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Silver and gold
Koidu, Sierra Leone: UNV volunteer Dodou Darboe from The Gambia is the WFP Head of Sub Office in Magburaka, Sierra Leone. He and his staff cover five districts: Koinadugu, Bombali and Tonkolili in the north; Kono in the east; and Moyamba in the south of the country.

One of the ways through which Dodou and the WFP encourage people make a difference in their own lives is through supporting 'food-for-training' schemes for youth. Students learn a trade at local NGOs and are provided with meals so that they can complete their courses without undue concern about staying well.

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1.    "These people have emerged from a protracted civil conflict, a lot of destruction and civil dislocation," says Dodou. "Our job is to move them from an emergency into development – and getting them to realize they have an opportunity to take care of their own lives."

2.    "Most of these communities are very poor, and they've been receiving aid for a long time," Dodou continues. "I'm telling them it's a shared responsibility; they have a role to play. When the door of a school is broken, you don't sit there and say 'oh, let them come and fix it!' The school is where your children are getting education, so you should get up and fix that! When the wind blows off the roof, get up and fix it!"

3.    Emmanuel A. Sandy, the Principal at the Progressive Women's Association (ProWA) in Koidu explains that there are six departments at this small vocational training NGO: hairdressing, computers, tie-die, tailoring, catering and carpentry and masonry. There are 12 tutors covering 216 students, more than 60 percent of them are female. Under the WFP food-for-training programme, students are given meals to enable them to study properly.

4.    Susana James is one of four female students in the masonry class. "I hope to work for a contractor," she says. "I've learned plenty."

Sahr Banigu, the masonry teacher, adds: "I want to impart all my knowledge to the students, give them education, so they become future leaders tomorrow. They work well, and we're giving them the best knowledge, so I believe that gradually they'll get work."

5.    "Unemployment is plenty, too much," says the Principal, Mr. Sandy. "About 80 percent of people, mainly the youth. But graduates from ProWA are successful at finding work. For example, many are working at Koidu Holdings, a big company in this area. Youth who took the masonry and carpentry course are constructing houses. We've taught them how to do the job."

Sia Doris Kamanda, the Director of ProWA, adds: "WFP is doing much for us here, because some of those girls and boys don't have food to eat. But when they have something to eat, they pay attention to the training. The numbers of students is now increasing, so we always need more!"

6.    Aiah Kpakama, a teacher at another vocational training NGO, the African Costume Development Training Centre, says: "We thank Dodou and WFP. When your stomach is full, you can work better. The Centre specializes in traditional costumes. We put the products on the market, and it makes a profit, though it takes a lot of time."

7.    Memuna Mansaray is studying the art of weaving. "I'm learning a skill," she says. "I'm happy about that. If there was no food here, I wouldn't be able to cope."

8.    Tailoring student Mariama Kelly gets to work. "I'm making a dress. I enjoy it. I have many things to do in my life. They do good things for me here. Without this, I could be on the street."

9.    Kumba Judith Kelly, the Founder of African Costume, explains the longer term plan for students like Marion. "We are even training some of the students to become teachers here. I talk to the girls; I talk to the boys, and tell them to bring others to us. To learn is better than silver and gold. It will never depart from you."

10.    At the nearby WFP-supported Arkton Vocational Centre, Mariama Pui is also learning tailoring skills. "They are learning skills for business, self-reliance," explains her teacher. "We put the products on the market and they get the income. Without WFP support, the numbers would drop right down. But due to the help of the food, you see them coming up, actually the number is growing."

11.    David Aruna is a computer skills student. "This world is modernizing every day, computers are improving the world that is why. For now, there are few modern businesses in this country. When I finish school, I want to read biochemistry."

12.    "When people volunteer, it's a collective benefit," concludes Dodou "Critical to all this is getting people into groups and building their capacities so that rather than telling them what to do, they can say "hey, this is going wrong" and come up with solutions of their own accord. And when we come back they can say "hey, this is what we have done". This is our challenge."

"I'm a UN Volunteer, and like all the other heads of Sub-Office in Sierra Leone I feel very proud that, as a volunteer, I've been given such a very central, and such a very important, responsibility."

"It's interesting that as a volunteer, you're sacrificing your service and people appreciate what you are doing. Saying 'thank you'. I love the job. In fact, for me, I'm getting 150 percent more out of this than when I was with other organizations."
UNV is administered by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)