Sierra Leone in Africa

History | Language | Economy | Climate
Travel Preparation | Immunisations and Health

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Early Sierra Leone history is very unclear. What is known is that most of the people groups that make it up today arrived in the country around and after 1400. Sierra Leone was first visited by Portuguese navigators in the 1400's. By the 17th century British traders became increasingly prominent in SL. In the 1780's land was bought from local chiefs by English philanthropists who established settlements for freed slaves. The land purchased including what is now Freetown and the entire peninsular area in the western part of the country became a British Colony in 1808. The rest of the country became a British protectorate in 1896. The entire country was declared independent within the Commonwealth in 1961 with Sir Milton Margai as the first Prime Minister. Sierra Leone became a republic in 1971 with Siaka Stevens as the first president.

After Independence in 1961 successive governments were dominated by a small political elite who exclusively profited from the lucrative trade in diamonds. Little of this national income trickled down to benefit the rest of the population

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Freetown is the capital and largest city of Sierra Leone, a country in West Africa. It is a major port city on the Atlantic Ocean located in the Western Area of the country and with a population of 1,070,200. The city is the economic, financial, and cultural center of Sierra Leone. Many of the country's largest corporations locate their headquarters' home offices in Freetown as well as the majority of international companies. The city's economy revolves largely around its fine natural harbor, which is the largest natural harbor on the continent of Africa. Queen Elizabeth II Quay is capable of receiving oceangoing vessels and handles Sierra Leone's main exports.

Reacting to a system of exclusive patronage, a political outsider, Foday Sankoh, formed the RUF (Revolutionary United Front), and started an armed insurrection. Rebel leader and later president of neighbouring Liberia, Charles Taylor, backed the RUF. Dissatisfied with the government, the military took power in 1991. By 1996, foreign and domestic pressure forced the provisional governing council to hold general elections despite the bush war. A civilian, Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, became the first freely elected President for 34 years. Within a year a group of renegade officers forced his government to flee the country.

President Kabbah regained power in March 1998 with the assistance of foreign mercenaries and ECOMOG, an armed intervention force sponsored by ECOWAS (Economic Organization of West African States). The military junta retreated to the bush and became a second rebel faction. In uneasy co-operation with the RUF, the rebel armies financed their participation in the war by mining and selling diamonds through Liberia. A surprise rebel attack in January 1999 temporarily wrestled half of Freetown from ECOMOG. The insurgents destroyed much of the town before being beaten back. The brutality of this war and mans inhumanity to man is indescribable.

Following a British invasion, all parties agreed to a regionally brokered cease-fire signed in Togo in 1999. It included an amnesty for all the crimes and human rights abuses committed during the war and a framework for the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of all participants in the conflict.. The United Nations Security Council passed a resolution in October 1999 to provide an armed peace keeping force.

The war officially finished in 2001 and the country has been at peace since then. The British and UN troops form the background to the security though today in Freetown, one moves around freely. Police do not carry guns.


In Freetown many speak English. The trade language is Krio which is a corruption of English but enables people from many ethnic backgrounds to communicate. Translators are sometimes helpful.


Official Name - Republic of Sierra Leone President - Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah Government - Democratic Republic Population - 5 million Area - 71,422 sq km Official Language - English, Other main languages Krio, Mende, Temne Literacy - 23% Life Expectancy - 42 yrs (women), & 37 yrs (men) Infant Mortality - 182 deaths per 1000 live births Religion - 65% animism (i.e. voodoo), 15% Muslim, and 20% Christian Currency - The Leone Exchange rate - 1 = 5,100 Leones (August 2005) - $1 = 2,900 Leones (August 2005) Natural Resources Diamonds, bauxite, iron ore. Average Income - US $300 p/a.


Sierra Leone is located in the tropics, so conditions are hot and humid throughout the year. (May to December) is the rainy season, while (December to April) is the dry season. The hottest month is March and the rainfall in July and August is significant.

Travel Preparation

 When travelling, it is easy to forget to exercise the same caution that we do at home. Here are a few things to remember:-

  • Keep a copy of your passport in your luggage in case your passport is stolen or lost.
  • Don't bring anything with you that you could not afford to loose.
  • Do not leave luggage unattended in any public areas.
  • Keep a watch on any valuables (eg. cameras) that you do bring.
  • It is advisable not to venture out on your own (ladies especially). Go with a group of 3 or more.
  • In crowded places, and when walking around, be discrete with valuable cameras and wallets are easy targets for thieves.
  • Drink plenty of water at all times to avoid dehydration.
  • Remember to dress modestly so as not to cause offence.
  • Do not moan or criticise the country, the people or the food. If you are having problems see your team leader who will do all they can to help.
  • Don't drive yourself to exhaustion on the worksite. Take a break, and spend some time with the children etc. Its easy to become dehydrated in the heat and to overdo it. Just take it at your own pace.


Immunisations and Health

It is advised to consult your own doctor as to what immunisations to take before visiting any country. They work off nationwide advice but some folk have medical conditions that prohibit certain injections, e.g. an egg allergy would prevent Yellow Fever inoculations. This is important to do at an early stage.

Sierra Leone is in a Yellow fever zone and occasionally you may be required to show proof of yellow fever injection. Your doctor will provide you with such a certificate when you have the injection. Even though it can be expensive (circa 40) this last 10 years.

We expect all our volunteers to be covered for malaria and strongly advise you to be on a malaria prophylactic for your time in the countries we visit. There are a number on the market and some are considered problematic, especially if one has suffered depression. Please consult your medical advisers early and start taking the tablets in plenty of time.

Donate your furniture

Your donations are very valuable to us and all your donations make a huge difference helping us to raise the required funds. Items such as Clothes, Shoes, Handbags, Accessories, Books, CDs & DVDs, Toys, Furniture and Electricals. Everything makes a difference.

Volunteer for our charity

Meet new people, attain new skills, fill up your time and give something back to the community. Volunteer for our charity and help make a difference. We are always looking for retail, porters, drivers, admin and web designers/bloggers.

Latest News

September 06, 2010
News update
Over the past week we have had an average of ten daily house hold donations through to our office, ranging from small items to full house clearances. We've also had many donations bought into our shop and we would like to thank all the people for their kind donations. This in turn benefits the children of Sierra Leone, who are eternally gratetful for your kindness.


The charity has a large turnover of volunteers for work experience purposes. We constantly need to fulfill these job roles to keep the organisation running on minimum costs. We would appreciate any volunteers who would like to gain experience in any of the following areas: Shop assistants, furniture removers, cleaners, secretarial administrators, website designers, SEO administrators, flash animators, image manipulators, sales and advertising. ( Anyone interested gaining experience in website design would benefit greatly from working in on going real world environment. This could coincide with educational training to further benefit your job prospects)


A trainee required to learn under an experienced joiner/carpenter. If you are interested in this role you could be presently on a course of education or thinking about studying. You could benefit from gaining real world experience by volunteering for this position.

Apprenticeships are available in any of the above volunteer roles as you can work for our organisation and gain experience while studying.

August 31, 2010
There will hopefully be two new volunteers, a secretary assistant and a shop assistant joining our team this week. We have been donated three pianos and an organ as well as a huge trampoline! (approximately 13 ft in diameter) which is in a good condition.

August 23, 2010
Hope Direct Charity has currently taken on seven new volunteers who are helping out with the administration and computing aspects of our organisation. We are still currently seeking more volunteers to join our team. We also have shop assistants, drivers, secretary/PA's, furniture removers, floor walkers, antiques appraisers, security and cleaners who are volunteering for us and we are in constant demand for more volunteers in these areas.

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