Volunteering in Sierra Leone
Thursday, 07 August 2008 11:11
I am writing this having just returned from my visit to Sierra Leone as a Voluntary Service Organisation (VSO) volunteer. The 8 days I spent there were both inspiring and humbling. Read more...
Sierra Leone has recently come out of an extremely bloody eleven year civil war. But since the war ended there have been two general elections (including a change of government) which occurred without any major problems and also the first ever council elections.
I am proud to say that it was British politicians who took the brave decision to step in and stop the civil war in May 2000. It was also British politicians, with the permission of British voters, who have taken the decision over the last few years to help redevelop and rebuild Sierra Leone.
The UK is the single biggest bi-lateral donor to Sierra Leone and works with many British, international and local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) as well as the civil government to help build the capacity of local groups and civic society generally. But of course, there is still more to be done.
During my stay I used my background as a Human Rights lawyer and ex-Chair of Liberty to train advocates, paralegals, field officers and volunteers at the Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (CDHR) on human rights, working with politicians, lobbying and advocacy.
I also worked with local chiefs (who are heads of remote rural areas called chiefdoms), local members of parliament and local councillors on how to improve participation of local residents and improving the flow of information between representatives and constituents.
There are particular issues in Sierra Leone to do with women’s rights and the education of girls and I was particularly pleased to join groups dealing with these problems when I visited the chiefdoms.
I was bowled over by the commitment and dedication shown by the fourteen VSO volunteers I met in the various local groups that they were involved in. My pride in the work they do was compounded when I met a Tooting resident, Susie, who is a nurse at St George’s hospital who has decided to be a volunteer for two years in one of the poorest places in the world.
All of the VSO volunteers I met had a great impact on me and I particularly want to mention two other Londoners, Diya Mukarji and James Boyle, who are the best ambassadors that our country could hope for in West Africa.
You can read more about my trip, the work the VSO do, and see some pictures (the best bit!) HERE
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