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Sierra Leone News: Summer holidays

When I was a young child, I had nearly three months off between academic years. In the US, this break is called our “summer break”. Each year, generally for the warmest months, children are free to do what they want. Some gets jobs, others go to camps, and some continue their studies during summer school.
Early on, I went to specialized kids camps during the summer. Because I grew up on an island, people saw it as a vacation destination and multiple summer camps were created, so I didn’t have to travel far or pay too much to attend these camps. There, we swam, kayaked, canoed, told stories around campfires, did art projects, played games, and made friends—typical activities in an American summer camp. I also had a good amount of free time where I would hang out with my friends in one of the island’s state parks, particularly at one of the parks that had a lake to swim in.
When I was 12, I began working during the summers. I still went to summer camps, but I dedicated more time to making money. I started as a lawn mower or grass cutter (not the animal in the bush), cutting the yards of neighbors, before I moved on to more advanced landscaping, helping clear brush, tend gardens, and prune trees for people around the island. After that, I bailed hay for a few summers. After doing a housekeeping job cleaning vacation cabins for a couple summers, I ended my time on the island with a pair of jobs as a barista, where I worked in a coffee shop making coffee. They were decent jobs. I made a solid wage, learned a few skills, and got to see different sides of the island’s agriculture and tourism industries.
Here in Freetown, during the same break that I used to have, children spend their time a bit differently. While many get a job of some kind or end up just hanging out on the streets, I haven’t seen many other options for youth aside from going to summer school.
Getting a job makes sense… if there were jobs to get. Sometimes people work to add more financial assistance for their family. Also, attending summer school makes sense too. If someone needs extra academic help or wants to receive additional instruction, then they should seek out an opportunity that allows that to happen. It gives them something productive to do when they otherwise wouldn’t have anything to do.
The thing that I’ve noticed though is the lack of activity options that children here have to do when they have extra time on their hands. As far as I’ve seen, there aren’t many alternatives, like camps, to working or being out on the street for youth to occupy their time. This can often result in fewer opportunities for young people to find what they truly enjoy and excel at. By losing the chances to find and develop significant interests in activities that can actually help them out later, whether professionally or recreationally, they are faced with a disadvantage. This disadvantage comes in many forms, such as a possible delay in discovering one’s passion, a decreased availability of creative expression, and less enjoyment during one’s limited childhood.
Summer camps are not cheap to create. They take resources, time commitments from various people, and time to develop, but they often cultivate unique values and experiences for those that attend the camps. These experiences and memories can positively impact people for the rest of their lives in many ways.
In Sierra Leone, there just aren’t many outlets to find those experiences.
JR/23/8/18
Jack Russillo is a reporter from the University of Washington. He will be writing for Awoko until the end of September.
By Jack Russillo
Friday August 24, 2018.

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