SLAI was founded by eight Minnesota families in 1998 to address the problem of Street Children in Freetown after the rebel invasion of the capital on January 6, 1998. Street children were defined by the government of Sierra Leone as child victims of the civil war that have lost homes and families, and had no apparent family connections or home to go to. While there were many such children in the entire country, Freetown was especially populated by Street Children as many of them, having lost families and homes, found their way to the capital.
SLAI solicited donations from individuals and churches in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul to provide food, shelter, and basic medical care for the children.
A few years later, SLAI formed a partnership with another organization that assisted street children called the Leonenet Street Children Project (LSCP). Ms. Pinkie McCann-Willis served as the first Country Director for LSCP. Ms. Clementina Kamara, who passed away in 2006, was the first Country Director for the joint services of SLAI and LSCP.
Services offered included basic family care of food, shelter, and clinical services. SLAI and LSCP also worked with United Nations organizations and other non-governmental organizations to provide family reunification services for the children.
The next stage of service provision was placement in foster care facilities around the Western area for children without families. SLAI also provided placement assistance in schools, and later provided tuition and book assistance and scholarships for many of the children.
Currently the majority of SLAI’s services go towards disbursement of scholarships for school fees, books and uniforms for children in twenty two schools in the Western area, stretching from Regent to Hastings. Scholarships for secondary schools students are for school fees only, and are awarded on a three year basis, starting either at the start of Junior Secondary School (JSS), or at the start of Senior Secondary School (SSS). For primary school students, school fees are lower or not applicable, so SLAI includes provision for books and uniforms. The Country Director monitors student progress, and interacts with families and school administrators to process payments and provide reports to the SLAI administration in Saint Paul, Minnesota.