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"A New Beginning"

By Abu Bakarr Biggie Kamara, Winnipeg, Canada. (Pictured right)

Posted October 30th, 2015

"A new beginning" - SALNAM's newly elected president, Abu Bakarr Biggie Kamara's speech at the 2015 SALNAM inauguration in Winnipeg, Canada.

Good evening my fellow community members and friends.

Before I start, I would like to use the opportunity to thank you, my fellow community members for your support over the years and for giving me the opportunity to serve as president of SALNAM and our community.

I would especially like to thank my family, my lifelong partner, Kanko Mansaray, and my children, Sean, Sherice and Hawa, for their unwavering support and for sparing me the time to serve my community.

This is indeed a new beginning for our community, and I encourage you, our dear members to welcome and embrace this new chapter of community building and development.

As your president, I will continue with the progressive work we have started and will provide strong and inspirational leadership, encouraging you our members to unite on issues of common purpose.

I will work with all individuals and groups within our community, and will strive to promote our identity as one people, encouraging our members to see ourselves as a whole rather than as factions or groups of people with different tribal, regional or political affiliations. I will also promote concrete programs and policies that support this plan of action.

Even though leadership paradigms often refer to the individual, we need to go beyond the individual and simultaneously build the capacity of groups and systems to move community development and sustainability forward for our community.

This type of leadership referred to as collective leadership, and which includes collective action, dialogue and co-operation, is needed and will change the way collective efforts take place and contribute to better overall results in our community. It requires us to be open, fair, respectful and non judgmental in all our interactions and deliberations, in spite of our differences or backgrounds.

On the other hand, judging others on the basis of their backgrounds or beliefs, create a limiting effect, and we should instead focus on building on each other's ideas. We have differences but we have more in common, and we should focus on those commonalities to enhance our relationships, participation and contributions for the common good of our community.

Irrespective of our tribal or political belonging, we should view ourselves and our fellow Sierra Leoneans as human beings with all our strengths, shortcomings and desire to make a difference. Diversity and respect for difference will function as checks and balances and is also the sole or real route for the way forward for our community to be truly united, cohesive and vibrant with lasting impact.

For this reason, and as a way of keeping to my promise to listen to the concerns of every Sierra Leonean in Winnipeg, I will strike a Special Committee to address the concerns of many in our community for SALNAM's Executive Council composition to be reflective in terms of regional balance, to give every Sierra Leonean in Winnipeg the chance to serve and actively participate in all community programs and activities.

Finding solutions or remedies to address the challenges in sustainable community building and development, also needs a variety of thought, knowledge, expertise, ideas, and world views, in some cases. The respect for difference and putting effort in finding common ground is therefore indispensable. This also makes it relevant for a proposal to address the anomaly in the Executive Council composition, which will also help to make SALNAM a truly national organization.

I will promote collective leadership and collaboration among our members, to encourage people to open up and share their ideas and expertise, and to always show their support for SALNAM and the community, even if there are conflicts and differences in opinion or background.

I have no doubt that we are a progressive thinking and a forward looking community, and that we can be united for the common good.

Also note that, the challenge for us to be united and collaborative as a community is also a big opportunity for our community to become more vibrant and successful.

Your input for the way forward is also needed, and I will make it a priority, to make standing committees become functional as a way of giving the decision-making power to you our members.

I will also launch the Resource Centre Management and Planning Committee, for the Centre to be more productive and result - oriented in service delivery to our members and other Canadians who want to participate in the programs provided by the Centre. The Committee will be required to produce a detailed service delivery plan, and activities, and to manage those plans consistent with the aims and objectives of the Resource Centre as a multi-service entity.

I will initiate a Counseling Program for the provision of culturally - appropriate information to newcomer Sierra Leoneans, to assist them in the settlement process in Manitoba. This information will help them make the right choice or decision in the settlement process. I will establish an Employment and Job Counseling Program for those who need those services.

I will setup or promote the development of the Skills Bank for those who need the services of professionals within and without the community.

My administration will have an open door policy at all times, and I will make SALNAM as the ?Go to? organization for community members who want community solutions to their issues.

I will help make SALNAM become a more productive organization by making you the members understand the substantial things the organization is doing in a very substantial way.

I will seek the interest of the community and its members, and will communicate with and encourage individuals to contact me as a way of engaging the community to seek the advice or consent of community members and to get your inputs in making decisions that strengthen our community. I will also provide you with updates about the organization's programs and activities, including providing an annual report of all the programs and activities of the organization.

In my platform for president, I promised to undertake a Community Needs Assessment Study to determine the real needs of our community for specific programs and services.

I have already assigned my vice and the Public Relations Officer of SALNAM to coordinate this important project. The objective is to have an administration that is prepared to undertake programs and activities dictated by the demands and needs of our members, and one of the ways of doing this is by contacting you, our members, through this important study.

I believe the time for the community to be consulted on matters affecting service delivery is now. And I encourage you all to complete the questionnaires prepared for this project and return them by the deadline indicated on the form.

I have also asked the Financial Secretary and Treasurer to give us a proposal outlining the ways we improve or increase the finances or revenue of SALNAM. The objective of this project is to identify or develop strategies aimed at improving or increasing the financial resources of the organization, including strategies to encourage members to pay their membership dues on a timely basis.

We all know that to successfully run an organization like SALNAM, the organization has to command a strong financial position to ensure it carries out its programs and activities successfully at all times. A weak financial position will leave the organization handicapped in achieving its goals and objectives.

I therefore implore and encourage you our dear members to kindly make your monthly subscriptions and donations to help our organization achieve its goals and objectives. Remember that SALNAM is the community and the community is SALNAM, and that SALNAM's success, which is our success, is a material function of our contribution, collaboration and active participation.

To help us determine our membership strength, I have asked the Secretary General of SALNAM, to lead a project to update SALNAM's membership list, including the phone numbers, home and email addresses of our members.

I will also engage the social and assistant social secretaries, as well as the Treasurer who is responsible for planning and developing membership drive strategies, to explore workable strategies to encourage Canadians who have worked in Sierra Leone in past years, to become Associate Members of the Organization.

They will be required to advise whether associate members are voting members or not, and consideration should also be given to other Canadians who might be interested to work with Sierra Leoneans living in Winnipeg such as co-workers and friends.

Associate Membership is only granted to an individual who believes in the aims and objectives of SALNAM, and this is surely another avenue, if seriously exploited, helps the organization to expand its membership base.

Inviting government and political leaders from Sierra Leone has often had the tendency of dividing our community mainly on the basis of our political affiliations. This has left us with the challenge on deciding whether and how we invite dignitaries from Sierra Leone.

To settle this matter in order to promote and maintain cohesion in our community, I have appointed the Assistant P.R.O of SALNAM to undertake a special assignment, to develop policy guideline to assist SALNAM Executive to support visa applications by individual/ group members in our community who invites government and other political leaders in Sierra Leone for the purpose of visiting Winnipeg.

Any support given by SALNAM Executive should be based on promoting the best interest of the organization and those of the community at large.

I will also continue to engage the community by holding quarterly or yearly Town Halls to hear your views on a range of issues affecting the community. I will also be accountable to all community members.

My leadership as promised, will be based upon transparency, honesty and dedication to serving our community, and I encourage members of my Executive team to do due diligence in their service to our community, by taking their respective roles and responsibilities seriously.

Running the day to day affairs of SALNAM is challenging business, and in order to ensure our success as a team, we are expected to fulfill our obligations to the organization, and to complete our tasks on a timely basis in order to achieve our goals and objectives. Work that should be completed in two days, should be done in two days.

I also encourage you my fellow Executive members, to go over your functions in the Council as stipulated in the organization's constitution, and to feel free to express your concerns or questions you may have in respect to your respective roles and responsibilities.

Finally, I welcome you all warmly to the Executive Council, and please note that we are a team, and we should continue to work as a team always. I also look forward to working with you in positive ways to continue building a vibrant and progressive community.

I thank you also for your sacrifice to serve the Sierra Leone community.

I would also like to remind the audience that my success as president is a function of my executive members to work as a team, as we gallop to make the community as a stronger and caring one.

As for the graduates who we are recognizing this evening, I congratulate you on our members' behalf, for your academic achievements which have made your parents and the entire community proud.

Personally as the president of SALNAM, I am very proud and delighted, and on my behalf, I wish you all a great success as you enter another phase of your development, either in the academic field, or as you prepare to enter the workforce.

Your success did not come by chance, but through hard work and dedication, and our presence here tonight to also recognize you is a testimony to your hard work and dedication, and I encourage you to continue this feat backed by your dreams to succeed, no matter the challenges you encounter in the future.

For the parents, I thank you for the support and love you are giving to your children over the years. You have contributed mightily to their academic achievements, which did not happen by chance.

Again, I thank you all the parents for a job well done. And now at this point, I would like to ask everybody in this room to stand and give a big hand to the graduates.

My name is Abu Bakarr Kamara, and I thank you all for your presence here tonight.