UT Arlington helps restore hope in Sierra Leone

The University of Texas at Arlington is playing a major role in a project that is helping restore hope to tens of thousands of people in Sierra Leone, West Africa.  This month, UT Arlington helped open the Hope Center near Freetown, the capital city of Sierra Leone.

"The Hope Center is an 11,000-square foot building that contains a conference room, male and female dormitories, classrooms, computer lab, dental and medical clinic and a guest house," said Alusine Jalloh, director of The Africa Program at UT Arlington.  The Center will serve families devastated by Sierra Leone’s 11-year civil war that ended in 2002.  "Orphans and street kids are the clinic's priority. The dormitories are truly for students from Texas and other volunteers," Jalloh said.

Volunteers are from Project Restore Hope Sierra Leone (PRHSL), which is a pioneering venture that brings together academic institutions and faith-based groups in promoting humanitarianism and education. The partners include UT Arlington's Africa Program, College of Nursing, School of Social Work and College of Engineering. Jalloh coordinated faculty members to donate their time and expertise. Engineering professors designed the center's electrical systems. Social Work professors contributed to the educational curriculum. Nursing professors consulted with medical personnel and Maverick Athletics donated sports equipment.

Other partners include the Global Connection Partnership Network (GCPN), First Baptist Church of Arlington, Buckner International, Louis Herrington School of Nursing at Baylor University, The Evangelical College of Theology in Sierra Leone, Fourah Bay College in Sierra Leone, University of Sierra Leone, J. R. Ministries, Sierra Leone Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender, and Children's Services, Christian Faith Rescue Mission and Rush Creek Consulting, Inc.  

In addition to health care, young men and women in Sierra Leone will get the opportunity to learn skills that can lead to gainful employment in their country. "Men will learn things like electrical and plumbing skills. Women will learn about sewing, crafts and catering," said Jalloh, who hopes to organize a study abroad trip to Sierra Leone next year for UT Arlington students.

Anonymous donors at First Baptist Church of Arlington, which has partnered with UT Arlington on other major projects, provided funding for the $1.2 million dollar Hope Center. "We had strong connections to Sierra Leone. We had members who felt compelled to go there and help after the country's civil war and we felt that we were supposed to partner with UT Arlington," said Cindy Wiles, executive director of GCPN and wife of First Baptist Church of Arlington pastor, Dr. Dennis Wiles.

Recently, the project received a one-year grant of $205,000 from an anonymous donor in Texas. Learn more about the PRHSL at www.restorehopeproject.com

The University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive undergraduate and graduate institution of nearly 33,000 students in the heart of North Texas. Visit www.uta.edu to learn more.

Media contact: Bridget Lewis, Blewis@uta.edu, 817-272-3317