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Abubakarr Mansaray, is one of our young volunteers in Sierra Leone, working on  the ‘Savings Lives II’ programme as a ‘Community Mobiliser’. He is also a poet, and has written an inspiring poem about his volunteer experience. We sat down with him to talk about his experience.

Scroll down to read the poem: ‘I am a lifesaver’

What inspired you to write poems?
My poetic inspiration is sourced from societal unfolding. I started writing poems the day I learned that social ills were to be avoided, tackled and, most notably, reduced. As a writer, I decided to engage in a literary fight – a struggle that would liberate any reader who would lay hands on my fiction. 

My inspiration is the too many wrongs in my country that are to be wiped out through creative and constructive writing. I’m writing poems because I want to right the wrongs that culture itself frowns at.

And how has this shaped your life?

Well, creative writing (including poetry) has shaped my life positively. As I started out as a beginner, it created a learning platform for me that completely overwhelmed my thoughts, rendering me eager to know about art. Poetic writing has produced another universe for which there is a multitude of souls (writers) who try to make the world a better place. Poetic writing has formed and developed me into a playwright, a satirist and a metaphysicist.

It made me pursue an online degree course in Theatre Arts, with a certificate in Showbiz and Creative Writing. This was as a result of an online writing competition organised by the Department of Theatre Arts at Legon University in Ghana.

That’s another positive shape it has created in my life. Also, it has influenced me to become a problem-solving person, taught by literature.

What motivated you to apply to volunteer with Restless Development?

To be candid, I was motivated by two things: one, the name of the organisation and the name of the project. The word ‘Restless’ got me amazed, and I was excited to read through the Restless Development website and see how a restless young person can be developed. I was inspired by the mission statement of ‘pushing boundaries, shaping today, creating tomorrow’, which places young people at the forefront of change and development. Thus, I gathered the confidence to submit an application. I chose Restless Development because of their youthful hub and its unsinkable fields for young people’s empowerment.

I was also urged to volunteer because of the title of the project – ‘Saving Lives’. I wanted to join the bandwagon that will go into the rural communities to lead change and to save lives. I viewed volunteerism as a positive direction that must be cherished and given a try. I volunteered with Restless Development because the organisation is undoubtedly the best youth-led agency, which creates the largest safe space for young people’s empowerment as change agents.

What has been your biggest success in the community you are working in?

My greatest achievement, in and out of my hub community and beyond, is that people now go to the health facility whenever they are sick, or to ensure their children have a healthy lifestyle.

Pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers now also go for their regular antenatal clinic and postnatal clinic visits, and adolescents have seen the importance of family planning (especially the use of contraceptives). In conclusion, my biggest success is that the communities have now built a friendly environment which enables us to do our job as mobilisers.

What has been your experience so far volunteering with Restless Development?

The experience I have gained so far as a volunteer at Restless Development is how to mobilise communities and engage stakeholders. This was difficult for me before. I’ve never thought it was that easy until the abilities have been deeply buried in me by the staff here. Now, I can confidently hold community network meetings and discuss whatever topic that concerns Reproductive, Maternal, Neonatal, Child, Adolescent, Healthcare (RMNCAH) services. This is an experience you can be proud of as a young person.

How do you intend to use this experience to better society?

I will be able to impact the lives of other young people with the knowledge I have gained. I aim to empower them to bring about positive health seeking behaviours with massive campaigns against teenage pregnancy, and a comprehensive programme on exclusive breastfeeding, the importance of antenatal and postnatal clinic visits, and blood donation. If this is achieved, my experience will create a better society.

What will you miss about being a volunteer?

Well, without mincing words, volunteerism is one of the ultimate youthful activities that will not only render one’s life better; but it also expands one’s thoughts and transforms you into the real ‘you.’

Frankly, I’ve endured the test of voluntary times, and I’m proud to say the times are worthwhile. 

I’m going to miss a lot, particularly the sight of courageous young people who have chosen to save lives in Sierra Leone. I’m going to miss the good times spent together and the knowledge we’ve learned and shared. I’m going to miss the activities that I did in the communities. I will miss a lot.

I AM A LIFESAVER!!!

I AM A LIFESAVER!!!

I am that soul that thinks and acts like a mobilizer 

I am that voice that speaks like a lifesaver 

I was trained to be bold and shine in my placement like gold, and the message on the benefits of health I shall confidently unfold

I was predestined to volunteer in a wayfarer community together with my pair

Oh! What a world I have seen as an adult and not as a teen in these few months of service that cannot be foreseen?

Teenagers, mothers, and fathers that bear the scratch of societal influence, marred by poverty, though hoped to live in perpetual affluence

My ears heareth about mothers who cherish the act of home delivery; even when the pain is but an unforgettable recovery

Their mouths speaketh of a young birthing the young even when society knows about this wrong; but NAY! They strive still to belong 

I have seen the booked cheating the unschooled, and I have seen the unbooked robbing the schoolyard

I am still a lifesaver!

I have drenched in the rains to decrease the environmental pains 

I have scorched in the sun with lots of strains to conduct a network meeting that has a lot of gains 

I have worn the gown of RESTLESS and proven tireless 

I have channeled DEVELOPMENT with an enormous empowerment 

My desire is to silence the graveyards and make the clinics vineyards 

I will change their negative mindsets and make them use insecticide bed nets

I will do all of these because I AM A LIFESAVER!!!   

I am a woman, born and bred in this town

I am a human, farming makes me smile, but visiting the clinics makes me frown because I don’t want to be seen by the medical staff as a clown

I am pregnant for the first time certainly giving birth at home is not a crime

NO! It is a crime that destroys a generation at its prime

……And who are you? 

I am a mobilizer sent by Restless Development to save lives, but accomplishing this needs a lot of strives

I plead with you to save the unborn by visiting the clinic 

But going there for medication always makes me panic

You should learn to trust the C-L-I-N-I-C to do your A-N-C and you will be seen as the wearer of the crown and not a clown

You will deliver a healthy baby and continue with your P-N-C

…and what is ANC and PNC?

ANC is the antenatal care visit that a pregnant woman should pay at the clinic for better health tips and care

PNC is the clinical visit that happens after delivery and care

About the Saving Lives II programme.

Restless Development is part of a group of eight organisations implementing the ‘Saving Lives II’ project in Sierra Leone. The project aims to save the lives of women and children by improving the quality, availability, and accessibility of reproductive, maternal, newborn and children’s health services. Saving Lives is funded by UK Aid through the UK government’s Department for International Development (DFID). At Restless Development, we are using our youth-led model to create demand for family planning services in over 1,000 communities across Sierra Leone. We have 180 young volunteers leading the programme, who we call ‘Community Mobilisers’. They work in pairs of community and national volunteers. Each pair of volunteers has one ‘hub community’ where they live, and many other ‘satellite communities’ where they also hold activities. The volunteers organise community events, community network meetings, hold sessions, and do health talks at health centres, to raise awareness of the importance of family planning and newborn healthcare.

Bob Lamin, Communications Officer for Restless Development in Sierra Leone, interviewed Abubakarr about his experience as a volunteer. To read more about Restless Development’s work in Sierra Leone, you can follow our work there on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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