By Sean Maddox in Sierra Leone
March 23, 2010
The power just went out again and I lost my first attempt to reflect on my arrival in Sierra Leone. Oddly enough the computer didn’t recover the draft from the power surge. But perhaps oddity and misconceptions should be my focus with this entry.
Upon arrival Sunday evening I was prepared to confront one of my greatest fears again, flying in a helicopter. My previous experiences had been in small bell types. This was a large Soviet design that rolled down the runway so smoothly I didn’t even know when we had left the ground. Much better than the bell that takes a nose dive on lift off.
Having worked with Liberia for the last two years, I had expected to find the same devastation and destruction from the war- lost youth, a heavy UN presence, and limited food in the markets. Quite contrary to Liberia, here in Freetown I have seen no signs of the war besides billboards advocating for peace, security and reconstruction. The youth and young adults are not standing around waiting for an opportunity, they are pursuing business at my expense. The UN has down-sized and the war crimes courts are shutting down. And the market, or at least one of them that my traveling companion, Dr. David Klooster and I entered today, was full of wonderful fruits, vegetables and meat: no one needs to go hungry in Freetown for lack of food.
Getting around and becoming familiar with Freetown will take some time. The town is along the ocean but divided in sections with rather large hills. If the hills were near Ottawa we would certainly see ski hills operating. The hills make it a challenge to get a good feel for where you are and how you will get to where you want to go. Further, every taxi driver has his own short cut- making it difficult to start registering land marks.
We have spent the last 48 hours tracking people down. Negotiating deals. Being overwhelmed with professionals’ passion for working to bring Reading Sierra Leone to their country. We have so much to build on based on the commitment of so many here to change the educational experience of children and to create a love for reading among the children and youth.
I look forward to learning from organizations like PEN Sierra Leone, children’s’ author Mohamed Sheriff, education and gender specialist Aisha Fofana Ibrahim and others. Working together and with the support of many other committed professionals I know this program will give great joy to all involved if we are able to get it off the ground.
Must run, another meeting with yet another leader of change in Sierra Leone.