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Pujehun descendants gather in Maryland

27 October 2018 at 20:37 | 6375 views

By Our Correspondent

Pujehun District Descendants Association in North America hosted their 27th Annual Family Reunion and Fundraising Dinner on Saturday, October 20, 2018, at the Lafontaine Bleu in Maryland.

The event is PDDA’s biggest charity fundraising dinner which brings in modest donations in dollars to support education and healthcare in Pujehun District.

Lafontaine Bleu ballroom was awash with a huge throng of Pujehun District descendants and friends, vibrant music, culture and decorations labelling each chiefdom in Pujehun District: Sowa, Malen, Sakrim, Yakemoh Kpukumu Krim, Kabondeh, Kpanga, Kpanga Krim, Kpaka, Galines, Perri, Peje, Barrie, Makpele and Soro Gbeima.

Every year the reunion weekend brings together families and friends of Pujehun District in a spirit of giving back to their community. Pujehun District is predominantly Mende-speaking, but the district has other ethnic groups including Vai, Krim, Fullah, Mandingo, Limba, and Temne scattered across the shorelines of the Wanjei and Moa rivers, the two lakes of Mabesi and Mape (Kasse), the periphery of Bo District and the southern edge of the Sierra Leone borders with Liberia. In spite of this ethnic diversity in the district, the descendants are a close-knit family.

Dr. Francis Kaikai

Among the guest list gracing the occasion were three prominent sons of Pujehun Distric:, Ambassador Dr. Francis Kaikai, Sierra Leone Permanent Representative to the United Nations; Ambassador Saffa Woya Rogers, Deputy Ambassador to China; Steve Swarray, former Governor of the Bank of Sierra Leone; and representatives of the Sierra Leone Embassy in Washington including Deputy Ambassador Sheik Mesali.

In their felicitations, the Sierra Leone Mission representatives brought messages of hope and mentioned the ambitious aspirations of the New Direction agenda of President Bio and his leadership, which Ambassador Kaikai said, “is driven by courage and discipline.”

“Our job as the privileged descendants of Pujehun District is to ensure every child in our district has a real and fair chance at success,” he encouraged his compatriots.

Ambassador Saffa Woya

The audience was enraptured and thrown into a lighthearted mood when Ambassador Saffa Woya Rogers of China, a familiar figure in the PDDA USA circles spoke in Mandarin. Ambassador Rogers pressed upon his Pujehun folks to light up Pujehun District to be as bright as the moon. He ended with a Chinese proverb, “Only when all contribute their firewood can they build up a big fire.”

MCs Rosaline and Paul

Host MCs, Paul Duwai-Sowa and Rosaline Bangura, both indigenes of Pujehun District were the perfect pair for the event. They did not only move the audience with humour and class, but equally managed it in a timely fashion to the taste and satisfaction of their audience that was eager to jump to the dance floor.

Starting the evening in a serious tone, Paul Duwai-Sowa had this to say in his opening remarks, “We are truly honoured that family and friends have chosen the PDDA fundraising dinner over many other equally important activities happening around the DMV metropolitan area.”

Paul called out the names of the different chiefdoms of Pujehun District to the thunderous applause of representatives from the respective chiefdoms.

"Tonight is not only about looking good in Wanjama fashion and celebrating our own culture, but it is also a moment to engage each other in our quest to fight poverty in Sierra Leone," said Paul Duwai-Sowa.

Co-MC, Ms. Rosaline Bangura clad in an elegant black dress mixed with dashing blue accessories, a well-known socialite and fashion blogger in the United States indicated she was, “pleasantly surprised to share the stage for the first time with the illustrious sons and daughters of Pujehun District,” home of her late grandfather, Frank Anthony, a renowned Sierra Leonean politician.

Pastor Emmanuel Vandi Senesie who offered Christian prayers implored the audience with Proverbs 22:9, “Those who are generous are blessed, for they share their bread with the poor.” Alhaji Ibrahim Turay also joined in reciting Surah al-Fatihah in supplication to God in the Islamic prayer.

Pujehun District’s sweet golden voice, Giileh Kebbie Sholtz added her vocal style to the event by singing the national anthems of Sierra Leone and the United States.

Dr. Joe Nuni and wife

In his speech to the guests, the President of Pujehun District Descendants Association (PDDA USA), Dr. Joe A. Nuni saluted his team and special guests whom he said have been pivotal to the success of PDDA over the past 27 years.

“Some of you have travelled from as far as Canada, California, Texas, and Colorado to be here with family and friends and to give back to our community. It feels special to us as a team, but more so to the children and families we have left behind in Pujehun District. We are very far away from Pujehun District but the towns and villages we come from are in our hearts," he said to cheers and applause.

Dr. Joe Nuni singled out the efforts of John Ansu Kaikai, Benjamin Minah, Tony Kaikai, Judith Lahai, Dauda Silla, Jitta Silla, Raymond Kamara, Wokie Minah, Dr. Fouad Sheriff, Rose Cooper, Giileh Kebbie Sholtz and Paul Duwai-Sowa, saying they have demonstrated, “remarkable dedication to the PDDA cause.”

Josephine Garnem, Rev. Gloria Cline-Smythe, Judith Lahai and Wokie Minah were awarded the PDDA Silver Plaque for standing tall with the PDDA over the years.

Dr. Nuni, a physician in Washington DC and long-term serving President of PDDA was also recently accorded a grand traditional honour with a touch of royalty for his selfless service to the United States of America, the Sierra Leonean community in the United States and the people of Pujehun District.

David Bangura

After a very sumptuous dinner, Comfort Swarray of Denver, Colorado introduced the towering keynote speaker, David Bangura, President/General Manager of WADL, Detroit’s only independent TV station and a son of Pujehun District.

David shared his personal journey climbing the corporate ladder in the United States not as a bravado pitch, but rather as an inspiration for believing in people.

“I didn’t go to the Bo School or Christ the King College, prestigious high schools my father preferred. Fortunately, I attended St. Edwards Secondary School in Freetown. My foundational education in Sierra Leone has taught me humility and boldness and I owe it to those who believed in me from those early years of my life.”

David who is involved in various youth education projects spoke from his heart.

“Having the right character to provide you with opportunities in life won’t matter if you don’t have people who believe and invest in you. Let us believe and invest in the children of Pujehun District,” he said to a standing ovation.

Wokie Minah

Wokie Minah, a PDDA USA gold star member closed the formal session of the fundraising event with a vote of thanks.

Features of the event included a raffle draw and traditional mask performances to showcase the culture of Sierra Leone. Rukiatu Sesay carried the big prize of a 49-inch TCL TV from the raffle draw.

It was a unique and memorable weekend of events from dinner to cookout with activities that took family and friends out of their usual weekend hangouts to one of a more traditional family setting with the PDDA family mixing and mingling with their own.