tel.: - fax: 1.204.415.8376

Abu Bakarr "Biggie" Kamara's Message at the Social Committee Fundraiser

Good evening ladies and gentlemen. After retiring from active community service, my fellow community members, I am delighted to once again, be in your midst this evening in the capacity of keynote speaker for this important community function.

First of all, I would like to thank the organizers of this program, which I prefer to call Community Development Program.

This is a very important initiative, and for it to be successful, it has to have the full backing and support of the community. 

This calls for the unification of our community on all fronts. 

Be reminded that, as a community, it is our individual and collective responsibilities to come up with creative ideas and undertake meaningful programs for the benefits of the cross-section of our community. 

As a community, we can capitalize on our shared goals and aspirations for a prosperous community to embrace this program which will serve as a catalyst to assist our community realize its dreams of living the Canadian dream.

Programs such as these are needed to assist the community meets the demands for community services, bearing in mind that ours is a community that is still operating on the margins in the quest for successful integration into the larger community of Manitoba. 

Our community is young and growing, and it has serious challenges which impede integration with the rest of the Winnipeg community.

Arguably, about ninety percent of our members are refugees, and many are youth and young adults.

You may also agree with me that a high percentage of households in our community are headed by single parents, mostly women, many with little or no formal education. 

Also, many of our youth, some of whom had no formal educational background prior to coming to Canada, ended up dropping out of school simply because they couldn't cope with the "one size fits all" admission policy which places emphasis on age in determining the grade level of a student. 

And many of them, as a result of the cultural vacuum in which they operate, end up becoming recruits for gangs and engaging in criminal related activities. 

They also end up becoming wards of the criminal justice system, leaving them as unproductive members and a burden to themselves, their families, the community, and to society at large.

Cultural shock issues have also had a negative impact on families and have led to the disintegration or break ups of many families in our community.

There is no doubt that we all want to reverse this negative trend, and to achieve our goal of building a successful community, backed by our desire to maximize our contributions in all aspects of Canadian life. 

This program, if successful, will help us facilitate the development of crucial programs that will help us address or deal with a wide range of issues or challenges facing our community.

This program will help us to establish family and community support systems, programs and facilities, in meeting the needs of our community in this province.

For example, we can build upon this program to enhance our collaboration with the Coalition of Cultural Communities for Families in Manitoba, to promote the welfare of our members in the family services and other social services programs in the province.

We can also promote partnership with the Palaver Hut project to find meaningful ways in resolving conflicts and in addressing criminal justice matters in our community.

Through this program, we can own our own community centre where we can have a number of community programs and activities for our seniors, our youth and other disadvantaged members of our community.

This program will assist our community to run a successful educational program including homework clubs where students can be helped with their school work.

We can also provide advocacy for students who need representation in addressing certain matters in their respective places of learning. 

It can be used to promote the participation of community members and to enlist their support in establishing a support system to ensure we can give a helping hand to one another in times of need. 

These are some of the issues that can be addressed through this program.

However, it is important to note that for every program initiative to be successful, it has to be backed by goals and objectives. 

One would therefore hope that with community support, these programs are developed within a planning environment for the following reasons: 

To provide goals and objectives; to identify required resources, and the challenges; and to take corrective measures if we run into difficulties. 

For example, for an educational program for students, we would want to know which resources are required, including the costs of the program. 

It is also worth noting, once again, that community support and engagement are important functions in determining the success of these programs for the benefit of the cross-section of our community. 

To do this and to ensure our unreserved participation in community programs as a whole, it is time we started identifying our values, bringing them to light, while holding ourselves accountable for living those community values on a daily basis.

It is time we stopped playing the blame game, while pointing fingers on those we disagree with on a range of issues, and in the process expecting our enemies to be our friends' enemies. 

It is time we stopped spreading malicious information about one another, sometimes to make ourselves look good while portraying a bad image of others. 

A community cannot successfully function in this fashion. In fact, these are recipes for disintegrating a community and reducing it to pieces. 

In other words, things will fall apart in our community, and it is going to be difficult for the centre to hold together again, if we continue on this path. 

It is time we desist from these petty behaviors, and started embracing each other, while pulling all our resources together by devoting our spare time and other resources to create a caring and a prosperous community in this multicultural milieu of Manitoba. 

Remember that you are the community and the community is you, and that your contributions to building a stronger and an inclusive community is going to be measured, not in quantitative terms only, but is going to be evaluated in qualitative terms also.

Therefore, it is our duty and responsibility to be involved to build a strong, vibrant, and united community that our children, and our children's children will be proud of.

This country provides plenty of opportunities in every aspect of socio-economic activities, for those who would like to take advantage of these opportunities, in order to improve their socio-economic welfare. 

The choice is ours. Are we ready for the challenges?

Sierra Leoneans cannot afford to be an island by themselves, setting up tribal, regional or other enclaves and silos within their own community, in a multi-cultural society like Canada. Nobody will take us seriously.

It is very urgent for us to be united now, and to confront our long term goal to fully integrate with the rest of society, with our neighbors and with our co-workers in the workplace. 

Integration gives us the opportunity to lay a strong foundation for our children in the long run. Failing to do this means that one day, some of our children who might have fallen through the cracks, would ask this question: 

Dad/mom where were you twenty or thirty years ago, when some families were busy laying the groundwork for the future prosperity of their children; while you were busy hiding in the background running away from the rest of the community. 

Definitely, no one, no body, no dad/mom would ever be prepared to handle this question now or in the future, should it arise. 

This program, if successful, will go a long way in helping us achieve our goal to integrate into this society. 

It is therefore imperative and urgent that we support this program and SALNAM as a whole, as the collective programming initiative of a community determined to succeed in this land of boundless opportunities.

As a final reminder, setting up a program, any program is the easiest part. Making the program successful in meeting the objectives is the real challenge which faces the organizers of those efforts. 

In the final analysis, organizers are going to be judged on the basis of output as determined by the program fulfilling the expectations of those who are expected to benefit from the activities of the organization that promised to provide needed services for community members. 

You are going to be judged on the basis of results, vis a vis community participation in the program.

This means that all hands are needed on deck, also, in support of this program. In other words, each and everyone of you has a role to play to make this program as successful as it should be. 

Good luck, and I thank you for your attention.