Summer Abroad: Sierra Leone

Blake student ride to Bunce Island on their trip to Sierra Leone in June

Blake student ride to Bunce Island on their trip to Sierra Leone in June

Henry Vaughn, Staff Writer

This summer during the weeks from June 10th until June 27th, a group of 15 Blake students will be traveling to Africa on a service trip to Sierra Leone. The group of students includes: Ned Hartfiel ’13, Mitch Stauch ’13, Timmy Dooley ’13, Maddy Hall ’13, Izzy Swanson ’13, Ellie Rudd ’13, Nicole Kozlak ’13, Hannah Randolph ’13, Catherine Alpeter ’13, Natalie Sill ’13, Allison Bye ’12, Emily Moore ’13, Isabel Redleaf ’13, Adel Watkins ’13, and Luke Walden ’13. The group will be chaperoned and led by Steve Kaback, Dion Crushon, and Mr. Hall (a Blake parent, Maddy Hall’s dad). This is the second time Blake has hosted this service trip to Sierra Leone and is cosponsoring the trip with OneVillage Partners to help fund the trip. OneVillage Partners is a non-profit group headed by Mr. Hall who’s goal is to “support villages by building capacity in the villagers, synthesizing current technologies, and supporting iterative advancements in the mutually reinforcing areas of education, health, water and sanitation, agriculture, and income generation” ( for more info). This foundation has helped raise money for the trip alongside the students by selling rubber bracelets similar to Livestrongs that say “Books for Hope” in Mende, one of the tribal languages spoken in Sierra Leone. These bracelets helped raise around $200 to go towards building a library in one of the villages the group will stay in.

Dion shared some what the students will be doing during the trip, saying “Each student will have a buddy in a village. Service wise we will be similar to a TA in local schools. Two Blake students will be assigned to each grade in each village to help out.” Dion is also looking forward to “Trying to connect with the local Sierra Leoneans, who have such a different background than us, as well as watching Blake students connect with other kids their age from halfway across the world.” Ned Hartfiel ’13 looks forward to “completely immersing himself in a foreign culture,” while Nicole Kozlak ’13 is excited for the opportunity to “form strong relationships and bond with my fellow classmates and meeting the local villagers and their children.”

Former Blake graduate Philip Jackley ’09 went on Blake’s first trip to Sierra Leone three summers ago. He reflects on the opportunity as an unforgettable memory, saying, “I went because I knew it was going to be a once in a lifetime opportunity. In the news you would always here stuff about what was going on in Africa, but seeing what was going on in person and talking with the people in Sierra Leone was a completely life-changing experience. It was just an amazing exchange of cultures. It is just such a different culture than what Americans are used to, and seeing the difference between our different ways of life was incredibly eye-opening.”