Living Sierra Leone

28 Jul

Journal #4

Paul waiting for the ferry in Yele

After spending just over two weeks in Sierra Leone, the Project Yele team is about half-way through its expedition and has already overcome some difficult obstacles, but has also advanced significantly in its objectives.

(Tough) encounter with the immigration authorities

After visiting households (and finding one with 23 members) and interviewing locals for a better understanding of needs and priorities, Paul, Mauricio and Tori received and unexpected visit from 4 immigration officers and 2 armed guards.  With a very aggressive attitude, they ask the 3 members of the team for their passports, not accepting photocopies. Unsatisfied, they began to fill in criminal offense forms without providing any explanation and place all three passports in an envelope and drive away.

In panic, they jump in a car and follow them, while contacting the American, Dutch and Colombian embassies and other lifelines for support. The US representative warned that the team members might get arrested…After a wild ride in a dirt road following the other car, they reach the Immigration Office of Makeni. By this time, they had made a lot of noise in the government, contacting consular officers and foreign consuls in a desperate attempt to find a solution.

Immigration forms

But things got out of hand. The Immigration Office Director lost his patience with an official of the American embassy, and threatened with prison and court. Meanwhile, looking out the office window, the team members of Project Yele noticed the building being surrounded by police officers. Running out of options. The final compromise: to pay for a fee and the application for residence permits. In other words: 2,600,000 Leones (almost 600$), in exchange for a promise that the passports will be returned within 10 days.

Shaken but free and safe they head back home and have a drink to calm down the nerves. The issue is still not completely resolved, but the embassies have assured that efforts are being made to get the passports back as soon as possible…

Antal having lunch with part of the team

Antal’s arrival

Having overcome this “little adventure”, the team was in shape to receive a fourth member, Antal. She has now joined her teammates in Yele , coincidently, along with Tori’s suitcase  – after 12 days! Like Paul, Antal was impressed with the many changes taken place in Yele since 2007.

Antal arrived with Don, from the Lion Heart Foundation, after a 4-hour delay because, as they later found out, their fuel tank actually contained 30% of water – a scam!

Fuel mixed with water scam

A meeting also took place with Don. He clearly has put a very efficient organization in place. The Lion Heart Foundation has done incredible work to help the community here: palm oil mill, medical center, hydro power plant and more. Now it’s Project Yele’s task to boost the commercial sector.

Getting on with the Community Bazaar

Amongst many other tasks, the team has completed a financial analysis of projected electricity consumption and pricing in Yele. The pricing is currently on a very Western model, with prices rising during the day and cheaper at night. With the hydroelectric plant launching soon, the allocation may change.

Containers that could be recycled for the Community Bazaar

As well as refining the products and services that would be provided at the Bazaar, they have mapped and measured the bazaar site with a GPS, and carried out a recount of all the businesses in Yele:  close to 100 shops, which they all marked on a map.

In a few occasions the team has resorted to the Expert Support Team, coordinated by Anna, member of the team, from the US. The Expert Support Team are a group of volunteer collaborators available to answer any questions related to technical issues or any kind of unanticipated challenges, as was the case last week, in search of architectural expertise on how to recycle a large container into a potential shop (a new initiative in the project design). If you wish to know more about the Expert Support Team, please contact

Snake killed by caretaker

Encounters with local wildlife

As well as getting to know the locals, the team is getting to know the local wildlife. At least that was Paul’s experience when he found a large brown snake. “One of the really bad ones”, according to Emanuel, the compound caretaker, who calmly but decidedly whacked it on the head with a metal bar. The result can be seen in the picture…

Lunch with the paramount chief of Yele

Lunch with paramount chief of Yele

The week culminated with an invitation to the paramount chief of Yele for lunch. He shared his faith in the team to help the community of Yele, and offered his cooperation. He assured that any problems regarding the land would be dealt with, as he trusted the team was working for the good of Yele.

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.

Have a look at our Photo Gallery!


3 Responses to “Living Sierra Leone”

  1. Leid Zejnilovic July 29, 2011 at 21:08 #

    Kind hearts with good intentions will open closed doors. Keep up good people.

  2. Gustavo Gomez July 29, 2011 at 04:55 #

    CONGRATULATIONS. You are doing the best. Hope things will come out as expected.


  1. Getting on with the Yele Community Bazaar « Project Yele: Visit to Yele 2011 - July 31, 2011

    […] Good news has arrived to the town of Yele, as Don from the Lion Heart Foundation, and the Paramount Chief of Yele arrived with the three passports, confiscated a few days before. […]

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