Who Is This Man? 

As regular readers will know, a group of 15 people has recently returned from a visit to Sierra Leone. (See previous blog) Since returning I have been asked many times about Abs' personal history and background. People have said something like, "I know a bit about his story, but..........." Well, here are the bits that fill in the gaps. At least, those bits that Abs wants us to know about!

Early days
Abs was born in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. At the age of five years old he contracted polio which left him handicapped, and since then he has needed a pair of crutches to move around. 
Abs was sent to the Cheshire Home in Freetown where he lived and received primary education. He then went on to study at the Albert Academy and Prince of Wales school. Even now, years later, people remember how little Abdulai never stopped working and learning – spending much of his free time making wire models of cars and buildings.

Going overseas
At the age of 17 years the UK family of Mrs Margaret Atkins "adopted" Abs. Margaret and her family became Abs’ family and she worked tirelessly to secure funding for him to further his education in the UK, seemingly to no avail. However, her mother, Mrs Dorothy Springer secretly sponsored Abs’ A-Levels and Engineering degree. Abs excelled at his studies and went on to gain a PhD from Loughborough University. 

Employment in the UK
Abs took the valuable offer of a job as a Research Engineer and Academy Fellow at the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) in London, combining his technical skills and business/project management acumen to generate innovative solutions and provide practical advice and services. It was at that time in 2003, when Dorothy Springer, the lady who kindly sponsored his education, passed away. Only at that point did Abs find out about her unconditional generosity.

Founding DST
This discovery touched Abs so much that he decided he had to give something back – and so the long journey started. He returned to his home country of Sierra Leone and saw the extremely poor conditions that many disabled people have to live in. After numerous “administrative hoops” the Dorothy Springer Trust was registered with the UK Charity Commission in 2007 and officially launched in Freetown on 9th February 2010. That year, three scholars were awarded the advanced ‘Dorothy Springer Trust ICT Scholarship’. Abs still remembers the day clearly:
“The charity awarded educational scholarships to three disabled people at its launch by the Sierra Leone First Lady, Madam Sia Koroma on Tuesday 9th February 2010 at the British Council. The event was an enormous success, with a good turnout from a cross section of Sierra Leoneans, including representatives from disabled organisations, education, banks, the IT industry and faith organisations. There was also a huge amount of media interest including interviews on the BBC World Service ‘Focus on Africa’, UN Radio Tea-break and SLBC TV.”

And now?
After taking a one-year sabbatical from TRL Abs became convinced that he was more needed in Sierra Leone, and so he left his job and moved to Freetown. He now works tirelessly to further the work of DST in particular and all disability issues in Sierra Leone in general. Abs is regularly on the radio, including the BBC World Service, and often appears on Sierra Leone television. But, as Abs describes himself, he is a workaholic, so there is always something else happening for him……….

At present Abs is involved in the following:
Chief Executive Officer - The Dorothy Springer Trust (www.dorothy-springer-trust.org.uk)
Chairman - Freetown Cheshire Home Management Committee
Chairman (Finance & Development) - National Commission for Persons with Disabilities (NCPD), SL
Member of the National Governing Council - Sierra Leone - African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM)
Manager (ITCD) - Office of the President, Office of Diaspora Affairs (ODA), Sierra Leone 
Consultant Director - Abtech Solutions
Project Manager - Various……..
(Some of the projects that Abs has successfully managed include a new school building and a new church building in Tombo – a fishing village 35 miles south of Freetown. A new school/church in Morcombay - a very rural community 30 miles south of Freetown. Abs has also managed several projects for DST including Irish Embassy, and British High Commission. In addition, he has taught IT at the Institute of Public Administration (IPAM) part of the University of Sierra Leone)

In 2015 Abs married the lovely Mabel, and they now have a son called Isaac who is without doubt, the “apple of his father’s eye”! They currently live in the centre of Freetown where Isaac attends a day-care and primary school.

Who is this man? He's an a "modern-day hero", an inspiration - that's who he is!


Rob Lea, 26/04/2017