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Training in Sierra Leone Focuses on Career Counseling and Young People

July 26, 2017

There was a lot of engagement on the part of the participants and very lively discussion.  

(July 26, 2017 - by Harold Goerzen)  Sierra Leone, ranked by the International Monetary Fund as the world’s 14th poorest country, has weathered a decade-long civil war, poverty, famine and even a widespread outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in 2014.

The 25 participants at the BBN counseling workshop break up into small groups as Sheila Leech looks on.While the multiple challenges have left much of the population in a state of trauma, it’s the younger generation that has taken the biggest hit.

According to the government’s “Status of Youth” report, 60 percent of men and women in Sierra Leone between the ages of 15 and 35 are unemployed—the highest rate in West Africa.

“We know that a nation can only rise with its youths,” acknowledged Sierra Leonian President Ernest Bai Koroma upon release of the report, adding that it will take “an empowered youth population [that will] lead to a change in the destiny of our country.”

Poster promotes the training event in Freetown.It’s amid this context that Reach Beyond’s media partner in Freetown, Believers Broadcasting Network (BBN), invited the mission to hold a four-day “career counseling workshop” in mid-April.

“There is a need for teachers, youth workers and others to be able to help and advise young people about choices and options that may be open to them,” said Sheila Leech, Reach Beyond’s vice president of global healthcare who helped organize the event along with Lee Sonius, executive director of the Sub-Saharan Africa Region. “The workshop also gave guidance in the areas of self-awareness, decision-making and career planning while participants evaluated their own abilities, capabilities and interests.”

“The training in counseling and careers guidance were both really valuable to the culture as the general rule is for adults to speak down to children/youth,” added Reach Beyond-UK mobilizer Rena Wotherspoon who led many of the sessions along with Dr. Ana Draper, also from Britain.

Dr. Ana Draper, who led some of the workshops, helps guide the discussion during break-out sessions.“The 25 participants were starting to explore the need to change culture in their schools/churches by the end of the week and to give space for young people to be listened to,” Wotherspoon explained. “This was also a great platform for the BBN Counseling Center to show how they can work with schools/churches to enhance the support that some young people/adults need.”

She noted that the participants expressed deep appreciation for the practical training, “but they did have a lot of fun and heated discussion over the ‘moral dilemma’ exercise!”

“There was a lot of engagement on the part of the participants and very lively discussion,” said Leech. “Their evaluations showed their awareness of the need to reconsider and evaluate the way they relate to the youth under their tutelage and care. Personally I was encouraged to see how the participants approached problem-solving by referring to biblical principles. And our worship times were wonderful.”

A BBN pastor admires his certificate of attendance.Leech added that the attendees represented a “different demographic” compared to previous workshops that focused on teaching counselors how to deal with traumatized listeners who called in to the partner radio station led by Ransford Wright. So many listeners swamped the station with calls that the ministry launched a counseling center six years ago.

“This workshop provided an opportunity to build bridges with those who can give access to the schools for Ransford’s team to become more involved,” Leech continued. “A support/working group has been formed, and BBN staff will head that up. Further training for the teachers has been requested. This is part of a bigger strategy for the youth of Sierra Leone.”

Wotherspoon was glad to hear reports of how the 20-year-old radio station has progressed in the last year. “I was excited to see the plans that Ransford and team have to broadcast as a TV station in the future,” she said.

Sources: Reach Beyond, International Monetary Fund




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