Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Reflections from Sierra Leone YMCA Partnership Trip

At end of May I had an amazing opportunity to travel to Sierra Leone with University Y staff, board, trustee, and  members of the U of I faculty. My purpose for traveling was to build relationships and scout out the possibilities for partnerships between the University Y and the Y of Sierra Leone. I was also traveling as an ambassador for the Urbana Rotary’s International Service Committee. The Rotary is similarly interested in the potential for partnership and water, health, sanitation and education projects that could engage its membership.

Sam Smith, University YMCA Board Member and Engagement 
Director of the University of Illinois Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, greets 
Christian Kamara, CEO and National Secretary of the YMCA of Sierra Leone 
with an Urbana Rotary t-shirt. Sam Smith, as an ambassador for the 
Urbana Rotary International Service Committee, is exploring the potential 
partnership for possible service projects to engage its membership.
On our trip we were hosted by Christian Kamara, the capable and personal leader of the YMCA in Sierra Leone. Our travel and accommodations were comfortable, affordable safe, instructive, and well organized. The presence of Mr. Kamara’s young, dedicated and equally competent staff provided broad and specific insight to the history and current challenges of this incredibly beautiful country.

One simple session that I learned on previous trips to the African continent is that Africa is big. The second largest continent it boasts hundreds of languages, distinct culture, histories, challenges and resources. Sierra Leone is one of the many distinct countries with a history deeply connected to the history of the United States. The country is a fabulous set of opportunities to learn more deeply the amazing manifestations of human culture, spirit, creativity and ingenuity. The possibilities for meaningful person-to-person engagement, unique and innovative project development are exciting, vast and concrete.

We have already begun to plan for Mr. Kamara’s visit to Champaign-Urbana and Chicago; I look forward to his sharing his insight and knowledge of so many areas of human and community development.

The pregnancy of potential and possibility is palpable and the cadre of willing, available, competent partners is inspirational. This next chapter is gonna be a blast.

Sam Smith
Board Member
University YMCA

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