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Empowered 4 Tomorrow Hub: Creating inclusive societies for children, orphans and adults with disabilities

6 March 2023 | Member Stories

Empowered 4 Tomorrow Hub
In Sierra Leone, two thirds of people with disabilities live in rural areas where access to opportunities and support is limited. “Yet all women and men with disabilities can, and want to, be productive members of society,” according to John Swarray, Executive Director of the Empowered 4 Tomorrow Hub. As a person living with disability himself, John should know. His organisation, until recently known as the Forum for People with Disability Sierra Leone, was established in 2020 to transform the lives of vulnerable, physically challenged children, orphans and adults in the country.

Sustainable Development Goals targeted

SDG 3 Good health and well-being SDG 4 Quality Education SDG 5 Gender Equality SDG 6 Clean water and sanitation SDG 8 Decent work and economic growth

Scars of civil war

Just as his country bears the scars of the civil war in its displaced communities, poverty and devastation, John’s own disability is the result of being stabbed in the hand by a bayonet during an attack when he was a mere seven years old. “We were living in the bush and I became very sick. My body was swelling and my right hand started to rot,” he explains. His single mother got him to hospital in the community of Mattru Jong in the Southern Province where he was operated on. But before he could recover, another attack forced the family back into the bush for almost eight months.

What followed was years of hospitalisation, operations, skin grafts and rehabilitation. It is this adversity, John believes, that has made him a strong advocate for others living with disability. “To me problems are an invitation to change. I gained a lot from my pain and I found out I am very strong-willed. My struggle was a training ground that has prepared me to solve problems for others.”

Social entrepreneurs are known for finding solutions for society’s problems. What is the problem that you are addressing and what is your solution?

Promoting more inclusive societies and employment opportunities for people with disabilities requires improved access to basic education. They also need vocational training suited to labour market needs and opportunities for jobs suited to their skills, interests and abilities..

A major part of the Empowered 4 Tomorrow Hub’s operation is located in rural areas, aimed at marginalised, vulnerable communities. Here creating inclusive education for children with disabilities and skills training for affected adults, is critical. Advocating for the provision of clean drinking water and quality sanitation facilities at caregiver homes is also necessary.

The mobility challenges for persons with disabilities in our rural areas is also a major concern and the Empowered 4 Tomorrow Hub strives to make wheelchairs and other adaptive equipment and devices available.

In a country in which female genital mutilation is still widely practiced, Empowered 4 Tomorrow Hub also focuses on the promotion of gender equality and the prevention of gender-based violence for people with disabilities.

What do you see as the benefit of your Catalyst 2030 membership?

Catalyst 2030 helps us to build networks and provides links to community-minded individuals.

Are you collaborating with any other Catalyst 2030 members?

We are wishing to collaborate as it is on our To-Do list.

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