I took a 6 month sabbatical and went to Sierra Leone for 2 months to work for a charity called EducAid. I stayed in a girl’s safe house in a small rural village called Maronka and taught boys and girls aged 10-15 basic reading, writing and simple arithmetic.
|Diana and Maronka pupils|
Memorable moments - goats and chickens wandering into the classrooms. My bucket showers outside were the best. Friday evenings singing and dancing with the girls and the beautiful sunsets in the evenings.
Highs and Lows – greens and rice almost EVERYDAY. Walking 3 miles to the nearest village; no TV, (didn’t miss it). Electricity 3 hours a day, lights out at 10pm. Finding a lizard lounging on my bed - not sure who was more frightened, me or the lizard!!
I set up a couple of workshops, one for the older girls called Positive Black Women, to help empower and raise self esteem and an IT training workshop to help teachers and students enhance their IT knowledge.
I visited the National Museum based in Freetown which sits under the famous Cotton Tree.
I have over 200 pictures of memories, but those standstill, split seconds in time are just a slice of what I took away from my trip. Despite many challenges, it was an amazing life changing experience and feel very blessed to have had this opportunity and I would recommend it to anyone to go for it!
|Matthew steady now........|
Volunteering abroad with a small, hands on charity like EducAid is something that I have always wanted to do and so the morning of the flight out there I was more excited than nervous (and pretty hung-over as it was new year’s day!). The culture and way of life is very different and if you are travelling out to Sierra Leone for the first time there is no denying that it is a shock to the system. I would describe the country as organised chaos, people generally know what they are doing but it often does not look like it!
Working with the students and teachers of EducAid was an amazing experience; everyone is so warm, welcoming and willing to go out of their way to help you. The students are so keen to learn and draw on any knowledge that you can offer you that it inspires you to work as hard as you can to give them as much as you can. I recall several nights falling asleep whilst marking tests or writing resources but the thanks and genuine appreciation of the students makes it worth it. I was so impressed by their attitude that on returning to the UK I have stayed involved as much as I can, participating in the EducAid bike ride (that is a long story in itself!) and re-writing their biology resources which I have now printed and sent over to them.
I think you have to go into an experience like this with the attitude that there will be low points such as eating the same meal every day for 4 weeks, intensely hot nights and the thing that touched me the most, ill students that you can only try and help to the best of your ability with very little resources. The thing to remember is, the positives massively outweigh the negatives; drinking palm wine in the evening under the stars with the village elder, learning to climb a palm tree, taking part in sports day, successfully treating very ill students, making a connection with that child who cannot speak your language and has issues trusting men, sharing traditional street food with the teachers, taking a group of students to watch football, getting a little bit merry drinking star beer on the beach front, I could go on.
The friends that I have made out there that are still going out of their way to contact me when they can, continually inspire me to want to go back and once I have finished my chemistry PGCE I fully intend to return to Sierra Leone to do further work with what feels like a second family.
If you want to know more about our work, get involved or you know of someone else who would like to volunteer or support our work or if you have items you would like to donate please email us at
If you want to make a donation please go to www.educaid.org.uk and click on the mydonate button. Remember it costs £15 per month to educate and feed a child, that is a pizza and a drink in the UK. The best gift you could give us is to sign up for a direct debit of £15 per month.
If you are interested in knowing more about EducAid's work with vulnerable young people, please go to
Its time for change worldwide and small small steps make big big change, keep supporting our girls and girls worldwide ; )