“Strong and full of energy”: an update from the Filipino exchange to Sierra Leone

by James Tayler

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Pictured above: Sonia Fadrigo (center) talks with members of the Sierra Leone Federation of the Urban and Rural Poor in Kroo Bay, Freetown.

Editor’s note: From 22 to 26 September, the Filipino federation visited Freetown, Sierra Leone, to work with the seaside slum communities there on strategies for alleviating the effects of natural disasters such as flooding, as well as to secure tenure. Sonia Fadrigo, who was part of the Filipino delegation, sent a quick update to the SDI family, which is reproduced below. A report, published by IIED, on the Filipino strategies for dealing with natural disaster can be found here.

By Sonia Fadrigo, Homeless People’s Federation Philippines

Dear All,

Our visit to Freetown was very good, not to mention the 20 hours flying time and some problems in the connecting flight.  We stayed there for 5 days and were able to visit communities where savings program was already in place.  The communities were very strong and full of energy, they were pointing to us the flooding marks and how they were badly affected.  The communities were aware that there is an ongoing plan for the government for them to be relocated,  some of the communities like the Susans Bay and Marbellas Bay was not habitable and considered as high risk areas.  In the case of Kroo Bay, we saw that as potential for upgrading as well as reblocking and explore other schemes for land ownership (land sharing) can be applied.

We were able to show them the videos from the Philippines and the situation that is similar to theirs, including the climate (wet and dry) typhoons,rains and floodings.  They appreciate it and were able to ask questions. We had a very good interaction with the Freetown City Council, City Administrator, the Planning officer and some Disaster committee members and Lands officer. And we recommended for some exchange visit to the Philippines and learn the process of relocation as well as disaster intervention.

I will make a detailed report with pictures highlighting our recommendations as we have already discussed these with Francis and the team. For a quick intervention, we would suggest for an exchange visit to the Philippines for the following reasons:

  1. To strengthen the savings mobilization that relates to disaster and relocation.
  2. Local governments to learn what are the challenges in the issue of relocation vs. upgrading
  3. Communities participation in all issues of shelter and disaster.
  4. Communities to learn to engage and build federations and networking.

We recommend a multi representation that includes, YMCA, federation leaders, local government (city administrator, mayor, city councilor).

On the other note, our concern was the expensive cost of exchange visits to the Philippines, base on our  latest incurred airfare expenses when we go there. If there are similar experiences in other SDI country/affiliates it will be fine.

I am very positive on the scaling up of memberships of the federation in Freetown as the issue that confronts them becomes visible now and need to be dealt by the communities together with the government.  They only need guidance and examples to be in the right track if possible. Our short visit was just to see from the outside, and we know that there are still a lot of hidden issues
that we didnt see and feel that needs to be sort out.

This is all for now and thank you very much for YMCA team for a very good accommodation and hospitality.

In behalf of the Philippines Team,