Working with Streetchild UK in Sierra Leone

27 February 2023 | Hermione Duncan
Hermione recently embarked on her next chapter which will see her working with NGO Street Child for the next 4 months.

In January this year, I moved to Freetown, Sierra Leone for four months to work with the Street Child UK Sierra Leone country team, with the support of the Jersey Overseas Aid Bursary.

I decided to do this placement because I really wanted the opportunity to work in country because not only is the experience of living in another continent and country invaluable but being able to work with the local communities who are supported by your work and see change in action is so important to me. This is why the Jersey Overseas Aid Bursary seemed like an amazing way of being able to do this, and to be able to develop my experience with the support of two fantastic organisations.

Despite knowing why I wanted to do this placement, I actually didn’t know what to expect when I arrived! I really wanted to get very involved with the team’s work and learn more about the ins-and-outs of projects, from their creation to their implementation. I anticipated that the day-to-day (office working) would be similar to what I’m accustomed to, guessed what was in store for more outside of Freetown when visiting projects, would be completely different.

I was also really looking forward to being somewhere completely new. I have been lucky enough to have amazing opportunities both in Jersey and the UK, but felt it was time to expand my experience. This of course comes with its own nervousness. Lockdowns and restrictions, as well as taking a year out to study again, meant that I hadn’t been into an office since 2020, let alone in a completely different country. I was looking forward to learning so much with Street Child’s guidance but also so much about Sierra Leone itself. It has such a fascinating history and having never visited West Africa before, I was also really looking forward to learning about the culture, especially eating lots of amazing Sierra Leonian food.

It feels like I have been on a gradual journey to get to this point. I always knew that I wanted to work in this sector and that I wanted to make sure I gained a wide range of experience. In my undergraduate degree, I studied International Relations and Politics, which gave me a really great basis and overview to start with.  When I had the opportunity to work at Oxfam Great Britain, it was a brilliant opportunity to work for a large international NGO, and despite working in Events, I made sure to keep constantly updated with Oxfam’s work, which I was so passionate about, as well as current affairs. After four years at Oxfam, I then decided that I wanted to move away from working as an Event Organiser and so decided to study for a Masters in Human Rights, Culture and Social Justice. Having completed modules about research and working in the field, the next direction for me was to put everything in practice. When the opportunity to go on this adventure came up, and to be supported by such fantastic organisations such as Jersey Overseas Aid and Street Child, I couldn’t miss out on this.

With all adventures though comes some nervousness. As I was getting closer to my departure date, the idea of actually leaving and living somewhere else for a number of months became more daunting. However, a bit of nervousness mixed with excitement is what adventures and new steps are all about.  It was now time to see what it would actually all be like. I have now been in Freetown for over a month, and it is safe to say it has been an absolute whirlwind. There has been so much to learn about Street Child, about the various projects taking place and also getting ready for the Sierra Leone Marathon which takes place in April which have all kept me very busy. All of this alongside experiencing living in a completely different place and wanting to make sure I experience and see as much as possible. I am really looking forward to what the next three months have in store, including travelling to projects in Makeni, as well as having the opportunity to continue to learn so much more and develop my understanding.