It’s taken me a while to think about how I want to communicate what the next couple of months will hold.. which seems silly given my chosen career, so here I am writing about it.

Where to start.. I guess it’s important to me that during my time in Sierra Leone, I don’t only communicate what I’m doing, who I meet or what I see through official articles and videos, I think I will want to write about it more personally, to keep people at home updated and as a way of understanding it for myself.

So I’ve had a few people asking what I do and what I will be doing in Sierra Leone, I’ve decided to write a little blog on what I’ve been up to and what I will be up to so if you want to hear some rambling read on..

A little background… when I was17 I applied to a scheme which placed me working with young people in a South African township, it was a major shock to the system. I was living in some really difficult conditions but completely fell in love with the community and the people I met – I was under no illusion that the community had major issues but nonetheless I was captivated by the resilience of the people I was introduced to. The scheme was run very poorly so I made some important contacts, then left early and returned to the UK.

I knew I wasn’t done with my work in South Africa so I set up a small charity mission in the UK which raised more than I could have imagined.. and with some incredible support I returned months later and had a busy four weeks where I renovated 3 nursery schools, worked with teenage mums, HIV/AIDS orphans, victims of rape and abuse, and ran an after school scheme for children that would have otherwise been on the street. Other than the contacts I had made on my previous visit, I was basically on my own and it gave me a real introduction to working in the developing world, from issues with border control (trust me I’ve sat on the floor of Cape Town airport begging them to release donations) through to navigating my way through some really hostile situations, as a young white girl in a town ship, it was a real eye opener to the issues faced by aid workers around the world.

I’m under no illusion that South Africa is a rare case.. despite the corruption and crime, down the road I had the option of returning to a community which was fairly developed with many of the home comforts that were at times no doubt needed.. and I’m also under no illusion that these won’t be available to me next month.

Anyway.. I guess I took a lot away from my trips to Zwelihle, but the main things were A) THE INEQUALITY – its 2018 people!!! B) how poorly communicated the issues faced by these people are.. if I didn’t stumble across the opportunity to be thrown into life in a South African township, I wouldn’t understand the daily struggle people around the world go through to get the very basics we take for granted.. water, food, an education.

It baffles me that in our globalised world of 2018, the media isn’t effectively communicating these issues with young people in the developed world.. how are people like me supposed to even think about making a change if they’re not aware of the issues in the first place. So I guess that very complicated idea is what drove me to get into development journalism.

3 years on and I’ve loved every minute of starting out in the journo world, from writing about global development for the Thomson Reuters Foundation through to working in communications for NGO Street Child.. I’ve had a very interesting insight into international development and the media.

In 2 weeks I will be leaving London for Sierra Leone, this will be my first time visiting West Africa and I have mixed emotions. Sierra Leone is a country that has faced some extremely tough times; civil war, Ebola and the devastating mudslides. I will be working alongside some incredible local organisations and my time will mostly be split between two roles:

– I will be in the slum communities around Freetown getting content (print, video, photography) on life post natural disaster, maternal health and child welfare in the developing world. I am extremely grateful that I will be able to meet these resilient people and gain an insight into their lives. Again, I’m under no illusion that this will also be extremely tough.

– The other side of my work will be looking at international media and the relationship with NGO’s, so long story short how we, as UK citizens, access news from the developing world, and how ethical it is.

So that’s whats going on in September.. I know that there are so many amazing people fighting for good out there, (I’ve met a fair few along the way!) and I’m also aware that as a single person the change I can have will be minimal, however I hope by telling the stories of these people in an accessible way, I make the issues faced slightly more tangible to those at home.

I suppose I don’t really know where to begin with how I feel about this next adventure, I am mostly overwhelmed by the support I’ve had and I guess the main emotion is gratitude. I want to say a massive thank you to my friends in the journo and developing world for all the hours of advice and contacts (Fallon – I’m looking at you!) a thank you to my mentor at CNN who has definitely given me the confidence to do this, and finally a massive thank you to my family and friends, especially my parents for being the most supportive people in the world and encouraging me to do what I love, even though they’re more terrified than me.. I love you endlessly!

Anyway if you’ve got this far, thank you for listening to me ramble in my first ever blog (very aware this has been me me me – the next ones won’t be!), I’ll be back with news from Freetown.

Eloise Xx