“Welcome to the past”

14 Jul

Journal #1

After a few minor complications, delays and luggage loss, the first three members of the Project Yele Team – Mauricio, Paul and Tori – are finally settled in Sierra Leone.

Arrival at the airport

First Impressions

Paul and Mauricio arrived from Brussels and were greeted by the personnel of Lion Heart Foundation, a Dutch NGO. They immediately headed to the first stop of the journey – Freetown.

By land and sea, it took nearly three hours for them to reach the house in Freetown.

The first impressions were mixed: “Welcome to the past”, was Mauricio’s first reaction, who having seen Freetown, was a little curious to know what Yele might be like…

However Paul did notice a difference from his last visit in 2007: the light. Now, four years later, the city has more lighting, largely due to the connection with the Bumbuna hydro dam, in the North.

The challenges of traveling to Sierra Leone

The ferry from the airport

Tori arrived a day later, and after hours of delay and innumerable forms to fill in to recuperate her lost luggage, the team missed the ferryboat back to Freetown. Between the option 1) to drive through the jungle for 3 hours 2) wait 4 hours for another ferry or 3) use the speedboat, the team went for the latter. Not realizing that term “speed” boat is a euphemism…

All this, however, would not have been possible without the help and protection of friend and colleague, Edward, from the Lion Heart Foundation.

Meetings, interviews and preparations

On the third day, after having completed some of the basic administrative tasks (such as changing money and all of a sudden turning into “millionaires” – 1 Euro is approximately equivalent to 6,070 Leone), the three members of the team had meetings with representatives of Ecobank and the World Bank, which went very well. These were followed by an encounter with the Deputy Minister of Energy of Sierra Leone.

The Deputy Energy Minister with part of the Project Yele team

Some of the most useful conversations also happened in the streets. The team visited three different markets in town, and interviewed the chairman of the market cooperative, in order to get an insight on the daily challenges of the shop owners, most of them women. The main obstacle, as agreed by most, is the lack of electricity, in very high demand in this area.

We were impressed by the show of interest in the project, as dozens of people gathered around to ask questions and offer their participation.  There seems to be a great opportunity for energy services in markets in various parts of the country. Community Bazaar, here we come!

Freetown

 Meanwhile…

Antal is getting ready to join the rest of the team in a week. In the meantime, Anna will be coordinating the expedition from Boston. Amongst other things, she will be in charge of solving any problems or difficulties that may be encountered during the trip. So for any inquiries or doubts about the project, you may contact her at: anna@yele.nl

If you wish to know more about Project Yele or to contact the team, please visit the website, or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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