BRUSSELS, Belgium – The Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Freetown, Sierra Leone, has provided financial and material support to Caritas Freetown to produce and distribute 5,000 face masks as well as to conduct Corona-virus sensitization in vulnerable communities.
According to the Executive Director of Caritas Freetown, the Reverend Father Peter Alpha Konteh, the German Embassy’s support has enabled Caritas Freetown to hire the services of 50 tailors who have produced 5,000 locally made non-medical facial masks.
His Excellency Horst Gruner, the German ambassador to Sierra Leone, made the support possible. As an ambassador, His Excellency Gruner has made strengthening Germany-Sierra Leone bilateral relations with a focus on trade, development support, and social exchange a priority.
“We want to strengthen the Long-standing, diverse and friendly relations between Sierra Leone and Germany,” Ambassador Gruner once said about Sierra Leone and Germany’s relations.
Before he was appointed Germany’s ambassador to Sierra Leone, His Excellency Horst Gruner gained a more comprehensive insight into African affairs, having served as Deputy Director, African Division (Politics) and Deputy Director, African Division (Culture and Media) in the Federal Foreign Ministry in Berlin. He has also had diplomatic postings to several African countries including serving as Deputy Head of Mission, German Embassy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia 1993 – 1996, 1st Secretary Press and Culture, German Embassy in Dar es Salaam 1996 – 2000,1st Secretary Press and Culture, German Embassy in Algiers, Algeria 2003 – 2006, Deputy Ambassador, German Embassy in Yaounde, Cameroon 2010 – 2011, Chargè d‘Affaires, German Embassy Malabo, Equatorial Guinea 2011 – 2013, and Deputy Ambassador, German Embassy in Kinshasa, DR Congo
The staff of Caritas Freetown has already begun distributing the masks made from the German Embassy support while also sensitizing communities to understand the dangers of COVID-19. A vital part of the sensitization program is building awareness about the use of face masks in public.
The German diplomatic mission accredited to Freetown has always stood in solidarity with the government and people of Sierra Leone, especially during difficult times.
Caritas Freetown has also been a close partner of Caritas Germany. Over the years, Caritas Germany has and continues to support humanitarian relief and community development program activities that Caritas Freetown undertakes, especially during disasters and periods of crisis, in the metropolitan Archdiocese of Freetown.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of Sierra Leone established Caritas Freetown / Caritas Sierra Leone in 1981 with the directive to serve as the relief and development agency of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Freetown and the Catholic Church in Sierra Leone.
In the 1990s, most of the agency’s work and program activities concentrated on responding to the plight of the people caught up in the brutal civil war, by providing food, shelter, and lobbying for the release of child soldiers. Today, Caritas Freetown remains steadfast in post-war peacebuilding initiatives and rebuilding processes. Still, it is also active in various fields such as – HIV/AIDS prevention, food security, emergency, and humanitarian relief, youth empowerment, environmental protection, poverty eradication, and gender equality.
After the civil war, the Ebola virus crisis, and the mudslide disaster, one of the vital focus areas of Caritas Freetown’s work is the continued support of families and communities through initiatives such as peacebuilding, trauma counseling and healing, support for orphans and disadvantaged women, shelter and home renovation and repairs, and the distribution of essential medical and food items and supplies.
As part of its ongoing strategic plan, Caritas Freetown is gearing toward establishing a robust short-term workforce development and training program for unemployed and unskilled young people, women, and people with developmental disabilities. The workforce development and training program would include computer education and application utilization, e-commerce, culinary science, sewing/fashion design and tailoring, practical auto repair, carpentry, and informal construction.
According to Father Konteh, Caritas Freetown Workforce Development and Training program would be a partnership and collaborative effort between Caritas Freetown and the government through the Ministry of Labor and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs when all details are worked out to get Sierra Leone’s international partners on board to support such efforts.
He said the various government agencies, including the Office of the President of Sierra Leone, are keen and responsive to the reality of public-private partnership, which is a good thing for the development of the country and the prosperity of Sierra Leoneans.
Caritas Freetown’s workforce development and training program objectives are to work with and assist the government and the people of Sierra Leone in creating more private-sector jobs as well as enable unemployed young people to secure technology jobs, which are the future.
“The younger people we put to work after developing their skills, the more we protect the future of Sierra Leone, and the more we build a better Sierra Leone,” said Father Konteh.
Father Konteh then thanked the Catholic Bishops Conference of Sierra Leone for their continued support to Caritas Sierra Leone.
According to Father Konteh, the Archbishop of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Freetown, Dr. Edward Tamba Charles has always provided visionary and pastoral leadership and unconditional support to efforts that help the poor and all Sierra Leoneans, irrespective of creed, tribe, ideological leaning, gender or social status. He said that is why Caritas Freetown has been so impactful in the lives of many people over the years.
Father Konteh then urged Sierra Leoneans to unite, put aside political, tribal, and ideological differences and work for a better and united Sierra Leone.