Tribewanted Sierra Leone: Six months and four days have passed since we first camped at John Obey, on the virgin beach. I now find myself heading back to NYC. Talk about a culture shock.
We have built an eco-tourism cross-cultural community from scratch. Five expats and 30 locals, solar power, permaculture gardens, water harvesting, compost toilets, bucket showers, earth-bag domes and traditional wood homes. Seventy-three tribemembers and counting have visited us from all over the world and participated in these developments, and we were financially sustainable in February for the first time. More than I would have ever imaged. It has been the most intense, humbling learning experience of my life. Living and working on the beach with a community of fishermen for 6 months, I am now conversational in Krio, I learned to appreciate the culture, I learned about sustainable community living and pushing canoes in the ocean, I learned to make a bonfire and build an environmental home, pump water from a well and make compost. I witnessed firsthand the impact that Tribewanted made on its workers and the larger John Obey community and I learned about patience, the science of peace. Although I have had them tattooed on my back for 12 years, I finally learned to appreciate the four elements. The beach and the red earth, the vibrant, untouched forest, the ocean and the lagoon, falling asleep to the sound of the waves every night. The scorching sun which gave us power and amazing sunsets, the clean air and strong winds bringing in mighty thunderstorms. I understand why it all used to be holy to our forefathers, and they just might have been right about what to worship.
I left among a wonderful celebration of rice with groundnut sauce, ginger beer, poyo (palm wine), bongos, singing, and some tears. I was glad to provide microloans for 22 of our workers before leaving, and take applications for 30 more local men and women, which we will shortly begin to promote on Tribewanted.com. I was happy to see the finished new toilets for the fishing village and help Abu (our 16-year-old apprentice earth dome builder) record his first rap song at a Freetown music studio. (he now goes by “Street Fame” at John Obey). I was happy to see the pride in Yenken’s eye (widowed, mother of three) when she showed us her new stick/mud/zinc/tarp home that Tribewanted helped her build, and finally see her kids go back school. This and much more I will miss dearly.
After six months being in the thick of it, it is my opinion that Sierra Leone has huge potential to be an example to the world in green energy and agriculture, water harvesting, eco-tourism and more. But it has big weaknesses as well; first and foremost there needs to be a shift of accountability, especially at the government level and in the upper class.
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