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Tiffany Persons
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Tiffany Persons is the founder and director of Shine On Sierra Leone, an innovative non-profit organization that actively raises awareness for Sierra Leone’s incredible needs and creates sustainable programs to promote thriving self-sufficient communities and rich cultural experiences in both Sierra Leone and the United States.

Four years ago in 2006, Tiffany, a prominent commercial and music video casting director, traveled to Sierra Leone for the first time to produce a documentary. For three months, she lived in the rural diamond-mining village of Kono and was witness to the extremely difficult living and working conditions of the community. With truly insufficient wages for mineworkers (they only earned $1.33 and a cup of rice), it became painfully clear that not only could they not provide for themselves but also not for their respective families. Furthermore, the village’s school, known as the Muddy Lotus School, was a dilapidated and roofless building that housed 416 students while torrential rains poured in the classrooms, there were barely any seats for the students, and some students hadn’t eaten in over two days. But what caught Tiffany’s attention and interest was that despite the devastating conditions, the students were fully engaged in their teacher’s lessons, with their hands outstretched in eager anticipation of being called upon. Inspired by their passion and based on the needs given to her by the teachers and village chief of Kono, Tiffany quickly raised $6,000 US dollars and rehabilitated Muddy Lotus with a new roof, cemented floors, iron doors, all new benches, and fresh paint for the interiors and exteriors. When the makeover was completed, the entire community spilled into the streets of Kono…laughing, singing, and dancing in gratitude. It was then that Tiffany decided to dedicate her life’s mission to ensuring that every child in Kono received an education and founded Shine on Sierra Leone.

Since Shine on Sierra Leone’s inception, Tiffany’s work has expanded beyond building several much needed schools. The underlying philosophy of Shine On Sierra Leone is that it’s about change and not charity and ultimately creating truly sustainable businesses and economies that will enable the local communities to support and generate profit themselves. As of 2007, Shine on Sierra Leone has created and is actively behind two comprehensive educational programs, adult and computer literacy programs, a community recreation and basketball center, and a groundbreaking microcredit-lending program.

Due to the success of previous SOSL projects, several new programs and businesses have been created. In June 2010, Shine On Sierra Leone launched their home and accessories line- a collection created from fabric in Sierra Leone that funds SOSL’s programs. In July 2010, Shine on Construction, a local construction company (comprised of men who were trained by SOSL building schools using the unique eco-conscious Cal-earth bag method) will be opening a school house which they built on their own and were hired by SOSL. In October 2010, Tribe Wanted, an eco-tourism company which is partners with Shine on Sierra Leone, is building an eco-village using the Cal-Earth earthbag method and debuting the first eco-conscious trips building the fishing communities of John Obey Beach. This December 2010, Shine on Sierra Leone will be building a maternal healthcare center to address Sierra Leone’s dire maternal fatalitiy crisis and also provide transportation and access to the center to pregnant women. And finally, Shine on Sierra Leone will be hosting its biannual trips to Sierra Leone for the purpose of cultivating a global sensitivity and true human connection between Sierra Leone and American citizens particularly youth from difficult circumstances in Los Angeles and Sierra Leone. Ultimately, Tiffany is continuing her pursuit of nurturing an optimistic, proactive, and socially responsible local and international community of youth and adults who are passionate about rebuilding the beautiful country of Sierra Leone and improving their world.

In addition to Tiffany’s role as the founder of Shine on Sierra Leone, she was recognized as a Woman of The World by 50/50 Leadership and the United Nations Association, Foothill Chapter, and has been featured in numerous high-profile publications for her contributions to Sierra Leone. A native of Detroit and a graduate of Georgia State University, Tiffany is based in Los Angeles where she runs Shine on Sierra Leone and her hi-profile advertising casting company, Tiffany Company Casting.

Entries by Tiffany Persons

Stop Ebola With Deep Dialogue, Not Bullhorns

(0) Comments | Posted November 12, 2014 | 8:06 AM

Strangers are driving through rural regions of Sierra Leone with bullhorns, shouting instructions about how to stay safe from the Ebola virus. Their intentions may be admirable, but their tactics are probably ineffective. Loud voices do not always get heard.

Especially in Sierra Leone, where a vein of suspicion...

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Creating 'Wholistic' Education Opportunities in the Heart of Diamond Country

(1) Comments | Posted November 1, 2013 | 1:45 PM

muddy lotus

In seven years since founding the organization Shine on Sierra Leone, we have provided micro-loans for 7,000 women, trained 12,000 people in computer literacy, and launched a maternal & child healthcare center that has already served 25,000 members of the community. We did all of...

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Sierra Leone Celebrates One Billion Rising!

(0) Comments | Posted February 20, 2013 | 3:13 PM

Many of you have heard about the worldwide celebration on February 14th to end abuse against women! Our wonderful school mother, Kadiatu Kondeh hosted hundreds of women and men at the Shine On House in Kono. Read below to will hear of the groudbreaking moments that were inspired from this...

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Untapped Wonder: The True Sierra Leone

(4) Comments | Posted May 30, 2012 | 12:02 PM

I just returned from paradise. I met up with old friends, made new ones, swam in the ocean, slept under the stars in a modern earth dome, and was serenaded by midnight bonfires by the beach. If anyone had ever told me just six years ago that paradise was awaiting...

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The Never-ending Story of One Donation

(0) Comments | Posted January 13, 2012 | 7:24 AM

In 2008, Shine On Sierra Leone was given the opportunity to receive a $50,000 donation from All for Africa. However, there was one catch -- we had to raise $50,000 first and then All for Africa would match that. At the time, fundraising that amount seemed almost impossible but with...

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Tribewanted: Sierra Leone

(2) Comments | Posted June 29, 2010 | 10:37 AM

It is now a known fact that Microfinance and partnerships with developing nations are more successful than charity. At the end of 2006, MicroBanking Bulletin was tracking 704 MFIs that were serving 52 million borrowers ($23.3 billion in outstanding loans) and 56 million savers ($15.4 billion in deposits).

What exactly...

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My Tenth Trip to Sierra Leone, and an Anniversary

(0) Comments | Posted March 3, 2010 | 12:40 PM

In two days I will board a plane to take my tenth flight to Sierra Leone. It will be the start of a familiar and familial journey that connects me to people who have been the centerpiece of the last four years of my life. It is my tenth anniversary...

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Shine On Sierra Leone: Building Sustainable, Permanent Schools And Houses

(2) Comments | Posted October 27, 2009 | 2:22 PM

It was 2006. While perusing Whole Life Times I saw an article that changed my life. It was an article about famed architect Nader Khalili and his 30-year process of creating one of the planet's most innovative sustainable building methods: earth-bag building. Materials needed: Soil, rice bags and a tiny...

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