Meet Dominic Yambasu
After 25 years as a physical education teacher for the Lake Oswego School District, Dominic Yambasu retired in 2004. Dominic retired from teaching only to take on a much greater, more personal mission – providing aid to his war-torn home – the village of Motema, Sierra Leone in western Africa.
Growing Up in “The Mother Country”
Dom’s story is a remarkable tale of remarkable resilience, personal tragedy, war, and overcoming incredible adversity. “Yamba” and his sister Finda grew up in a small one room concrete hut, in the village of Motema, in Sierra Leone, in West Africa. According to the people of Sierra Leone, the country was often referred to as the “mother country” because the people there were so loving. In fact, it was said that if you asked someone for directions, they would walk you to where you wanted to go.
The village, however, was not a prosperous place. Bordered by dirt fields where crops routinely failed due to weather that in the summer averaged over 105 humid degrees and rainfall that averaged only 1.4 inches a year, Motema had no electricity, no running water, no hospital or even rudimentary health care. No stores, no governmental offices, no police, and no schools.
Dom’s mother, Kumba Marta and Finda had no education as women in the village at that time were not allowed that. Sadly, Dom’s mother, and what would have been his brother, died in childbirth in 1951, when Dom was just a toddler.
Dom’s father Kaimba attended Arabic school for a short time but had no further formal education and could not really read or write. Kaimba worked day and night growing produce in a small plot on a nearby rice farm, and sold it, and some handcrafts he had made, at open markets in different villages. He used what little money he made to provide for his family and to realize his dream of paying for Dom’s education.
In his mid-30’s, Kaimba fell out of a palm tree while harvesting palm oil, broke his back and became a paraplegic. Dom, then only an elementary schooler, had to take over much of the farming while his sister helped, did chores and babysat children from the village while Dom went to school.
Getting up before dawn to tend to his father’s crops before walking the two miles to the Roman Catholic school in the village of Yengema, Dom eventually finished his elementary education and at his father’s selfless urging, moved 300 miles away to the island of Bonthe for High School, where he also worked every day to supplement the meager room and board his father was able to pay for. Dom graduated near the top of his class, while playing soccer and running track too. Thanks to his grades, he was able to attend MILTON MARGAI TEACHERS COLLEGE on a government scholarship in the capital of Sierra Leone, Freetown. Upon graduation, he taught Physical Education for 3 years, but could only visit his Father and sister when time and finances allowed.
Arrival in the USA
In August of 1975, thanks to monies he had saved from teaching physical education for 3 years and his academic record of excellence, Dom emigrated to Oregon with little more than the clothes on his back, a few phrases of English, and a dream to further his education in the USA, after which he would hopefully return to his family and native country to teach. Here in Portland he was granted a work study program at Portland State, and soon after met and married a Peace Corps volunteer and started a family. While attending classes, he practiced his English and often worked two jobs a day, 5 days a week, from 7AM until midnight---one as a janitor, and another cleaning offices at Tektronix in Beaverton. After much hard work, he was able to graduate with an MAT in Physical Education and a BS in Psychology. Soon after, he was hired by the Lake Oswego School District and started teaching PE at Bryant Elementary School, eventually working in nine of the district’s 13 schools during his 25 years in the district and serving as a track and Soccer Coach at Lake Oswego High School. In 2004 he retired from teaching in the District, but he continued to coach the Girls Varsity Soccer Program at Lake Oswego High School, ending a 38 year long run there in 2016.
Dom’s plans to return to Sierra Leone with teaching degrees, however, proved impossible when in 1990, Civil War broke out. The discovery of what came to be known as “conflict” diamonds in 1990 in Sierra Leone heralded not wealth, but horror and catastrophe for the vast majority of its’ citizens. Tens of thousands of people either died from the Ebola Virus or were killed by rebels during the Civil War between 1990 and 2002, and hundreds of thousands more were displaced from their homes and their livelihoods. The war also took a huge toll on Dom’s family. In 1995 Rebels took control of the mine, slaughtered its’ workers, and then burned Dom’s village to the ground, killing his father Kaimba, who was unable to escape. His sister Finda was also murdered, shot in the back in 1992 by rebels while fleeing a raid on Motema with a toddler she was babysitting at the time. Finda was only 42 years old. All in all, 18 of Dominic’s relatives died in the war.
The Return Home
In November of 2004, after the war finally ended, Dominic returned to Sierra Leone for the first time in nearly 25 years. Thousands were homeless in the bigger cities and conditions in the outlying villages were deplorable. Into this pain stepped Dom, determined to do what he could to help. After holding a proper funeral for his family, Dom assisted his fellow villagers in rebuilding their community, all at his own expense. But that just was just the beginning of his commitment, and the early foundation of our charitable work.
Upon returning home to Oregon, Dom founded DYNASTY HOUSE, a non-profit dedicated to providing for all those less fortunate in Sierra Leone. As you will learn if you join Dom’s dynamic cause, Dynasty House would rebuild Motema, provide free housing to needy families, and raise monies to educate children who lived there—particularly young women, in honor of his sister and mother who never had that opportunity.
Today, Dynasty House is dedicated to continuing Dom’s vision for a rebuilt Motema and his “Mother Country” of Sierra Leone. We hope you will learn more and join with us to help “a beautiful people recover from the ravages of war”.