Sierra Leone Send-off
By Erica Burman on Thursday, June 3rd, 2010
As 39 citizens who will soon become the next group of Sierra Leone Peace Corps volunteers came together for a group photo at Wednesday’s send-off celebration, the wide smiles on every single face captured the emotions reverberating through Shriver Hall at Peace Corps Headquarters. Excitement. Energy. Anticipation.
The moment had come for the newest group of Peace Corps invitees. Having met face-to-face for the first time only 24 hours earlier, the group was now dealing with the long anticipated reality that in the next 24 hours they would be flying to Freetown.
“It’s so exciting,” said Regan Sandlin of Hartselle, Alabama. ”It’s like we’re making a little part of history.”
“The privilege is really ours,” added Tyler Muntean of Santa Rosa, California, “to be the first group going back.”
The moment had come for Lynn Foden, Peace Corps’ Acting Regional Director for Africa, who noted that many hours, weeks and years had led to this day. Foden recounted a recent visit to Sierra Leone. When her vehicle – with its Peace Corps emblems – crossed the border from Guinea, it was immediately surrounded by people asking if Peace Corps was back. “The level of enthusiasm and excitement was amazing.”
The moment had also come for the Friends of Sierra Leone (FOSL). Peace Corps Chief of Staff Stacy Rhodes said the extraordinary efforts and energies of the group helped make this day possible. High praise for FOSL also came from Ibrahim Conteh, Deputy Chief of Mission for the Embassy of Sierra Leone, who in thanking the group, called them “special ambassadors” to his country.
Former Ambassador Thomas Hull and FOSL President Peggy Murrah presented the soon-to-be volunteers with gift bags that included a special FOSL t-shirt, a Sierra Leone flag pin, a Peace Corps calendar and a letter of congratulation from members of the very first group of Sierra Leone volunteers.
After a 16 year absence, Ambassador Hull told the departing volunteers that they ”will be rebuilding a special relation with the people of Sierra Leone.”
It would appear the future volunteers will live up to that legacy. Along with utilizing his skills to make a tangible impact, Tyler Muntean says he expects his service will make him a more thoughtful and globally minded American. “More than anything that’s what drew me to the Peace Corps.”
Visit our Facebook page to view more photos from Wednesday’s Sierra Leone send-off.