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A single mother who battled with cancer to death son wins Commonwealth Youth Awards: The True Life Story Of Jeremiah Thoronka

Sierra Leoneaan Jeremiah Thoronka is among this year’s
Twenty extraordinary young individuals including inventors, activists and entrepreneurs from 18 countries that was announced as finalists for this year’s Commonwealth Youth Awards.

Jeremiah’s project has helped power over 150 households and 15 schools in Sierra Leone at minimal cost, which has benefitted over 10,000 people, and provides best practice training on energy efficiency and conservation to the younger generation.

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The awards recognize outstanding Commonwealth young people whose projects are transforming lives in their communities and helping to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

More than 1,000 entries from 43 Commonwealth countries were received last year. The finalists were selected across each of the award’s regional categories following a rigorous judging process.

Here is an interview with Sallu Kamuskay and Jeremiah Thoronka, the winner from Sierra Leone, son of single parent whose mother battled with cancer while trying to pay his fees.

1)You tweeted about you being a child of a single parent, tell us about your experience growing up with your single parent?

“I grow up in different places, under different circumstance and, all of these cause different effects on my life. I am who I am today because of the experiences that I’ve faced. Since birth, my survival anchored on my mum. During the most challenging and definitive period of my life, it was my mum that took up the responsibility of two young boys. As many young kids with since parents who are illiterate, we were not spared from the stereotype that comes with kids living with their mum. Taking care of two young boys just after the civil war from a hous- help job while battling breast cancer was very challenging for her, I witnessed how she has to take loans, credits, join osusu etc in making sure we get everything we wanted even though that was not always the case. I could sense the stress, trauma, and depression she has to go through every night when it’s time to refund those loans and credit. The struggles she went through in making ends meet was her daily routine.

However, growing up with a single parent is special, even though it’s not easy. The greatest lesson I learnt from her is “if you don’t like your situation, then create your destiny” Rather unfortunately, we lost this amazing woman to cancer in 2017, but her legacy of perseverance and dedication to a cause lives in every breath I take.”

2) Tell us about yourself and experience growing up in Sierra Leone?

“I am an Experienced Renewable energy entrepreneur and scholar with a demonstrated history of working as an Author and Entrepreneur in the sector.
In Sierra Leone, over 89% of the population suffers from energy deficiency. In my community, firewood and charcoal were the only sources of light and heat for necessities such as students studying or families cooking food. Photochemical smog – a negative consequence of burning coal – causes air pollution, water pollution and respiratory problems among peers in his community. I used my skills in science to develop Optim Energy, an innovative piezoelectric device that harnesses energy from heat, vibrations and weather, all which naturally occur in the environment, to create affordable, accessible and clean power. Since 2017, I have grown Optim Energy into a larger initiative aiming to build a sustainable energy sector in Sierra Leone, diminish greenhouse gas emissions and educate citizens on climate change. Optim Energy has powered 150 homes and student centers free of cost to date. I was recognized as a 2019 United Nations Academic Impact and Millennium Campus Network Fellow and invited to present at the 2019 African Leadership University School of Wildlife Conservation Conference. I was recognised as a Student Energy Fellow, and also serving as a Global Youth Ambassador for Theirworld. I am currently working to improve the Optim Energy prototype to provide a higher voltage of power and officially launch the product. In 2020, I will officially establish the Sierra Leone Student Energy and Conservation organization to foster a generation of energy conservation leaders through service, research, and awareness. I am on a mission to rewrite the African energy access narrative by providing clean, affordable energy to the entire continent. I attended the Baptist Model Primary School in Grafton and then proceeded to the Saint Edward’s Secondary School in Kingtom before admitted among the first cohort of leaders at the African Leadership University in Rwanda. Jeremiah studied Global Challenges with a focus on Energy and Climate Change.”

3. You were listed for this year’s Commonwealth awards. How do you feel about this recognition?

“It’s amazing to be internationally recognized for how your project (s) or initiative (s) are changing lives. About a year ago, I was recognized as a Global Teen Leader for my role in making Energy accessible in my local community, but been recognized by the commonwealth as a change-maker is something worth celebrating. This recognition is a testament to how single mothers are doing everything possible in making their kids achieve dreams they were never able to achieve.”

4)Tell us about the problems you are trying to solve back home and what inspired you.

“Sierra Leone’s existing energy systems are old angled and thus unable to meet the country’s current and projected energy demand. Access to modern energy services remains limited, which results in over 89% of the population living without electricity and nearly 96% relying on traditional solid biomass for cooking. Sierra Leoneans have become accustomed to the constant interruption in electricity flow since the power grid that was supposed to provide electricity has not been able to meet demand. Worse yet, the country’s aging infrastructure is increasingly outdated.

Reliable and stable electrical power grids are indispensable to the seamless running of industries, homes, and businesses. The connection of large generation stations through high voltage transmission systems have been impaired by the constant power outage and the inefficiency of systems to withstand the change in demand. Over time, many have realized and come to the conclusion the current grid systems are dangerously prone to failure. As a result, most industries and businesses rely on diesel generators to meet their energy needs. As a young energy enthusiast aiming to solve these challenges, I aim to use entrepreneurial leadership in developing new and improved energy systems that will be sustainable and equitable for generations to come.”

5) What is your message to young people in Sierra Leone?

“Don’t wait for change, you are the change maker you seek. Take that risk, take up that challenge, and brainstorm like no one before you. The solutions we seek are within our hands.”

Sallu Kamuskay

Sallu Kamuskay is a Sierra Leonean activist, storyteller, and blogger. He was born in Sierra Leone but later relocated to Guinea as a refugee because of the war in his country. Sallu Kamuskay uses his phone to engage on social media, under the name ‘’Salone Messenger’. He Co-Founded the Salone Messenger platform after his experience of the war, Ebola, and injustices. According to him, silence was the root cause of war, and of many social injustices, we continue to face as a nation. In 2013, during the Ebola crisis, Sallu Kamuskay took the risk and volunteered to fight Ebola. He spent some months in both safe and unsafe places; helping the victims and telling their sad stories. The election in 2018, left a divided country with communities fighting on tribal lines. This inspired Sallu Kamuskay to serve as the coordinator of the United Sierra Leone peace concert, which was organized in 4 major parts of the country, targeting violent communities and troubled youth. Sallu Kamuskay led a group of entertainers, activists, and organizations across the country on a peace tour, a program supported by the European Union, United Sierra Leone, Africa Union, ECOWAS, and the Messeh Leone Trust. Sallu Kamuakay has also served as a staff writer for the Hidden Voices Magazine. Over the years, Sallu Kamuskay has been using his Techno phone to be able to tell stories, the phone he used to tell the story of Gbessay during Ebola who was admitted at one of the Ebola treatment centers after rumors that she had Ebola when the actual sickness was ulcer, she was almost abandoned at the treatment canter with no medication provided to her. She could have died. Sallu told the story via social media and was able to secure funding from the United Sierra Leone to buy her medication and advocated for her. She was later discharged and taken home, He did the same to a patient that died and was abandoned in the street, Sallu Kamuskay used his phone and shared the message across, the corps was later taken and buried. It could have been more disaster without his voice. The story of late America Stress 3-year-old daughter. The hero’s daughter was abandon after his father's death. He shared her sad story and was able to get a sister who has taken the child as her own and is currently providing her with educational support. The article of America Stress can be read on the link below http://ayvnewspaper.com/index.php/k2-categories/item/7350-america-stress-a-hero-to-recognize. Sallu Kamuskay feels the stories of Gbessay, America stress and that of many others need to be told. The media house we have cannot better tell these stories, they are better reporters than telling human interest stories. He created the Salone Messenger platform and brought together passionate storytellers to be able to tell these compelling stories.

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