Why We Work in Sierra Leone?
Sierra Leone is home to the third largest port in the world. Rich in minerals deposits such as gold and bauxite, diamond fields cover nearly 8,000 square miles of the country. With sixteen different ethnic groups, each with its own language, Sierra Leone is incredibly diverse. Despite its rich natural and cultural diversity, Sierra Leone remains one of the poorest countries in the world today.
With a population of over 6 million people, an estimated 70% of the population lives on less than $1 per day. Life expectancy is 56 years and infant mortality is among the highest in the world. Out of every 1,000 births, 77 will not survive their first birthday. Sierra Leone is currently ranked 177 out of 187 countries listed by the Human Development Index (a measurement of quality of life for countries worldwide).
Access to Water
Sierra Leone has a mean rainfall of 2,526 mm per year and is one of the most water rich countries in the region. However, only 2% of the population has access to a safe water source in rural areas. With 75% of the population currently residing outside of cities, this amounts to 4 million people depending on unsafe sources of water such as rivers and standing bodies of water. As a result, there is a high prevalence of waterborne diseases such as cholera and dysentery.
Access to Sanitation
Compounding the lack of safe water sources is the lack of sanitation infrastructure. An estimated 87% of the population lack access to a safe toilet. As a result, 27% of the population use shared latrines while 28% practice open defecation. This increases the incidence of waterborne diseases and illnesses causing children to miss school, impairing the development of toddlers, and contributing to the high infant mortality rate.
Access to Electricity
According to Francis Ato-Brown, World Bank Country Manager, “Overcoming the monumental challenges of improving access and quality of power supply is of critical importance for enhancing economic transformation in Sierra Leone.” However, less than 10% of Sierra Leone’s population has access to electricity. Sierra Leone’s capacity to produce electricity stands a 30 kilohertz per capita (compared to an average of 541 kilohertz per capita in the region of West Africa). An estimated 1% of the population in rural areas has access to electricity resulting in the use of pollution-causing generators to power homes and schools.
So why do we work in Sierra Leone?
The real reason we work in Sierra Leone is because of the people. We have been working with communities there for four years as a recognized non-profit organization and our trip leaders have been traveling there for over ten years. We work in Sierra Leone because we draw strength from the connections we have established with key institutions within communities such as hospitals and schools. By implementing our projects at these institutions, we are able to touch the lives of more people within a community in a sustainable way.
We implement targeted interventions that from the moment they are installed are able to make real changes and impact livelihoods. We focus on projects that can make lasting impacts in communities and contribute toward economic growth, public health, and poverty alleviation. We continue to pay it forward by enabling students and volunteers to take part in the process. By working in Sierra Leone, we offer students the opportunity to learn about sustainable development in one of the world’s poorest (and yet richest) countries in the world where they can connect with communities and contribute to change one project at a time.
Please click here to join us in continuing and expanding our work within Sierra Leone and beyond.