Projects for Peace: The Vision of Kathryn W. Davis

"My challenge to you is to bring about a mind-set of preparing for peace, instead of preparing for war."

Peace through Psychosocial and Micro Credit Support

Project #
Sierra Leone
St. Olaf College
  • Leonard F. Vibbi

Peace through Psychosocial and Micro Credit Support

In Kenema, the third largest city in his home country and the first to report the 2014 Ebola outbreak, Leonard Vibbi staged a supportive story-sharing workshop for 25 women who had contracted the virus and survived. He followed that with a business training workshop, in which the women developed six ideas for new small businesses. He next organized the participants into six groups, based on their business choices, and made loans within those groups to support the startups. Over the long term, he writes, ‘the project through community ownership will become a community bank for women,” which will “keep giving out business loans and help more vulnerable women on Kenema.”

In the opening workshop, Leonard outlined the aims of his project, then asked the women to share their stories of surviving Ebola. “Initially,” he writes, “most beneficiaries were reserved and deeply sad” — but the women bonded through the storytelling, and they discussed creating radio jingles that would combat the social stigma that Ebola survivors still experience.

In the business workshop, the women developed and presented ideas for businesses dealing in palm oil, clothing and textiles, snacks, wood fuel, beverages and groceries. For several of the six groups he then organized, Leonard was able to bring in businesspeople as mentors. The group later registered as an official community organization, Wi Grow Incorporated, which Leonard hopes will continue to provide sustainable livelihoods for survivors of the epidemic.