Respond hopes to win grant for a peace centre

Peace Project Youth Ambassadors at the Respond Academy, St Leonards
Peace Project Youth Ambassadors at the Respond Academy, St Leonards

YOUTH PROJECT Respond Academy is urging people to help win a $50,000 grant to build the first peace centre in Sierra Leone, by voting online.

Respond Academy hope to forge links between young people in both countries by working closely with the centre, which is the brainchild of The Peace Project, set up in 2010 by three women including local Film-maker Michelle D’Acosta, to help victims of the 10-year civil war in Sierra Leone.

The plan is for the centre to be built in Freetown, the capital city, and to operate training programmes, health and wellness classes, arts initiatives, and administer a micro-loan program.

It will link to the St Leonards youth project, by way of shared artwork, film, and music, and make use of tools such as Skype.

Respond Academy project manager Jc McFee said: “It is an ongoing project for us.

“Around here there are people from many different cultures, yet so many young people are desensitised to the events in places like Sierra Leone.

“The work that we are doing here has a knock-on effect because it makes things more open, and allows people to speak out about their own experiences.”

She added that there were quite a few families and young people in Hastings and St Leonards directly affected by the situation in Sierra Leone.

The success of the peace centre depends on winning the $50,000 grant offered by US company Cultivate Wines to the cause with the most votes in an online competition.

It is currently in third place, with the voting to close on March 31.

The Peace Project is also entering the final phase of its Operation Rise, which last September saw 10,000 pairs of crutches distributed to amputees, war victims, polio survivors, and disabled children across the country.

Hundreds of crutches and mobility aids were donated by the people of Hastings to help transform the lives of amputees in Hastings, Sierra Leone.

Next month, crutches will be delivered to the more remote areas, with a two year supply of crutches being taken to every hospital in the country.

Michelle D’Acosta will be joined for two weeks in Sierra Leone by Respond Academy’s youth ambassador for the project Lewis McFee, 25, who will be gaining first-hand experience, and making links with young people.

Michelle said: “It is also about making young people here aware of young people in other countries.

“It is that sense of sharing that is important, and becoming inspired by people’s lives.”

To support the peace centre vote online at