Late last week, Charlie, Yanoh, Joanne and Majeks arrived in Freetown. For some it was their first time in West Africa, for others – a return to their family’s home.
Joanne and Charlie were the first to arrive in the house, and managed to get an excellent night’s sleep before Yanoh joined them the following day. Despite the lack of WiFi in the house, the professors were quick to send London HQ a photo of their spectacular view.
A cloth shop in Freetown
The view was just the start of what Freetown and Sierra Leone had in store for our volunteers. The three professors, and our co-founder Majeks spent a wonderful weekend getting to know Freetown a little bit better. Despite the heavy rain and sporadic WiFi, the group was having a wonderful time roaming the streets of Freetown, and exploring the local food. The PROWIBO staff even got to see some Sunday evening football being played on the beach!
Expectations were mixed about what was to come on Monday.
Yanoh wrote to us: “I am not quite sure what to expect, working in a developing country before I do expect there will be some logistical and administrative challenges. However I believe that we have a great team and we will be able to work across those barriers. I think my biggest personal challenge will be trying to make an impact in such a short time. But I am confident that with the work of all the team members and lecturers we will succeed. “
I expect a beautiful seaside city with miles of white beaches and faded colonial architecture dripping in monsoon rains. I expect environmental degradation, problematic sanitation, lack of clean water, open sewers, limited internet, unreliable electricity, and unemployed youths hoping for a better future. I expect open, friendly people and a ready smile. I expect a staggering wealth gap—the winners and losers from globalization watching one another from across a widening chasm—and a cultural gap between a global ex-pat community laughing in trendy bars and cafés, eating pizza and drinking cold beer, and their local counterparts living parallel lives. I expect a region still brimming with untold natural wonders, still relatively unexplored. – Joanne
Before our team left we asked each of them what they were packing to “survive” their two weeks abroad. Answers varied!
Into the suitcase goes: light summer clothing, bug spray, sunblock, swim suit, sneakers, rainproof jacket, mosquito netting, and wellies. For days when the spicy food becomes a bit too much, I have instant oatmeal, Ritz crackers, peanut butter, instant coffee, vitamins, and breakfast bars. Just in case, I have packed paracetamol, ibuprofen, Band-Aids, diarrheal medicine, Malarone, cortisone cream, and anti-bacterial wipes. Finally: kindle, travel guide, unlocked old mobile phone, and laptop. – Joanne
Malaria medicine and mosquito spray! – Yanoh
Packing for this year’s program was slightly easier for the 2017 team, since the lovely professors from our pilot program last year were very happy to share their experiences and offer their advice! You can find out more about last year’s team by clicking here.