charity: water stories

The More You Know: Sierra Leone

We're taking you on a tour of Sierra Leone.

by Mercy Weaver

Known for its stunning beaches, extravagant diamond deposits, and renowned Cotton Tree, Sierra Leone — “Lion Mountains” — stands out as a gem in the crown of countries framing the West Coast of Africa.

Much like its southern neighbor, Liberia, Sierra Leone became an early haven for survivors of the brutal transatlantic slave trade. Its capital, aptly named Freetown, was founded in 1792 by abolitionist Lieutenant John Clarkson. Its population remains ethnically diverse, representing the descendants of slavery’s victims from throughout the whole of Africa.

Sierra Leone’s 18th-century population was filled with hope for their hard-fought, free futures. But just a short time later, in 1808, Sierra Leone was formally colonized by the British Empire. The people of Sierra Leone were forced to endure another 150 years of foreign oppression before gaining their full independence from European rule in 1961.

The scars of colonialism remain. The country’s economic development has been stifled by a series of coups and recurring political instability, including a devastating civil war from 1991 to 2002. During the conflict, more than 70,000 people were killed. At least 2.6 million more were displaced from their homes by widespread and indiscriminate violence against civilians, including the recruitment of child soldiers and weaponized sexual violence. (You can read more on Sierra Leone’s history here.)

Despite these trials, the country’s future is bright. The people of Sierra Leone — 40% of whom are under the age of 14 — are deeply invested in peace, restoration, and holistic development.

At charity: water, we feel honored to support our five local partners throughout Sierra Leone in their rigorous efforts to provide clean water and sanitation to all. Currently, 36.2% of the population lack access to safe drinking water — and a staggering 83.4% are living without basic sanitation.

The need is great, but our local partners are greater still. GOAL — the focus of 2023’s Partner Spotlight — has completed 474 water projects alongside charity: water. Combined, these water solutions serve 150,173 people!

Many of the water points that currently exist in Sierra Leone are seasonal: dependent upon alternating rains and droughts. GOAL is committed to achieving year-round access throughout the Kenema District, a region known for its exports of cocoa, coffee, furniture, and woodcarvings.

GOAL builds new wells with hand pumps, rehabilitating underperforming water points as they go. And they don’t stop there. They even utilize the Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) approach to equip rural communities to become Open Defecation Free, ensuring local residents are able to keep their water safe from human contaminants.

GOAL is a representation of the dedication of our local partners in 22 countries around the world. I’ll continue to share GOAL’s work — and stories and successes and unexpected challenges — with you in the coming months. It’s our hope that this experience reveals the true impact of your dedicated donations every month as a member of The Spring.

This initiative is a charity: water first, so there may be bumps and delays along the way. And as the newest Copywriter on our Creative team, I’ve never personally traveled to the field. You and I will be learning more about our work together. (How exciting is that?)

I’m feeling extra grateful — and a little nervous — to be your guide throughout the year.

This isn’t just a job to me. It’s deeply personal, because I believe stories shape us. They’re more powerful than statistics. More formational than a headline or post on social media. They dismantle stereotypes about countries beyond our borders and people who look and think differently from us. Stories build an intercultural awareness — and, beyond awareness, respect — that I’m especially passionate about as the child of a Nigerian immigrant.

Quite simply, stories make us better. Kinder. Quicker to listen. Slower to debate. Eager to see others win and thrive. When weaponized or exploited, they also have the potential to bring deep harm. So ethics and integrity are paramount within my work as a Copywriter and your personal storyteller.

Over the course of the next 9 months, I’ll try hard and — at times — fail hard. But I promise to do my best to share GOAL’s story will excellence, honesty, and hope. I promise to be as dedicated to generosity and compassion when I write as you are when you give each month as a member of The Spring.

So. Let’s do this thing.