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SALNAM Outgoing President, Abu Bakarr Kamara, Handing Over Address

Good evening ladies and gentlemen.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the newly elected president of SALNAM, Allie Nasralla and his executive for their victory in the recent election.

As I formally hand over the mantle of power tonight, it is in place for me to give a brief rundown of some of our achievements and the challenges my administration encountered during the last three year period.

A brief history of my service to this community as a whole, is also in order, to remind those who may not know or might have forgotten about the roles I have played over the years as my contribution to community building and development. I might add that, my successes were a function of the support of my executive members. To them, I say thank you.

I am also doing this to remind each and every member of the incoming executive that the success or failure of this administration lies in their abilities to perform their duties not for the interest of the president, but for the good of the community. Community service is a calling. There is no other way around it.

It will be very irresponsible for any member of the Executive to shy away from their duties for any reason, including reasons of disagreement with the president or with a member of the Executive on any issue. Loyalty should always be paramount when conducting the affairs in the name of the community. 

You are not elected to the Executive Council to sit down warming the bench and expecting others to do your work. I had a few bench warmers in my cabinet. Endless excuses are not the productive ways to be an Executive member. In fact they are prescriptions for failure. Being elected to the Executive Council is the easiest part.

If you do not want SALNAM to degenerate into a social club with emphasis on wining and dancing, then it is your individual and collective responsibilities to take your responsibilities seriously.

The community elected you and the president does not own the community.

SALNAM is not a social club, and its  business and affairs should not be treated as such. However, there should always be the proper time and place for purely social activities. DJ Nazer can attest to this.

In some cases, you do not even have to be told what to do, you can play meaningful leadership role to come up with useful and creative ideas to support the development of creative programming initiatives. Programs are needed to assist the organization meets the demands for community services.

It is also wrong for people to divide the Organization along political or tribal affiliations. Sierra Leoneans have tried this back home with negative consequences for meaningful development efforts.This is a recipe for failure on a grand scale. It is sad to note that some people did not support my administration because of my views on this matter.

The uncomfortable truth is that tribalism is showing its ugly head in the affairs of SALNAM. Some of us are the perpetrators, but we are too small to admit it. SALNAM should be left out of our tribal and political fights in order to be successful. SALNAM should be a melting pot in order to be a truly functional National Organization. 

I know within myself, I have served this community to the best of my abilities. My political or religious views did not in any manner affect the decisions I made in the  affairs of heading this Organization. I am proud of the discipline I imposed upon myself in those matters. I have served in an executive capacity in one form or the other for a total of nine years, And I am proud of my service to this community.

When I was elected in the Executive to serve in the former administration, I made an oath, not only to the community but to myself also, that I am not coming to warm the bench but to play a meaningful role to assist our community achieve its goals and objectives. I didn't do it to make anyone look good, not even Allieu Sesay who was the president at the time. I was motivated to make our community a caring and a loving community.

During that time, I devoted my time working with others researching, creating ideas, developing and delivering programs and services for the purpose of creating a vibrant and a successful community. Such programs include workshops on cross-cultural understanding, envisioning the future of our community, and a workshop on goals and dreams, to assist our members and our community participate in the process of integration in this multicultural milieu of Manitoba.

I sought new funding sources and wrote proposals that resulted in raising over $20,000 for this organization.

Let me also use this opportunity briefly to thank Mr. Randolph Gorvie who wrote the proposal that brought in the $27,000 for the Resource Centre, the biggest funding this community has ever acquired for a given project. This is a man worth recognizing in every sense of the word as his action has spoken louder than his words.

I know Mr. Gorvie would not have wanted me to thank him publicly, but I am doing this to make the point that as community members, each and everyone of us can play viable roles to make meaningful contributions as the community gallops ahead to find its bearings in this Province. We want action. We don't need empty talk as empty talk cannot move the community to any direction or towards achieving its goals of community building. Philosophers are not welcome.

As president, I encountered numerous challenges, including the stress to do the work of others in many cases. After 9 years of active voluntary service, any normal human being will be tired at a point.

I came with a well thought out plan of action to advance our community, from the work we had started, to the next level. I gave important assignments to a few executive members but they failed to produce the desired results expected of them.

As for the failures of some of these executive members to produce, I knew it was just an issue of incompetence, which begs the question then: why bother to take a voluntary position when you very well know that you lack what it takes to be a leader in a community organization?

However, in spite of the challenges, we were able to carry out all the regular programs and activities of the organization.

We recognized and gave awards to high school and university graduates in the community. We also gave an award to a youth who volunteered at our after school program.

We launched the seniors lunch program to bring our seniors together for social interaction in the winter. This program is yet to be formalized as a stand alone entity on a long term basis.

In the quest of making SALNAM a serious player among communities in Manitoba, the organization has a formal membership agreement with the Coalition of Cultural Communities for Families Incorporated (CCCF Inc.). This is an organization formed under the auspices of the General Child and Family Services Authority, to promote the aspirations and welfare of families in cultural communities with Manitoba’s social services sector. It also, where possible, provides advocacy on child and family services matters.

Through our participation in this important body, we were able to assist in securing the release of a Sierra Leonean child who was in apprehension in the child welfare system.

More importantly, during this three year period, we were able to sustain the Resource Centre which has been the most expensive project of this community.

A lot has been said about this Centre and about how much my administration inherited. In addressing this matter, it is fitting to briefly put things into perspective.

To begin with, we have had this Centre for 5 years and my administration has borne most of the brunt in keeping it as it has kept it for 3 of the 5 years.

As a member of the administration that established the Centre, I know that we paid rent of $900 and $1,000 respectively within the first two years.

When I took over as president in 2015, the rent was raised significantly to $1,260. My administration spent about $40,000 on rent alone.

I understand that my predecessor mentioned that he was leaving about $21,000 in the account though some, who do not even know how those monies were acquired, have bumped it up to $25,000. I am pretty sure Mr. Allieu Sesay was going by the financial statement of August 31, 2015 SALNAM’s fiscal year, because by the time we took over in October, the organization had about $17,000.

During my administration we raised about $26,000 including funds from fundraising socials and other sources, which were still not enough to keep up with the commitments of the organization. Some of us in the Executive had to dip into our pockets on many occasion to assist in paying the bills of the organization.

It was not an easy task, but we made it, and due to fiscal prudence, with all the financial and other constraints, I left the current administration with $5,800.

This new administration will have a little room to breathe on the issue of rent and utilities for the new venue as I negotiated for rent thus far for $300 a month. I also secured a better deal for phone and internet at $80 a month as opposed to $180 in the past. This bill has been significantly reduced by $100 a month.

Finally, I would like to thank the electoral commissioner, Mr. Alex Bockarie, for conducting a free and fair election and for ensuring that people who had not paid a cent for their membership dues, paid the one time $10 fee before voting. We raised $2,500 from these dues and is a part of the $5,800 we are leaving with this administration.

A big thank you also to my executive members who played vital roles in their own ways to ensure we finished the race well.

Once again, I congratulate my successor, Mr. Allie Nasralla, and I wish him and his executive a successful term of office. Finally, I would like to thank community members for their support and understanding.

Thank you ladies and gentlemen.