Hi, My name is Siv Soerum Farm and I am 24 years old, from Lom and live in Oslo. I have been to Sierra Leone twice.
I am an educated kindergarten teacher, and it was through fieldwork and observation practice I got the opportunity to travel to Sierra Leone for the first time. In February 2012, we were six students from Volda University College who traveled. We left with experience only from Norwegian kindergartens and little knowledge of African culture, but with a great desire to experience something really special and unique.
The first meeting with Sierra Leone was on top of the flight stairs. The hot, clammy air that filled the lungs. I think I fell in love already then. Pants glued to the body, and the shoal of people laughed and chattered; staring, but smiled welcoming us. At the airport, we were well received, and what little concern we had, disappeared. Overwhelmed by the heat and the crowds, we were led to small buses these drove us to the ferry we would take to Freetown. On the way, we had our first meeting with the children. Big brown eyes and smiling mouths with chalk white teeth. They wanted to hold our hands, hug, and cuddle, touch our white skin, and they willingly lined up to be photographed. Trusting and loving.
The morning after we woke up to the rooster crowing, and by the air-condition turning off with a groan. "I am in Africa". We saw Lumley in daylight for the first time and it was beautiful. The honking mopeds and playing children, all a part of this amazing journey I was about to take. The first meeting with students and teachers at Diamond Queen Primary Community School would be that morning.
We were warmly received and welcomed with prayer and song. The kids were so open, lovely and kind. The teachers were grateful, humble and friendly. "It takes a village to raise a child", headmaster Miss Melrose told me. A lady who has sacrificed a lot in order for these children to have a school to go to. And that was what was obvious - the cohesion of society, and how they all looked after each other.
During our stay, I met so many great people. With sad stories, but with a desire to put the hurt behind them and look ahead. People who have seen and experienced so much pain, but who smiles and asks ME how I AM doing. It puts things in perspective.
When I came home to Norway I was changed. Both my personal attitude and values, but also towards the society we live in. I was sad, happy and angry, and missed Sierra Leone intensely and fervently!
As a graduated kindergarten teacher, and with a good job as a teacher in a Norwegian kindergarten, I was mainly satisfied and content. But something was missing. I had already decided to go back to Sierra Leone, and in January 2013 I sat on a plane again. This time along with two other educated kindergarten teachers. We were going to work with educational guidance at a school for nine weeks! These nine weeks were amazing. We worked at the school, laid on the beach, bought finished popped popcorn at Ellens, went hiking in the area, went to Rotifunk two weeks, bathed in small ponds and lived life "African style". Lovely!
The trips to Sierra Leone have given me a lot. I have gained a greater understanding of culture, which clearly has been an advantage in my work with children. I have learned to appreciate the little things in life more, the friends and family. The travels have also proven to be advantageous to put on your resume. Moreover, I have learned to dare to dance my heart out!
One can look at pictures, daydream, but nothing is like actually being there. Smells and sounds that will forever remind me of a trip that made me a better person. Thanks to Alton Bendu and FNSL that made it possible for me to experience Sierra Leone. For anyone who wants an experience of a lifetime - go to Sierra Leone! It is highly recommended! I have not regretted a second.
Siv Soerum Farm