I am sitting on a plane heading back to Los Angeles after a month away from home, the first three in London for one job and the last in Sierra Leone for Global Girl Project. One couldn’t pick two different environments if that was your only goal. London, the land of everything and everyone, and Sierra Leone, the land of only what you need and not an ounce of excess. Sierra Leone is our new partner country for our 2018 exchange program. We are so grateful to be collaborating with The Kposowa Foundation and Sierra Leone Rising, who run a multitude of community development projects in Bumpe. Bumpe is a small village of 15,000 people and is located about a 5 hour drive north of the capital, Freetown. Bumpe is what most of you may picture when you imagine a village somewhere on the African continent. It is a village where most live with no running water and no electricity. There are a few water pumps that residents access but all seem be in a state of disrepair, leaving residents with unclean drinking water for their families. From a western perspective there are many things not ok with this situation but what you may not see is the sheer determination and dedication from both its oldest and youngest members to be a part of changing their community for the better. There is a real feeling and knowing of connection in this small community that you will rarely experience in a large city or perhaps even a smaller town in the West.
I was fortunate enough to be welcomed into Bumpe by the head of this Chieftom and his family, and therefore, experience first hand the strength of this community. I was there to interview 10 girls from Bumpe High School who had applied to Global Girl Project’s 2018 program because they wanted to be a part of making a difference in their community. Each girl that I chatted with expressed concern about the same three interconnected issues, early marriage, teen pregnancy, and lack of education for girls. Each young woman wanted to learn how they could truly make a difference within these issues and change the lives of their peers. The two girls that I finally selected for our upcoming program both demonstrated so much passion and excitement to learn to live as role models and change-makers in their communities. This will be a very challenging path for them both, as neither of them have left their small village, eaten food different from their own, or seen people that look a bit different than them. But the true challenge will lie in standing out within their community as young women who want to and are working towards something different. To be different, to be misunderstood can be so difficult, however, both of these girls can rely on the knowing that they are being their most authentic selves and standing up for what they believe to be right and true. I feel blessed to be a part of this journey with them.