Thursday, August 27, 2009

Welcome to the blog!

I am creating this blog as a way to share information and updates with family, friends, the Carleton University community, and the wider world while I am in Sierra Leone from September to December 2009. I am going to Sierra Leone to work as an intern with the Centre for Development and Peace Education (cdpeace). My internship is part of the Students for Development Program, and is funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (thank you CIDA!) and run through the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC).

A little bit of background: I put this internship together as a result of an ongoing relationship with cdpeace, developed through a Canadian NGO called Peaceful Schools International (PSI). I sit on the PSI board and got involved with helping cdpeace with fundraising work from Canada. Ever since learning about cdpeace and
their work, I have wanted to visit Sierra Leone and work with them on the ground.

This is a very hopeful time for Sierra Leone. After ten years of civil war, the country has now had almost 7 years of peace. While still ranked the second poorest country in the world with a life expectancy of 40, highest infant mortality rate, 30% of the population displaced, traumatized child combatants and victims, and a literacy rate under 30%, there has been a relative level of stability, two successful national elections, a strengthening civil society, and key issues that led to the civil war such as control of the diamond mining areas are receiving international attention and action.

In Sierra Leone, I will be living primarily in the village of Mapaki (Google earth view of Mapaki). While Mapaki may lack some of the normal modern conveniences I am used to (for example, running water), they do have a library powered by solar panels and a satellite internet connection, so I’ll be able to stay in touch via this blog, email and Skype.

I will be doing two key things as part of my internship. I will be supporting cdpeace on a peace education project, a joint project with Peaceful Schools International. This will include supporting teacher training, and facilitating communication between schools in Sierra Leone and their twinned schools in Canada and the US. I will also be helping cdpeace with more administrative and organizational work. The cdpeace buildings were unfortunately destroyed during the war, and the organization is now working on getting fully up and running again, including re-building their facilities. I will be supporting them in everything from basic computer training, to fundraising and financial management, to program set up and evaluation.

While I am in Sierra Leone, I will also be doing field work for my MA thesis (at Carleton University's Norman Paterson School of International Affairs) on barriers to accessing health care, looking at Sierra Leone as a case study. So it’s a dual purpose trip. I will be blogging about the research experience as well as my work with cdpeace.

I invite you to become involved in this journey with me in whatever way you can. Here are some suggestions:

  • Read my blog and comment on what I post!
  • Learn about Sierra Leone specifically, and Africa more generally (ask me for some good books, or check out some of the links and blogs I've posted).
  • Donate to the work of cdpeace or PSI.
  • If you are a teacher, invite me to come speak to your class when I return in January. I'm putting together a presentation suitable for students from elementary up and will, with your permission, invite students to create messages for children in Sierra Leone.
Do you have your own ideas about how to get more involved? Have you visited Sierra Leone before? Feel free to share your thoughts with me here.

1 comment:

John van Gurp said...

I'll be following this blog with great interest! You'll be in the air very soon and must be excited and eager to get underway. Best wishes, John