In 2006, Tiffany Persons went to Sierra Leone to film a documentary about diamond mining. She fell in love with a country that felt like home and a people that felt like family. Her heart never came back.
Struck by the poverty, her first response, like that of many, was to “give everyone a dollar” but she soon realized that would only contribute to a culture where the poor awaited their saviors rather than becoming their own saviors. She determined that it would be better to invest, but didn’t know where to begin. Aid to Africa has traditionally focused on external needs: clean water, housing, healthcare. But while all these were essential, they had never solved the systemic problems of the continent. The missing ingredient, she concluded, was not external, but internal: a change in the way the people of Sierra Leone viewed themselves.
This is the story of Shine On Sierra Leone, an organization built on the foundation of positive human development. It is the story of the children who attend a school called Muddy Lotus. It is the story of how Ebola nearly destroyed the school and the community. It is a story of an extraordinary effort to save lives in the face of that deadly disease. And it is ultimately the story of transformation: when people view themselves as capable, they actually become capable.