On Monday 24th June 2019, Plan International’s Disaster, Risk and Youth Management Specialist, Timothy Sam, during a press conference convened at the organization’s Brookfields offices, said that the visit of its Brand Ambassador is geared towards a global campaign dubbed Girls Get Equal (GGE), which will be officially launched soon.
Welcoming the Brand Ambassador, Simon Laurent, and the press, Timothy Sam said that the purpose of his visit is to set the stage for the launching of the GGE campaign. Laurent, he went on is a French national and a cyclist, who has been cycling the world and for the past 10 months and in Africa. Simon’s passion for cycling and the development of young people, especially girls resonates well with the organization and it is this consideration that has brought him to the fold of the organization.
Dilating on the work of Plan International, Timothy Sam said that his organization has been in Sierra Leone for the past 42 years and has stood by the country in thick and thin. Whilst others left during the Ebola, Plan stayed the course. They are a transparent organization focusing of diverse issues dealing with youths, girls, boys and women. He further disclosed that they strive to make a lasting impact on the various communities they operate in and can be seen across the various regions in the country.
Plan International is embarking on a 3 year strategic program, which includes girls, boys and youths in inclusive education (complementing government’s education drive) youth participation in decision making processes and strengthening gender transformation and protection within the legal framework like their involvement in the Child Marriage Act, which seeks to prevent girls below the age of consent to be married off to men, rendering their desire for academic pursuit a near impossible venture. President of the Cycling Association in Sierra Leone, Winston Crowther, praised Simon Laurent for taking that brave journey from France to Africa on a bicycle. He stated that his association gave him a fitting welcome with some 58 cyclists joining him at Ferry Junction to his hotel at Country Lodge at Hill Station. Among the cyclists were 12 female riders, drawn from various parts of the country. Crowther further disclosed that they are presently encouraging female cyclist to come on board and in a recent competition held in Makeni.
The African Child Day Championship ride; some 9 females participated in the race. To encourage them, the association gave them bigger prizes than their male counterparts.
Speaking to the press, Simon Laurent, Plan International’s Global Ambassador and a cyclist, said that after riding across countries in the Americas and Europe, he decided to come to Africa, revealing that his love for Africa began when he was 19 years. This passion has today materialized. Starting in Morocco, Simon said he rode through rough terrain, deserts, mountainous areas through deprived communities and cities. On all these tours, he interacted with girls, boys, youths, community leaders and local authorities on the improvement of the lives of the marginalized. His journey to Africa started in August 2018 and for the past 10 months he has been riding his bicycle, which weighs 75 kilos, due to the various items in his back pack and a tent on which he sleeps.
Simon described his journey as exciting and full of revelations about the plight of the African girl and boy, especially those in underprivileged situations. He said that the poverty situation in Africa is alarming, 3 times those in the west and Europe that he had visited. He further disclosed that as an ambassador of Plan International, he writes his report after every completed visit to any region about his findings for further action by Plan. He however noted that his tour in the Americas has yielded positive results, as philanthropists, humanitarian organizations and governments have pledged support to the course of Plan. These supports are then directed to the affected communities highlighted in his report. He admonished Sierra Leoneans not to focus on the past but to look at it only as a means to construct the future. His travels have not all been rosy, as on one occasion, he said he was attacked by a bear whilst sleeping in his tent at night way out in the jungle, but was able to scare it off. He stated that what gives him the greatest satisfaction after every tour is the action/assistance provided to the deprived communities he had reported about. He is hopeful that after visiting Africa, his report will bring about similar response. He called on Sierra Leoneans to have a dream of changing the lives of others. This they can do with just Le1, 000, which can buy a pen. It is a beginning that will ensure people know about the plight of others.
The meeting was climaxed by a question and answer session.