High we exalt thee, realm of the free.

“High we exalt thee, realm of the free.
Great is the love we have for thee.”

If you were to put these words into Google, you would learn that they are the first lines of the Sierra Leone National Anthem. Sierra Leone is a very impoverished country on the west coast of Africa.

I learned them long before Google while in Peace Corps training at Cornell University preparing to go to Sierra Leone for a two-year high school teaching assignment in 1963. Although not chosen to go there, Sierra Leone has always been of interest since then.

The country has some significant natural resources, including diamonds and other valuable minerals, and a climate for growing food better than many other places. On the other hand, it has a long history of tribal conflict that escalated into a major civil war (subject of the movie “Blood Diamonds”) and was at the center of the Ebola crisis. Both killed many thousands of people and caused tremendous material damage, much of which has not been restored. The average Gross Domestic Product is $1,651, or about $3.00 per person per day. Often it is much less. Many of the people, especially in the rural areas, live in thatch-covered huts.

In 2004, the World Bank noted that the rate of babies and children in Sierra Leone who died before their fifth birthday was 284 per 1,000 live births. That has improved in the past 14 years, but there is still a long way to go.

Rotary International (of which I am a member) is involved in humanitarian projects all over the developing world — including Sierra Leone. Two days ago, ladies from the Ann Arbor Rotary Club came to mine and told about what their club and others are doing to help a community called the Bumpeh Chiefdom. The goal is to help food production (especially with improved agricultural seeds), orchards, digging wells, education, and improved medical care. For more information, contact Mary Avrakotos. Her e-mail is: mavrakotos@me.com

Although I did not get to go to Sierra Leone, I am glad to publicize what others are doing to help there.

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