Hi, my name is Victoria Poon Sundvor and in 2012 I was lucky enough to live in Sierra Leone for two months through FNSL with Alton Bendu in charge. At the secondary school I attended, Ullern high school, I was involved in something called the U project where we collected money for Prosperity Girls High School in Rotifunk, Sierra Leone. Through taking part in the U-project I was, during Easter 2010, allowed to participate on a 10 day trip to the wonderful, smiling country. I remember that back then I talked about the journey being the most wonderful, rewarding and incredible thing I had experienced. I was left with good friends, memories and strong impressions that gave me a new perspective on life. When we took our tearful goodbye with the Sierra Leone boys I said, "I promise, I'll come back!" and that was a promise I knew I would keep. I did not know much about what I was going to pursue in the future, but one thing I knew - I had to go back, but this time over a longer period. That is why during my year off between high school and higher studies I, along with six others, returned to Sierra Leone and there we stayed for more than two months. The trip is impossible to describe, and just sitting here writing about it makes me nostalgic. Not a day goes by where I am longing to go back, and I know again that I must return - and hopefully soon!
I will never forget those two months. I am left with something I know is going to be lifelong friendships and memories. I will never forget, and every day I think about my friendship with the Sierra Leone boys, the teeming life in Freetown, the relaxing life in Rotifunk and not least the Prosperity - girls who eagerly told us about their dreams for the future, which now could come true. We were in Rotifunk during the weekdays, where we held two classes a day - either a computer class or sexual health class, in addition to an activity hour with different types of play, sport or hobby. It was really fun to see the progress the girls made on their computers, from never having seen a computer before to being able to use it for certain elementary things in just under two months of classes. In Rotifunk we stayed in good standard nursing homes, where our evenings were filled with quality time with our Sierra Leone friends, football games with the local children or relaxation - countless books were read during the sunset in the beautiful village. On the weekends we were in Freetown, here we lived in a house just a stone throw away from the beach. We spent the weekends taking part in the cultural life of the capital, which involved both visits to the National Museum, markets, nightlife and various stunning beaches.
When it comes to the down practical stuff this approach worked perfectly. A few days in the village Rotifunk followed by some relaxing days in Freetown was for me absolutely superb. Moreover, I felt very safe in Sierra Leone, much safer than both what my parents and I myself were prepared for. The locally known, wonderful boys always looked out for us and made sure we never walked alone. In addition to that, they made sure I never felt unsafe, we became such good friends and I still have good contact with them now two years later. I can honestly say that staying in Sierra Leone, even for just two months, has been the most fantastic thing I have ever experienced. The trip was not just about seeing an underdeveloped Sierra Leone, as a poor, war-affected country in great need of foreign aid. But we also got to see a country that has had great progress since the war, which was absolutely amazing to see when news of progress in Africa does not reach far, considering that news and media are often filled with clichés, prejudices, and myths.
We met people who in spite of adversity said "no problem", where everyone wanted to be your friend and called you sister (or brother), we saw patience that never ended, we got to meet people who really have the ability to endure, who have endured, but who is still smiling their big beautiful smile all the time. My Sierra Leone friends are my heroes - the most inspiring people I have ever met! Now it has been almost exactly two years since I came home from Sierra Leone, and I still often think about how much the country has meant to me. After my year off I started NHH to take a business administration degree, much due to my plan to take a master's degree with a focus on sustainable development here. In 2013 I was so lucky to be the leader of NHH Aid - Norway’s largest student-run aid organization. This is a position I would never have received without the experience of Sierra Leone and my work with the U-project through the association Norway - Sierra Leone. Life in Sierra Leone was absolutely fantastic, and as previously written I long back every single day. All the experiences I have had in connection with Sierra Leone have made me feel like the luckiest human being. I know I'm going to go back, and not just once.
Victoria Poon Sundvor