I am passionate aboutI am passionate about equipping young people with income generating skills
and creating enterprise and programmes which solves causes of poverty in
communities. As I have found, young people have so much to give and need to
be empowered to do so.
Recently, I had the opportunity to address the Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
and leaders from around the world at the Commonwealth Day Observance at
Westminster Abbey. This year's Commonwealth theme is 'A Young Commonwealth'. The message I gave in my address was clear: we have a huge responsibility to
invest in young people, and this is something I could not be more passionate
I was a child when the brutal civil war blighted Sierra Leone. My parents
were so moved by the plight of child soldiers that they rescued and invited
over 800 child soldiers into our lives. All were victims of war, pulled out
of the conflict and into our home, I shared my clothes, food and parents with
them. These children had done some horrendous things during the war. Many
people were afraid of them, and some pitied them. My father, the late Richard
Cole, saw them differently - he had a vision that with the right support,
these children would become the people to rebuild Sierra Leone in the years
This is now a reality. Thanks to my father's different perspective, a group
of these former child soldiers are now community leaders in Sierra Leone.
They work with me as we continue his vision through Lifeline Nehemiah
Projects. Together we run four schools, a safe home for vulnerable children
and a vocational training centre. We are working with farmers, running
businesses and doing everything we can to bring economic and social
restoration to Sierra Leone. It was the vision and commitment of my father
and those who worked with him that transformed so many child soldiers into
community leaders. We need to make that choice everyday - to invest in young
people, seeing them as leaders now and in the future.
ActionsWhen I accepted the role of Executive Director of LNP, I did so understanding
that it would be a long-term commitment. There was a lot of hard work
involved in restructuring the work that had disintegrated since my father
passed away. But I am so proud to now stand alongside the guys that grew up
in the home that my family established during the war. 80% of the Senior
Management Team are ex-child soldiers.
We currently operate a home for vulnerable children and young people, 4
schools, a vocational technical skills training programme. We are working
with farmers to increase crops yield and quality, helping rural small-holders
to move out of poverty caused by subsistence farming, whilst facilitating
meaningful community development. We are also using this to get young people
involved in farming, and stem the flow of urbanisation by providing job
options in the sector. We continue to operate three social enterprises
focused on providing employment and resources to the non-profit work of the
organisation with view to long-term sustainability.
I work to make sure that the values we operate by as an organisation are
present in all our decision making processes, our legacy and every way in
which we interact with our stakeholders at a local, national and
international level. These are: Serving the community, Teamwork, Excellence,
Accountability, Don’t turn a blind eye, and Integrity.
We have seen some remarkable improvements in the lives of our beneficiaries.
Take one example, Aminata, aged 25.
Previously, Aminata worked as a hawker, earning only 40,000 Leones a month.
She was accepted onto the Building and Construction vocational training. As
part of the training we helped Aminata secure a placement with a Construction
Company, which turned into a permanent position. Aminata is now employed and
earns 550,000 Leones, monthly. She says “I’m much better, not having to
sleep with a man to get money. I save money and have a future. I’m now