Rhinebeck Rotary Features Presentation on Fieldwork in Sierra Leone
On Monday, June 8th, during its regular meeting at The Beekman Arms, the Rhinebeck Rotary featured a presentation by Hannah Siebold on her fieldwork experiences in Sierra Leone. Ms. Siebold is a graduate of Ithaca College, with a Master’s degree in International Development and Social Change from Clark University, and has spent two years in Sierra Leone as a Peace Corps volunteer and later as the creator of a Youth Empowerment and Life Skills Program. She was also involved in the implementation of Ebola Control Projects. Ms. Siebold cited her high school trip to Nicaragua with Rotarian David Ives as the beginning of her mission to help underserved international communities. The Rhinebeck Rotary’s Interact Club placed Rhinebeck High School students in Nicaragua for service projects every February.
Ms. Siebold described Sierra Leone, a small country whose population numbers six million, as “friendly to strangers, rich in resources, poor in infrastructure.” Its history of brutal civil war involving child soldiers, collapsed government, extreme poverty, illiteracy, and high infant and maternal mortality left it in dire need of international assistance. During her time in the Peace Corps, Ms. Siebold observed the disconnect between development organizations and the systems required to sustain change. This realization motivated her to devote her graduate study to the improvement of top-down structures to maintain improvements in a culturally sensitive manner. Her work at the Bureh Beach Surf Club as a mentor and creator of a Big Brother/Big Sister style program reflected that mandate.
Ms. Siebold’s work in Sierra Leone was interrupted by the Ebola outbreak, which she observed first-hand. She noted that at first the disease was misdiagnosed and later became hard to control in part due to the mistrust by locals of outside assistance. She stated that the outbreak is now almost under control and ended her presentation by saying, “we should all admire the resilience of Sierra Leonians. Their wealth is in their relationships, an attitude that we should all emulate.”
The Rhinebeck Rotary Club meets on Mondays at 12:15 pm at the Beekman Arms throughout the year. The Rotary is a humanitarian organization dedicated to enhancing the lives of others through local, national and international service projects. The weekly meetings feature speakers covering a variety of human interest topics. For more information on becoming a member, or to reserve a speaker’s spot at an upcoming meeting, please call Lou Trapani at 845-876-3088, ext. 14.