Working at a better future


Josephine Smits with the school children

Josephine Smits-Davis, born in Sierra Leone, travelled to her native country at the end of the civil war in July 2002. There she saw the terrible conditions in which especially the women and children had to live. Many children had been orphaned and left to their own devices. They are all victims of the inhuman civil war that has wreaked havoc on the country.

Josephine’s heart was touched, so much that initially she wanted to offer immediate, small scale help to the poor women. She managed to convince others and so the idea was born to establish a foundation called Wanda (meaning ‘the people’). In order to help the victims of war regain their dignity the Wanda Foundation aims at starting and supporting projects that will improve the situation in the fields of education, agriculture and health care. In trying to achieve our goals the local community stands central in initiating and implementing these projects, this all to guarantee a lasting commitment of everyone involved and to offer people a chance to improve their future within the limits of their own culture.

The civil war and the Kailahun district.

The Foundation Wanda is currently working in the village of Dia in the Kissi Kama Chiefdom in the Kailahun District. This district was hit hard by the civil war.

After the independence in 1961 Sierra Leone became a one-party state where corruption flourished. In 1991 the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) started a guerrilla campaign from neighbouring Liberia and in 1992 the military successfully attempted a coup d’état, which triggered a civil war. The civil war started in the Kailahun District, where the RUF fought the government over the exclusive rights to the diamond trade. The fairly honest elections of 1997 seemed to pacify the country to some extent and the RUF was invited to take part in the government but soon large scale fights broke out again. In January 1999 the RUF captured the capital, which started the most gruesome atrocities against the people of Sierra Leone. In July, under great international pressure, a peace treaty between the government and the RUF was signed. However, the situation hardly improved. Not until January 2002, when the civil war that had lasted ten years, officially came to an end, did the human rights situation improve drastically. In February 2002 the civil war came to an end in the Kailahun district as well.

Map Sierra Leone

Some refugees, mostly women and children, had been living on the run for ten to twelve years in an unstable environment. Many of them have been traumatised by the war. The civilians have been exposed to murder, abuse, torture, mutilation, rape, kidnapping and deportation. In Sierra Leone thousands of child-soldiers were recruited and, under the influence of alcohol and drugs, forced to commit atrocities. Lawlessness ruled.

The current situation

The economy of Sierra Leone came after years of civil war at a standstill and Sierra Leone is now one of the poorest countries in the world. There is a shortage of everything and depending on material and financial help it will still take many years for rebuilding the country. Sierra Leone has now a democracy and there is a reasonable level of stability and security. The first free democratic elections were held in Octber 2007 which were organised by the people from Sierra Leone themselves. 

The Boyd Primary school in Dia

In March 2003 the request from the community in Dia arose if Josephine could help with the building of a primary school. Going to school in Sierra Leone is not common for all children. Often they have to work to supplement the family income or there is no money to pay school fees and school materials.

Old school (2003 - 2009)
New School (2009 - Nu)

At Easter on 20 April 2003 the official start of the creation of the primary school in Dia was a fact. 500 acres of land was made available by the Chiefdom. The school subsequently acquired an official status and called the Boyd Primary School. The school is explicitly accessible to all children regardless of their ethnic background, religion or political convictions.

In the first school year 2003/2004, 350 children were registered. Since 2009, there are 700 children at a new primary school with 12 classrooms including school furniture, blackboards and learning materials.

What more do we want to do in the future?

As soon as the construction of the primary school has been completed, we want to realize with your aid good drinking water facilities at the school. To estimate 80 per cent of all sicknesses in developing countries are caused by a lack of clean drinking water. Also the local population of Dia should be able to make use of this, so that everyone will have access to clean drinking water. Also we want to initiate a sanitation project in order to improve the hygienical situation. We want to make use of solar energy as much as possible.

At a later stage we want to build a vocational institute, so that the children will have further education after primary school. Furthermore Wanda wants to get involved in the fields of health care and micro credits.

Josephine with the children

Is the money well spent?

The foundation has reliable contacts in Sierra Leone itself, who can monitor the projects . Because of this we are able to provide up-to-date information on the progress. On the project and news page of this website you can keep track of how your donations are spent. These short communication channels guarantee that your money goes directly to the population.

From research it has become clear that development aid has the best chance of success if the responsibility of projects is laid among the local people. Wanda Foundation has explicitly followed this strategy from the start .

Wanda Foundation thus only facilitates the projects and lays the initiative, management and the implementation among the people themselves. They know best the local circumstances and needs. For this reason the community in Dia has formed a project management committee, in which members of the local community, teachers and parents are united.

A sister organisation in Sierra Leone has been set up called Ngopee Foundation, with only people from Sierra Leone itself. The involvement of the local population and the broad basis that is created for our projects ensures that the money is spent well.

Regularly are we visiting Sierra Leone and monitor the progress of our projects. The community in Dia is well aware of our projects and their enthusiasm and appreciation have convinced us that each Euro is well spend.


Stichting Wanda
Postbus 246
5550 AE Valkenswaard
Tel: +31 (0)40 – 201 2785
Fax: +31 (0)84 – 744 5255


Rabobank Valkenswaard
Stichting Wanda
IBAN: NL79RABO 01729.27.226

Contact Form

If you want to support our organisation, we welcome your donation. Since  1 January 2008 is Wanda foundation recognised by the Dutch tax authorities as a General useful organisation (ANBI Algemeen Nut Beogende Instelling). Donations to Wanda foundation can therefore result in a tax reduction for Dutch citizens.