, it is expected to contribute to providing the beneficiaries and their families with better opportunities to be considered as being valuable resources by their local communities, and to enhance their capacity for income and a decent life.
The philosophy of the project is: A house is more than a physical structure, it symbolises identity, dignity and belonging.
In his keynote address, the Hon. Minister of Eastern Region Mr. William Juana Smith says government is committed to the reparation exercise and will continue to give support towards the welfare of Amputees. He said through out the country the scar of the war has been a reminder of the atrocities committed on our people.
He assured all that the government will work in collaboration with all national and international NGOs to ensure provision of adequate services such as health, shelter and educational facilities for victims and their dependents.
He encouraged the community people to be accommodating at all times to their brothers and sisters, by so doing it will keep them away from the street. He cautioned them to make proper use of the facility provided them by their donors.
Entertainment was done by the Voice of the Amputees Band, and the Kenema Amputee War Wounded Drama Group. The vote of thanks was delivered by Amputee/War Wounded Chairman in Kenema Mr. Solomon Cooper.