OneVillage Partners coordinates periodic service learning trips for 15-20 interested individuals to rural Sierra Leone. Travelers are excited global citizens, eager to experience village life, and eager to form friendships with hardworking Sierra Leoneans. The 2 week trip is an opportunity for travelers to engage with the developing world, gain insight into the lives of people who live on less than a dollar a day, and act as a catalyst for personal reflection and introspection.
Travelers to Sierra Leone will see a beautiful, lush country with resilient and dedicated people. Beginning in 1991, Sierra Leoneans experienced a civil war in which numerous human rights abuses occurred. The 3 villages were destroyed as rebel fronts moved across the country towards the capital. Villagers fled to refugee camps in neighboring Guinea yet many lost family members or underwent emotional and/or physical trauma. International metrics often place Sierra Leone at or near the bottom of all developing countries. The Human Development Index (HDI) is a metric designed to provide an overall measurement of well-being. It combines life expectancy, educational attainment levels, and economic purchasing power. In 2009, Sierra Leone was ranked 180th out of 182 countries around the world, followed only by Afghanistan and Niger. Still even within Sierra Leone, large divides between urban and rural living exist. Despite extreme poverty compounded by civil war, during the week long homestay in the villages, travelers will have an opportunity to share their lives with the villagers and vice versa over dinners, card games, fireside chats, and more.
Travelers are assigned to a program area (Water & Sanitation, Health, Education, Agriculture, and/or Income Generation) depending on their training and expertise. For interested individuals that do not have a particular skill, OneVillage will work with you to best match your skill set with our needs. Historically, travelers without a technical skill have been able to assist in Water & Sanitation, Education, and Health.
During the village homestay, the group is divided between the 3 villages and placed with a family. The traveling group often gathers for lunch to debrief and discuss. During the days, travelers will participate in meetings with village committees, which exist for each program area, to discuss issues and methods for improvement.
The trip serves numerous functions:
- Cultural exchange:
The villagers and travelers have ample opportunity to learn from one another and share meals with people culturally different from themselves.
- Work towards global equity:
The travelers are able to provide service to the villages and villagers, playing a key role in the development of a rural village. Conversely, the villagers are able to meet some of the people who support the improvements in the villages.
- Impact assessment:
Travelers are able to see the immediate impact OneVillage programming has on village life, OneVillage staff are able to review activities and programs executed, and with this knowledge, travelers often become advocates for the villages.
“People here don’t dwell on tragedy, they don’t talk about lost children or what happened to them during the war. They are preoccupied with survival, yet they are friendly and accepting beyond description. I can’t remember the last time I drove by people in a car and they all waved, or when I walked up to someone’s house and they got up to give you their chair. I think I’m going to miss that.” – Brian Siska, Traveler 2009