ND: What is the nonprofit that you created? What is its mission? And what does it do?
Kamuskay Kamara: I created a non-profit movement to combat substance abuse in my country, Sierra Leone. I was born just after the 11-year civil war in Sierra Leone, which claimed many lives and left many in the wilderness. The name of my NGO is “Young Active Movement.” Our mission is to create a safe space for children and young people in Sierra Leone who are victims of substance abuse and to guide them to a prospective pathway. We create awareness in schools, communities, and also on social media, with the theme “This is not me,” which came from my schoolmate and friend as he almost died in front of me because of drugs. “Kamuskay, this is not me,” he said as he lay there. I decided to use his words as a theme to speak to thousands more young people to know that, it is not them, there is a better life out of drugs.
ND: You say your nonprofit aims to combat drug abuse in Freetown. How serious is the drug problem there? What kinds of drugs? Do you have any statistics?
Kamara: After the war, many young people turned to drugs as solution to problems like unemployment, corruption, economic instability, police brutality, poor standard of living, and lack of education. In Sierra Leone, 60% of drug abusers and alcoholics are young people between the ages of 15 to 35. As for the types of drugs, there are many types like weed, alcohol, cigarettes, baby diaper tea, kush, tramadol, relief.
To change the lives of young people is not easy.
ND: You say you faced difficulties. What kinds of difficulties? Can you be specific and give an example?
Kamara: I have faced difficulties like getting my peers or people to join me in the fight. I didn’t have any financial support as I had lost my father, who used to give me my lunch throughout the month, so I usually used it for transportation, food and the equipment I needed for a campaign. I remember walking for over two hours with a friend to get to a school in the eastern part of Freetown. We also had to sacrifice our wages from working as a courier and delivery boy for a delivery company called Fambul Makit. We used bicycles to do delivery and worked six days a week. We insisted that we would not work on Sundays so we could go to the beach and hold a session with victim kids. On Saturdays, we worked a half-day so we could also go to the radio station (Culture radio FM 104.5) for a one-hour broadcast and discuss issues related to children and young people.
ND: You say that in five years you see yourself at the head of one of the biggest media empires in Africa. Why media? And what’s your strategy?
Kamara: I spoke about media as I have seen how stories are told and manipulated differently. There is no voice for the people, and all the media houses in my country are politically influenced. I want to be a storyteller who allows people to comment on their stories and give them the platform directly to share their own experiences. Hopefully, when I get into a university I will be majoring in Journalism, and with expertise and resources, I will then pave my way through the media industry.