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Written by  Published in Recent Monday, 15 December 2014 00:00
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By Abu Bakarr Biggie Kamara

The Sierra Leone Nationals Association of Manitoba (SALNAM) held a fundraising dinner on Friday, November 21, 2014, in support of the fight to eradicate the Ebola disease that has taken the lives of many people in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. The event took place at the Canad Inns, at Windsor Park, in Winnipeg, Canada. 

Among the list of invited dignitaries and other notable guests were the Honorable Matt Wiebe, Christine Melnick, Manitoba’s former minister of Multiculturalism, and Dr. Jim Strong, a virologist from Canada's National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg. 

At the beginning of the program, SALNAM vice president, Abu Bakarr Biggie Kamara welcomed and thanked all participants in attendance for supporting the fundraiser. 

He talked briefly about Sierra Leone's under-funded and disastrous Health Care system and the launching of the Ebola Campaign in Winnipeg. He highlighted the need to help Sierra Leone during this challenging moment, and stated that the country is emerging from a decade-old and brutal civil war that left the economy in shambles, including the health care system of Sierra Leone which lacks the capacity to handle the Ebola pandemic adequately.

He went on to say that" SALNAM, as an organization that promotes the cultural heritage of Sierra Leoneans in Manitoba, and due to the seriousness of the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone; decided to be a part of the solution to the outbreak by launching the Ebola Campaign. He also said that the Campaign which ends at the end of the year, is to complement the efforts of global participants with the aim of eradicating this deadly disease once and for all." 

The Honorable Matt Wiebe, a member of the Manitoba Legislative Assembly, brought greetings on behalf of the government and people of Manitoba. He commended SALNAM and the Sierra Leone Community for their important and proactive role in creating awareness about the seriousness of this deadly Ebola disease among the people of Manitoba. 

He concluded by asserting that "your community has really shown the resolve and resilience in bringing this issue to light in our province and that is a good thing".

He also briefly reminded the audience about the $100,000.00 donation made by the government which he announced in September at SALNAM's Ebola Awareness rally that was held on the grounds of the Manitoba Legislature.  

He continued by saying that "Tonight I am happy to announce that the Manitoba government will also provide additional help of over $3 million worth of respirator masks directly to Sierra Leone by mid-December to help folks on the ground." 

He assured our community that the government of Manitoba remains committed to fighting the spread of this horrible disease. 

Janice Hamilton, Executive Director of Manitoba Council for International Cooperation (MCIC) an organ that administers funds provided by the Manitoba government to assist in the fight against Ebola, highlighted how the funds were being distributed to charitable organizations, including UNICEF Canada and other reputable organizations, involved in the fight against Ebola in the affected countries. 

She also talked about an additional donation of $ 150,000.00 recently given by the Manitoba government and that most of that money will go towards efforts of fighting against Ebola in Sierra Leone. 

The guest speaker for the evening, Dr. Jim Strong, gave a 30 minute presentation on the Ebola virus and on his role as an Infectious Diseases Specialist helping to contain the spread of this deadly disease. 

He highlighted some of the reasons, including cultural practices that might have contributed to the prevalence and the spread of the Ebola disease in Sierra Leone and in the other affected countries. 
Dr. Strong, who is also a consultant with the World Health Organization (W.H.O), works at the National Microbiology Laboratory of Canada. He and other microbiologists are assigned by the government of Canada to help run a mobile Lab in Sierra Leone. He also noted that their organization has also donated hundreds of doses of the Zmapp vaccine used to cure Ebola, to the W.H.O.

Another speaker at the function, Garth Tohms, gave an account of his experience volunteering in setting up and running a treatment Centre in Sierra Leone. He is a plumber from Winnipeg sent by the Canadian Red Cross to volunteer in Sierra Leone. 

Both speakers talked about the friendliness and hospitality of the Sierra Leonean people.

Following Mr. Tohms' presentation, SALNAM president, Allieu Sesay, presented gifts to the speakers and handed over a cheque for $10,000.00 to the Canadian Red Cross. Mr. Garth Tohms received the cheque on behalf of the Canadian Red Cross. 

Before the presentations, Mr. Sesay recognized the chair of the SALNAM Ebola Campaign Committee, Ismail Yumkella who was absent due to extenuating circumstances. He, Mr. Sesay, also commended Mr. Yumkella for the important leadership role he has demonstrated in the Campaign.

Presenting the cheque, Mr. Sesay lauded the efforts of Red Cross Canada for their involvement in the fight against Ebola in Sierra Leone and in the other affected West African countries. He said "we are giving this cheque to your organization, the Canadian Red Cross because of your credibility and your active involvement in the fight against Ebola." He, the president of SALNAM concluded that "we have no doubts that we are placing our hard earned dollars in the right hands."

Mr. Garth Tohms who received the cheque on behalf of Canadian Red Cross,  thanked SALNAM and the Sierra Leone Community for their generous gesture to help save the lives of people in their homeland. He assured the organization that their donation will be utilized for its intended purpose.

The amount represents 70 percent of proceeds from the sale of t-shirts (to date) printed by Black Pearl Press, to support the SALNAM Ebola Campaign. Black Pearl Press is a local business owned by Alex Bockarie, a community member who is also a past president of SALNAM.

As noted, the function was well attended by people from all walks of life. Throughout the event, it was a sight to behold as participants from different racial, cultural and other backgrounds were seen mingling, chatting, sharing camaraderie and exchanging pleasantries. What a feat.

SALNAM Executive Council would like to thank the Ebola Committee members for their hard work in planning this event. The Council also wishes to thank all Sierra Leoneans, their friends and other philanthropists in Winnipeg who came out in large numbers, to help make this event a humongous success. 

SALNAM, for starters, is a nonprofit, community based organization, formed in 1980 with a clear mandate to promote the cultural heritage and values of Sierra Leoneans living in the province of Manitoba, Canada.

Finally, SALNAM and the Sierra Leone Community in Manitoba would like to thank the government and the people of Manitoba for joining the Sierra Leone Community to fight this dreaded disease. We appreciate their generous support and understanding.

Indeed, this donation has shown that Manitoba is a friendly and a caring province that comes to the aid of others in times of crisis.


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