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
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Turkish Law Gives Spy Agency Controversial Powers

Parliament approves legislation to bolster powers of intelligence service, which government claims is necessary to modernize and deal with new threats Turkey faces More

Video Face of American Farmer Changing

Average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population 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.
Face of American Farmer is Changingi
X
Mike Osborne
April 18, 2014
The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid