Mycro in Sierra Leone – top-down approach to empower communities

By Denise Nanni and Milena Rampoldi, ProMosaik. In the following our interview with MYCRO in Sierra Leone. We talked about the history of the country, the main human rights issues, and the objectives of MYCRO. The organization implements a bottom-top-approach to empower communities. 
What are the main issues, related to the aftermath of the war that led to the foundation of MYCRO?
The past brutal war that caused the loss of million lives came as a result of the many unbearable things that were happening in Sierra Leone. After independence in 1961, the country has been govern through the one party system which also brought about tribal and regional wars in the past, later, the country attained the Multi-party system of government. This system was not favorable to the citizens of the country. The president of governing party pays more attention to his own region, leaving other district venerable and deprive.
From the 70’s, 80’s and early 90’s the country was experiencing severe bankruptcy, economic hardship, corruption, mismanagement from the top to the bottom, to the extend human beings were sold in exchange of money – for slavery purposes and rituals. All this surmounted to the brutal war in 1991 when the late Foday Sancoh mobilized young people (rebels) and wage war against the ruling government of the regime- the All People Congress Party.
The past civil war is now writing in history and the world recognized it as one of the worst atrocities the world has ever experienced. The killing of children, conscription of children as child-soldiers, women rape and used to carry loads, houses burnt down, father were asked to have sexual intercourse their daughters, boys with their mothers and so on. The 11 years brutal war in Sierra Leone caused almost all children, teenagers and youth of that time violence, corruption, unemployed and lived a life of no hope and aspiration for the future to come. Violence and the criminal arts were everywhere in towns, communities and the district, because I was believed that you must fight to get what you want by hook or crook. The war finally ended through the support if the United Nations, the Commonwealth and other international humanitarian bodies, but the aftermaths or the effects of the war linger the minds of many even today. The issues of depression, frustrations, violence, psychosocial trauma and extreme poverty remain visible after the war ends.
As many other civil society organizations and the International support committee, the Movement for youth and Children’s Right organization was established in 2008 years after the war to complete government and other institutions in their fight for peace, reconciliation, foster a good and reliable human rights strategies and commission to protect and enhance the rights for all especially children and who bears the greatest circumstances of the brutal war. The Movement started after its members conducted a four day community feasibility study to find out if the Sierra Leone child right acts that was enacted was active in communities.  To our surprises, many communities were not even aware of those child rights laws and after having many consultations with many community youth about youth, democracy, empowerment and development, we got a massive concern from those young people and such led to the formation of the Movement for youth and Children’s Rights Organization to tactically support communities understand the laws and uphold them for national development. 
In what ways do you select the countries and the communities where you intervene?
MYCRO always conduct community feasibility studies to study the problem. For instance, some communities have higher rates of violence, illiteracy, unemployment and lack of education, whereas some communities have a very low percent of such unfortunate challenge, so as an organization, we concentrate into those higher challenge communities by helping them with a suitable solution through collective approach the community authorities and other institutions working in the same interest. We select countries base on the interest of youngsters. They youngsters normally send Letter of interest to MYCRO office and we understudy it and send the International liaison officer who will visit and conduct feasibility  study and from that, MYCRO office may decides whether to replicate it program or not base on the level of the needs in that country. 
How would you define your approach?
We prefer the bottom top approach in all our programs because we believe that many non-profit fail in their strife for positive change because they use the Top-Bottom approach. We collectively work with community and national authorities in meeting the needs of the beneficiaries moreover; we work with the beneficiaries themselves by creating the sense of ownership and responsive approach with the community. These have made our work achievable. 
 Through which tools do you promote youngsters and communities empowerment?
 We promote youngsters through entrepreneur and empowerment programs like – training in startup business, small and large scale agribusiness training, skill training and self-reliant programs. For instance, we are currently embarking on the Self-Help Agricultural project in Sierra Leone and Ghana. Providing seeds for village and town farming. These villages and towns have come together as a team and cultivate crop which is call (community Self Reliant farming) this project help the community solve their common challenges like selling the harvested crops and in turn buy large sum of schools materials which are distributed amongst all school going children in the village. This initiative helps to reduce individual burden as a say goes – “together we make a great difference” (The power in Partnership)
 How do you cooperate with local authorities?
Yes, in all our community programs we cooperate and partner with the existing local authorizes and organizations in that locality especially those whose thematic operations are similar to ours. Like the City council, Municipal Assembly, Chiefs, community elders, radio stations, civil society groups, Non-profits organizations and government agencies. For instance when doing the girls health education project, we partnered with Ministry of Health of that country along with health organizations and health workers in that community to bring up a better result. How: In any community program, we bring to light the alarming issues and request partnership with bigger institutions at national, international and community level, especially whose institutions that have expectorate in that area, they will provide training facilitators and we provide the training ground and tools.  
Please feel free to add anything that you may want to say.
Currently the organization is operating in 7 countries in Africa: namely Sierra Leone, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Liberia.
Our thematic Areas are: Education for all dreams, ICT as a tool to eradicate poverty in Africa, Impact Women Initiative, Nonviolent Communication, Children rights, youth entrepreneurship and empowerment and Child Feeding and Food Banking
Request: We are looking forward to have international Volunteers who can come and support our work, and learn from our local communities in Africa. Our culture and lifestyles are rich and enjoyable. We welcome those who wish to visit and volunteer in Africa.