Raising money for women & children around the world

A CHAT WITH: SHINE ON SIERRA LEONE’S TIFFANY PERSONS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shine On Sierra Leone is an evolutionary non-profit organization creating programs that integrate sustainable healthcare, education, microfinance, and development as four parts of a greater whole to ultimately create the future of an independent Sierra Leone. For nearly a decade, SOSL has provided a supreme education to 400 students each year at the flagship Muddy Lotus Primary school. Once ranked #736 out of 736 schools, Muddy Lotus is now ranked #2 in the eastern region!

Shine On’s curriculum transcends the confines of the academic content outlined in the country’s traditional education guide and looks deeper into providing an experience that also inspires the children to believe in themselves to the highest degree and to view themselves as agents of positive change. Thanks to funds raised in the 2014 Cash & Rocket Tour, SOSL led the way in the Ebola response in the Bongema Community, successfully recording ZERO cases of Ebola amongst 5,000 people it served. In collaboration with Wellbody Alliance and Infectious Disease Specialist, Dr. Dan Kelly, Shine On Sierra Leone created and spearheaded the distribution of our comprehensive Home Healthcare Kits. From November 2014 to January 2015, SOSL continued to distribute the most comprehensive HHKs available in Sierra Leone, dividing them into Quarantine HHK, specifically created for families undergoing the 21-day quarantine, and Preventative HHK, designed for the protection of those surrounding quarantined households. A total of 200 HHKs were supplied during this time. With the country slowly showing signs of recovery, SOSL also worked with organizations such as Red Cross, IBIS, andWHH to support decontaminated homes – homes that were under quarantine and have been dissolved – providing sanitation kits equipped with tap buckets and soap. This process is still ongoing.

As the Ebola Virus Disease continues to show positive signs of coming to an end, SOSL will work on post-Ebola projects including integrating teachers and students back into school and beginning the construction of our upcoming premiere secondary education center. This new secondary education center will be the first K-12 school of its kind, offering our innovative Wholistic Education Curriculum. It will alleviate an 18-mile round trip walk that secondary school students currently take on a daily basis.

Tiffany Persons is the founding Director of http://shineonsierraleone.org

 We talked to Tiffany about how Cash & Rocket work closely with Shine on Sierra Leone.

Hi Tiffany, how did Shine on Sierra Leone start? 

I originally went to Sierra Leone to film a documentary that followed the path of a diamond from the earth to the consumer and document different lives that it would affect along the way. I lived in a diamond mining community for three months and fell in love with the people and, of course, the magical children.

There was a school in the middle of the village that had been burned down by the rebels during the 10-year war. Each day over 100 children would put on their uniforms and gather in the dilapidated, roofless building to learn from five volunteer teachers. The teachers shared a box of chalk and did their best to keep the children engaged. What I found the most inspiring was the children unwavering eagerness to learn. Even with rain pouring through the classroom (the roof was a plastic tarp held up by sticks from the surrounding forest) students excitedly leaned forward in their chairs, hands outstretched, teeming with anticipation at the thought of being called upon. I had never seen a thirst for knowledge quite like this. I had never experience “presence” in a classroom like this.
It was in that moment, I decided that I wanted to make sure that every child within this village had an opportunity to have an education. It was in that moment that Shine On Sierra Leone was born.

 

At your organization, what do you consider success, and could you share a success story with us?

Happiness, inner growth and innovation.

When schools reopened in April 2015 after the Ebola crisis earlier that year, we were facing a significant health and attendance issue with our students and community members due to food scarcity. Half of our 400 students who normally are diligent about attending school weren’t coming out of hunger and weren’t receiving enough nutrition.

It was hard to know that your children are literally starved, while also knowing that World Food Program had made a public announcement that they were going to provide food at the opening of schools because of the high food scarcity but hadn’t. Anger washed over me. And then washed away. I decided that this could be just the obstacle that is turned into a beautiful realization of the power of community.
One of my favorite childhood books came to mind; Stone Soup.  A sweet story was written originally published by Madame de Noyer, France in 1720. This story has an amazing ending that changed the beliefs of an entire community.
Sierra Leone is one of the lushest, rich landscapes. After exchanging ideas with the community, our special soup recipe was born. We call it Bone Soup after the nourishing ingredient, animal bones.  The magic also lies within another special ingredient, the super plant Moringa.
Implementing our signature partnership style, we came up with a plan;  if Shine On Sierra Leone purchased four large pots, bowls and spoons for students and teachers along with salt and sweet potatoes – the community would donate the bones, fresh moringa, tomato, pepper, onion and the firewood to maintain the 48 hour boil necessary to extract the calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus and collagen that lies within the bones.  The key ingredient that neither of us had to donate because it had so generously been donated to us – pure water. In 2013, Ana Becera and her father’s company brought Jon and Jack Rose [Waves for Water] to Sierra Leone to provide water filters to our community and a rainwater system on our school building. This purified water is the foundation for the powerful health tonic Bone Soup.
Two days later, once the soup was ready to eat, the community buzzed with excitement. From the four pots that we purchased, our soup had fed our 250 students and 13 teachers – and an additional 300 community members!  We started the process again immediately, and in another 48 hours, we experienced a greater miracle – 400 community members were fed. We continued every other day for the remainder of the school year. After the cost of the pots, the soup is a $40 investment for Shine On Sierra Leone for every 600 people.  In 2016, we now have a second set of pots so that a hot, nutritious lunch will be provided to our students Monday – Friday.
The insight – the power, the answers, the solutions lie within and around us.  When we exchange ideas with each other as partners, we create something that is bigger and better than anything we could have created on our own. May bone soup continue to Shine On Ou

 

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

One, connecting with my ancestors.  I found out through a DNA test after working in Sierra Leone for 10 years that my entire maternal lineage is from a little lady in Sierra Leone.  I am the very tribes I work with.  It gives me a sense of completion.  And second, not because of order is the knowledge of the immense impact that we have on everyone’s life that we have touched in Sierra Leone.  We literally are the difference between a young person having an education or not. That’s it.  We literally are molding futures through our work and thereby impacting the world at large, as one never knows how these kids will grow up to impact those around them.

 

You’ve been working closely with Cash & Rocket for some time now. 

How has the support of Cash & Rocket impacted what you do at Shine on Sierra Leone?  Cash & Rocket has been the fuel to our engine in a major way.  Aiding us through the Ebola crisis in which we were able to safely guard over 600 people from the Ebola infection while being situated in the middle of the hotbed of Ebola.  It was said to be a miracle, but I knew that it was from the resources of Cash and Rocket.  And as notably, Cash & rocket funds received have built a secondary school to alleviate the plight of an up to 18-mile daily journey riddled with dangerous snakes, torrential rains and the risk of being kidnapped are all a real part of their journey to education.   We are now focused on Phase 2, which is outfitting the school and raising funds for the unique entrepreneurial based school for

What sort of change do you hope to come from this year’s Cash & Rocket Tour?  

Raising the funds to open an Entrepreneurial, Leadership Academy – a pre-eminent Secondary School for Sierra Leone…