Sierra Leone According To Vickie

August 28th, 2011  |  by Veralyn Williams |  Published in Blog, My Two Cents, Videos

In case you don’t know I was born in Sierra Leone, was moved to America as a baby, and did not get my green card until I was 20 years old (hear my story here). And  as soon as I got my legal status here in the U.S.– I booked a flight to see my country of birth. When I went back in 2008, I met Vickie Remoe, a young Sierra Leonean who moved back to Freetown in 2007. And since meeting her, I have been following her career and the media empire she‘s built.

Now Vickie has moved back to New York City to attend Columbia’s School of Journalism, and she sat down to reflect on her 4 years living in Sierra Leone:

I hung on Vickie’s every word as I watched her: Sierra Leone Post Op video. She made MANY points, but 3 sections of this video really hit home for me:

1. Vickie on  young people in Sierra Leone:

(@10:58) Young people don’t have enough opportunities to develop and grow… to even discover what their dream is… You don’t understand what it is to not have hope, and to not believe that things will change.

Since she brought it up: On the one hand so many 20-somethings I know are struggling to find themselves and actually make a living doing what they love to do. And among my friends, we sort-of take turns pulling each other out of moments of doubt and depression because what we dream for our futures seems so impossible at times. Well on the other had– listening to Vickie I now realize what a privilege it is to even be able to dream in the first place.

2. Vickie on what the Sierra Leonean diaspora can do:

(@22:25) A lot of people in the diaspora- they want to be engaged in Sierra Leone they want to get involved… I’ve seen a lot of diaspora based NGOs (Non-governmental organization) start up… I don’t know if that kind of way of impacting change is affective… If you can’t secure a significant amount of funding- it’s going to fall apart… We need to think beyond the Non-Profit sector and perhaps think about-  how can you support someone to start a business in Sierra Leone? [or] How can you start a business in Sierra Leone?

Since she brought it up: I’ll just say it– my biggest issue with doing business in Sierra Leone or any third-world country for that matter, is the lawlessness that sometimes goes on the local level. What do I mean by that? Well in a country where there are not enough opportunities to go around- people are constantly looking for ways to get what they can today- and not enough people think about the long term benefits of having a successful local business. So for example, if I decide that I want to open a supermarket in Sierra Leone– I can’t just budget for the cost of getting my goods and building my store- I have to also budget for all the different ways people WILL try to get over, and sadly there is no real system in place to protect me as the entrepreneur.

3. Vickie on dating in Sierra Leone:

(@25:56) Relationships in Sierra Leone… I’m thinking about all my friends and all the women I know… I don’t know any of us who’s dated a man, who wasn’t already dating another woman or married to another woman… The reality is if you’re a woman and you’re moving to Sierra Leone, more likely than not- 98% of the time- you will date a guy that’s already in a relationship with somebody else. Whether you know it or not.

Since she brought it up: This is a fact I realized during my last visit to Freetown in Jan, 2010. I was reporting on dating in Sierra Leone and regardless of whether I was interviewing a young woman or an older man– I’d hear the most “out there” things when talking about expectations of fidelity on a man’s part. To be blunt: there is no real expectation. It’s more a question of: does the wife or main girlfriend feel “respected”? (ie: Her man’s infidelity should not be thrown in her face.) And when I got back and listened to some of the interviews I did- I felt guilty about depicting this side of my country to an American audience that would not understand that logic. Honestly, I don’t always understand it myself really… or should I say I can’t accept it.

To Vickie: Thank you for the last 4 years! For going back and letting me see Sierra Leone through your eyes. My question to you and to anyone reading this is: What are some solutions to the issues you brought up and the ones that I’ve seen? Where should we even start?

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