Angus Fayia Tengbeh volunteered with Restless Development as a peer educator in public health in Sierra Leone from 2008-2009 and again in 2010. He is now a social scientist working on one of the primary Ebola vaccination trials (Ebovac-Saloon) in Kambia district in Sierra Leone. Angus conducts qualitative research that will contribute to the design of potentially lifesaving vaccine interventions in local communities. He says that the skills he learned while volunteering with Restless Development will be with him “until the end of time”.
Angus has faced many challenges in his life. When civil war broke out in Sierra Leone, Angus and his family were forced to flee the country. He grew up in a refugee camp in Guinea where he would eventually become a peer educator. In the region at the time, young people were distrusted or even seen as criminals, but Angus saw youth as an answer to challenges in Sierra Leone.
When Angus returned home, he saw an advertisement for a volunteer position at Restless Development. It was the first time he had ever seen an organization that encouraged young people to be at the forefront of change and development. Everything clicked. Angus decided to defer his university degree and embarked on a restless journey as a volunteer.
While volunteering with Restless Development, Angus spent most of his time in schools, at the public health center or out in the community teaching young people about sexual and reproductive rights as well as safe health practices and life skills. He had an open door policy, which allowed many teenagers to open up and confide in him about intimate and difficult subjects.
“There was one day when I was just sitting at the Youth Friendly Center, and this one boy came in and explained to me that he thought he had an STI and I told him to go to the hospital and since that day he thought of me as someone who he trusted, which was so important,” he recalls. “From then on, I always tried to give him the best advice.”
From Angus’ experience working with young people, he realized that the healthcare system needs skilled young people on board. He says that “working with Restless Development was an eye opener” and led him to pursue a career in Public Health.
Angus knows that working with young people in a community to change perceptions is one of the only ways to end the spread of Ebola and HIV AIDS. To this day, he trains his team members on how to work well with adolescents and engage community members during their research.
Angus believes that the zeal and confidence of youth will lead change. He hopes that younger generations will take a greater role in teaching and developing safe health practices in Sierra Leone.
“As we were working in those communities, we were trying to step back and bring [young people] to the front. They have to find a way to solve their own problems when we are not here,” said Angus.