Sierra Leone Diaspora Stories: Willorna Brock on volunteering back at home

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1923

I always dreamt of working in Sierra Leone in a paid or a voluntary capacity. So this July I decided to embark on a working holiday and volunteered for Educaid and the Peagie Woobay Scholarship Fund (PWSF).  Educaid is an Education charity and PWSF provides opportunities for teenage girls including teenage mums.

 

Educaid

 

In December 2017, I came across Miriam Mason-Sesay’s (Educaid SL Country Director) call for volunteers to lecture for Educaid as part of the University of Makeni’s part-time Business and management degree course.   This course is taught over 4 years and delivered at weekends for students who are unable to pursue a fulltime degree course. I got in touch with Miriam and after a successful application process I was invited to attend an introductory session for lecturers at their London office.

 

My brief was to prepare and deliver the HR module of the course. I already teach the Introductory course for HR practitioners at college in the UK and I am a Chartered member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD), the UK’s leading HR professional body.  I therefore prepared the module based on this course, tailored to the Sierra Leone context.

 

The course was held at Educaid Rolal in Port Loko, outside the capital Freetown.  I had never travelled outside Freetown before. I had the option of staying at the site, however I opted to stay at a guesthouse.  Transport to and from Port Loko from Freetown was provided – this was a 3-hour journey on the Educaid vehicle. Food was also provided – this was for the students and as a lecturer I shared this too.  The food was local Sierra Leonean cuisine – mostly rice and plasas (various Sierra Leonean leaves cooked in a sauce made with palm oil) but with no meat and just tiny pieces of fish; cooked black-eyed beans and garri.  It was very basic but delicious.

 

The course was intense, I had a class of 30 students, mostly professionals who had day jobs but couldn’t afford to study part-time.  I taught 6 modules over two weekends and provided the students with an exam at the end. On the first weekend the session ran from Friday 6-9pm, Saturday 9am-9pm, and Sunday 9am-3pm.  On the second weekend the session ran from Friday 6-9pm and Saturday 9am – 3pm.

 

The classroom facilities were quite basic – blackboard and chalk, which I have never used before in my teaching career and a makeshift projector board.  The projector had to be put on intermittently during my lessons to conserve use of the generator.

 

I had bought some items of stationery which at the time looked quite basic because I bought them from a discount store in London, however to my surprise these were very well received as the students didn’t have much.  On the last day, emptied out my pencil case and told the students to help themselves to the contents. This made me realise how much we take for granted in the West.

 

I delivered my lessons from PowerPoint slides.  Prior to arrival, I had downloaded most of the clips I needed to use to my MacBook as I had been informed that Wi-Fi was erratic and that it would take ages to show clips.  I had also printed a lot of material which I carried in a suitcase as the printing costs in Freetown were astronomical.

 

My students were engaged and enjoyed the sessions.  We had lively debates and they shared anecdotes of their own experiences of HR practice in Sierra Leone.  They particularly enjoyed the session on the theories of motivation and came to the conclusion that Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and Herzberg’s two factor theory should be at the forefront of HR reward strategies for an engaged workforce.

 

The students were set an end of module exam so I have a lot of marking to do now.

 

This has been one of the most interesting and rewarding highlights of my teaching career thus far.  Having to teach with such limited resources stretched my creativity and resilience. The 12-hour Saturday session, under such heat, no air-conditioning in a basic classroom was quite an experience.

 

Two of the students have expressed an interest in pursuing a HR career.  I will be setting up a Linked-in group so we can keep in touch and I can continue to contribute to their professional development.

 

You can find out more about Educaid’s work here:

http://www.educaid.org.uk/how-are-your-classrooms-teaching-the-skills-to-resolve-tensions-and-conflicts-so-as-to-find-the-common-ground-in-an-increasingly-diverse-world/

http://www.educaid.org.uk/get-involved/donate/

 

Peagie Woobay Scholarship Fund (PWSF)

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As a mother of 3 boys, I have always wanted to do something to support girls.  Perhaps it’s because I had a longing for a girl and ended up with 3 boys.

 

So when I came across the PWSF I reached out to the founder Peagie Woobay to ask her if I could meet a few girls and have a motivational session with them.

 

The theme was “Letter to my teenage self”… all those things I wish someone had told me as a young girl growing up. I spoke from my heart. It was raw, I tackled the difficult area of sex, relationships, female friendships and money – the importance of saving for financial freedom.

 

Each girl received a copy of the letter, written in orange and purple ink (the PWSF colours) in an envelope in their hygiene kit (orange or purple bag – I like to be creative and make even serious things fun, they are young girls anyway.

 

The girls enjoyed it as much as I did. I almost got emotional from their level of gratitude.

 

I will be mentoring one of the girls I met on the talk and I intend to continue to lend my support to the PWSF.

 

I would like to thank Educaid and PWSF for providing me with this opportunity to serve.  In my own small way, I hope I have been able to make an impact on the lives of a few young Sierra Leoneans.

 

About me

 

I am passionate about Education and HR.  I guess I have always had the teacher bug.  Both my grandmothers were teachers. As a child I was the eldest of the grandchildren and there was quite a large gap in age between my brother, my younger cousins and me so I often found creative ways of entertaining myself. I would line up chairs with my dolls and pretend to teach them.  At Christmas I would put on a ‘Christmas concert’ with my brother, cousin and a few of the children in the neighbourhood.

 

I graduated from university with a French and Spanish degree, worked for French Investment bank, and then I decided to train to teach.  As a teacher, I am not just about delivering lessons but I like to create a holistic experience for my students and make my lessons relevant and fun.  As I was teaching languages I had free rein as I was able to bring the languages to life by creating really fun lessons and providing extra-curricular activities such as trips, international school exchanges etc.

 

However, after a few years, I felt that I could no longer juggle the demands of teaching languages with raising my three boys so I made a career change to HR.

 

HR and teaching have similar elements – both are about people and skills development.   Whilst working in HR, I have continued teaching – I tutor French GCSE and I lecture HR part-time at college.  I also mentor and coach young people mostly in the area of CV writing, job applications and employability skills.  

Contact Me: info@goshennhrd.com

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