Afri-Scot is a small shop sitting at the junction at Amputee Village, Sierra Leone, West Africa. Its purpose is to meet the needs of the community. Originally the shop was stocked with basic provisions but like most ARET projects in Sierra Leone it has grown.
From Shetland to Essex in the UK, individuals have supported ARET by giving of their time to create beautifully crafted items . These items are boxed and sent to projects such as Women’s Group, art and craft activities in the school, clothing for those who need. When the shop became established some people in UK asked whether their creations could be sold in the shop to help fund the basic needs of the community. Indeed they could. Now everyone who contributes items is automatically asked if they have any objection to this happening. To date no-one has objected and the shop has become a local curiosity as it stocks so many items from the UK. In fact Jane has said that she has had to build an extension.
Sierra Leone has a tropical climate so it is logical to think that blankets which so many folks like to crochet or knit will not be required. However, I am assured that many feel the cold when the Harmattan winds blow cooling the temperature at night. Not all the donated blankets are sold. The frail, elderly and sick are given a blanket if required. Similarly not all the beautiful baby and toddler knitted items are sold. Some are taken to maternity clinics serving areas where poverty is the norm. Infant mortality in Sierra Leone, although falling, is still high at 8.09%. (The current UK figure is 0.35%) Malnutrition continues to be a major problem.
So, what happens to the profits made in the shop? All donated items from UK will have 100% profit. The women in Amputee Village are quite vocal. They have created a platform where their voices are heard. ARET understands that they met and decided that, other than profits meeting emergency needs, the money should also buy ingredients to make a basic school lunch. We witnessed on our visits, and are regularly told, that one of the greatest barriers to learning is hunger. This hunger comes from not having eaten for 24 hours or more. This hunger causes headaches and lethargy. The women make the lunches for 50 children. Currently this costs 200,000 SL leones per day which is approximately £20.00. Unfortunately their profit is not enough to provide lunch each school day but they are now also selling second hand clothing and running a tea shop in the evening to raise more money
If you would like to help, but do not craft, perhaps a you have a group of friends who could add a toothbrush, a cake of soap, a packet of pencils, or any similar small item to their shopping basket. These can then be collected and sent to ARET who will ship them out to Sierra Leone.
Like most of the projects started in Sierra Leone, the local project leaders have a much better idea of what is needed and what will work. Afri-Scot appears to be an excellent example of a community taking the initiative, the ownership and responsibility of improving circumstances for the most needy and providing opportunity in the community.
With the current circumstances in UK it is very unlikely that ARET will visit Sierra Leone before 2021. Their budgets are small and pushed to the limits. We therefore do not expect our project leaders to spend money on expensive data for mobile phones to update us. Thus the information we are receiving is not the usual detailed information with photographic evidence. This, we understand. We are certain that all donated items sent are used to benefit those that need. Afri-Scot is certainly one of the projects we look forward to visiting.