Project Restore Hope has grown out of the hearts of individuals who have a long and profound love for the Sierra Leonean people. Dr. Alusine Jalloh, UTA professor and Director of UTA’s Africa program, is himself a Sierra Leonean. In the year 2001, while Sierra Leone was still in the heat of civil war, Dr. Jalloh intersected Cindy Wiles, the Director of GCPN – Global Connection Partnership Network. What began as an elevator conversation turned into a partnership that focused on the needs of West Africa in general - Sierra Leone in particular. Dr. Jalloh was a student when the ideology of rebellion surfaced in Sierra Leone. While rooted in justifiable discontent on behalf of the Sierra Leonean people, there were many who selfishly used the noble causes as a smokescreen to accomplish their own ignoble agendas. What began as a justifiable discontent over the abuse of the common people and the country’s natural resources (diamonds in particular), soon became an unpredictable, uncontrollable war against the common people who were being punished because they exercised their right to vote. Villages were ravaged by drug-controlled child soldiers who were forced to fight against their own will. Rebels became ruthless in their expressions of violence – often punishing their victims by hacking off their voting hand or arm. No one was safe. No one could be trusted.
By the time the war ended in 2002, the devastation of the country was marked by death, amputations, drug addiction, traumatized children, victims of rape, pillage and destruction of properties. Sierra Leone was a country suffering post-war trauma on a grand scale. Unfortunately, many of the professionally skilled health and mental health workers had fled seeking safety in other countries where they had settled, leaving a void of caring professionals to address the needs of the nation. The destruction of government and infrastructure left Sierra Leoneans in the position of having to re-build a nation from the ground up.
Among those who attempted to ride out the war were Ron and Sharon Hill. Ron and Sharon were expatriates who continued to work in Sierra Leone far into the war years. Finally, as the rebels captured Freetown, Ron and Sharon were asked by the local people to leave as they could no longer help to protect them. Evacuated by helicopter from the top of a seaside hotel, the Hills left Sierra Leone with a longing to return as soon as peace was established.
Project Restore Hope became a united vision of people who care about people. Led by Dr. Jalloh and the Hills, Project Restore Hope has become a partnership of organizations, networks, faith-based communities, educational institutions, health care professionals and others who desire to see Sierra Leone reborn with the hope of stability, health, strong infrastructure and the capacity to be better than ever before. Project Restore Hope believes in the capacity of people to change, purpose and will a better future. Restore Hope believes that Sierra Leone can become a caring community of people possessing the indigenous elements required for transformational progress that will lead to hope, health, unity and peace. These elements include spiritual resource, academic programming, assimilated orphans, vocational skill, emotional and family health…all of which will prepare Sierra Leone to not only face her current issues, but to equip her with the infrastructure and foundation to pursue a hopeful future. Our vision for Sierra Leone? A place where people will love their neighbors as they love themselves.