A "Think Build Change Salone" Profile In Courage

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MEET MR. BIMBOLA CARROL:
The Man Who Makes the World Visit Sierra Leone
http://www.visitsierraleone.org/

How old are you?
It’s not courteous to ask a gentleman his age. I’m 30.

Where are you from in Sierra Leone?
I was born in the Military Hospital in Wilberforce, Freetown. I lived and schooled in the West of Freetown all my life, with the exception of Fourah Bay College.

What do you do for a living?
Work.

What inspires you to do what you do?
Not sure what you mean. If you’re asking about my 9-5 I’d say the threat of starvation and bad credit. Regarding my other interests in Sierra Leone? I think everyone has a desire at one point or another for whatever reason, to do something positive which makes a difference to their lives and that of others. I’d rather do that something in Sierra Leone.

How long did it take for you to get VSL up and running (from getting the idea to putting all the info/stuff on a site?)
I’d say nearly all my life. Since I understood the concept of beautiful, I’ve thought Sierra Leone and its people was just that. I’d always wanted to do something in tourism but no idea what or how. How did you get the idea?
Mainly, through lack of positive information on Sierra Leone on the net but more specifically, there was also a lack of travel information. VSL is the first site to provide comprehensive travel and tourism information on Sierra Leone.

What was the response/feedback on VSL when it first began?
I was totally taken aback. The response was unbelievable – very positive, folks were sending emails to me asking me to check it out. Goes to show that Sierra Leoneans were crying out for some positive information about our lovely country.

Has that changed over time?
Not really, I still get emails commending the site and folks sign the guestbook with nice words but I think we have a much more diverse audience now than when it first began. Visitor numbers have also seen none stop growth, in fact it’s growing at a faster rate now than before.

Do you get any kind of assistance to run the site (financial/otherwise)
I get a lot of support from our forum community, what we affectionately refer to as the “VSL Family”. This includes Sierra Leoneans at home and abroad and non-Sierra Leoneans who offer vital travel information and assistance to visitors – they donate a lot of their time helping others which is just great. The National Tourist Board has also been quite helpful and we have a good working relationship. Various people have also contributed images and articles. No one’s handed me a fat cheque just yet but everyone’s time is valuable so I’m very appreciative of that.

How much time weekly do you spend doing VSL related stuff?
Lots. Even this is VSL related stuff, I should be watching fat nothing on TV.

What’s the most surprising thing that’s happened related to VSL?
Not sure about the most surprising, but the documentary I took part in for the BBC ranks amongst the most exciting. I want to see so much more of Sierra Leone.

Tourism in Sierra Leone, what direction should we take?
Personally, I’m surprised that the govt has not dedicated more time and energy to developing tourism in Sierra Leone. It is documented that tourism is increasingly recognised for its potential in poverty reduction in the least developed countries. I think a proper tourism strategy should be developed which demonstrates that we have learnt from the mistakes of those before us and ensure that local communities benefit from tourism. I would like to see the rebirth of all things Sierra Leonean. Our music, history, culture, food, drinks, crafts – there is just so much we have to share with the world.

What message if any do u have for Sierra Leoneans at home/diaspora who want to actively participate in Sierra Leone’s development
I know there are many Sierra Leoneans who want to play some sort of part but sometimes they don’t know where to start. There are interesting initiatives out there – for instance by volunteering through the Brain Gain project you can donate some time to young folks in Sierra Leone even during your holiday. We talk about these and other initiatives all the time on the VSL forum, so we’d love to welcome folks to become part of our family there as well.

Sweet Salone Blogger Note: There are tons of us living outside of Sierra Leone and many of us want to get involved. If you take anything from Mr. Carrol’s experience let it be about the possibility and need for us all to get involved in Sierra Leone’s development. There is no one path but the possibilities are endless!!!!
(i’m sure you’re tired of my endless preaching…but i love u too :-))
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