I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Sierra Leone, 1974-76, and an important part of my life is to advocate for Sierra Leone and for the continent of Africa. When I returned to the US no one had a clue where Sierra Leone was and even in the early 90s when the conflict started there was still minimal interest. I worked with an advocacy group, The Friends of Sierra Leone, to get attention, but it seemed sadly hopeless — until the war came to Freetown where media had easier access. It then landed on the front page of US newspapers pretty much all about brutality. I won’t go into the many experiences of racism, heartache, and more that happened around me when Sierra Leone came up other than to say we’ve still got a ways to go to even begin to help and understand Africa. Ten years ago one of my fourth grade classes tried to make a difference. They were wonderful.
That is long ago now. And one of the happiest pieces of news I got this year was that the Peace Corps was returning to Sierra Leone (after leaving in 1994 during the worst of the conflict). They returned a few months ago and I’ve been following several of the volunteers’ blogs (say this one and this one) with great interest. (Some things seem just the same — say the wonderful food — and others — say having cell phones and blogging — enormously different.) Just now I saw that NBC did a terrific feature on them earlier this month. Please do check it out here.