What started as an awareness raising and ethnographic styled walk through Sierra Leone, this site now details the encounters of a not so academic academic who spends more time occupying Wall Street and squats than a university...

Monday, June 21, 2010

Introduction Part I

Over the last week a lot of progress has been made.  But it is better probably to start with a brief introduction and what needs to be done.  I will not get too detailed about the country's issues in this post, as there will be links to sites that can help with this, but I would like to talk about the project itself.

This idea started during time doing graduate work that involved the country, and then a long period of unemployment that subsequently followed.  I have spent many years living abroad and studying the transitioning and developing world (I'm originally American).  However, I do not have specific experience living and/or working in the developing world for any extended time period.  I believe this to be the main reason why I have not been able to get far with job hunting in the non-profit world that works in developing areas.  I also have come to the point where I am no longer interested in sitting around 'waiting' for someone else to 'give' me a job - to recognize my value through their eyes.  I know my worth, and I'm wasting time.  I'm going to go make things happen, create my own livelihood doing what I have always been driven to do - make a difference.

For over a year I have been looking into going to Sierra Leone under whatever pretense I could manage.  I have however not gotten very far via traditional means.  On numerous occasions I considered just picking up and moving, sorting it out when I get there as I did when I moved to Prague.  That experience changed my life, so to I think would this.  Turns out some things in my life made making a move more easy right now and as I was sitting on my parents couch reading The Places in Between by Rory Stewart (about his walk across Afghanistan), and I said, hey why not?!?   

I do a great deal of running and hiking, and thought "what better way to get to know people than to simply walk through their country and see all of its corners?"  I thought of biking, as whenever I walk I usually just end up running and thought it would be difficult to do to much running with a back pack on.  But it is specifically this slowing down that I really think I need to do.  Break free of 'modernity' and simply experience life and hardship as they happen, in the time they happen.

From there it became about how.  I have been running almost exclusively in the Vibram Five Fingers of late and immediately thought that I could approach them about sponsorship and do the whole trip in them.  Two to Three months hiking through a post-conflict country in Africa with nothing but the "barefooting alternative".  My mother thought of doing things like they do with marathons, getting individual sponsorships on a per mile basis or the such, and giving all I could to local charities in Sierra Leone.  The key to it all was always two-fold, to keep a blog and then write about the trip, and second to identify areas of need/want for future humanitarian effort.  Ideas ideas, I've always got them, but funding always remains the key.

But one morning my mother came to me and said, "Tim, I have just graduated with a masters degree at 60, and its made me think.  I don't want my gravestone to say 'she lived a good life', I want it to say 'she made a difference'.  You have been trying to make a difference for years, yet couldn't find the opportunities as readily as you'd have liked.  Well what say we try to do something together, what say we start our own non-profit and work to empower people?"  My eyes brightened like you don't usually see first thing in most mornings.

I had looked into several different business options over the last year, but something always stood in the way: partners, financing, ideology, whatever.  But here we were, first thing in the morning, with a few years of unused "cookie jar" money and a dream...

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