Freetown with a population of 1,070,200 is the capital and largest city of Sierra Leone, and a major port on the Atlantic Ocean. Located in the Western Area of the country on the Sierra Leone peninsula, Freetown is the hub of the nation's administrative, financial, educational, communications, cultural and economic centre, as well as its main port. The area, said to have previously been a slave market, was first settled in 1787 by 400 freed slaves and Black Americans sent from England, under the auspices of British abolitionists. They established the 'Province of Freedom' on land purchased from local Koya Temne sub chief King Tom and regent Naimbana, a purchase which was to cede the land to the new settlers "for ever." The established arrangement between Europeans and the Koya Temne did not include provisions for permanent settlement, and some historians question how well the Koya leaders understood the agreement. Disputes soon broke out, and King Tom's successor, King Jimmy burnt the settlement to the ground in 1789.
The London based Sierra Leone Company made a second attempt in 1792 and resettled Freetown with 1,100 American slaves en route from Nova Scotia, many of whom were born in the United States, led by former slave Thomas Peters. These American slaves gave Granville Town the name "Freetown". Around 500 free Jamaican Maroons joined them in 1800.
It survived being pillaged by the French in 1794, and the indigenous inhabitants revolted in 1800, but the British retook control, beginning the expansionism that led to the creation of Sierra Leone. From 1808 to 1874, the city served as the capital of British West Africa. It also served as the base for the Royal Navy's West Africa Squadron which was charged with halting the slave trade. Most of the slaves liberated by the squadron choose to settle in Sierra Leone, and Freetown in particular, rather than return home; thus the population includes descendants of many different peoples from all over the west coast of Africa. The city expanded rapidly as many freed slaves settled, accompanied by African soldiers who had fought for Britain in the Napoleonic Wars. During World War II, Britain maintained a naval base at Freetown. Descendants of the freed slaves, called Krios, play a leading role in the city, even though they are a minority of the population.
The city was the scene of fierce fighting in the late 1990s. It was captured by ECOWAS troops seeking to restore President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah in 1998, and later it was unsuccessfully attacked by rebels of the Revolutionary United Front.
The Situation of Children in Freetown.
Children were at the core of the brutal civil war that gripped Sierra Leone. They witnessed horrible violence, were subjected to systematic abuse and, in many cases, were forced to become combatants themselves. Rape, mutilation, forced prostitution and senseless killings were part of these children’s daily experiences. The war deprived them of an education and, worse, confronted them with the most brutal expressions of human cruelty at an early age, shattering their childhood.
Following the signing of the 1999 Lome Peace Accord, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Sierra Leone was established to create an impartial record of human rights violations and to make recommendations to the government to prevent future conflicts. Truth and Reconciliation Commissions have become a common mechanism for countries seeking to come to terms with the legacies of war and repression. Twenty-five such commissions helped heal the wounds in countries like Argentina, El Salvador, South Africa, Serbia and Montenegro and Sri Lanka. And yet, the Commission in Sierra Leone was different, because it was the first that devoted special attention to the experiences of children affected by the conflict.
Recognizing that children were among the main victims of the civil war and that their involvement was essential in promoting reconciliation, members of the Commission developed child-friendly measures to ensure that children felt safe when recounting their experiences. As a result, the children of Sierra Leone were able to participate in the process through special hearings and closed sessions, as well as to have a safe environment for interviews and where they received psychological support.
Empowered by this experience, the children requested a child-friendly version of the Commission’s report, which was jointly prepared by the Commission, UNICEF and the United Nations Mission to Sierra Leone; while children contributed throughout the process.
A decade of conflict has made poverty in Sierra Leone so bad that many families cannot afford to take care of their children. Over 1,500 children live on the streets in Freetown alone, making a living doing odd jobs. They are the children most in danger of violence and sexual abuse.
At a truck park in the eastern part of the capital, many children come to sleep in the empty shells of cars. Prostitutes and drug addicts also come there,15-year-old Ansumana Kobba was also found in the truck park. He had been out on the street for four months. Ansumana's parents were killed during the war. He was sent to live with his uncle, but left when he was forced to go to work and was not sent to school.
Ansumana says he made money carrying things for people, but spent most of it on gambling and the local palm wine called Poy. Although he is glad to be off the street and in school, Ansumana says he is unable to face going back to his uncle or other members of his family. He says he would like to be put in a foster home.
AVFAL Project in Freetown
AVFAL main objective is the promotion of youths in the involvement of community development and leadership. Young people face a whole range of problems, which can cause distress and even mental ill health with issues like exam pressures, bullying, family problems, bad relationships and drugs causing huge stress. It is estimated that one in five young people experience mental health problems. Living on the streets means people can find themselves vulnerable to a wide range of problems, including drugs and alcohol abuse, gang violence, prostitution and involvement in crime. Many young people have multiple and complex difficulties which require intensive support. AVFAL Freetown gives one-to-one support to young people, offering practical training, help and advices in solving their problems and helping to improve their lives. It’s all about the fun of football-and the good things about it; team spirit, global learning, and living without violence. Our project is all about football as a cultural mediator and a medium for social development.
What is AVFAL Football for Development Programme?
Football for Development evolved out of the growing evidence that strengthening the right of children to play, enhances their healthy physical and psychosocial development and builds stronger communities. Football is now recognized by many as an effective tool in the pursuit of development and peace including international experts in the fields of development, education, health, sport, economic and conflict resolution. Our Well-designed Football and play programs put children on a positive path to healthy development. Specifically, Football and play programs help foster three key protective factors in the well being our children.
I. Resilience by building confidence through skill acquisition;
II. A meaningful connection to adults through the coaching relationship and;
III. A sense of safety and security through regular activity.
Football and play also serve as tools to teach important values and life skills including self-confidence, teamwork, communication, inclusion, discipline, respect and fair play. Football also has psychological benefits such as reducing depression and improving concentration. Football and play improve health and well being, extend life expectancy and reduce the likelihood of several non-communicable diseases including heart disease. Football has a positive impact on child education. Physical education typically improves a child's ability to learn, increases concentration, attendance and overall achievement. Football has the potential to contribute to the economic development our communities and nations. Football events can have significant economic impact. The popularity and convening power of sport provides us with a powerful tool for reaching people and communicating important messages including messages of health and peace. Football brings people together and has the potential to cross boundaries and open new dialogues. Many of the core values of football parallel those necessary for peace, such as respect, justice and honesty. Children learn better when they are having fun and being active. Our Football programs are crafted to uphold the values of development, equity, inclusion and sustainability.
"…Sport can play a role in improving the lives of individuals, and not just individuals, but whole communities. I am convinced that the time is right to build on that understanding, to encourage governments, development agencies and communities to think how sport can be included more systematically in the plans to help children, particularly those living in the midst of poverty, disease and conflict."
Formal UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan
Freetown, Capital of Sierra Leone
Air view of Freetown