Muscular men gather at Stubborn Unit Gym on Vanja Street this morning. They train to overcome laziness or sickness and they aim to be fit and healthy in life. Daddy Cole and his friend John started the gym to help themselves and others lead active lives. They built all of the equipment by hand—barbells and dumbbells from concrete, benches and push-up blocks from lumber, and a pull-up bar from a strong branch.

Cole and his friends meet regularly at Stubborn Unit Gym to train together, make jokes, talk about their pasts, or simply to enjoy each other’s company. Some still need to pay the Le 15,000 (~USD 1.70) registration fee, but Cole doesn’t mind since he knows their financial situations. After working out, the men cook and eat to replenish their energy. They enjoy yams, gravy, and stew with bush meat.

Sometimes students from the local schools stop by for training. The men remind the boys to take education seriously, advising them to focus and study before or after their workout. Cole adds that all of the men either attend university or learned trades to support themselves: carpentry, carving, or art. They set a positive example for the boys around town.

Prince’s daughter, Princess, watches Daddy Cole, Prince, Mustapha, Al-Hassan, and John (L-R) perform push-ups at Stubborn Unit Gym.

Stubborn Unit Gym Members


After working out I go to my workshop to carve sculptures. I sell them around town, Bo, and Freetown. Many Americans buy my work; one man in Chicago asked for a bed and chairs with carvings of men, lions, and peacocks. He also wanted a lion sculpture.


I walk four miles from the village to come work out with my friends and be fit. Then I go back to split wood with my chainsaw in the bush.


I want to push further in my studies and maybe even go to America one day. I have all my requirements and already passed the West African Secondary School Certificate Examination (WASSCE). I’d like to study economics at Njala University, Bo Campus. The things that I love the most are football and working out. I like them because they gives me physical fitness. They also give me the strength and energy to focus and work. People admire me my work ethic.


I want to be very fit to enter the American fitness competitions for weightlifting. I also want to learn boxing to beat Floyd Mayweather’s record and defeat the man himself. I don’t expect any problems in the coming year except for maybe being hard up for cash, but I feel that I will find money some way.


I like working out and it’s a part of me now. If you don’t work out during the cold and windy days you will catch a fresh cold. The training helps me warm up and sweat. I want to be as big as a house one day.