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

Video Positive Messaging Helps Revamp Ethiopia's Image

In country once connected with war, poverty, famine, headlines now focus on fast-growing economy, diplomatic reputation More

Russian Activist Thinks Kremlin Ordered Nemtsov's Death

Alexei Navalny says comments of Russian liberals who think government wasn't involved are 'nonsense.' More

Video Land Disputes Rise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers 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.
Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Imagei
X
Marthe van der Wolf
March 03, 2015 9:03 PM
Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More