By Foday Kamara. Beneficiary, Families Without Borders.

Families without borders is an organization with a mission to improve the lives of children and families through education and economic development. The organization do this through an empowerment model – honoring the inherent capabilities of individuals and providing the education and tools for them to improve their lives and communities. The organization has been engaged in offering scholarships to less privileged high school graduates to study at the University of Makeni, a private university in the north of Sierra Leone. I am a beneficiary of their scholarship programme which has gone beyond being  a scholarship programme to “parenting, mentorship and coaching”  and so I have decided to share to the world what I have learned so far from being part of the programme.

Before now, I have referred to and heard many people refer to Families Without Borders as a scholarship programme, but I just found out it has gone beyond being that. Scholarship according to “Merriam Webster Dictionary” is “an amount of money that is given by a school, an organization, etc. to a student to help pay for the student’s education”. Mentorship on the other hand is a guidance provided especially by an experienced person in a company or educational institution. Mentors are there to show the way. And parenting simply means to act like a mother or father to someone. Coaching according to “businessball.com” typically refers to methods of helping others to improve, develop, learn new skills, find personal success, and achieve aims and objectives and to manage life’s change and personal challenges.

Families Without Borders has clearly crossed pass what scholarship means to becoming a great parenting, mentorship and coaching programme. The activities others and I have taken part in since I came to Families Without Borders depicts those of proper parenting, mentorship and coaching. I came to Families Without Borders with the aim of getting someone or organization pay my fees to the university, go through my course, graduate and go out and look for a job to get me money and enrich myself, but the first conversation I had with Mummy Terri Khonsari, the founder and director of Families Without Borders changed it all around. I now realized I was coming to create a global family of change makers, go through numerous trainings and preparation for good leadership and take part in many life changing community services etc. All this while still in the university. How marvellous!

There are few other scholarship programmes in Sierra Leone and at the University of Makeni, but none is as life changing as Families Without Borders’. It is evident at the University of Makeni by the outstanding performance of the students in the university both in academics and otherwise. The university sees Mummy Terri as our mother and the organization as a family as the name depicts. Colleagues in the university often ask “has your mother come?” not has your sponsor come? This is because the founder treats every student in the programme as her own child and entreats us to treat others as brothers and sisters. The founder, Mummy Terri possesses every good quality a parent should have. She is patient, a good listener, a good teacher, loving, frank, supportive, understanding, etc. She has used these traits to change lives tremendously. Her teachings changed me from being a tempered and quarrelsome person to a patient and peaceful one. I will tell you that no scholarship programme in Sierra Leone is offering as much as Families Without Borders.

In November 2016, Families Without Borders took students on a retreat to Eden Park in Freetown where women from various organizations in Freetown were invited by Mummy Terri to impact a great deal of knowledge unto us the students and inspire the girls in particular. The retreat which focused on leadership and personal development taught and inspired every one of the students in the programme. It is worth saying that the mentorship which was given by the women from TechWomen and Mummy Terri herself made great changes in our lives. This cannot be seen easily in Sierra Leone and many other countries in the African continent. Among the many important things learned was sexual and reproductive health education. This was very important because such topics are always seen as a taboo and parents never discuss this with their children. The awareness this created helped other members of the Sierra Leonean community and the University of Makeni in particular as we embarked on sensitising colleagues in the university.

Considering the area of coaching, the organization has just been excellent and has scored great goals and made lasting marks on the lives of the students and many other Sierra Leoneans. As I write this piece other and I students in the programme just completed a four days intensive coaching in public speaking through Families Without Borders from one of the members of the Board of Directors, Mr. Chike C. Nwoffiah, who happens to be the director of Silicon Valley African Film Festival. What we learned were just so great and helped unlocked many hidden potentials in almost all of us in the programme. This is just one of the many coachings and trainings we have benefitted from the organization.

I can tell my readers with the highest degree of confidence that not even most of the richest parents in the world can offer as much as Families Without Borders and Mummy Terri in particular is offering to us. No wonder we are always the best in the university because we get all we need to be the best.

As I write students from Families without Borders are taking intensive classes on using the internet for research and contributing to global knowledge through blogs and other means. The interactive session also benefited many other students from the university of Makeni, including lecturers.

I cannot hang my pen without saying thanks to all those whose effort, money, and other resources have been invested in the programme to see us this far. I can proudly tell you that your resource is helping make the next generation of Sierra Leone’s leaders. The efforts are great and we will not waste that.

The leadership trainings that students have taken part in over the years has awaken a new breed of leadership in almost all of the students. Others and I have learned a great deal of leadership traits like truthfulness, accountability and transparency, integrity, etc. These are the values which many leaders of today lack, but they are what “our family” is built upon. Because we have these values in us, we shall continue to be the great leaders the organization has made us.

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