Personal interview with Lucy Cecilia, a young entrepreneur from Sierra Leone. Don’t miss it!

Thank you very much for keep supporting the young entrepreneurs from Sierra Leone, monitored by IOM!
As a return to your valuable support, we would like to share with you this month’s Newsletter from the program, that we hope you’d enjoy!

This month, Anisia from Airfunding had an interview with Lucy Cecilia, one of the young entrepreneurs from Sierra Leone that are participating in the IOM’s Entrepreneurship Program, and we’ve had the chance to know a little more about her, her motivations and dreams. Lucy Cecilia’s project is a bit different from the rest because she is asking for funds for advocacy in mental health and to create an impact in her community. Please keep reading!
Interview with Lucy Cecilia, a young entrepreneur and mental health advocate from Sierra Leone

Anisia– Hi, Lucy Cecilia… How are you? This is Anisia from Airfunding and today I will be doing an interview with you for this month’s newsletter. Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
Lucy Cecilia– Hi! I am Lucy Cecilia, from Sierra Leone. I live in Freetown and I am 33 years old and I am a mental health advocate. I am part of an organization that works for advocacy in mental health and the rehabilitation of mentally disadvantaged victims. It is actually a registered organization. Right now it is more important to advocate for Mental Health than ever due to the crisis of Coronavirus, that have made rise the number of people facing a mental health condition.
Anisia- Could you tell us how and why you became a mental health advocate?
Lucy Cecilia- I had many experiences with mental health issues. When I was a teenager and I was still going to school, unfortunately, my mother had a mental health disorder and I had to take care of her and I became her primary caregiver. She had two children, but when my brother passed away it was very hard to take care of my mother alone as a teenager. We have a psychiatric hospital in Freetown and I was advised by my principal to take her there because he saw that her mental health issue was affecting my education. She is still receiving treatment there. In there I saw that with the treatment she got better and I learned something from that. In Sierra Leone, we passed recently the last civil war and also other problems like floodings. For all of us that come from humble and poor backgrounds, is very hard to face these issues, so it’s easy to get depressed. I got depressed and I survived. But my and my family were not the only ones. I see my community. There are many people depressed, many people committing suicide and that’s why I started to work as a mental health advocate. For me investing in mental health was hope for our future.

Lucy Cecilia giving an speech
Anisia- You are a different entrepreneur because you are raising money for raising awareness and support people with mental health issues. Can you tell us more about that, what are you planning to do and how you will use the money?
Lucy Cecilia- What we do is to educate to show mental health issues are real. There are even some people that t have mental health problems and they don’t even know it. There are people with anxiety, mood swings, suicidal thoughts that are not aware of that. It is common for us to see people committing suicide and people hanging themselves and it is very worrisome and that’s why is so important for me to help people, to give them the information on how to get some help. But informing them alone is not enough, you also have to refer them to treatment centers. I want the information to go everywhere, so people with mental health problems can be helped. There are some stages in the development of the condition on people with a mental health condition. There are some people that only need to talk with a counselor, but there are some people that need to go to the treatment center and drink medicine. I am also planning to build another center because the only psychiatric center we have is overcrowded. Also when people finish their treatment and go back home, there is a stigma in the community with people mocking them and pointing out their fingers to them. I just survived depression, but still, some people mocked me, called me names. So I also advocate educating the community to understand mental health. I want to build a home so when people are discharged from the psychiatric center they can come back to a safe place, before going back to the communities.
Anisia- So according to you, there is a problem because communities don’t accept people suffering from mental health. Are you also planning to educate the community about that?
Lucy CeciliaThis is our top priority, to raise awareness in our community. To make sure that the people that have survived a mental health problem, and come back can get back their life back again. Now it is very difficult because the communities are not informed. We need to tell them that some mental health conditions can be treated or cured and people can be useful for the community again. But what is limiting our work now is funding.

A picture with other volunteers of the organisation of Lucy Cecilia
Anisia- Before you mentioned all the problems that Sierra Leone has been facing. Can you also tell us a bit about that and the challenges that people in general and entrepreneurs, in particular, are facing?
Lucy Cecilia- We suffer from poor economic conditions as a result of all these bad occurrences we have faced as a nation. We have faced flooding but they are all caused because of our poor risk management due to our economical condition. But to talk about all the things we have faced, let’s start saying that the rebel civil war, left us in a serious crisis that we are still fighting to recover and then we also had to face Ebola, where we lost many loved ones. And then all the flooding and natural disasters are not contributing to our country. Now we have the covid 19 that has hit again, we are in our 3rd wave. All this putting together is what is influencing our bad economical condition.

Lucy Cecilia and the former psychiatrist of the mental health centre, already retired

Lucy Cecilia doing activities with the community
Anisia- You are part of the entrepreneur program in IOM, could you tell us a bit about it and how you were selected?
Lucy Cecilia- IOM is an international organization for migration. They are working on this project that stands for youth. They have noticed that the employment rate of our youth is so high, and people are losing their lives or facing very hard conditions when they migrate to other countries. IOM is bringing them back, but that is not only enough, so they are engaging them on entrepreneurship and giving them skills so they can earn their daily bread. I got selected because I saw an announcement from IOM, I was one of the thousands that applied and I was one of the fortunate that was selected.
They are doing well with the youths. The youths are suffering because we have a lot of ideas but making these ideas possible is complicate and IOM is helping to make our ideas possible.

Entrepreneurs receiving formation under the IOM program
Anisia– Can you tell us also a bit about Airfunding and your experience so far?
Lucy Cecilia– I must say you guys have a lot of humanity, that is why you have set up this place to raise money for all the people that, like me, need help. God bless you.
Anisia- And my last question, do you want to tell the supporters why they should support your project?
Lucy Cecilia– I know the whole world is suffering because of Covid. My heart goes with the people that lost their family and relatives and I always have them in my prayers, but I know that Sierra Leone is extremely suffering. We had suffered so many things that are making it hard for us to survive. So I ask for help and support because I am not asking funding for me, but for those people that are running out of their senses due to this condition. I just want to give them treatment to make them being useful human beings again, to save the lives of the people of my country.

Anisia– Thank you for your time of today and from Airfunding we wish you luck with your project and your purpose!

Lucy Cecilia– Thanks to you Anisia and to Airfunding for having me here!

West African Peanut Butter Soup
Peanut soup is an African recipe that’s very popular in West Africa, and especially in Ghana and Sierra Leone. Also is very nutritious because it has healthy fats from peanut butter, protein from the chicken, and carbohydrates from the sweet potatoes. It is also easy to make everywhere because the ingredients are easy to find. With less than 300 calories per portion (not including the rice), it is definitely a healthy recipe that is worth trying!


-1 divspoon canola oil
-2 large onions finely chopped
-1 divspoon fresh ginger optional
-3 oz tomato paste
-1 sweet potato chopped
-6 cups vegediv broth or water
-1 teaspoon salt
-1 teaspoon cayenne pepper optional
-1 cup peanut butter
-1 cup baby spinach optional
-8 oz shredded chicken optional

1)Heat the oil in a large, heavy pot. Add onions and ginger, and cook for 5-10 minutes until the onions are very soft and translucent, but not browned.
2)Add tomato paste and mix with the onions until they are well coated. Add the sweet potatoes to the pot, season with salt and cayenne pepper, and mix with the onion and tomato paste mixture.
3)Pour the vegediv broth or water into the pot and bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cover for 20 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are cooked. Stir in the peanut butter until it’s well blended with the mixture. Add spinach and/or chicken, if desired, and stir to combine.
4)Serve over white rice with crushed peanuts, if desired.

Remember that you can directly communicate with Lucy Cecilia in the Supporters Community in Facebook. Don’t forget to join the community if you haven’t done it yet, by clicking on the following link!