Freetown, Baby!

Give and go by jc2010sl
September 16, 2010, 3:18 pm
Filed under: society, Uncategorized

I’ve seen a couple of fascinating surveys in the last few weeks that have revealed something of the two sides of Sierra Leone.

The first I was a poll from Gallup about where people would live if there were no border controls. Perhaps unsurprisingly given that it’s one of the poorest countries in the world Sierra Leone “topped” the list for nations people wanted to leave. Given the choice, 56% of adults would leave Sierra Leone. That’s a pretty shocking statistic when you think about it. Imagine if every other person wanted to leave the UK because they thought they could make a better life somewhere else.

And yet, despite the hardships faced by the people of Salone there is an incredible warmth. I always found guide books more than a little patronising when they talked of the “friendliness of the locals”, but I have found myself saying it of Salones over and over.

Apparently this isn’t just my impression of the place. According to the World Giving Index, Salones are the eleventh most generous people on earth, only 3 places behind the UK. One of the measures that makes up the ranking is people helping strangers. I’ve been on the receiving end of assistance countless times, and in the oddest of situations. On one occasion, my driver took us over a large stone and the car got stuck. A man helped dislodge the item, and once we’d reversed, took it out of the road to clear our path. He wandered off without even so much as waiting to see if we’d give him any money, let alone asking for any. The government too has been generous without expectation of reward. After the Haitian earthquake the Government of Sierra Leone made a donation to the people of Haiti, despite the dire need at home.

Generosity like this, despite the state the country finds itself in, renews one’s faith in the place and gives you a new determination to make whatever small contribution you can.



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