During the course of the exchange the team visited the federation's office in Dwarzark settlement and proceeded to communities in Colbot, Susan's Bay, and Cockle Bay settlements - chosen to represent Freetown's eastern, western, and central slums. From the federation's city-wide slum profiling, we know the rich history of these settlements as told by residents:
Colbot [or culvert] "was found by a farmer who inherited the land from his grandparents who used the land for rice farming 1950- 1977. After the Hitler war he decided to bank the water and stay close o his farm because of theft to his farm tools. The community had it named when the Germans came to prepare a dumping site (Burmeh) for the city but they later realized that there was a heavy flow of water from the hill side to the sea which disturbed their work therefore they decided to construct a drainage system in a form of a Colbot which will have to control the water to the sea and hence the name of the community."
Susan's Bay "was named after a white man's wife who was called Susan. During the repatriation of free slaves from Europe, the white man who accompanied the slaves had his own wife called Susan. They settled along the coastal and named the settlement Susan's bay. Later other people began to settle in the community as coastal traders."
Cockle Bay "came to being as a result of the 11 years civil war. People were displaced, they could not afford expensive rents and hence decided to find elsewhere along the creek to reclaim the land and settle. They began to catch cockle from the creek and eventually the community became renowned for such produce. Because of that activity the community was named Cockle Bay in 1998."
In each community, the tireless federation chairman Yirah Contay introduced the visitors and where necessary secured sachets of cold water for them to place on the back of their necks so as not to expire in the sweltering heat! In each community the Sierra Leone and South African federation members shared stories about how and why they save, profile, and organize to make improvements in their settlements. The South Africans were impressed by the Sierra Leone federation's ability to stop forced evictions, to complete city-wide profiling, to tackle Disaster Risk Reduction - including playing a central role in implementation of a disaster mitigation plan for this year’s rainy season across highly disaster prone slums - a plan that includes micro-upgrading projects.
The SA community leaders encouraged the Sierra Leone federation to build strong women leadership and to ensure the savings groups come together to discuss all issues of importance to slum dwellers (not limit themselves to discussing savings only) and come up with ideas for making improvements in their community and city that are accompanied by action plans and budgets. While the Freetown leaders imagined Cape Town to be highly advanced in terms of development, the South African team explained that it was captivated by the charm of Freetown, noting how commercial and residential structures were integrated in highly functional and appealing ways - designed from below rather than above. They marveled at the varied design of structures and the entrepreneurship all around them in the settlements.
On day three, the team split in two. The federation leadership continued to plot out the “why” for upgrading, disaster risk reduction, and livelihoods. The NGO staff and Secretariat met to undertake an NGO assessment of internal controls, governance, and support required. In the afternoon the teams came back together and shared their conclusions. The Sierra Leone Federation leadership said they will repeat the process of brainstorming the "what" and "why" with all the saving group networks to ensure maximum participation and buy-in from the entire FEDURP network and then the leaders and the NGO will compile into final TOC and Strategic Plan.
Day three also saw the federation chairperson take the visitors and Sierra Leone alliance leadership to meet with Freetown's new mayor, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr. The Mayor and federation have agreed to work together to implement the Mayor's ambitious 4-year plan. The Mayor has informed the Freetown City Council (FCC) that she "has committed to working neighborhood by neighborhood to develop locally driven transformation plans." The federation is represented in a number of working groups chaired by the Mayor to develop sectoral plans for this work. This humble and feisty Mayor has hit the ground running and the federation is clearly keeping pace. Moving forward, the team encouraged FEDURP to draw on the experience of peer federations in the SDI network to maximize the opportunities for inclusive upgrading and transformation of Freetown. Top of the list at present are experiences with re-blocking to guide Kroo Bay upgrade (which we suggest take place after enumeration to be conducted by federation) and relocation projects (to guide the city's efforts to clear areas vulnerable to mudslides and support flood management.) South African, Indian and Kenyan federations will be useful in this respect.
To conclude the exchange, all participants had dinner with the CODOHSAPA Board of Directors to share reflections from the previous days. During the dinner, all parties expressed a commitment to continue the process of institutional strengthening of the alliance as well as development and implementation of the alliance's new strategic plan.