Our movement is growing every single day, not just in the United States but all over the world. Our sensible voices have reached the campuses of Africa and our newest official chapter comes all the way from Government Rokel Secondary School in Sierra Leone! It is worth noting though that this is not our first chapter in Africa; we actually have a burgeoning presence in Nigeria as well, but this is our first chapter in the country of Sierra Leone. It’s easy to take for granted to groundwork that has already been laid in many places in the United States. It’s easy to take for granted just how sensible and commonplace conversations about drug policy have become here. Our reformers in Sierra Leone are taking on the daunting challenge of starting those tough conversations in their country. We truly are becoming a global movement and we’re excited to have the Government Rokel Secondary School chapter’s help in achieving that goal. I spoke with chapter founder and leader Joseph Kamara about his experience so far and his vision for it and Sierra Leone’s drug policy reform future: How did you hear about SSDP? I found SSDP through internet research on international drug policies. Why did you want to get involved/what made you decide to start a chapter? The reason for our total and collective involvement is because we are concerned about the discrimination of drug addicts in Sierra Leone. The 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human rights stated that no one can take away our Human Rights. Therefore We strongly believe that people have the rights to make their choices. In Sierra Leone drug addicts are intensively discriminated, this is why we started a SSDP chapter in order to have more knowledge in educating fellow youth stars, community people and stake-holders of Sierra Leone to see drug addicts as progressive partners in the A-Z development process of Sierra Leone. What has the reception been like so far? Previously it was very challenging to sell our ideas to the other students. But in utilizing ideas and knowledge gained from our Outreach Director and SSDP information documents, we succeeded in inculcating our Anti-Drug War and Discrimination ideas to the entire student body. Now we are very optimistic because our membership is growing intensively and students are actively participating in our Anti-Drug War and Discrimination Campaign activities. What are some of the things you have planned or want to plan for next semester? We have plans to:
Continue our chapter meetings and bring more students on board
Use the Arts (drawing, drama, and song) as a way to raise awareness of our Anti-Drug War and Discrimination Campaign.
Increase our diversity by involving more females in our chapter activities.
Officially launch the Students for Sensible Drug Policy Government Rokel Chapter in Sierra Leone (inviting students, school administration, members of our school community, and our national policy-makers).
Establish our Anti-Drug War and Discrimination Campaigns in our local communities and other academic institutions in Freetown (Sierra Leone’s Capital City).
Partner with local community radio stations for our voices to be hard nationally, as a way of enhancing our Anti-Drug War and Discrimination Campaign and advocating for Government to revisit our national drug policies.
Participate in SSDP international programs and events.
Partner with the national Human Rights Movement as a way of enhancing and growing our Anti-Drug War and Discrimination Campaign
What has been the most challenging part of your experience starting/running the chapter so far?
Inadequate internet connection to participate in SSDP International Webinar.
Insufficient support from National Development agencies to participate in SSDP International conferences and events.
What has been the most rewarding part? It is very rewarding when students in our school volunteered and contributed their time, talents and energy to participate in our chapter activities. It is also rewarding when students have agreed to contribute their small pennies to pay for our chapter’s weekly internet access. What are you most excited about for your chapter and Sierra Leone right now? We are excited for the positive reaction we are achieving from our school and community. What is your vision for SSDP in Sierra Leone? Where do you see your chapter in a year? in 4 or 5 years? Our vision for SSDP Sierra Leone is SUSTAINABILITY. We want to see SSDP continue in Sierra Leone, and impact the lives of many students. We also want to see SSDP as a National Drug Policy Auditing Body in Sierra Leone.
Are you a student, either in the United States or abroad? Are you interested in starting a chapter at your school? Get in touch with us today!