OTPYM Sneak Peek: Sierra Leone

Posted on March 22, 2019 by MichaelaSGuzy

In February 2019, the OTPYM crew + I witnessed history in the making on the Western Coast of Africa. We are honored to have been a small part of and document this once in a lifetime experience in Sierra Leone with the tourism board and the World Bank.

click here For most, Dr Jane Goodall needs no introduction, but for those who are not familiar with her work, she is a leading conservationist known especially for her work with chimpanzees, a leader in education of children and community empowerment. She was first in Sierra Leone in the early ’90s and met Bala Amarasekaran – who had just rescued two baby chimps from a nearby village. Little did she know that she planted a seed of inspiration that continued to grow in Bala. 27 years later, Jane returned to visit the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary that Bala built.

The important conservation + community work that Bala and his team have been working on through an 11-year civil war, Ebola and the mud slides resulted in the world’s leading expert in chimpanzees returning to the country.

The government of Sierra Leone has made a commitment to conservation and sustainable tourism development, including naming the critically endangered chimpanzee the national (and now protected) animal of the country!

While there is much work to be done in Sierra Leone, I’ve never met more resilient people. The true struggle these people have survived resulted in extreme poverty and diaspora, and yet they’ve persevered. The people of Sierra Leone are now returning home. I’m truly inspired by their spirit, positivity + commitment to moving forward.

To quote Jane, “When the head and heart work in harmony, is the only time we work towards our full potential.” It’s all inter-related: our environment + wildlife + our people.

Congrats to Bala, Jane, the tourism board, and most certainly the people of Sierra Leone. I am so humbled and honored to document this special moment in history.

Watch our trailer, which is only a sneak peek into our “Michaela’s Map: Sierra Leone” episode, which we will unveil during a private screening in May 2019 in NYC.

I hope to be a positive part of sharing their stories, empowering entrepreneurs and little young ladies like the one that ran and jumped into my arms on Banana Island – as they grow up in what I hope will emerge as one of Africa’s next sustainable tourism destinations, Sierra Leone.

The people I met are just a couple of the reasons I’ll get out of bed and do what I do. Not for me, but for YOU bright stars of our shared future.

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