George Abu Mansaray, a social worker with Ruth's Hope Kindergarten, talks with Ray Barrett about the professional impact he’s making in Sierra Leone. As a small, non-Western country of about 7 million people, George says that a sustainable approach to social work in Sierra Leone should include an “indigenous model” that co-creates community development projects using “local knowledge.” After getting experience working abroad, George returned to Sierra Leone to help communities that were lacking life-sustaining resources, such as schools, health clinics, and safe drinking water.
George explains how Ruth’s Hope acts as a model for local development. Currently, George is planning the Ubuntu Ecological Resource Center—which would offer counseling and recreation services to women and children who need it—as well as a boarding school facility where orphans or children without means could attend school. According to George, the grounds would also include “[a clinic], a health center, a backpackers’ lodge, a vegetable garden, a tree planting area, and a recreation ground,” as well as a solar plan to power the complex. George hopes that this project will serve as a center for international groups or professionals who can assist the local community. Because of the ambitious scope of the project, George has sought out various international partnerships and universities that are assisting with his initiatives. However, since the government mostly serves larger urban or highway-accessible areas, rural communities are disproportionately affected.
In the video, George talks about the inaccessibility of telephone and internet services in Sierra Leone and how these gaps affect service delivery. To overcome this barrier, George plans to run a telehealth pilot program through his center that could establish new opportunities. For telehealth, George did say that audio-only services “may work,” but functioning effectively requires team leads in the communities who can consistently provide telephones to individuals. For now, the activities associated with Ruth’s Hope are face-to-face.
During the interview, you’ll also hear how difficult it can be for a social work professional in Sierra Leone. According to George, “the social work profession is not recognized by the government,” so graduates often struggle to find job openings and must go through larger organizations that have few opportunities. Experiencing this “imbalance of ethical social work practice” firsthand was a motivation for founding Ruth’s Hope; and since larger NGOs and government funding sources can have excessive criteria to receive aid, George has created his own network of philanthropists, international professionals, universities, and locals who support his vision for change.