The WE YONE LEARNING CENTRE
Construction of the “We Yone (Our Own) Learning Centre” on our two acre site in Masiaka, Sierra Leone is nearly complete!
Once opened, the Centre will have an enormous impact on the people of Masiaka and its surrounding community, an area of great need which is home to many amputees and war wounded, mutilated during Sierra Leone’s vicious civil war, who are now raising families under very challenging conditions. Thousands of children will come to this center to study and learn which will also support teachers and librarians from surrounding schools. Adults will be given opportunities to learn trades and create their own job opportunities.
We look forward to opening the We Yone Learning Centre in the coming months. It will have three areas for teaching and learning, each with its own room. With solar panels and a well, the site will offer lighting at night and running water for toilets and community use.
“Libraries and Literacy Building Programs” (Room 1)
Children and adults will enjoy resources beyond a well-stocked library, which will feature titles by Sierra Leonean authors along with thousands of books donated from the United States. Room 1 will also be the nerve center for our ongoing Hands On Reading! network of twenty libraries and its planned expansion. The Centre will run workshops for area librarians to improve their reading programs and obtain more books. Teachers and librarians will be able to check out materials including class sets of books and materials.
“Fiona Heckscher Education Technology Resource Center” (Room 2)
We Yone will include a digital library based on USACF’s “Bridge Pi,” our low-cost, portable, solar powered computer that creates its own wifi hotspot providing free, unlimited access to a wealth of digital resources, from early readers to Shakespeare and African literature, even where there is no internet access. Classes will be offered to teach people in the community how to assemble and program Bridge Pi’s for deployment in area homes and schools.
The digital library is dedicated to the memory and spirit of Fiona Heckscher. In her short life, Fiona helped and inspired many. She volunteered on HIV/AIDS education in townships in Western Cape Province in South Africa and at the Tropical Medicine Hospital Bamak, Mali. She also did legal work for Indigo Africa in Bamako, Mali.
Fiona passed away in a climbing accident in 2020. USACF and her family, fiancé, and friends hope that her passion and work on education and democracy will inspire all who use the digital library and learn new ICT skills to promote education and democracy themselves.
“Sheri’s Place”- Empowering Women With Marketable Skills (Room 3)
Sheri’s Place will offer a wide range of courses that will empower women and men to learn new skills and provide a means to earn money for their families. Skilled instructors and local mentors will teach these classes. The team will work with community leaders to assess according to the needs of the community. Possible courses include quilting, sewing, cosmetology, jewelry making, sanitary napkin production, and traditional craft making. American quilters have already agreed to visit Masiaka to run quilting and sewing 5-day workshops.
Remembering Sheri Saltzberg
In February, 2021, Sheri (co-founder of USACF, wife of Mark, and so much more) passed away after a courageous 10 year battle with cancer. Mark and his family, together with other USACF supporters who have also recently lost loved ones, chose to partner with HOSL in Sierra Leone to memorialize Sheri’s spirit of caring, nurturing, and quick camaraderie by creating the We Yone Centre. Sheri was a lifelong quilter, and quilting has a special place in Sierra Leone’s post-war recovery. Sheri was an active leader in the Quilters Guild of Brooklyn. Her memory will be preserved as Guild members will help design and stock Sheri’s Place with sewing machines and fabric.
USACF has not only been working with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) architectural students, but its prosthetics researchers as well. The MIT prosthetics team is working to design and operate a prosthetics clinic using the latest 3-D printers. The hope is that once amputees receive prosthetics from MIT technicians, the We Yone Learning Centre will provide needed job training. We Yone can offer people, who have lost so much, real options to earning a living.
The pieces are coming together. A team at MIT has provided site-specific designs. Our contractor is working hard and says he can complete construction by May 15. Our village advisors are identifying instructors to teach all the courses to be offered. Progress on the building and program is very exciting, but we need your continued support to realize the community’s full dream. USACF has commitments for 75% of the needed funds and are now seeking grants and donations to bring the Centre to fruition. We are seeking your help to raise an additional $150,000 to not only build but operate the Centre for year to come. We have interviewed candidates and hope to hire the new director in the coming weeks. Whether in person or online, we encourage you to join us to see and feel the excitement and the hope that this center is bringing to the entire Masiaka community! Please stand with us in fulfilling the promise of Sheri’s Place and the people of Masiaka by becoming a sustaining donor today. A gift of $250 a year goes very far in Sierra Leone. Thank you.
Project Manager Abdulai Bai and Construction Supervisor Bertram Mambu