Practical Tools Initiative is a charitable organisation set up in the UK (Charity No 1152292 in England & Wales) to provide support to deprived post-war and post-disaster communities for social and economic rehabilitation. Our charitable objects are the prevention or relief of poverty or financial hardship anywhere in the world. We work towards our objects by providing or assisting in the provision of education, training and healthcare projects and ensuring individuals, communities, and institutions with a charitable need have the support they need to achieve their goals.
In the last twenty years, Sub-Saharan Africa has undergone a considerable transition in its social, economic and political life. Civil wars and pre and post-election violence have displaced entire communities, forcing people to live lives of economic inactivity, extreme poverty, destitution, and poor health. Education has been disrupted, skilled artisans and trained craftsmen and craftswomen have been displaced, and farmers have been forced to leave their homes and livelihoods. This displacement has caused serious overcrowding, unemployment, and crime in larger towns and cities, especially in countries such as Sierra Leone and Liberia. Practical Tools Initiative aims to re-engage people through the provision of tools, educational resources, mobility aids for disabled people, and income generation skills training.
Practical Tools Initiative is one of the first organisations of its kind to be set up by the diaspora for the purpose of supporting poverty reduction campaigns and strategies in Africa.
Practical Tools Initiative is a unique, fast-growing and forward-looking voluntary organisation whose work is grounded in evidence-based research work in West Africa. Its frontline activities and impact are not only driven by its engagement with community partners in West Africa and the UK, but also by its deep understanding of the socio-economic and social policy issues affecting social rehabilitation, employment and economic regeneration in these countries.
The organisation’s practical work, which started in The Gambia in the late 1990s, has proved very successful. In 1997, James Fallah-Williams, whilst working with the Methodist Mission representative in The Gambia, received a delivery of used tailoring tools, including sewing machines. James identified that some Sierra Leonean and Liberian refugees in The Gambia were trained tailors and needed machines to practice their profession. He also identified that Gambian youths were leaving school without skills. He gave machines to Sierra Leonean refugees in Serekunda, Gambia’s largest city. Upon visiting the machine-donation project, he met a sixteen-year-old Gambian girl. She had just completed her secondary education, but she had not passed her exams. She wanted to learn tailoring, so she was given a machine and placed with a professional tailor who had also been given machines. In 2001, James returned to The Gambia to complete a research project for his degree on the impact of poverty alleviation policies on women in the country. He visited the projects where he had distributed machines. To his amazement, the girl he had met in 1997 had completed her apprenticeship and had started her own tailoring shop on the Bundun high street, producing and selling ladies’ dresses. The professional tailor who trained her had also extended his workshop and taken in new apprentices. James went on to produce a successful undergraduate dissertation on the impact of poverty alleviation policies on women in The Gambia.
In 2001, immediately after the civil war, James visited Sierra Leone, and further work through partnership development was done. Upon his return, he appealed for tools, and he received considerable response from UK supporters.
In 2013, Practical Tools Initiative was registered as a UK charity working in international development. Today, it is the largest independent and indigenous NGO in Sierra Leone. Its work focuses on key issues such as youth unemployment, education, disability, women’s empowerment, health, and water and sanitation. The organisation also carries out high-level campaigning and advocacy work.
Practical Tools Initiative also sends UK volunteers, ranging from engineers to medical professionals, to work with local institutions and communities.
Volunteer UK medical experts work with us to reach out to rural community clinics and hospitals, providing essential training, medicines and medical interventions.
In addition to training, modern medical equipment is provided – this is essential for safe medical practices.