20 May 2010

SL Trailblazing

In January 1962, 37 education volunteers blazed a new Peace Corps trail into the West African country of Sierra Leone. They were the first in a country who was just learning to walk on it’s own after only nine months without the British and supported by ten month old infant organization.

“There has to be this pioneer, the individual who has the courage, the ambition to overcome the obstacles that always develop when one tires to do something worthwhile, when it’s new and different” (Alfred Sloan)

These ‘pioneers’ were launched into SL’s education system; shaping young minds throughout the country at various levels and quickly expanded into agricultural, community development and health sectors. They flourished from 1962 until the early 1990s, when they tragically hit some unexpected road blocks.

Sierra Leoneans by nature are trailblazers. Under the Brits watch, the country was unified and worked to create it’s unique but universal identity with the development of the Krio language which merged various Sierra Leone languages and adopting English has its official language. Famously known as the “Athens of West Africa”, the British utilized Sierra Leone as it’s hub for other Western African colonies and SL lead the way in medicine, law and education. Reference from my Peace Corps Welcome Book.

After decades of colonization by the British, SLs took to the ground running all on their own on April 27, 1961 and embraced many sociological and political changes. But not all change was for the better. Sierra Leone began to struggle in the early 1990s from political unrest, complications with managing their diamond exports, a decline in economic growth and governmental corruption.

"May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into the and above the clouds" (Edward Abbey).

The war has been over since 2002 and Sierra Leoneans are recovering with a growing economy, making strides in regulating its mining industry and slowly being a player in the tourism industry with hopes to attract the global community to visit its lush resources.

Once again, Peace Corps is starting a new chapter and my group of 40 is blazing a new trail for Peace Corps Sierra Leone. PC SL in the 21st century is heading back to its roots, back to an educational focus and back to helping a country learn how to walk again after being crippled for a decade. A new set of Pioneers.

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