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Edmonton:SLAA whip is champion for persons with disabilities

By  | 3 April 2019 at 00:53 | 1642 views

Joseph Largawo is the new whip of the Sierra Leone Association of Alberta (SLAA). His job is to maintain discipline at meetings. He made quite an impact in his new position soon after he took office. However, his feat was more about advocacy than decorum. The new whip made a strong case for persons with disabilities in the association, the first chance he got to speak.

The occasion was an SLAA general meeting at St. Clare Church in Edmonton on Saturday 30 March 2019. Among items on the agenda was a series of reports on pending projects. Heads of committees took turns in updating the meeting on work their respective teams have done so far.

When it was time for feedback from the audience, Largawo abruptly switched from whip to champion. He rose from his seat at the high table and took the microphone (see photo)

What Largawo said was so profound; there was complete silence for several seconds.

“There is no project for the disabled,” he observed. “We need a body that is solely responsible for that.” Largawo is an amputee and wears a prosthesis on his leg. He is not alone in the community. There are several other SLAA members who are either amputees too, or are somehow disabled.

The SLAA whip spoke to The Patriotic Vanguard after Saturday’s meeting. He says his right leg was amputated above the knee. This happened in Freetown, about 20 years ago. It was during the war and Largawo was living in Taiama town in the Moyamba District, at the time. Largawo was shot in the leg and left for dead. He could not recall the year; but he remembers it was the month of March. He says he was first taken to a hospital in Bo, and then moved to Freetown where he underwent the operation. Largawo laments the poor care he received during his ordeal. “With timely treatment my leg could have been saved.”

SLAA members

Saturday was not the first time the SLAA whip has championed the cause of the disabled. He is one of the founders of Single-Leg Amputee Sports Club in Freetown. Largawo even played soccer with the team. “We used to play football to occupy our minds; to ease the pain and trauma” he said. The club was formed at a camp in Murray Town, Freetown, where Largawo and other amputees lived at the time.

“We had a lot of help from organizations like CAUSE Canada,” Largawo says. He reminisces about a trip to Britain in 2004. “It was an exchange programme called ‘Play for Hope’ and we spent two weeks there,” Largawo said. “Our team played against amputees in different cities like Liverpool, Manchester, and Oxford.”

Largawo came to Canada with his family, in 2005. He is currently employed by Catholic Social Services (CSS) in Edmonton; as a community support worker. The new SLAA whip is fondly called ‘OC Crime-Stopper’ due to his no-nonsense demeanor. He has a brand new bell; to help him carry out his SLAA duties. It is the kind of bell that was a staple in schools but now an antique in this digital age. He uses it like a buzzer; to prompt speakers when their allotted time is up. Largawo is impressed with the current SLAA executive team.” I really like the push toward social inclusion,” he says. “We the disabled just don’t want to be left out.”

SLAA got a new executive committee in December 2018. It is headed by academic Dr. Abu Conteh as president. Conteh was elected in October 2018; following a campaign in which he proposed a set of projects. Saturday’s meeting was one more step toward their implementation. Among the projects is a community census; acquisition of a hall and a vehicle; care for seniors; and working to bring Sierra Leone’s consular services closer to compatriots living in this part of Canada.