Sierra Leone Travel Guide, Gap Year Volunteering and Tours
Plan the most inspiring travel experience of your life to Sierra Leone and learn more about the history and people.
Sierra Leone Travel Ideas, Gap Year Programs & Experiences
Sierra Leone Travel Guide
Get inspiration for the best things to do if you would like to go travelling, backpacking or take a gap year in Sierra Leone.
- Capital: Freetown
- Currency: Leone (SLL)
- Country Size: 71,740 km2
- Population: 4,976,000 (estimate)
- Language: English (official) + local languages; Krio, Lingua Franca, Mende & Temne
- Country Code: +232
Travel to Sierra Leone
This country led a quiet existence for approximately five hundred years. In 1560 it became a major port in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Over the next two hundred years Portuguese and British slave-trading settlements were set up along the coast. Britain claimed to abolish slavery in 1821, and freed slaves returned from the United States. While such slaves were from throughout West Africa and beyond, they settled in Freetown. With repatriation there became a new inequality; ex-slaves became the oppressors of the native people.
There has been a long lasting disparity between Freetown and the rural areas. Sierra Leone gained independence from Britain in 1961. Though Sierra Leone attempted to assert itself independently, the people suffered as they had no real livelihood. Civil war broke out in 1992. After ten years of suffering, the war finally ended in 2002 and the country has been on the mend ever since and is embracing a more positive and peaceful future. Now this country is become an up and coming travel destination with thousands of people now visiting every year.
Best Places to Visit in Sierra Leone
- Banana Islands (Diving and Snorkelling)
- Tacugama Chimpanzee Reserve
- Bunce Island (former slave-trading fort)
- The Cotton Tree (a five hundred year old tree of historical importance, under which slaves were bought and sold)
- Lumley Beach / Sussex Beach
- Outawa Kilimi National Park
- Mount Bintumani
- Big Market (as the name suggests, this is Freetown's largest market)
- Tiwai Island Wildflife Sanctuary
A Guide to Volunteering in Sierra Leone
Today, children are filling schools and the economy is slowly but surely attempting to get into shape. Sierra Leone has successfully transitioned from civil war into a peaceful existence, but it did not do so unscathed.
The United Nations Human Development Index, an indicator of wellbeing in countries around the world, ranked Sierra Leone as one of the least developed countries in the world, third only to Afghanistan and Niger. This is an indication of widespread poverty. Over 60% of adults cannot read, and nearly half of Sierra Leoneans do not have access to clean water.
As a result of the civil war, there exists a huge amount of people that did not have a chance to go to school. This is exemplified by the aforementioned literacy rate. Now more than ever, youth are packing into classrooms to soak up all of the knowledge they possibly can. You can play a role in a sucessful future by volunteering in Sierra Leone.
Location of Projects
Volunteer programs can be joined in Freetown, a city of one million people. Freetown is set beautifully on the West African coastline. It is a vibrant city with plentiful markets and a diverse population. However there is also widespread poverty and you will witness varying levels depending on which neighbourhoods you visit. In Freetown, you can complete a human services & childcare, education, or community development placement.
Types of Programs
Schools are overflowing, and volunteers are needed to help increase the school’s capacity to teach and care for children. After a longstanding war, thousands of children are eager to learn, and our partner is providing an education. It is a feat with many challenges. The area in which we work is poverty stricken. Furthermore, children and their families suffer from the after-effects of war; many are now amputees, and everyone carries memories of the past as they try to move forward. Sierra Leone is now peaceful, and as communities rebuild, we are seeking compassionate individuals to help build a brighter future for Sierra Leone's children.
These are phenomenal placements in so many ways. It is an excellent opportunity for anyone wishing to learn about post-conflict community development. Social work and psychology students and professionals will be challenged to adapt their skills to a cross-cultural environment. No matter what your background or experience, in even just a short amount of time, you will see how much your involvement helps local children.
The Makama Amputee Primary School has approximately 150 children in attendance. 80% of the children are amputees, and many of their parents are amputees also. Children are divided according to knowledge level, rather than age. This contrasts what most of us are used to, but reflects local needs. Organisations work primarily in Makeni, but also work with schools on the outskirts of Freetown. While in Sierra Leone, your organisation may arrange for you to spend some time helping in Tissana Community Primary School.
Volunteers are needed to teach various elementary level subjects including English, math, science, physical activity, and art. Classrooms have thirty or more children. Patience is an absolute must. Description of Activities:
- Learn about the social and economic factors affecting education
- Teach English, math, science, physical activity, and/or art
- Assist children with homework
- Assist in running extra-curricular activities for children
Interns with an educational background are needed to share knowledge and pedagogical resources with local teachers. The purpose of this position is to increase the capacity of the school in the long term. In Sierra Leone, the schools are overflowing, and volunteers are needed to help increase the school’s capacity to share best practices with local staff. Please note: This position is classified as an internship due to the background and skills that the intern must have. But unlike other internships, we do not require a minimum of two months. In a short amount of time, qualified professionals can deliver training and workshops to local teachers. Training takes place after school, on weekends, and during school holidays. Description of Activities:
- Learn about the social and economic factors affecting education in Sierra Leone
- Learn how teachers conduct their work in Sierra Leone
- Share best practices based on your experience
- Develop educational materials in partnership with local staff
Eligility & How to Apply
- Duration - 2 weeks+
- When - Year round
- Language - English
You can search organisations above and enquire/apply today.