The benefits of trusting young people will continue long after the crisis.

If there is hope to be found in the midst of the COVID19 pandemic its that thousands of young people will be beginning careers in youth-led, community centred development, says Hassan Sapateh.

I feel obliged to share my Restless Journey.”

In 2014, I was in my final year of study at the University of Makeni, when I was propelled into the world of volunteering. My university was closed by the fear of spreading a new virus: Ebola. At the age of 22, I joined Restless Development Sierra Leone as a Social Mobilizer for the Ebola Response Programme through the Social Mobilization Action Consortium (SMAC). For six months, following my training, I worked with community members and stakeholders to eradicate the Ebola virus and end new infections.

I worked in communities where the virus ravaged people’s lives as the death toll was very high, I was determined to turn things around.”

I became a staff member just a month after finishing my volunteering, supporting 21 other young people to respond to the Ebola virus epidemic. We achieved zero new infections in Bombali District, Northern Sierra Leone. This experience also changed the course of my life. The volunteer management, staff training, line management, coaching and mentoring skills I learnt during this time inspired me to do more.

A lifelong commitment to development

Sapateh as a Field Officer facilitating on a training of Community Champions as a sustainability drive to the Ebola Response-SMAC impacts In Kamaranka- Gbanti kamaranka Chiefdom, Bombali District.  In December 2015
Sapateh as a Field Officer facilitating Community Champions training as a part of the Ebola Response in Bombali District, December 2015.

Immediately after the end of the Ebola epidemic, I completed my studies, graduating with a first class Bachelor’s in Development Studies. I secured a job with Caritas-Makeni as a Life Skills Facilitator where I worked for seven months, but the youth-led values of Restless Development stayed with me. And in late 2016 I returned to take up a role in the Strengthening Accountability Building Inclusion (SABI) Programme as Field Officer in Bo District. As I had been able to during the Ebola crisis I helped young people become leaders. I was responsible for two cohorts of 124 Youth Accountability Volunteers (YAVs) 

We should start building the next generation of Restless Development Leaders, so therefore; this YAVs Foundation Training would be Field Officers-led. I am appointing Hassan John Sapateh to lead this year’s YAVs Foundation Training”

Programme Manager Alfred T.M. Navo

Leading a two-week Foundation training for 124 newly recruited Youth Accountability Volunteers was a huge task, but other colleagues were appointed to support me.  

Restless Development continued to support the development of my skills encouraging me to pursue a Master’s degree in Peace and Development Studies (PADs) at Njala University. Later I earned myself the post of Programme Coordinator for the Every Adolescent Girl Empowered and Resilient (EAGER) Programme.

Sapateh leading a training session on the EAGER Functional Literacy and Numeracy Curriculum for 60 BLN Facilitators at Sahara Hotel –Bo. In August 2019.

A glimmer of hope.

And now after 58 Months (4yrs 10 months), I am leaving Restless Development with the skills, knowledge and experience to lead change in development. This was made possible by the huge trust and platform offered to me as a young person by Restless Development in the midst of the Ebola outbreak. 

It is strange, given I arrived as an epidemic hit Sierra Leone, that I should be leaving at a time when the world is struggling with a pandemic. My career, my passion for creating change, and my recognition of the importance of youth-led and community driven values in development, were shaped by what I saw in the Ebola crisis. And when I look around I see a whole host of young people embarking on the same journey. In difficult times, I think this can give us all hope.

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The benefits of trusting young people will continue long after the crisis.

by wearerestless Reading time: 2 min