Posted by: thebluemusicblog | May 6, 2012


Dear friends, this is the last glimpse of Africa for this time. I hope you enjoy the different country visits as much as I did.  After Tanzania we went back to Geneva to host an important follow up meeting of Resource Group leaders to discuss implementation of the results from the Nairobi meetings. A very interesting and inspirational meeting!

After a short week at home Carlos and I met at the Geneva airport and boarded a plane for Paris and onwards to West Africa, Sierra Leone and Freetown. The YMCA in Sierra Leone was celebrating 100 years anniversary and we wanted to share this moment with them. A big group of international YMCA partners had already arrived in Freetown, among them a big delegation from Westbund regional YMCA in Germany, and friends from Canada, USA, England and neighbouring Liberia.

Siaka Charles, Chair of the National Board

The transport from the airport is done by speedboats, the smallest speedboats I have ever used as public transport, and the trip took almost 1 hour.  It was a fresh experience, very enjoyable.

Christian Kamara, National General Secretary, and his charming family

Christian Kamara and Siaka Charles, National Secretary and National Chair, welcome us at the other side, in Freetown, the capitol of Sierra Leone.

Next morning the President of the country receives us in State House. For the second time in a year we are driving in a police led convoy through an African capitol, stopping traffic around us and taking us to the Palace of the President in phenomenal speed.

It is very impressive to listen to the speech of the State President and to understand how much he knows about the YMCA and again how respected and recognised the YMCA is in the country of Sierra Leone. The Chief of Protocol in the Palace has studied in Sweden and greeted me in fluent Swedish! I apologize for the bad quality of this photo, but I promise official photos of the President with the YMCA delegation in a later blogpost!

The heat under the sun is impressive in Freetown, and a black suit is not the easiest attire to use as you try to explore the countryside, so we get rid of the formal cloths and hit the road again in Toyota Jeeps, three of them and with blinking lights we speed through the city and dive into the countryside of Sierra Leone.

We visit a vocational training centre and listen to testimonials from the young students there.

They tell us how the YMCA has changed their lives and opened up new doors and perspectives for them.

This includes work perspectives and education, but also participation in Subject to Citizen, S2C, and training in advocacy work.

In the city we visit a very interesting bicycle shop, run by a former student at the vocational training centre.

The convoy of Jeeps takes off from the main road and we go deep into the jungle on very challenging roads. We are going to experience the Travelling Doctors of the YMCA as they work with pregnant women in far away villages, where no other health services are available.

We meet the women, we are received in one of the villages in the most traditional African manner and we see how the medical clinics work with the mobile personnel of the YMCA. Again a moment of pride for me – the YMCA is terrifically relevant to the needs of these people!

We stay the night in a nearby city and have a fabulous meal under the dark African sky.

Next day I am back in my dark suit for participation in a seminary in Freetown, where leading personalities from Sierra Leone delivers brilliant inputs around Unlocking Youth Potential in Sierra Leone.

It is all about Youth Empowerment and the National Youth Commissioner uses the YMCA as a prime example on relevant youth programmes in the country, both in the field of vocational training, in advocacy for youth issues and as frontrunners for the African renaissance!

This time there is no time to change from my dark suit, and I soon find myself as probably the first black suit walking around in the slum of Freetown. The YMCA is running a community development project in the slum, together with the leaders of the slum. A community centre is built, and the local chief enters the room and I feel again appropriated dressed for the occasion. The chief talks about the YMCA and its role for the inhabitants. The government wanted to move people away from the slum, and the YMCA had spoken out on behalf of the community and saved it. Local women organised in a micro finance project interrupts the chief’s speech with enthusiastic applaud and cheering. Half the group in the community centre is Muslim, half is Christian. All agree that the YMCA is important for them.

Later that day I open the finally match in the National Basketball League, it is sponsored by the YMCA, and I am treated like someone belonging to high levels of basketball. I really enjoy that, and I enjoy even more that the YMCA team is the winner!

On Saturday morning we walk through Freetown in a sponsored march, it is really warm! In the evening it is back in black suit and official anniversary celebration.

It is a great party, speeches are short but well spoken. Everybody are there. Next morning it is service at the Methodist Church, after that I officially present and dedicate a plaque in the YMCA building to commemorate the centennial celebration,

before we rush onto the alternative transport to the airport – a big old ferryboat from Greece.

Out of Africa 5 .  I am out of Africa, yes, but Africa is not out of me!  The leadership of these African YMCAs is really so impressive and so relevant to the needs of their societies.

I am writing these words on my way to Latin America, a long flight, twelve hours in the air between Amsterdam and Lima, Peru. More later!


  1. waw , so interesting to be in Africa, especially in Sierra – Leone, I like it for I was borm in Freetown and I got the good old memories back.

    • Riad, I did not know, how fascinating! The world is a small place!

  2. Very encouraging to see the Sierra leone YMCA in the highest of offices- State house

  3. Good to see YMCA doing a good job. Is Enen Whenzle still working there in Sierra Leorne? would like to get in touch with him, if he is.

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