News / Africa

Peace Corps Making a Difference Again in Sierra Leone

Amanda Pease, a science teacher,  is one of the first volunteers to work in Sierra Leone in over a decade
Amanda Pease, a science teacher, is one of the first volunteers to work in Sierra Leone in over a decade

Multimedia

Audio
Fid Thompson

Fifteen years after pulling out because of Sierra Leone’s civil war, Peace Corps volunteers are back in the West African nation. A look at the organization's work as the Peace Corps marks its 50th anniversary this year, March 1st.

Amanda Pease is one of the first Peace Corps volunteers to work in Sierra Leone in over a decade. She has been teaching science now for six months at St. Joseph’s, a high school in the east of the country.

For Pease, living in the roadside village of Blama, a day’s drive from the capital, Freetown, is a far cry from her coastal hometown of San Diego, California. It is also her first time to Africa.

Pease decided to sign up for a two-year stint as a Peace Corps volunteer after finishing a degree in Chemical Engineering at the University of California Los Angeles.

"I was trying to decide between going the academic route and doing a postdoctoral degree and go into industry and then I had been doing some volunteer work and the idea was always kind of floating around," Pease said. "There was kind of an option number three on the side, and as time went on and I thought about it more and more, I was so much more excited about that option. Just the idea of trying to give an opportunity to someone who would not maybe have it."

There are 37 Peace Corps members serving in rural schools across the country. Joel Wallach, co-director for Peace Corps here, says they have a long history in Sierra Leone.

"Sierra Leone has traditionally been a very welcoming country to the Peace Corps," said Wallach. "And there have been about 3400 volunteers in a 32-year history, up until 1994. We had been thinking about coming back for a few years, but a combination of the budget allowing us to and the security situation stabilizing made the timing right last year for us to come back."

 

In Blama, every day Pease comes home to a gaggle of young friends eager for her time.

But before she plays, she marks her students’ papers. As the school’s only Chemistry and Physics teacher, she has a lot to do.

As efforts to get more children through primary school in Sierra Leone are bearing fruit, many high schools are now overloaded with students. Science teachers are particularly scarce.

For Pease, one of the most surprising and challenging things about her experience so far is the lack of motivation among her colleagues and students.

"I had sort of a romantic idea coming to a developing country where everyone is super motivated but just does not have opportunity, " said Pease. "And that is not exactly how it is. Not that I am saying the opportunities are so great, because of course there are limited opportunities compared to America, but I think one of the biggest things is literally just motivation."

For St. Joseph’s deputy principal, Walter Sam, Peace Corps’ return to Sierra Leone is a welcome support to the challenges of providing quality education in difficult conditions.

"Oh, we have benefited immensely," Sam said. "In these two areas, from the year 2000 up to when Amanda came now, we have been hiring teachers on a part-time basis, paying them. So with the coming of Amanda, the school has really cut down on hiring those ones [people], especially in chemistry and physics."

What Pease loves best about her Peace Corps experience is the magical moment when a student understands chemical bonding or asks her for more exercises.

Pease says if she can do anything in her two years here, she hopes to be able to pass on the ‘can-do’ culture of her homeland and to absorb the joys of Sierra Leone’s slower pace of life.

You May Like

Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Paradei
X
Anush Avetisyan
November 26, 2014 10:57 PM
Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid